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Monthly Archives: October 2015
Marijuana Licensing Issue Has Several County Cities In Convulsions
As the prohibition on the use of marijuana across America and California in particular is dying a slow and tortured death, several cities in San Bernardino County find themselves in the midst of a bitter battle to keep those bans in place.
There are definite signs that the once-hardened line against marijuana across the country is eroding. An inconsistent patchwork of national, state and even local laws attends marijuana. Officially, under federal law, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic – indistinguishable from heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Simultaneously, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for so-called medical use. Indeed, there is credible evidence that the drug has some limited therapeutic value, most notably in spurring or intensifying appetite for food in some people undergoing chemotherapy as well as providing some degree of pain mitigation in certain circumstances. Yet, because it is categorized as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government and federal law trumps state law, licensed pharmacists cannot dispense marijuana from their pharmacies. In states such as California where the “medical” use of marijuana was sanctioned by the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, an initiative passed by the voters, this has left the field open to self-styled cannabis dispensaries, where the product is distributed, not by pharmacists but by what for the most part are entrepreneurs seeking a handsome profit who have little, if any, actual medical expertise. They cover themselves with the fig leaf of legitimacy by adhering to a policy in which their product is sold to customers bearing a legally legitimate prescription issued by a doctor currently licensed with the state of California.
For more than a decade-and-a-half there was seemingly no effort on the part of federal or state officials to resolve the very obvious conflicts and inconsistencies between federal and state law. Complicating the matter further in California, has been the autonomy given to local jurisdictions in maintaining, through their land use and zoning authority, the ability to prevent dispensaries from operating within their borders.
In those areas where zealous opponents of cannabis predominated politically, local law enforcement was and in some cases continues to be employed to prevent marijuana purveyors from establishing a toehold in their communities. Routinely, medical marijuana distributors would set up dispensaries or clinics, in some cases straightforwardly or in others surreptitiously or by obtaining a business license by representing the operation as health food store or spa, reap a considerable but short-lived profit that would in most cases offset the considerable start-up costs, and then be shut down by code enforcement or zone enforcement or law enforcement action. In due course, these entrepreneurs would move on to reinvent their operation at a different location in the same jurisdiction or perhaps another jurisdiction, repeating the process. In some cases, emboldened clinic operators would reinvest their profits in legal action challenging the efforts by local authorities to shut them down, occasionally succeeding by obtaining a usually temporary injunction to prevent enforcement action or their closure. In some instances previously, either at the request of local authorities or in some cases on their own initiative, federal authorities, i.e., the U.S. Attorney’s office working in conjunction with the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, pursued literal federal cases against some dispensary owners, operators or their landlords, particularly in those cases where the operators were deemed to be particularly defiant, asserted challenges to federal law, or were particularly persistent in their operations.
One of those caught up in this dragnet was Aaron Sandusky, the owner/operator of G-3 Holistics in Upland. Sandusky, with what was comparatively limited overhead, which included a cultivation facility in Ontario, a handful of employees, and leases on the cultivation facility and the dispensary, was raking in an estimated $200,000 per month. He was flamboyant and defiant, hiring attorneys to contest the city of Upland’s efforts to shutter G-3, obtaining one injunction after another that stymied the city, costing it an eventual $400,000 in legal fees. He drove a $120,000 sports car with which he personally made deliveries of his product to clients. He remained in operation well beyond the standard length of time sustained by other marijuana distributors and dismissed the warnings by people who told him he was tempting fate. After brazenly standing up to federal investigators and refusing to cease operations, he was cited by the FBI and DEA and prosecuted by the U.S Attorney, convicted in October 2012 and sentenced in January 2013 to ten years in federal prison. He remains behind bars.
In recent years, pursuant to voter approved initiatives, the voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use. In August 2013, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would allow the states to regulate and implement the marijuana legalization ballot initiatives and that the federal government would step in only in circumstances where the drug was being distributed to minors; where the revenue from the sale of marijuana was going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels; where there was diversion of marijuana from those states where it was legal to states where it was not; where marijuana sales were being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity; where violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana was involved; where drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use manifested; where growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands existed; or where it was being possessed or used on federal property.
In December 2013, President Barack Obama took it a step further, acknowledging that “We recognize that … the federal government doesn’t have the resources to police whether somebody is smoking a joint on a corner.”
A year later, in December 2014, Congress effectively ended the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana, signaling that in states where medical marijuana is legal, federal agents are restricted from raiding properly licensed marijuana distribution operations.
Simultaneously, in San Bernardino County, as elsewhere throughout California, there was a literal explosion in the number of marijuana dispensaries, both licensed and unlicensed, registered and unregistered, or traditional brick & mortar shops or itinerant ones that engage in door-to-door delivery to their customers. Without the assistance of the federal government in making credible the threat of criminal penalties for engaging in the sale of what could ostensibly be represented as medical marijuana, the impracticality of local authorities acting to stem the sale activity was manifest. In the face of that onslaught, only the city of Needles sanctioned the operation of marijuana dispensaries within the county of San Bernardino. All other cities and municipalities declined to permit and license the shops. That did not stop intrepid individuals from setting up operations and staying in business until enforcement action – in nearly all cases civil rather than criminal – shuttered them. The district attorney’s office, seeing the handwriting on the wall, in all but the most egregious of cases refused to prosecute. In Yucca Valley and then in Upland medical marijuana advocates gathered sufficient signatures to place initiatives on the ballot that would allow for the establishment of medical marijuana clinics in those municipalities. In the case of Yucca Valley, the proponents were prevailed upon to negotiate the terms of the proposal with town officials, who placed into the initiative conditions to provide what those officials insisted would mitigate the impact of the two facilities the measure would permit. When the vote was held, however, voting blocks led by the two most prominent religious figures in town – the Revered Roger Mayes and the Reverend Jerel Hagerman – turned out en masse and defeated the measure.
In Upland, the initiative petition process was bankrolled by Randy Welty, the wealthy owner of multiple strip clubs and adult bookstores throughout Southern California including one of each in Upland. Welty ensured that the initiative as written geographically limited the three dispensaries to an area along a limited span along the north side of Foothill Boulevard at the city’s far western extreme where he, either directly or through others, owns property.
Welty also included in the initiative a provision that each of the three clinics would need to put up a non-refundable $75,000 fee to be used by the city to offset the costs of inspection, regulation and enforcement at, in and around the dispensaries. Petition gatherers succeeded in garnering signatures of better than 15 percent of city’s voters on those petitions, qualifying the initiative for a special election, which was to take place within 88 to 105 days after the city made recognition that sufficient signatures existed to force the election. Ironically, however, the city seized upon the provision in the initiative relating to the $75,000 fee, went to court and marshaled evidence to show that it would cost the city just $66,540 to permit, inspect and carry out enforcement efforts at each of the dispensaries, and characterized the fee as a tax. Approval of a measure containing a taxing provision, the city’s attorneys asserted, would require that the initiative be voted upon during a general municipal election rather than a special election. Thus, the city was able to delay the vote until November 2016. This was considered a setback to the initiative’s advocates, who were banking on holding an isolated vote on an occasion when there would be no other accompanying issues to drive voters to the polls and they could use social media and other tactics to induce supporters of the availability of marijuana to participate and perhaps achieve passage of the measure.
In July 2014, San Bernardino City Attorney Gary Saenz, taking stock of the number of pot shops sprouting up in the county’s largest city, offered his view that the cost and difficulty of shutting down dispensaries made the city’s ban on the enterprises that has existed since 2010 “futile.” The council formed a legislative review committee composed of three council members to study the issue and promised to reconsider the ban. Saenz said the city was contemplating allowing some dispensaries to function under a strict set of guidelines that would include significant licensing fees. Meanwhile, a proponent of licensed clinics, Karmel Roe, undertook an ultimately unsuccessful effort to gather enough signatures to get a dispensary permitting initiative on the ballot. A Redlands-based attorney who had previously been the city manager of Adelanto, James DeAguilera, threatened legal action against the city over its continuing enforcement of the ban.
During the discussion of the concept of legalizing medical marijuana sales in the county seat, many entrepreneurs were emboldened, and some took the risk of opening dispensaries in the belief that in the liberalizing atmosphere, they would be able to operate unmolested. That ultimately proved to be a fallacy, however, as they were able to stay in business for a short time but were slapped back when the city rejected the idea of allowing some dispensaries to operate legally. In March 2015, the police department and city code enforcement division embarked on concerted operations to close them down, seize their wares and cash on hand and serve them with court orders enjoining them from persisting in their operations.
In Adelanto, where a state of financial crisis had been officially declared by the city council in June 2013, Johnny Salazar, the owner of the Green Tree Health Healing Clinic, a medical marijuana dispensary he has somehow managed to continually fly under the radar in Victorville, earlier this year began promoting the idea of having the city sanction such operations, which would be regulated and taxed. Salazar encountered rough sledding at first, as the council in general, and council member Charley Glasper in particular, were adamantly opposed to the concept of allowing Adelanto to be put on the map as one of the few San Bernardino County cities embracing marijuana sales, even if it offered a means of providing needed revenue. But as Salazar dialogued with city officials, discussing the possibility of putting a dispensary permitting initiative on the ballot, Glasper, who remained in opposition to the whole idea of permitting marijuana sales in the city, softened. He appeared to be willing to have the city council use its authority to schedule such a vote, if, he reasoned, the city could piggyback another vote on a city-sponsored initiative to impose a sales tax or utility tax on its residents and if Salazar would pay for the costs of the special election for those initiatives. Glasper hopefully calculated that the city’s voters just might pass the tax measure and reject the marijuana clinic proposal and for that reason was on the verge of voting to put the measure on the ballot. Salazar, however, was unwilling to bankroll the special election, angling instead to have the council simply adopt an ordinance establishing dispensaries meeting certain criteria permission to operate. For Glasper and the remainder of the council that was a deal-breaker, and the concept was abandoned.
Salazar, however, did not quit. He continued to lobby Adelanto officials, at times seeming to have two votes lined up and needing just one more to get clearance to operate in the town of 31,765. When he would get that third vote in place, one of the previous two would go sideways on him. In June, then again in July then once more in August and in September he was given indication approval of his clinic would be forthcoming but that he would need to wait. Then, early this month, he crossed the Rubicon, opening a dispensary in a portable building on Highway 395 near Seneca Road. For almost three weeks, business was booming. But on October 21 the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which serves as the police department for Adelanto on a contractual basis, came onto Salazar’s premises, armed with a search warrant. Salazar was arrested and his product and profits on hand at the location confiscated. He was released from custody later that evening but not before being cited for violating the city’s code prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries and inhabiting an uninspected and unpermitted structure deemed unsafe for human occupancy.
It is worth noting that Salazar was treated in a gentlemanly way during his arrest, a contrast to the oftentimes harsh treatment accorded to most drug offenders in San Bernardino County in the recent past. It is as if the sheriff’s department is acknowledging that medical marijuana advocates no longer fit the definition of out and out lawbreakers. Some pillars of the community such as Adelanto Councilman John Woodard, who has himself consistently supported Salazar’s marijuana clinic proposals, consider Salazar’s bold action in opening the clinic to be “heroic.”
Yet many marijuana law liberalization foes consider him to be a common criminal, as someone who is not seeking to help others through the compassionate provision of a therapeutic substance but rather someone willing to cater to the illicit and destructive appetites of others and reap millions of dollars in profit while doing it.
It is also worth noting that Adelanto, which has consistently banned allowing dispensaries to operate, was less squeamish about allowing large scale cannabis cultivation operations capable of growing tons of the stuff for sale elsewhere to operate in the city. This year the city council voted 4-1 to allow six such cultivation facilities to set up shop in the city’s industrial districts.
There is little middle ground in the marijuana legalization issue. Those that are most vocal about the subject believe that marijuana should be recognized as medicine and be made really available to those who want it or, conversely, that its possession, sale and use should remain defined as criminal. Those who hold more nuanced views rarely speak up.
Nowhere in San Bernardino County is the marijuana controversy playing out with as much intensity and backbiting vitriol as in Upland, with both sides seeking to command the high moral, logistical and political ground. Neither side – the medical marijuana advocates nor the prohibitionists – has hesitated at stooping to the lowest of tactics, as each has prevaricated, reversed its position or contentions when doing so was procedurally or legally or politically expedient. Both have not scrupled at misrepresenting the position of the other side in the course of public debate or discussion. The bottom line for each group is that it prevail. In the headlong rush toward their divergent goals, both have justified their dishonest means because of the rectitude of their divergent ends.
The advocates cast what was perhaps the first stone by inducing at least some of the signatories to endorse the petition to allow three dispensaries to operate in Upland by telling them that the petition’s intent was “to keep pot shops away from schools.” And while the initiative did contain language that called for permitting three such dispensaries in a limited geographical area where no schools are located, representing the initiative as one aimed at protecting children and the sanctity of the educational process was a half-truth, at best.
Not to be outdone, the prohibitionists engaged in an equal or even more pronounced prevarication, when the city attorney’s office stretched both the truth and the letter of the law to make the claim that the $75,000 fee the initiative called for qualified as a tax because the itemized cost of the city’s provision of those services totaled less than $75,000. The city, under the direction of marijuana prohibitionists Mayor Ray Musser and council members Glen Bozar and Carol Timm, made that claim and argued that position in court when a lawyer hired by Welty, Roger Diamond, contested the city’s contention that the $75,000 fee qualified as a tax. The city took that position despite on the record assertions by city councilman Bozar and his one-time representative on the city council advisory committee, Pat Almazan, that the $75,000 fee was inadequate to cover the monetary costs the city would sustain in hosting medical marijuana clinics. The question of costs was central to whether the vote on the initiative should be held in a specially-scheduled election in 2015 or be held over to the regularly scheduled municipal mayoral/city council election in November 2016. For political reasons relating to their respective abilities to marshal voters to the polls to support their differing causes, the initiative’s sponsors wanted the vote held in 2015; its opponents wanted the initiative voted upon at the regularly scheduled city election in November 2016. When the issue came before Judge David Cohn in May 2015, Cohn, whose hostility toward Diamond was evident in the tenor of the aggressive semi-interrogative questioning the judge submitted Diamond to during the hearing, sided with the city, without addressing any questions to the city’s lawyers about the significance of denying a special election to the petitioners after they had met the threshold of getting fifteen percent of the city’s voters to endorse a vote for the initiative, which under state law mandates the holding of a special election within 88 to 105 days after the petitions were accepted as valid by the city council.
In their sallies at the prohibitionists, Welty and his allies took aim at the three council members who took exception to the initiative – Musser, Bozar and Timm – and threatened to recall them from office, intimating that they had the requisite political muscle to do so. But Welty’s political reach is in question. Sometime after Judge Cohn rejected his coalition’s effort to force the ballot initiative to be staged during a special election, Welty took up a second medical marijuana dispensary initiative petition drive, this one containing no provision for a licensing fee. The intent is to replicate the previous successful petition drive and force the city to hold a special election on the subject. There is a question as to whether Welty and his confederates can capture lightning in a bottle the second time around and this time garner the signatures of 15 percent of the city’s voters once more to achieve their end. The deadline for turning those petitions over to the city clerk is December 7.
Meanwhile, a number of other Upland residents, including former city manager Stephen Dunn, have floated an alternative proposal with regard to marijuana clinic regulation, one that essentially calls for drafting a competing initiative that does not contain the hidden and not-so-hidden built-in advantages intended to benefit Welty. Welty’s initiative mentions no specific limitations on the size of operations and it limits their location to a section of town where he in one way or the other own, controls or otherwise has much of the land tied up. Moreover, he has intimated that once the ordinance contained in the initiative is in place and he owns one, two or all three of the licensed dispensaries in Upland, he will take legal action against the city to ensure that any “black market” dispensary operators are closed down. In this way, those opposing him say, he will achieve a de facto monopoly that will be enforced by the Upland Police Department.
Despite the fact that Dunn and others are proposing to establish a dispensary-permitting regime aimed at preventing Welty from strong-arming any future marijuana distribution industry in Upland and that the proposals for these alternate ordinances differ substantially and qualitatively from the terms contained in the initiative already qualified for the ballot through Welty’s efforts, Upland’s marijuana prohibitionists blur any distinction between Welty and the others. For example, even in the face of Dunn’s public statements clearly warning the community against accepting Welty’s proposal as the only option to be voted upon by Upland’s residents, Dunn has been repeatedly accused by the anti-dispensary crowd as being in league with Welty.
Upland resident Pat Almazan has been a prime mover in the effort to block the effort to permit dispensaries to operate in Upland. The group she has affiliated with has been assisted in its efforts by Paul Chabot, a Rancho Cucamonga resident who heads a wider crusade against drug use and the liberalization of marijuana laws.
In their exchanges with the Sentinel, both Almazan and Chabot illustrated the degree to which they see the struggle against drug law liberalization in the starkest of terms, with little or no recognition of the nuance inherent in the subject, be it the relative destructiveness or benignity of differing intoxicants, the differences between the various proposals for permitting, regulating licensing and taxing medical or recreational marijuana, distinctions between the various entities making those proposals or the vagaries of enforcement or the existing and/or future methodologies drug users employ to evade drug regulations and laws.
Chabot told the Sentinel that marijuana is highly dangerous substance and that there should be no consideration of making it legal for routine consumption. He acknowledged that on a relative scale there were even more destructive drugs, but that did not clear marijuana for use recreationally and he said its medical applicability should be limited to elements chemically extracted from the plant.
“Yes, methamphetamine is one of the most insidious drugs ever made,” Chabot said. “It probably causes the most significant damage to the body and brain. From my experience, methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. But so what? That does not mean we should legalize marijuana. We already have enough problems with other illegal drug substances and alcohol. Adding another into the equation by legitimizing another product will be even more destructive.”
Chabot said that the discussion with regard to the merits of legitimizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes had indeed been rerouted into arguments relating to the permitting of medical marijuana. That rerouting had been perpetrated by marijuana advocates because no discussion of recreational marijuana use should be entertained, he said. “If you don’t believe there is reason enough to prohibit the use of recreational marijuana, all you need to do is look toward Colorado as an example,” he said. “Because of legalization, there has been a virtual takeover of that state by the drug cartels. Also the marijuana of today is much different than the marijuana of thirty years ago. Then the tetrahydrocannabinol was one or two percent. Today it is upward of thirty percent, with research showing that it is linked to schizophrenia.”
Moreover, Chabot asserted, “Legalization of drugs across the board has been the intent of the liberalization movement all along. They want legalization for everything. They are going about this step by step. An earlier step was medical marijuana legalization. The next step is recreational use of marijuana.”
Chabot said there may be some medical applications of the constituents of the marijuana plant but that wholesale smoking of it was of dubious value. “I think we should explore the potential for marinol [a marijuana derivative used to enhance the appetite] or THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] in concentrated forms, such as its use in placing cannibinoid oils under the tongue of children to help with various health problems. While some of those compounds may have medicinal value, what marijuana approval advocates have done is they have created in California a situation where just about anybody is able to get an ID card to buy and smoke marijuana.”
Chabot was less steady in justifying the city of Upland’s creative use of the law to head off the holding of the referendum on Welty’s marijuana initiative until next year. He conceded that the initiative’s opponents may have overreacted. “I would say, ‘Let them have their election. If this were to go before the people of Upland, this will be defeated. Our concern was those who signed that petition were not given a true explanation of what they were signing. They should have told them “What this initiative does is it allows us to regulate into the city pot shops.’ If they had been open and honest, we are not afraid to let Uplanders vote on this. What I worry about is that the city of Upland, which is not in a strong position financially, will get bullied by the marijuana people. Upland doesn’t have the money to fight it. It is not farfetched to say the cartels in Mexico control that country. It is getting darn close to that in Upland. What is going on here is this is a business venture. This involves not only a strip club owner but other business people who are involved in this process. With a $40,000 investment an owner of a marijuana dispensary can make over $1 million. This is a moneymaking scheme. They are strong-arming a poor city in trouble financially so they can start raking in money hand over fist.”
In comparison to Almazan, Chabot came across as a moderate on the drug issue. In her view, there should be no toleration whatsoever of marijuana.
“New York Mayor Bloomberg said that medical marijuana is the biggest hoax that has ever been perpetrated in this country,” she said. “I agree with him. If marijuana can help people with a certain disease or condition, then they should go to a doctor and a licensed and credible pharmacy and get it. That is not the current situation with medical marijuana. They are using this whole charade of medical marijuana so they can get it for recreational use.”
There is no distinction between marijuana and other illicit drugs, Almzaon insisted. “They are all dangerous narcotics. The U.S. Government classifies it as a Schedule 1 narcotic. I see no distinction between marijuana and cocaine or heroin or methamphetamine. I don’t take them but they are all the same, as far as I can see. Marijuana is a gateway drug. I did not make up that term. Others, physicians, doctors, psychologists refer to it that way.”
When it was suggested to her that the prohibitionist stance against marijuana she and others had taken in many respects mimicked the ultimately failed model of prohibition and the Volstead Act that outlawed alcohol in the United States from 1919 to 1933 and contributed to the rise of gangsterism in that age, Almazan refused to concede that such an analogy applied. When that subject was broached from a different angle by means of a query as to whether she felt equally strongly about the ravages of alcohol on society in general and the Upland community specifically, and whether she would be willing to crusade for the closure of liquor stores in Upland, she responded, “Gosh, no! I cannot compare alcohol to drugs.”
Almazan’s animus toward drugs in general and marijuana in particular can be partially explicated by the horrific trauma of her father’s death. He was brutally murdered by an individual who is now committed to the California State Mental Hospital System in accordance with the insanity plea entered into his defense and which was accepted by the courts.
Drugs played a pivotal role in that perpetrator’s descent into homicidal madness, Almazan said. “He was a mass murderer who had been on pot,” Almzan said. “He might not have been on pot at the time, but pot was in his history.”
The evil of drugs and marijuana is so great, Almazan suggested, that no tactics in opposition to them is beyond the pale. She acknowledged that marijuana opponents such as herself had said some contradictory things to what other opponents had said along the way but saw no deep philosophical problem with the differences. Told that the city had persuaded Judge Cohn to postpone the vote on the marijuana dispensary initiative until next year primarily on the city’s itemized claim that the licensing, inspection, compliance and enforcement costs the city would sustain with regard to each dispensary would run to no more than $66,540 per year, Almazan repeated her insistence that the city’s costs in dealing with the dispensaries would be far more than $75,000 per year. She evinced no reservation about the city using the underinflated figure to prevail against Welty in court.
“These pot shops are terrible for our city,” she said. “They are a danger to our young people, who are the most vulnerable here. We should do everything we can any way we can to keep them out. They are not right. And I will stand up against what is not right.”
Upland should simply close the door on any marijuana proposals, in whatever form and from whomever they emanate.
“It is better to be on the safe side,” she said. “Some people will say, ‘We’re adults. We can be responsible and just use a little bit here and there, once in a while.’ But the propensity is to go onto the next drug. Marijuana is a gateway drug. There can be no middle ground with that.”
She scoffed at the suggestion that those offering variant proposals with regard to the permitting of cannabis dispensaries could be distinguished from one another, that there could be more protections for the community built into a given licensing proposal over another licensing proposal or that there was any substantive difference between the differing proponents. Any operations that make marijuana available are equally bad, she suggested.
“Welty’s bottom line has to do with making big profits off the backs of our youth,” she said. Stephen Dunn, she said, “is a proponent and one intent on having the pot shops ushered in. However, I do not believe him to be profiting at this point in time. Ergo, I see a distinction between him and Mr. Welty.”
Almazan was absolutely opposed, she said, to any kind of compromise on the marijuana issue.
“I don’t believe in negotiating with the pot people at all,” she said. “Once you say, ‘This is okay,’ you will be inviting in everything.”
Union Demand Puts Wrinkle In Airport Transfer Pact
As Ontario and Los Angeles officials are working toward putting the final touches on returning Ontario Airport to local ownership and control 30 years after the megalopolis took title to the aerodrome, the unions representing the workers at the airport have now taken stock of the implication the transfer will potentially have on their constituents.
As a result, with the city of Ontario tantalizingly near to closing the transfer, airport workers are demanding a voice in structuring the terms by which the airport will be run in the future, putting a new wrinkle into the process that ultimately will require Federal Aviation Administration approval.
Forty-eight years ago, the cities of Ontario and Los Angeles in entered into a joint powers agreement in which the airport’s management and operation was entrusted to the larger city, which was able to use its control over gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport as leverage with airlines to induce them to fly into and out of Ontario. In 1967, fewer than 200,000 passengers passed through Ontario Airport’s gates and it had a flea infested gravel parking lot. Almost immediately Los Angeles made substantial investments in Ontario Airport, and in relatively short order ridership at Ontario Airport increased dramatically.
All told, Los Angeles instituted some $550 million worth of improvements to the airport, including paving its parking lot, laying down a second and entirely new east-to-west runway over its obsolete northeast-to-southwest landing strip, and modernizing its existing east-to-west runway, including the widening of taxiways and the addition of storm drains. Ontario Airport’s landing and take-off paths were converted into the longest such civilian facility in Southern California, and Los Angeles erected a state-of-the-art control tower, and constructed two ultra-modern terminals at a cost of $270 million, augmented with a world class concourse. In 1985, after all of the criteria laid out in the joint powers agreement were met, the Ontario City Council, defying the wishes of then-mayor Robert Ellingwood, deeded the airport to Los Angeles for no consideration during a council meeting where Ellingwood was not in attendance. In 2007, 7.2 million passengers came through Ontario Airport, a 3,600 percent increase over what Ontario had been able to achieve on its own 40 years before.
But with the economic downturn that hit the nation, state and region in 2007, the number of passengers using Ontario Airport diminished. Over the next four years, relations between the city of Ontario and the city of Los Angeles soured, with Ontario officials accusing the city of Los Angeles of using the corporate entity it had created to run both Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario Aairport, known as Los Angeles World Airports, to purposefully mismanage Ontario Airport in a deliberate effort to boost ridership at Los Angeles International Airport. Coincidentally, Los Angeles World Airports in 2007 had embarked on an energetic capital improvement program at Los Angeles International Airport.
Beginning in 2010, Ontario officials, led by councilman Alan Wapner, initiated an increasingly strident public relations campaign aimed at convincing the public that Los Angeles should return Ontario Airport to the city of Ontario. Caught in the crosshairs of that campaign was the then-executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, Gina Marie Lindsay. Wapner mercilessly portrayed her as being intent upon destroying the economy of the Inland Empire by what he said was a deliberate effort to destroy the viability of Ontario Airport.
In 2013 the city of Ontario, through the high powered Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, filed suit against Los Angeles, seeking to force it to turn ownership and control of the airport back over to Ontario. The case was being heard by Riverside Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask. Earlier this year, the city of Los Angeles announced that Lindsay was retiring as the head of Los Angeles World Airports. Then in August, just before the case was to go to trial before Trask, what Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti coyly told Los Angeles residents was a $260 million transaction and which Ontario officials called a $150 million deal, Los Angeles agreed to transfer the airport to a locally-based airport authority in return for Ontario putting up $150 million for the airport itself, forking over another $60 million to purchase assets technically belonging to Los Angeles World Airports that are in place at Ontario Airport and which are crucial or indispensable to its operations and Ontario assuming roughly $60 million in bonded indebtedness relating to past improvements at the airport.
Last week the Ontario City Council closely scrutinized the documents by which the airport transfer will be effectuated. There was only limited opportunity for the public to examine those terms, as the transfer documents were considered by the council in a closed session that lasted more than 40 minutes. The council gave direction for city staff and its legal team to proceed toward implementing the agreement, which will also need approval by the Los Angeles City Council, Los Angeles World Airport’s Board of Airport Commissioners and the Ontario International Airport Authority, which was created last year in San Bernardino County to take on eventual management of the airport, prior to the full contents and context of the agreement being publicly released.
As city officials were hailing the emerging agreement as a development of historic moment, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, which represents the current Los Angeles World Airports employees employed at Ontario Airport, leapt into the breach. The union’s representatives went before the Los Angeles City Council’s Trade, Commerce and Technology Subcommittee on October 20, asking that the committee and the full council to include them and their requests in the council’s discussions with regard to the finalization of the deal for the airport transfer to Ontario well before the council vote on accepting the final transfer document is registered.
The union wants the Los Angeles City Council to write into the transfer document protection for the current workers at Ontario Airport that will guarantee that they will retain their positions at the airport after Los Angeles World Airports is no longer the entity managing airport operations in Ontario.
That might present some difficulty for Ontario. In the lead up to the lawsuit and during the lawsuit, while Ontario was contending that Los Angeles World Airports was mismanaging the airport, there were suggestions that the high cost of operating the airport was driving up the costs passed along to airlines flying into and out of Ontario. Those costs were discouraging the airlines from scheduling more flights into and out of Ontario, Ontario officials contended. Ontario officials claim their takeover of the airport will entail greater efficiency than was in place while Los Angeles was calling the shots.
If the Los Angeles City Council insists that Ontario retain all of the current Los Angeles World Airports employees in place at Ontario Airport in order for the transfer to proceed, that could hamstring Ontario in its efforts to streamline airport operations and achieve operational cost savings that would be passed along to the airlines.
Resident Environmentalist Booted From Newberry Springs H2O Ad-Hoc Panel
“Whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’” -Mark Twain
A dispute has broken out in the desert community of Newberry Springs over what some landowners perceive as a backdoor move by major water users to consolidate their hold on the scarce remaining regional water resources and ensure that the more numerous minimal water users in the area, rather than farmers and those using several desert lakes in the community for recreational purposes, bear the brunt of any future conservation efforts.
Newberry Springs lies toward the extreme end of the Mojave River Basin, such that water is a very precious commodity much in dispute among hundreds of competing consumers there. A relative handful of those consumers monopolize the lion’s share of the water. Because those larger consumers have been able to generate wealth from their water-intensive operations, they have accumulated a degree of political power that helps to sustain their ability to utilize the massive amount of water they monopolize.
A grassroots group of local landholding activists maintain that the imbalance in the distribution of water rights into the hands of a relative few by one state agency in particular is highly inequitable and has violated the federal constitution, as such heavy pumping depletes the water table under innocent others who have a historically higher residential priority right to the water than those who are exploiting it for commercial purposes.
The headwaters of the Mojave River lie at the north base of the San Bernardino Mountains near Summit Valley and Hesperia. The Mojave River then winds into the Mojave Desert past Apple Valley, Victorville and Adelanto before reaching Barstow. It was Barstow’s contention in a lawsuit it filed in 1992 that the upstream users were overpumping from the basin and overdrawing water from the river, thereby depleting the water supply that historically had reached Barstow.
Barstow pursued its lawsuit in Riverside Superior Court, to which the case was removed from the local Superior Court venue because of concern that cities such as Victorville, Hesperia and entities such as the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company and the Baldy Mesa Water District might overwhelm Barstow through political influence. Then-Riverside Superior Court Judge J. Michael Kaiser heard the case in which the Mojave Water Agency, which had been in existence since 1964, sought to adjudicate the water rights throughout the portion of the Mojave Desert lying within its jurisdiction.
The Mojave Water Agency undertook a survey of water usage by all entities in the Mojave Basin during the five-year period running from 1987 to 1991, inclusive. After establishing what the maximum annual amount of water utilized by each of those entities was, the Mojave Water Agency then declared that amount to be each respective heavy pumping well owner’s base annual pumping rate. Users deemed to be using ten acre feet of water or less annually were defined as a minimal users not subject to the limitations. That base annual pumping rate was then subjected to a five percent “rampdown,” a reduction each year for five years, so that at the end of the rampdown period, the pumpers would be allotted 75 percent of the water each had pumped during their heaviest water use year during the survey period. That allotment became each pumper’s free water allotment, such that any water use beyond that amount was deemed excessive, and the user was required to pay the Mojave Water Agency a per-acre foot surcharge for that excessive use. The Mojave Water Agency was to use the money achieved in this fashion to purchase replacement water from the State Water Project, conveyed to the Mojave Desert in the California Aqueduct. The vast majority of water users in the Mojave River Basin in the Baja Subarea, wherein Newberry Springs is located, accepted these restrictions, under a regime known as a “stipulated judgment.”
The Mojave Water Agency was simultaneously pursuing other efforts, including both water conservation and water reuse, to maintain the level of water within the various aquifers within its jurisdiction and prevent them from falling into a state of overdraft.
Among these efforts were a series of water sustainability plans for the subareas within the entire Mojave Water Basin. Those sustainability plans were intended to map out how the locally available water would be allotted, both in terms of type of use and to which particular users.
In the area around Newberry Springs, the water table lies relatively close to the surface of the desert, allowing the construction of man-made lakes – Calico, Cheyenne, Crystal, Great Lakes, Horton, Jody, Silver Dunes, Sundown, Wainani and Wet Set among them, which utilize more than ten acre-feet of water annually.
Nearly all of those lakes have been used for private recreational purposes by those who own them.
Beginning in the late 1970s, alfalfa farmers growing their crop for use by dairy farms began relocating into the High Desert. Some were attracted to the area near Newberry Springs because of the availability of free water near the surface, which reduces the cost of irrigation since it does not entail drawing water from deeper in the water table. When the agricultural preserve zone in the Chino/south Ontario area was lifted in the late 1990s, and land there was opened up for residential development, dairy land was bought out and many dairies relocated, with some moving their operations to Tulare and Kern counties, as well as to Idaho. As a result of this dairy migration, alfalfa farmers formerly located in the Chino Valley relocated to the High Desert.
Newberry Springs residents, who have never been overjoyed at the prospect of alfalfa farmers setting up operations in their neck of the woods, have had their discomfiture grow ever greater with the now-five-year-persisting drought. In Riverside County Superior Court, where authority over the Mojave Water Agency’s water rights adjudication process remains ongoing, Judge Gloria Trask has inherited the case from Judge Kaiser. One of the continuing issues in that litigation is the approval of the Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan, now in draft form.
Simultaneously, an alliance between the farmers and the owners of the lakes has formed. That alliance is pressing governmental authorities overseeing water use policy to prevent any further reductions on the farmers and lake owners from being imposed. One manifestation of that alliance was the water conservation ordinance ad-hoc committee formed by lake owner Jeff Gaastra.
It was Gaastra’s intent that the ad-hoc committee could make recommendations on the priority of water use that would be submitted to the Mojave Water Agency, Judge Trask and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors which would be accepted. Among those Gaastra recruited to serve on the ad-hoc committee was property owner Robert Berkman. Berkman is one of the prime movers in a Newberry Springs activist group called California Environmental Quality Act NOW, which has long asserted that Baja Subarea basin has been seriously overdrafted by a relative handful of wealthy alfalfa farmers, most of whom live elsewhere and who have considerable political power that translates into influence over, bordering on control of, the Mojave Water Agency. Berkman had previously informed state water officials that conditions contained in the stipulated judgment, which required that if the groundwater levels at the Camp Cady Fish & Wildlife Preserve consisting of 1,870 acres along the Mojave River in the Baja Subarea in Newberry Springs fell below a so-called “trigger” level, then 5 percent annual rampdowns in the Baja Subarea were to continue annually, until the groundwater rose. And Berkman had been critical of the Mojave Water Agency’s indolence in enforcing water use restrictions with regard to so-called minimum users who had exceeded the 10 acre-feet of water annual pumping allotments as well as the Mojave Water Agency’s reluctance and refusal to impose a gross-pump tax on heavy water pumpers in the Baja Subarea to purchase replenishment water.
By including Berkman, with his environmental advocacy credentials, on the ad-hoc committee, Gaastra appeared to be seeking to infuse the committee with a credibility that would induce the MWA, Judge Trask and the county board of supervisors to credit the committee’s recommendation as one that was balanced and ecologically sensitive and sustainable.
That strategy backfired, however, when Gaastra began encountering recommendations and demands from Berkman that were not in keeping with Gaastra’s larger agenda. This week Gaastra went to the extraordinary length of removing Berkman from the ad-hoc committee. If Gaastra had any illusions that Berkman was going to go quietly into the good night, they were shattered on Wednesday when Berkman went public with the disclosure that “Mr. Jeff Gaastra, the president of an ad-hoc water committee and also the president of the local lake owners association informed me over the telephone that I was terminated from his water committee. The remaining water committee members, as far as we know, are all lake owners or farmers.”
Berkman said, “The farmers and lake owners seem determined to have the county adopt some sort of water ordinance for the Baja or Newberry Springs area. We, on the other hand wonder about the necessity for any such ordinance. The county revoked the local water conservation ordinance in about 2007, as being unnecessary, due to the 1996 Stipulated Agreement making the ordinance superfluous. Farmers on Mr. Gaastra’s water committee attempted to justify a new county water ordinance for Newberry Springs, by spreading phony rumors that Central Valley farmers were buying farmland in Newberry Springs. That was a scare tactic, designed to con the county into adopting a draconian water ordinance for Newberry Springs designed to benefit the local farmers and lake owners and to hell with everyone else.”
Berkman said he could prove that assertion. “We have some of their internal e-mails,” he said.
Berkman said that it was Gaastra’s intention, in forming the ad-hoc committee, to head off further water use reductions being imposed on lake owners and farmers under the adjudication.
“Ultimately, we suppose, their intent was to bamboozle the water master judge into suspending future rampdowns of free pumping allowance on local farmers and lake owners,” Berkman said. “If there is any need for a Newberry Springs water conservation ordinance, and the county requires local input, we suggest that they take that input from residents who are not farmers and not recreational lake owners. For professional knowledge, someone from the local Fish & Wildlife Preserve at Camp Cady should also be involved.”
Berkman asserted that the ad-hoc committee was in essence trying to reprioritize water use allowances. “To put this issue into perspective, the California Water Code at Section 106 states that the highest use for water is domestic use,” Berkman said. “Section 1257 of the Water Code, titled Consideration of Relative Benefit, lists beneficial users is order as: domestic, irrigation, municipal, industrial, preservation and enhancement of fish & wildlife, recreational, etc.”
Berkman said that Gaastra used his lake for water skiing and was intent on preserving his ability to use the lake for that purpose, preferably not having to pay to replenish the water there lost to evaporation. This called for, Berkman said, “standing the State Water Code on its head. Recreational water skiers should not be calling the shots on water conservation in and around Newberry Springs. The State Water Code places the importance of their water usage very close to the bottom of the list of beneficial uses.”
Upon the distribution of Berkman’s missive, Gaastra literally went ballistic, making a mass emailing from his account at weaponsedge.com. Characterizing Berkman’s communication as a “raving lunatic rant,” Gaastra told his communicants “Mr. Berkman has misinformed you.”
Gaastra asserted that Berkman was removed from the ad-hoc committee because he was not on board with the goal of heading off further rampdowns.
“I did call him today to let him know that I was disappointed that he is not willing to work to find any common ground on a water conservation ordinance. Last week, I sent Mr. Berkman a list of proposed bullet points that we discussed at the community meeting; I asked him for his input. He was the first person I contacted regarding this list, knowing he might object to some items, so I was looking for feedback. Mr. Berkman responded by sending a letter to you all implying that I was akin to Joseph Stalin, and was some sort of environmental rapist.”
Gaastra’s letter continues, “I informed Mr. Berkman today that I cannot work with a person who, when
contacted for help, stabs me in the back with a lengthy rant, calling me names and comparing my home as an environmental rape! I love my home and my community and have been fighting to save it. Who would not? I have expended considerable time and effort trying to protect my home and way of life, and I will continue to do so regardless of mindless rants from the likes of Mr. Berkman.”
Gaastra then launched an attack on Berkman’s credibility.
“He is also a liar, [which] must come from being a raving lunatic. He states that I said I want to get around the adjudication. That is a lie! I never said that, and I am in favor of getting the basin in balance. Our water is important and should be managed for future generations; I hope to pass my home to my children. “
Without citing anything specific or marshaling any evidence, Gaastra asserted, “It should be obvious to everyone that Mr. Berkman has a few screws loose.”
4 Accused Murderers & 2 Accomplices In Barstow Man’s Kidnapping Death
In rapid fashion, three Barstow residents and fourth Hesperia man were charged late last week with murder following the death the week previously of a Barstow man. The murder involved aiding and abetting by two others, according to prosecutors, in a plot consisting of car theft, carjacking and kidnapping.
Nabil Nazir Attia Shehatam, 53 of Barstow, was killed sometime between Monday, October 12 and Monday, October 19, according to authorities. His body was found at about 3:11 p.m. on October 19 in the open desert near Highway 58. His family had reported him missing several days prior to that.
The following day, October 20, Barstow police officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle belonging to Shehata. Bruce Lamont Fuller and Inor Montrell Robinson were identified as the occupants of the car. They were detained and after questioning, were arrested by homicide detectives.
Fuller and Robinson’s statements led investigators to various places in Barstow and Hesperia. Upon further investigation, Dmorrion Avery Holmes, 18 of Hesperia; Michael Raynile Phillips, 21 of Barstow; Tanisha Anthony 24 of Barstow; and Klonie Karmell Steele McNeese, 19 of Barstow were taken into custody.
Holmes and Phillips are charged with murder, carjacking and kidnapping for ransom. Anthony Steele McNeese are charged with murder and carjacking.
Fuller has been hit with charges of harboring or aiding a felony suspect/accessory and buying or receiving a stolen vehicle or equipment.
Robinson stands accused of unlawfully taking or driving a vehicle and harboring or aiding a felony suspect as well as accessory after the fact.
All six were arraigned on October 23 and pled not guilty. Deputy district attorney Mary Braun is handling the case.
Holmes. Phillips Anthony, Steele McNeese and Robinson are being held lieu of $1.5 million bail. Fuller is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Third GEO Group Prison Project Resurrected Despite Earlier PC Rejection
ADELANTO—Citing financial hardship, the Adelanto City Council this week on a 3-2 vote resuscitated GEO Group’s previously withdrawn proposal to build that private incarceration company’s third prison in Adelanto.
With councilmen Ed Camargo, Jermaine Wright and John Woodard supporting the project and Mayor Rich Kerr and Charley Glasper in opposition, the council approved the 1,000-bed jail on 22.16 acres of land on the northeast corner of Holly and Koala roads, a half-mile from residential housing and roughly 1.5 miles from Adelanto High School. In casting their votes, the trio of Camargo, Wright and Woodard overrode the planning commission’s rejection of the proposal earlier this month. Moreover, Wright’s vote to approve the plan reverses a vote he made 11 months ago, in November 2014, against an earlier version of the proposal. At that time, GEO Group, led by George Zoley, was requesting clearance to construct what was described as a 1,050-bed private prison at the same Holly and Koala roads location. The council as it was then composed – consisting of Wright, then-mayor Cari Thomas, then-councilman Steve Baisden, then-councilman Charles Valvo and Camago – approved the project 3-2 with Wright and Baisden in opposition. Despite that approval, the Greek-born Zoley, who is among the 1,500 wealthiest men in the world, withdrew the proposal in January. Zoley had been offended by a massive scale protest at that time which decried the city of Adelanto’s hosting of prison facilities.
The city of 31,765 already hosts three prisons or detention facilities and on the same night as the Geo Group’s proposal was given go-ahead on November 19, 2914, the council had
also given approval to a company known as LCS Holdings headed by Doctor Crants and Buck Johns to build a 3,264-bed detention facility to house Los Angeles County’s overflow inmate population.
This week, on October 28, Wright, Camargo and Woodard, referencing enhanced revenue the city will receive once the project is completed and functioning, gave GEO a two-year window to obtain a permit for the facility and five years beyond that to find an entity to supply inmates to be housed at the facility.
Geo Group, Inc. which started as a corporate offshoot of the private prison facility Wackenhut Corporation and now operates prison facilities on contract with governmental jurisdictions in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and South Africa, already operates in Adelanto both a 1,940 inmate capacity facility for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the 700-inmate Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility on behalf of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
In addition, Adelanto is home to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s High Desert Detention Center, a 2,098-bed facility.
Adelanto Planning Commissioner Joy Jeanette was among those in attendance at last week’s meeting. She referenced the relative proximity of the high school as a reason for turning thumbs down on the proposal.
For its part, Geo Group threw in some financial incentives that were too tempting for the council majority to resist. In return for the project approval, GEO, which at present is paying the city $367,000 annually to operate in Adelanto, agreed to pay the city a one dollar per day per-bed fee for all three of its facilities.
Thus, according to the city staff report on the project, at GEO Group’s 700-bed Desert View Prison it will pay the city $21,292 monthly and $255, 500 annually; at its 650-bed Adelanto East Prison it will pay the city $19,771 monthly or $237,250 annually and at its 1,290-bed Adelanto West Prison it will pay the city $39,237 monthly or $470,850 annually. This translates to an infusion of funds into the city of $80,300 monthly or $963,600 annually, bringing to a total of $1,330,000 the city will derive from GEO in annual revenue. The staff report did not explain the discrepancy between the 1,000-bed description of the facility and the 1,290 figure given in the other reference to the prison.
Indications were that upon the completion of the project and its certification for occupancy, GEO will place prisoners within the facility, but it is not clear from whence they will have originated. In general, the facilities operated by GEO house prisoners under a contractual arrangement with some jurisdiction or agency of the government. In this case, GEO is building the facility without having a pre-existing arrangement with an agency in place. GEO’s permanent client for the new Adelanto facility will be identified upon the closure of the contract with that agency. It has therefore not been spelled out yet what the security-level of the inmates to reside there will be.
It was this element of the deal and the general reservations many have over the city being host to prisons and the implication that will have on Adelanto’s reputation and public image that fueled some resistance to the project.
It was for that reason that Mayor Rich Kerr voted against granting GEO its appeal of the planning commission’s decision.
Councilman Charley Glasper, who likewise opposed granting GEO the appeal, was less concerned about harm to the city’s image. He said as long as the prisons remain secure and prisoners cannot escape, no real harm will be done to the community.
Forum… Or Against ‘em
By Count Friedrich von Olsen
It goes without saying that I am a Republican. My sentiments are with the GOP, which will hopefully take back the White House after an interminable eight years of Democratic residence there…
I am bound by the Eleventh Commandment from speaking ill of any of my fellow Republicans. I have, at the moment, the inclination to speak ill of someone, so, quite appropriately I will frame my comments with regard to Hillary Clinton…
It may interest some that I have not rallied round the GOP standard as a recent series of attacks on the former First Lady and one-time Secretary of State have been made. That is because I think those attacks lack substance. She has been much criticized and was even the subject of Congressional Hearings over the so-called Bengazi Affair. As I understand it, a number of people want her head because as Secretary of State, she is deemed to somehow have been responsible for the outcome of chaotic events that occurred on 11 September 2012, when the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi was attacked by a heavily armed group of some 125 Ansar al-Sharia gunmen, what are described as Islamist militants. Before it was over U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed and ten other Americans injured…
I don’t buy it. I have been to Libya at less stressful times. It was never all that hospitable of a place for Westerners to begin with. The events of September 11, 2012, coming as they did in the aftermath of the dissolution of the rule of Muammar Khaddafi and as Libya was plunging ever deeper into chaos, were beyond the control of anyone. Yes, the State Department does speak with the authority of the U.S. Government in foreign countries and in diplomatic circles. The State Department and the Secretary of State indeed have influence. But that influence is not absolute and neither is the State Department’s authority. Even if she had been the Secretary of Defense, I do not believe she could have reacted to what was going on in Bengazi in time or with sufficient precision to stave off what occurred. Blaming her in that regard is disingenuous at best, intellectually dishonest and pointless. Would her critics have her order up surgical bombing missions against Libya’s second largest city accompanied by a special forces commando-style raid to pluck our diplomats, their staff and body guards out of harm’s way? She had neither the authority nor the resources to do this. When things rage out of control in places that are already inherently unstable, there is little anyone can do. Had the United States taken draconian action against citizens of another country inside that country and created collateral casualties, we would have been seen as Ugly Americans, which would have been a real setback to our diplomatic mission in numerous places around the world. My advice to my fellow Republicans is to drop this…
I am afraid I am a little too long in the tooth and unschooled in these modern and new-fangled means of communication to be prepared to condemn her over her use of her personal email server, whatever that entails, to communicate with others while she was Secretary of State. I have email, but it is handled for me entirely by my butler, Hudson, and my personal secretary, Miss Tompkins. I still own a typewriter. I am afraid that my understanding of the wonder of computerized technology that now engulfs the world has somehow passed me by. I appreciate, however, that emails are a form of electronic letter, the product of a modernized teletype, if you will, that is now pretty close to universally available. In using her own system, rather than the teletype link available to her through the State Department, Mrs. Clinton was apparently putting the security of her communications at risk, as there are today, of course, all order of pranksters, miscreants, thieves known as hackers and general mischief makers who take pride in tapping into these electronic communications. I appreciate that this could be a hazard when the person being tapped into is in the position of Secretary of State. So, perhaps she should have been a little more circumspect. But I consider this to be a pardonable sin. Certainly, Henry Stimson, who was the Secretary of War under one Republican president, William Howard Taft, and the Secretary of State under another Republican president, Herbert Hoover, was every bit as naïve as was this lady, Mrs. Clinton, who some 80 years later succeeded him as Secretary of State. Stimson elected to shut down the State Department’s cryptanalytic office saying, “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail…”
Nor do I think that Hillary Clinton was having an affair with Vince Foster and that she murdered him…
Now, having said all that, let me unequivocally state that Hillary Clinton is absolutely unqualified to be President of the United States. In actuality, I think she has some nerve even running for the position…
How did she get into position to be considered a leading contender for the job? Let’s see: She was the First Lady. Her husband, who incidentally wasn’t that good of a president, publicly embarrassed her. Through a combination of sympathy votes, her name recognition and gender politics, she became a senator. Using much of the same formula, she wangled being appointed Secretary of State. After six lackluster years in that capacity, she thinks she merits being president. That is perhaps not surprising, given her arrogance. What is surprising is that a goodly number of the American population is abetting her in her arrogance…
Come we now to something of substance that should disqualify her: her involvement in the Whitewater Scandal…
In late 1978, Jim and Susan McDougal and Bill and Hillary Clinton borrowed $203,000 to buy 230 acres of undeveloped land along the south bank of the White River near Flippin, Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains. They intended to subdivide the site into lots for vacation homes they could sell to gullible Northerners from places like Illinois, Ohio and New York. They promoted it with paeans to low property taxes, fishing, rafting, and mountain scenery. They created the Whitewater Development Corporation, incorporated on June 18, 1979, in which all four participants had equal shares, to facilitate all of this. They soon gave up on actually developing the property, instead hoping to make the enterprise look like a going concern and then sell it at a profit. They built a single “model home,” with which they angled to lure in future suckers, er I mean, investors.
Bill Clinton, who was Arkansas Attorney General when this idea was hatched and then later Arkansas governor as it came to fruition, was in a vulnerable position because Jim McDougal could expose to the public, if he chose, that the governor was up to no good and involved in real estate fraud. He began pressuring the governor and his wife for money, checks to cover this and that. Bill Clinton also appointed Jim McDougal as his economic aide when Clinton was governor, in spite of the consideration that his advice with regard to the Whitewater deal was suspect, at best.
When Clinton lost his reelection bid in 1980, McDougal became a banker, acquiring the Bank of Kingston in 1980 and the Woodruff Savings & Loan in 1982, renaming them the Madison Bank & Trust and the Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, respectively. Later, Bill Clinton was again elected Arkansas Governor and McDougal used his banks to help retire some of Bill Clinton’s campaign debt…
In 1985, Jim McDougal, with his business partner now again Arkansas governor, began investing in local residential construction, under the aegis of the Castle Grande project. This thousand acre venture south of Little Rock required $1.75 million up front, more than McDougal could manage on his own since financial laws would not allow him to borrow more than $600,000 from his own savings and loan, Madison Guaranty. McDougal brought in others, among them Seth Ward, an employee of the bank, who helped funnel the additional $1.15 million required. To avoid regulators poking their noses into the deal, they engaged in a shell game, in which the money was moved back and forth among several other investors and intermediaries. Hillary Clinton, then an attorney at Little Rock-based Rose Law Firm, provided legal services to Castle Grande…
In 1986, federal regulators learned that all of the funding for the real estate venture had come entirely from Madison Guaranty. In July of that year, McDougal resigned from Madison Guaranty. Seth Ward fell under investigation, along with the lawyer who helped him draft the agreement. Castle Grande earned $2 million in commissions and fees for McDougal’s business associates, as well as an unknown amount of legal fees by Hillary Clinton’s law firm. In 1989 the entire Castle Grande undertaking collapsed, at a cost to the government of $4 million, and triggering the failure of Madison Guaranty, which federal regulators then had to take over. Taking place in the midst of the nationwide savings and loan crisis, the failure of Madison Guaranty cost the United States $73 million…
On paper, the Clintons lost between $37,000 and $69,000 on their Whitewater investment, a lesser amount than the McDougals lost. This unequal distribution of the liability suggests that Bill Clinton, as governor was using his office to engineer some tawdry things to benefit the partnership instead of being directly financially involved…
After Bill Clinton became president in 1993, questions about the Whitewater matter became of national interest. Vince Foster, who was Bill and Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, committed suicide in July 1993. Within hours of the Foster’s death, chief White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum removed documents, some of them concerning the Whitewater Development Corporation, from Foster’s office and gave them to Maggie Williams, chief of staff to the First Lady. Williams placed them in a safe in the White House for five days before turning them over to their personal lawyer…
There were several investigations into the matter that never really got to the bottom of things. One of these was the Pillsbury Report, a $3 million study done for the Resolution Trust Corporation by the Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro law firm at the time that Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan was dissolved. The report concluded that James McDougal, had acted as the lead on much of what went on. In time, with questions still reverberating around Washington and the country, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the failed Whitewater deal, with Robert B. Fiske being appointed by then Attorney General Janet Reno to carry out the probe. Fiske was replaced by Kenneth Starr…
Things at one point were looking bad for the Clintons, with one witness, David Hale, alleging that Bill Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, pressured him to provide an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal. But Starr somehow got sidetracked into the relationship between Bill Clinton and White House intern Monical Lewinsky. That so engrossed the investigators, Washington, the press and the country that the real substance of Whitewater was lost and never given a full explication. Had it been, Bill and Hillary Clinton might be in prison. Instead, Mrs. Clinton became the object of national sympathy, then a senator and then Secretary of State and we are now where we are today…
Early Trona & Searles Valley
Searles Valley and Trona, which lie at the northwest extreme of San Bernardino County and the gateway into Death Valley, are hardly thought about by many of San Bernardino County’s residents. It will now be a less obscure place, thanks to a splendid book by James Fairchild, Russell Kaldenberg and the Searles Valley Historical Association. Titled Around Trona and Searles Valley, it is published by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, South Carolina as part of the Images of America series.
The book has chapters about the native inhabitants, early travelers through the area, the first hard rock miners to work the claims staked there, John and Dennis Searles, and their Borax company built on what is now known as Searles Dry Lake, the mining industry that grew up around the lake, the founding of Trona as a corporate town and subsequent developments. Those looking to purchase the book can do so by directly ordering it from Arcadia Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com or the Searles Valley Historical Society at P. O. Box 630, Trona 93562; 760 372-5222.
The Blind Snake: Leptotyphlops Humilis
Leptotyphlops humilis is a blind snake species endemic to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It falls within the reptilian class, the squamata order and serpents suborder, the leptotyphlopidae family and the leptotyphlops genus and L. humilis species. It is also known as the rena humilis, stenostoma humile, the glauconia huilis, the siagonodon humilis, and the leptotyphlops chumilis. It is commonly referred to as the western slender blind snake, western threadsnake, western blind snake.
There are nine subspecies of this snake that are currently recognized.
Though it is a snake, the leptotyphlops humilis, like many of the others in its family, resembles a long earthworm. It lives underground in burrows. Because there is little light in its most common environment, it has no use for vision. Accordingly, its eyes are mostly vestigial, but they are believed to be capable of detecting light. The western blind snake is pink, purple, beige or silvery-brown in color, shiny, wormlike, cylindrical, and blunt at both ends, and has light-detecting black eyespots. The snake’s skull is thick to permit burrowing, and it has a spine at the end of its tail that it uses for leverage. It is usually less than twelve inches in total length, including its tail, though some that are almost 16 inches have been noted. It is as large, or only slightly larger, in girth than an earthworm. This species and other blind snakes are fluorescent under low frequency ultraviolet (i.e., black) light.
On the top of the head, between the ocular scales, L. humilis has only one scale
It is found in the southwestern United States, South Florida, and northern Mexico. In the U.S. it ranges from southwestern and Trans-Pecos Texas west through southern and central Arizona, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and southern California. In Mexico its distribution includes the Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí.
The snake lives underground, sometimes as deep as 60 feet. It is known to invade ant and termite nests. Millipedes and centipedes are also occasionally eaten. Its diet is made up mostly of insects and their larvae and eggs. When searching for food, a western blind snake will hunt until it finds an ant pheromone trail and follow it back to the nest to consume the residents. Its smooth, tightly overlapping scales provide protection against the bites and stings of ants. It is found in deserts and scrub where the soil is loose enough to work.
The hard, shiny scales on the underside are similar in appearance to those on the back, except lighter in color. Teeth are lacking from the upper jaw in these creatures.
These snakes will live at altitudes from below sea level to 5,000 feet. The western blind snake prefers moist, loose soils suitable for burrowing. This may include the sandy washes or canyon bottoms of mountain brushy areas or desert grasslands.
If disturbed, it will writhe and wiggle its tail to focus attention here instead of on the head. Preyed upon by a wide variety of animals, including birds, mammals, snakes, fish and even spiders, this tiny serpent shares a feature with the much larger boas and pythons in that it has the remains of a pelvic girdle and femur, complete with a tiny spur.
A secretive, nocturnal snake, blind snakes mate in spring. In late summer the females lay 2 to 7 slender, tiny 5/8 inch long eggs in protected underground nurseries. Sometimes they nest communally. The eggs are tended until after the 3½ inch long hatchlings emerge from their eggs.
California Style: Art Forward
By Grace Bernal
Art is fresh and moving on with the fashion trends. Up and coming is pop art in clothes and this is definitely bringing the fashion scene back to life. It’s thanks to all the young people that this movement is happening. They are wearing colorful creative purses/handbags, and bright dipping their hair into colorful dyes The fashion world is looking whimsical and with a kick. One person reviving pop art in fashion is Jeremiah Scott. He offers color and prints and adds a lot of artful flavor to his pieces. There’s a lot of freedom coming out when people are expressing fashion through their taste in art. It’s not a costume contest but about being an individual. Being able to wear what you want and carry it with pride is what’s happening in the fashion scene these days. Once again young people are taking the lead. Enjoy your artful and creative side this weekend and Happy Halloween!
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
― Frida Kahlo