Needles Let Councilman’s Company Skip Out On $30,000 Electric Bill

In the midst of public hearings as the City of Needles prepares to raise utility rates on its citizens, heretofore closely guarded information has emerged that a former city councilman’s business has stiffed the city for tens of thousands of dollars through the nonpayment of electric bills.
Whereas regular Needles residents are hit with a delinquent notice within a month of being late on their utility payments and have their electricity turned off if they allow those payments to lapse past the two-month point, Colorado River Distributors, a beverage distribution company owned by former Needles councilman Jimmy Lopez was over $30,000 in arrears on its electric bill and did not see its service interrupted.
Lopez resigned as Needles city councilman one year ago after six years and three months in that post.
To all appearances prior to his exit, Lopez appeared larger than life in this town at the county’s far eastern end on the western bank of the Colorado River. In Needles, the smallest of San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated cities population-wise, Lopez seemed too big to fail, with a fleet of big rigs/eight-wheelers lined up at his warehouse on Route 66 and numerous employees. To those on the outside looking in, he was a shining success amidst a town where many businesses are doomed to decline, forced to compete with lower sales tax and costs at businesses just across the river in Arizona, and are still smarting from the economic downturn on a once busy corridor bypassed by the construction of Interstate 40.
But the popular councilman, whose bread found its butter through his beverage distribution company, which included beer and soft drinks, was bullish on California. He expressed the attitude that “Arizona always follows suit to California…if we are taxed here, it won’t be long before Arizona catches up…I’ll take my chances here. I’ll raise my kids here in my home town.” Lopez’s business donated to the sports teams and school functions. His business supported many local functions and he was instrumental in creating the Needles Downtown Business Alliance. He threw extravagant parties and events at his luxury custom home with a megalithic pool and spa overlooking a magnificent view of the Colorado River. For this reason, Lopez seemed beloved among the locals and, when he ran for city council, he was handily elected and reelected. He was a modernist, proud that he had helped to usher in the legalization of medical marijuana into one of the most economically challenged communities of San Bernardino County, making the town the proclaimed unofficial capital of medical marijuana in the county and the state — the first town to tax pot.
But all of the external extravagances and signs of success – not just the lap band and his wife’s tattoos, but the fancy new Harley, the pool, and the rip snorting lavish parties – came with a price. The first sign of affairs going south was a rumor of his wife setting up residence in San Diego, a separation, then a divorce, bankruptcy and then word of employees who were being let go without a promised pension.
Two weeks before Jimmy Lopez announced that he was stepping down from his seat on the Needles City Council last year, the word was on the street – at least in some quarters – that the councilman was in financial trouble.
Indeed, that was the case. At the time of his resignation, Lopez went part, though not all, of the way in acknowledging that times were tough financially. He said he regretted having to leave office but felt it was necessary because the demands of running his company made it impossible for him to provide his constituents with the level and intensity of service they deserve. He said that he had “sold two of my divisions, the ones for distribution and industrial gasses, specifically helium, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide” but that he was still making a go of the beverage end of Colorado River Distributors, Inc., which maintained its affiliation with Coca-Cola and serviced beverage machines dispensing The Real Thing throughout a territory that stretched from Needles all the way to Barstow and Fort Irwin and catered to restaurant chains – Denny’s, McDonald’s, Chili’s – and casinos. What Lopez left unstated in a semi-state of secrecy was that he no longer employed others to make those deliveries and provide those services, having laid them all off, and now was doing the work himself.
Lopez and the city harbored another secret, one that has only recently lurched out of the bag: Colorado River Distributors was over $30,000 in arrears on its electric bill.
In an apparent shielding of what might be perceived as a “gift of public funds,” nothing was ever said publicly about the circumstance and the city never moved to impose on Lopez the same discipline it routinely applied to others who failed to pay their bills. The indignity of having Colorado River Distributors’ electricity shut off was never visited upon Lopez.
David Buckley, a Needles residence with an established talent for ferreting out information being held close to the vest at Needles City Hall told the Sentinel he learned that something was amiss prior to Lopez leaving office. Buckley said that with the proposal to up electricity rates paid by the citizenry once more, its now time for the information to surface.
“For me, it was timing,” Buckley said. “I heard about it but the timing wasn’t right to question it on the dais before the city council until now. I wanted people to be listening…now that the city is raising everyone’s utility rates, people are going to be listening and speculating why our rates are going up.”
In front of a large crowd at the Tuesday night council meeting, Buckley, during the public comment period, related his tale that while he was visiting the Needles Chamber of Commerce office a couple of weeks before Lopez’s resignation, Mayor Ed Paget’s wife, Jan, approached him. “’I have a news tip for you,’” Buckley quoted Nan Paget. “’Councilman Jimmy Lopez owes the City of Needles, and his company is over $30,000 in arrears on its electric bills.’” Buckley claimed that he told her at that time “You are the 10th to allege that and the second source from Needles City Hall to corroborate.”
Lopez made no mention of the money he owed to the city on the night of his resignation from the council. He said simply that he had downsized his work force and he needed time to take on many of the business responsibilities that his employees formerly did for him.
In reaction to Buckley’s statement at the city council meeting this week, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels asked city attorney John Pinkney to provide some order of an explanation. Pinkney did not deny the allegation and recalled that two weeks before Lopez’s resignation, he, Pinkney, had recused himself from the issue of the city’s collection problem since he was also still representing Jimmy in his capacity as a councilman. Pinkney revealed that the City contracted the law firm of Best, Best and Krieger to handle the case. Pinkney did not expound upon whether civil or collection proceedings were initiated against Colorado River Distributors. The Sentinel has not found any evidence of a collection effort or that Colorado River Distributors has retired that arrearage.
Daniels asserted that there was an item on this week’s agenda that, coincidentally, proposed a policy change and would correct gaps in the city’s utility collection stop loss policy.
Despite its size, Needles is one of only two cities in San Bernardino County that has a full service utility division, with water, sewer and electrical departments.
Daniels said that the deposit on utility connection fees would be increased and the lapse period that the city could cut off electricity would be shortened if the new policy is adopted. Currently, he said, the city has been allowing up to 3 or 4 months given extenuating conditions of the elderly or those who have health related issues. Now, he said, three steps would be taken: 1) the deposit would be increased to reflect the historic highest monthly bill, 2) the lapse period would be cut down to one month and everyone will be treated the same and 3) the city will try to close in on the case of tens of thousands of unpaid bills estimated to be about $350,000. He did not dwell on the consideration that more than eight percent of the total electrical bill delinquency is that of a business run by a former councilman.
On a future date, Daniels proposes to bring forward policy changes that would enable the city to assign ultimate liability to the land owner, not necessarily the tenant and that accounts would need to be with the land owner with a copy to the tenant. Daniels asserted that placing the burden on the property owner is the policy in most other cities in California.
It has been reported to the Sentinel that Lopez leased the property where his business was established. With Lopez’s company in bankruptcy, collection of the debt appears unlikely.
Former City Council member Terry Campbell, currently sitting on the Needles Utility Board informed the Sentinel that the council at the time had not been provided with any information that Lopez’s company, Colorado River Distributors was in arrears on the payments, apparently during the period of time up until Best, Best & Krieger was assigned to the case. He said he did not particularly like the way the former city manager David Brownlee managed day-to-day affairs of the city but that part of the problem was that one of the former employees in charge of the accounts “only kept track of a lot of things in her head.” He also made no comment as to whether there was any criminal investigation or whether criminal charges had been filed for any perceived gift of public funds or allowing bills to go uncollected for a longer period of time than normal.
Calculating the discrepancy between the typical residential meter shut off 30 days after the due date or in extenuating circumstances extending the shut off date 3 or 4 months, a typical estimated bill would be no more than $1,500 – $2,000. In the case of a cold storage/distribution business, the amount of electricity used each month would likely be considerably higher. Based upon an estimated monthly bill for Colorado River Distributors of $3,000 per month, the company is calculated to have engaged in about 10 months of nonpayment. Typically, noticing on utility payment arrearages occur within one month. The city has not disclosed whether such noticing was provided to Lopez.

Schools Aren’t Pulpits, Judge Tells CVUSD

A federal judge has ordered the Chino Unified School District Board to discontinue its overt and constant references to Christianity during its public meetings.
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal ruled against the Chino Valley Unified School District, instructing its board refrain forthwith from inserting religion into official proceedings.
Bernal’s encyclical follows fifteen months of legal sparring over the blatantly religious references members of the Chino School Board engage in during official district meetings and proceedings.
On November 13, 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of the insistence of some district officials to engage in so-called Christin witnessing, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.” At one typical meeting, Board President James Na “urged everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him,” after which another board member closed with a reading of Psalm 143.
The plaintiffs asked for an injunction against the intrusion of religiosity into the conducting of district business
Na and his board colleagues Andrew Cruz and Sylvia Orosco are members of the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs, who had successfully lobbied the board previously to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs.
Although all board members collectively and the district were identified as defendants, the suit cited Na and Cruz for their routine practice of quoting Biblical passages and making other religious references.
Na and Cruz were able to convince the remainder of the board that the district would not sustain any costs or liability as a consequence of defending against the suit, and in January 2015 the board voted 3-2 against hiring the law firm which normally represents the district to respond to the suit. Instead, the district engaged the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute for $1 to defend the district in the civil lawsuit.
The Pacific Justice Institute, founded and led by Brad Dacus, touts itself as a public interest law firm that “handles cases addressing religious freedom, including church and private school rights issues, curtailments to evangelism by the government, harassment because of religious faith, employers attacked for their religious-based policies [and] students and teachers’ rights to share their faith at public schools.”
The Pacific Justice Institute, however, made little headway in convincing Bernal that the district’s policy of celebrating the beliefs of a majority of the board did not violate the plaintiffs’ rights to attend district board meetings and participate in other district and school functions without being subjected to an intensive round of religious advocacy.
“The court finds… permitting religious prayer in board meetings, and the policy and custom of reciting prayers, Bible readings, and proselytizing at board meetings, constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion in violation of plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” Bernal wrote. “Defendant board members are enjoined from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school-sponsored prayer in board meetings.”
The court ordered the school board to pay court costs and plaintiff fees.
The board had claimed its actions are protected by the legislative prayer exception, and as defendants invoked the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Town of Greece v. Galloway decision. In the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, the United States Supreme Court held that the Town of Greece, New York could permit volunteer chaplains to open each legislative session with a prayer
But Bernal called the argument “meritless,” saying, “The legislative exception does not apply to prayer at school board meetings.”
The court held that the nature of the school board made it even more imperative that it not break down the constitutional wall between state and church.
“The risk that a student will feel coerced by the board’s policy and practice of religious prayer is even higher here than at football games or graduations,” Bernal stated. “The school board possesses an inherently authoritarian position with respect to the students. The board metes out discipline and awards at these meetings, and sets school policies that directly and immediately affect the students’ lives.”
Bernal added, “Regardless of the stated purpose of the [prayer] resolution, it is clear that the board uses it to bring sectarian prayer and proselytization into public schools through the backdoor.”
Judge Bernal’s ruling was made as part of a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. Bernal awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation “costs including reasonable attorney’s fees.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation hailed the ruling.
“This stops some of the bleeding from the Greece decision,” said staff attorney Andrew Seidel, “and is a welcome reaffirmation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”
“Our plaintiffs told us the board proceedings were more like a church service than a school board meeting,” said Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “So my reaction to the ruling is, ‘Hallelujah’!”
District officials declined a request by the Sentinel for their reaction to Judge Bernal’s ruling.

After 25 Years Of Base Stealing, Adelanto Minor League Ball Club Out At Home

ADELANTO—The City of Adelanto and the minor league baseball team that has been hosted within the Adelanto City Limits since 1991 are at the point of a meltdown.
There were rumblings in the fall to indicate city officials had begun to question whether the city was being taken advantage of by the High Desert Mavericks. On December 9, the city council publicly broached the subject of concerns about the arrangement the city had with the team, and that evening made a finding that the public facility use agreement between the city and the team served “no public purpose.”
In late 2015, the City of Adelanto’s finance division undertook a study of the city’s subsidization of businesses within the city.
Though that report was not finalized and filed until the end of January, findings contained within it brought into focus that the contract with Main Street California, LLC, the Mavericks’ ownership, stipulated that the Mavericks only pay $1 annually for rent at Stater Bros Stadium. Three of the current council members were not in office when that contract was agreed upon.
Based on those tentative findings, the city council on January 13 voted unanimously to terminate the agreement for the Mavericks to use the city-owned stadium. In making that vote, city officials asserted, the three-and-half-year old deal violated the state constitution in that the lease served no public purpose. Thus, they said, the arrangement was a “gift of public funds.”
Less than two weeks later the subsidization report was released, showing the city had subsidized the High Desert Mavericks by roughly $600,000 per year – more than $1.8 million since 2012. In breaking down costs the city had sustained as a consequence of the agreement that had been voided, the city maintained it had covered an estimated $675,938 of the team’s rent costs, $486,635 for city personnel in support of the stadium operation, $157,500 in janitorial fees, $46,521 for insurance, $14,000 in parking fees, $229,688 for utilities and another $200,000 in miscellaneous costs including catering.
For its part, however, Main Street California has asserted it is the city that has cost the ball club money.
The city has gone to court in Barstow, filing an unlawful detainer action against the High Desert Mavericks, essentially seeking to evict the ball club from the stadium.
On January 29, the Mavericks went to court, filing suit to force arbitration with the city. Two-and-a-half weeks later, on February 16, Main Street California filed another suit against Adelanto for breach of contract.
In its suits, Main Street does not address the city’s contention that the facility use contract does not serve a public purpose that is harming taxpayers, but it does allege the city’s action is damaging to the Maverick’s fans, players, charitable organizations, the Adelanto economy and the California League.
According to the second suit, the first suit calling for arbitration was needed to protect the team’s rights and that the city is not respecting the spirit of ongoing arbitration but proceeding as if it has the right to lock the team out of stadium “rather than wait for a judicial ruling on the validity of the contract.” Furthermore, according to the suit, “the city is actively taking steps to disrupt the team’s upcoming season in a blatant attempt to force the team out of the ballpark. The team will be irreparably harmed if the city is permitted to continue sabotaging the upcoming baseball season.”
According to the Mavericks, the team, its employees and players have been locked out of the ballpark.
City officials have indicated they are willing to dialogue with the team, but are asserting they will not accept the terms of the past arrangement by which the city was losing money. They want terms that will give the city a percentage of the gate receipts.
The city also contends the club has not lived up to its commitment to pay for maintenance of the facility in all of its particulars, a charge the team denies. Rather, the Mavericks assert, the team has invested “significant sums” in improving Heritage Field at Stater Bros Stadium. It is the city which trashed the field, the team’s ownership maintains, by using it as a venue for the three-day Adelanto Grand Prix in mid-January. It was the city which failed to undo that damage, the suit maintains, “despite a contractual obligation to do so.”
When Main Street California sought a preliminary injunction against the city to bar it from evicting the team, the court declined to grant it, instead deferring action until the Mavericks’ forced arbitration effort runs its course.
Despite the city’s seeming determination to throw the team out on the streets unless it can be guaranteed a better deal for allowing its stadium to be used as a minor league baseball venue, Mavericks owners Dave Heller and Jim Coufos have insisted to both fans and California League officials that the 2012 agreement remains as a “binding legal contract.” They insist the Mavericks will be able to occupy the clubhouse and the home dugout and the Inland Empire 66ers will occupy the visiting dugout at Stater Bros Stadium for the season opener April 7.

Three Cops Who Pummeled Pusok Bound Over For Trial

Judge Katrina West on Monday rejected motions by defense attorneys to outright dismiss criminal charges lodged last year against three sheriff’s deputies for their beating of a fleeing suspect in a remote desert area that was caught on videotape.
West said there was sufficient evidence to bind deputies Nicholas Downey, Charles Foster and Michael Phelps over for trial on felony assault charges.
West’s ruling came more than ten months after Downey, Foster, Phelps and nine other sheriff’s officers ran Francis Pusok to ground in the rough outback beyond Bowen’s Ranch near Deep Creek and then administered a several minutes-long session of summary punishment at they took him into custody.
After dismissing defense attorney’s first assertion that no crime had actually occurred, she further rejected their fallback position that at worst, the deputies’ actions constituted nothing more than misdemeanors.
The case arose out of the events of Thursday, April 9, 2015. Shortly after noon on that day deputies from the Victor Valley station went to a residence in the 25300 block of Zuni Rd., an unincorporated area of Apple Valley, to serve a search warrant related to an identity theft investigation. Upon arrival they encountered Pusok, who was not named in the warrant nor a suspect in the crime being investigated. Upon seeing the deputies, Pusok fled the location in a vehicle. Deputies pursued Pusok through the unincorporated area of Apple Valley, the town of Apple Valley and further into the unincorporated area of Hesperia. Pusok abandoned the vehicle southwest of Bowen Ranch and fled on foot. Deputies were actively searching for Pusok on foot, using off-highway vehicles and helicopters. Within minutes, deputies received information that the suspect came into contact with a group of people near the Deep Creek Hot Springs and stole a horse. He fled on horseback on dirt trails, through very rugged, steep terrain.
Sometime later, the end of that pursuit was caught on video recorded by a camera operator aboard Newschopper 4, a helicopter manned by a news crew with the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles. At the beginning of that six minute and two second video, Pusok, clad in red clothes, is yet on the horse and desperately trying to maneuver across the chaparral strewn terrain while a sheriff’s helicopter cruises above him. When a close pass of the helicopter spooked the horse, causing Pusok to be thrown from the animal, at first one, then two deputies came into the view of the Newschopper 4 video and they converged on Pusok. Pusok is shown briefly attempting to hide behind some desert scrub but then lays out prone on the ground in a posture of surrender as it appears he is being shocked with a Taser. Just seconds later, while Pusok is yet face down, one of the deputies kicks him in the head. Over the next two minutes as more and more deputies stream into view, Pusok can be seen being pummeled, stomped and kicked, even as the lawmen swarm over him and bind his arms behind him as he lies face down on the desert floor.
One officer, at 1:24 into the video, pulls another officer back from Pusok but only seconds later, at 1:28 into the video, he too begins to stomp and beat Pusok. This rough treatment continues for the next 14 seconds. At 1:42 two other deputies have moved up to join the swarm over Pusok and by 1:46, yet two more. One of the officers appears to continue to kick him about the head while four others appear to be trying to pin him to the ground. At 2 minutes and one second, the concerted beating appears to have stopped. With six deputies hovering over him and others standing a few feet away, an effort to handcuff or tie him in some fashion seems to be progressing. But at 2:19 and again at 2:23, one of the deputies appears to stomp on him. Another unequivocal overt display of physical force against Pusok on the video comes at 2:34 through 2:38, when two other deputies appear to be punching and kicking him. From 2:53 through 2:58, with several of the deputies yet hunched over Pusok, one of them is visible swinging his arm back and forth rapidly, though it is not clear whether he is punching Pusok or perhaps cinching up some form of ligature.
What appears to be twelve deputies are eventually seen in the video. In addition to Downey, Foster and Phelps, deputies Scott Hamilton, David Moore, Dominic Moody, Raymond Perez, Tyler McGee, along with detective William Doemner and sergeant James Evans have been identified as seven of the others present. Two others have not been publicly identified.
No charges have been filed against Hamilton, Moore, Moody, Perez, McGee, Doemner or Evans, the district attorney’s office has said, because their action did not rise to the level of criminality.
At Monday’s preliminary hearing, sheriff’s sergeant Daniel Hanke testified against his three colleagues. Hanke, an 11-year veteran of the department, identified Phelps as the first deputy to physically encounter Pusok and as the deputy administering the Taser charge to the suspect’s back. Downey, Hanke said, was the first deputy to strike Pusok, launching what “appeared to be a kick” to the downed man’s head. A few seconds later, Phelps kicked Pusok in the groin, according to Hanke. Both Downey and Phelps administered further punches and kicks, the sergeant said.
Foster, among the last of the deputies to come into the field of the video, kicked Pusok, Hanke testified. In his investigation, Hanke said he listened to the audio captured on Foster’s belt recorder and heard Foster say to Pusok, “How’d that work out, you dumb fuck?” and then derided Pusok as “crying like a little bitch.”
Defense attorneys, however, including Michael D. Schwartz, representing Downey, Richard Hirsch, representing Foster, and Steven Desi Sanchez, representing Phelps, sought to put the violence that rained down upon Pusok into context, pointing out the arrest was the culmination of a three-hour pursuit that included Pusok crashing his vehicle through a fence and driving at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour, and the theft of a horse. When Hanke was cross examined, he acknowledged that Foster on his belt recorder could be heard telling Pusok to “stop resisting,” “stop kicking” and to “straighten your legs out.”
Hanke also testified that during Pusok’s phone conversation with his girlfriend from the jail after his arrest that he told her he was not injured. The cuts on Pusok’s legs, back and stomach, and a black left eye could have resulted from Pusok’s fall from the horse, the defense attorneys suggested. Moreover, they said, Pusok merited the beating he received because his hands continued to move when he was on the ground.
The prosecutor in the case, supervising deputy district attorney Robert Clarence Bulloch, said the defense attorneys kept harping on the consideration that Pusok had suffered “no broken bones,” that in his phone call to his girlfriend he denied getting kicked in the testicles and “that this guy was a bad dude. Your lying eyes are deceiving you, then, if you want to buy into this argument because the video is very clear,” Bulloch said.
Bulloch said the crux of the case against the officers “is not how many injuries, it’s not how many black eyes he got.” Rather the case comes down to ‘”the breach of trust that we put in all three of these people to represent us as the public,” Bulloch continued. “Their offense is against the community, not just Mr. Pusok.”
The three deputies are scheduled to be arraigned on March 1

Greek Epics & Tragedies Get Comic Twist In Upcoming Montclair High Performances

Montclair High School students in Desiree Hill’s drama class will present a performance of The Iliad, Odyssey and all of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less on four days next week and the week thereafter.
The play, written by Jay Hopkins and John Hunter, is based on the classical epics of Homer. It speeds through the basics of Greek Mythology. Using humor, the play puts the events of the Trojan War and the subsequent wanderings of Odysseus into a context a contemporary audience can understand. The gods come across as ancient prima donnas. Those given the job of creating humanity botch the assignment. A mortal and Pandora jump into an ill-advised union despite an ominous wedding gift. Ancient tales of love are reduced to a dating show. The tragedies of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus become sports highlights. Helen is kidnapped and a decade long slap fight ensues, with Achilles sulking, Agamemnon itching for a fight, and Odysseus finally figuring a way to put an end to it all, only to end up taking a wrong turn on the way home.
All performances will take place at the Montclair High Auditorium, with the premier on Thursday March 3 at 7 p.m. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. The performance repeats the following evening, Friday March 4, again at 7 p.m. The third performance is set for Friday March 11, again at 7 p.m. The final performance is a matinee on Saturday March 12 at 2 p.m., with the box office opening at 1:20 p.m.
Ticket prices for the evening performances are $9, or $7 to those with a Montclair High ASB card or those 10 or under. The matinee price is $5 for all.

Hungry Coyotes Making Life Tough For Goats Up The Holler In Oak Glen

Hungry coyotes have descended on Oak Glen, wreaking havoc on the domesticated wildlife there.
Earlier this month, the predators killed three pygmy goats and dragged off from the rustic community in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains one apparently still-living nubian goat to feast upon later.
The four victims in this ruthless display of nature were animals kept at a petting zoo at a retreat and camp run by the Lutheran Church in Oak Glen known as Luther Glen. The camp had acquired the four ruminants as babies just about a year ago. They were being raised by the camp staff and were a common attraction to visitors, particularly children who viited the site.
There were telltale signs that it was coyotes rather than mountain lions, bobcats or bears that killed the goats.

Forum… Or Against ’em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
If you are trying to find someone who knows as little as possible about computers and these newfangled portable telephones that have computers built into them, I’m your man. On the other hand, I know a whole lot about encryption. I guess it is not surprising that I have an opinion or two about this current controversy involving Apple and the U.S. Government, which wants Apple to hand over, or create, a disencryption key for its devices…
As everyone knows, this fellow Syed Farook and his wife killed 14 employees of the San Bernardino County Public Health Department on December 2 before they were gunned down by the police later that day. An investigation has of course ensued and one of the items investigators have come across is his county-issued cell phone, which was manufactured by Apple. Quite understandably, authorities want to access its contents to ascertain whom he was in contact and consultation with prior to his act of mayhem, and determine what his motivation was and if perhaps there are other targets yet outstanding, along with anything more that can be gleaned from the device…
In my view, and it seems in the view of others, there are grounds – i.e., probable cause – to take a gander at what is contained within that device. That is, there is likely something of consequence on the phone and as such, given the nature of what occurred on December 2, the community and society at large has an interest that overrides whatever privacy interests attend the late Mr. Farook’s Apple phone, which after all, was not actually his, but a piece of equipment issued to him by the county. So far, so good…
Where this issue becomes problematic, however, is the phone’s contents were encrypted and the government is demanding that Apple provide a disencryption key for the device. Apple has refused. It gets more complicated still. Apple maintains, as best as I can understand it, that no actual key exists because the encryption system in question does not employ an encryption mechanism involving an actual encryption/disencryption key, so that such a key does not exist. The government says that is hogwash and that if Apple created a device that encrypts what went into it, the company can disencrypt that data. The government is demanding that Apple do so. So far, Apple has refused…
An issue here, of course, is not just the privacy of the now-dead Mr. Farook, but everyone else who owns an Apple device. By handing over this disencryption key to the government, Apple will enable the government to disencrypt the until-now private communications of all other Apple device users. Moreover, since Apple claims that as of yet no such disencryption key actually exists, what the government is asking – actually demanding – is that Apple create such a disencryption key. This is significant, since in the past the government has been able to subpoena only things that actually exist. The government has never, at least to my knowledge, been permitted to subpoena something that doesn’t exist. There are tremendous implications here. If the government gets its way, this will set a precedent that would allow the government to order people or companies or organizations to do a whole host of things they have never actually done nor are inclined to do…
The United States is not my first country. I live here because I have chosen to do so. I have seen more of the world than most Americans. I have lived under regimes that foreclosed on the individual’s rights all across the board, including privacy. Many Americans, I fear, do not fully understand the value of the rights provided to them. At the same time, I understand how outrageous the acts perpetrated by Mr. Farook and his wife were. I understand the desire, even the need, to ensure that further acts of violence are not perpetrated against us by Mr. Farook’s confederates, if indeed he had such. My sense of this is Apple is not likely to simply knuckle under to the government’s request and the government, too, is going to dig in its heels…
Might I suggest this: The government should back off. At first, it presented itself as being clearly in the right and that Apple was merely being intransigent and obstructionist, not to mention greedy, in preventing investigators from completing their work. But already, even the most unquestioningly patriotic and simple minded of those among us are beginning to see that what the government is demanding is not just the ability to read the secret contents of Mr. Farook’s phone but the contents of the phones and computers of all Apple customers. Instead of forcing Apple, at the barrel of a gun, as it were, to meet its demands, it should instead hand Mr. Farook’s phone over to the company and commission it, at whatever cost Apple specifies, to retrieve simply the contents on the phone, without compromising or revealing the encryption system, and hand back those contents to the government. If, as the government contends, it is interested only in those contents and not obtaining an encryption key that can be used against everyone else, then this should satisfy the government. If it is not satisfied with this outcome, then we citizens, the subjects of our government, will then know that our government leaders are no longer loyal to the bedrock concepts and underpinnings of our democratic republic and are hell bent on becoming the totalitarians we as Americans loathe…

Fred Perris

Fred Perris was born to Thomas and Hannah Rebecca (Spiller) Perris in Gloucester, England on January 21, 1837. Fred’s father, who was much taken with the news of gold discoveries in Australia, in 1850 took his family to The Land Down Under. He dug in the gold fields, and built and sold furniture in Melbourne.
While in Melbourne, young Perris completed his schooling and ultimately received his training as a civil engineer.
In 1851 while in Australia, Fred’s mother, Rebecca was proselytized by two Mormon missionaries, Elders John Murdock and Charles Windall, and she converted to Mormonism. Mrs. Perris joined with a group of Mormon emigrants heading to the United States and in 1853, after a sea voyage, arrived in California and came directly to San Bernardino, which was then a newly founded Mormon town. Mr. Perris, who had remained in Australia, died in 1854.
While in San Bernardino, 17-year-old Fred’s first employment was as a surveyor of the “out lots” about the city, an undertaking which was key to determining the footprint of the property obtained by the Mormon settlers based upon their 1851 purchase of the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugo family. He did this work at the behest of Ebenezer Hanks, Amassa Lyman, and Charles Rich, Mormon apostles who had been sent forth to California by Brigham Young to establish the Morman enclave in San Bernardino.
Fred’s surveying played a role in the eventual certified U. S. Government patent which settled the confusion and accompanying land disputes. While in residency at San Bernardino, Perris also found work as a deputy U. S. mineral and land surveyor along the Pacific Coast for the United States Government and the State of California.
In the Winter of 1857-58, Brigham Young, fearing that the Mormons were on the brink of war with the United States Government as led by the James Buchanan Administration, sent out a recall order, calling upon all loyal Mormons, “saints” as he referred to them, to return to Salt Lake City. The Perris family adhered to that order. Fred accompanied the leaders of the San Bernardino Mormon community back to Salt Lake City. That summer, the war threat having passed, Perris on August 30, 1858 became a naturalized United States citizen.
Following a trip from Salt Lake City, on the fourth of September, 1858, Perris embarked from New York City on the steamship Thornton for England. Upon arrival he joined his mother, Rebecca, who was involved in the settlement of her late husband’s estate which had been delayed due to litigation. Fred remained in England for over two years, during which time, at the age of 22 on May 5, 1859 he married in Cheltenham Mary Anette Edwards, then 19.
By 1861, he had returned to America with his wife and took up residence in Salt Lake City, where he operated a dry goods business and a print shop.
On October 12, 1863, Perris was appointed as a territorial surveyor by Jesse W. Fox, Utah’s territorial surveyor general. In this capacity, working primarily in the northeastern portions of the state, Perris had his first railroad-related work. By the late 1860s Fred became associated with the Union Pacific Railroad during its transcontinental building period, and worked under Samuel B. Reed, a divisional chief engineer of the Union Pacific.
In 1874, Fred accompanied an ox-team caravan heading over the famous “Mormon Trail of 1851,” all the way to San Bernardino, from which he had been absent for some 16 years. Shortly after his arrival, Perris was appointed San Bernardino County Surveyor. At a somewhat later time, he also did much land surveying in another capacity, as Deputy U. S. Mineral Surveyor. Covering ground by foot and buckboard in both of these endeavors, Perris became the most knowledgeable person of his era with regard to the lay of the land of San Bernardino County and Southern California in general.
Perris traversed the county, north to south, east to west, took measurements of all the streams, located possible reservoir sites, and gathered vital water data in San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties. Sheldon Stoddard, a San Bernardino pioneer who had crossed over the Mojave Desert and thence through the Cajon Pass in 1849, said of Fred Perris, “With him I have traveled hundreds of miles over mountains and over deserts. When he was a surveyor for San Bernardino County, I was with him when he made the county line survey, during which we traversed the desert some two hundred and fifty miles…. At one time Mr. Perris was taken very ill and we thought sure we should have to return to San Bernardino; so we rigged up a buckboard, made bows of willow limbs, stretched canvas on it for shade and made it as comfortable as possible. But he refused to allow us to take him back. Later he commenced to mend, so we just kept in camp for a few days, by which time Mr. Perris was able to continue the survey, completing the work to the state line. During our work we drove into a little valley known as Horse Spring Valley, and there we found the ground literally covered with the bones of animals. We afterward learned that this valley had been the hiding place of Indians, who drove there hundreds of stolen horses, mules and cattle, where they killed the animals and dried the meat for food. They were most active in such depredations during the fifties, but even at the time we made the survey, in 1874, as we entered the valley a band if Indians fled from the opposite side.”
In addition to contract surveying, Perris supplemented his income by engaging in a printing business in partnership with John Isaacs, later editor of the San Bernardino Times. The firm Perris & Isaacs briefly published the San Bernardino Advertiser, one of the city’s early newspapers.
Even before the completion of what was billed as the first transcontinental rail line in 1869, Congress in July of 1866 authorized a second transcontinental railroad following a southerly route from Springfield, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on to the San Diego area. In the early 1870s, San Bernardino had failed to lure the Southern Pacific to it.
A group of capitalists from Boston under the business name, California Southern Railroad, actively pursued the competition for the Pacific Coast during the late 1870s.
California Southern representatives, G. B. Wilbur and L. G. Pratt, met with the San Diego boosters in 1879. When citizens of San Bernardino learned of this, a meeting was held at the San Bernardino Courthouse on October 20. Isaacs and Perris were appointed by acclamation as a committee to meet the railroad men. The delegation headed to San Diego and waited five days before they could see Wilbur and Pratt, surveying not only the physical geography between San Bernardino and San Diego on the way there, but sizing up while in San Diego what has been described as “a political cauldron of opposing interests at work.”
Perris and Isaacs encountered San Diego interests doing their level best to keep them from having access to the railroad’s representatives. Nevertheless, through persistence, Perris and Isaacs at last achieved a meeting with Wilbur and Pratt at the Horton House Hotel. The meeting lasted seventeen-and one-half hours, from 8 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. Isaacs attempted to sell Wilbur and Pratt on the idea of having the new railroad line passing through San Bernardino, providing detailed social and economic information about the city. Perris used his enviable knowledge of topography and engineering to convince the Easterners that a rail route through San Bernardino was the best way for them to proceed. Wilbur and Pratt were impressed enough with what they had heard to give San Bernardino careful consideration.
“Gentlemen,” declared Wilbur, “if you will come for us in two weeks, we will go up and see your country.”
San Bernardino was lying in wait for the two Easterners when they arrived, having dressed itself up and putting on its best front. Perris then escorted one California Southern party up to the San Gorgonio Pass and then through Morongo Pass, thought to be an appropriate rail-line route by which to reach the Mojave and Needles crossings. Perris also squired them through the Cajon Pass area.
The intensive lobbying was successful and California Southern decided to route the train line’s course through San Bernardino. San Bernardino County historian L. Burr Belden credited Perris with having convinced California Southern Railroad officials to include San Bernardino as a major stop.
Perris was hired as a railroad surveyor directing the location of the line south to San Diego. Isaacs later wrote of Perris: “From that time our future was assured, although there was a time when it hung in the balance, and the question was seriously considered whether it would come to Colton, and go thence direct to Cajon Pass and leave San Bernardino two or three miles off the road, or swerve from its direct line to our city. To the efforts of Mr. Perris more than any other one man, the latter was decided upon and San Bernardino became a railroad center.”
Fred led the first surveying party, consisting of I. C. Dunlap, transitman; T.M. Parsons, levelman; William P. Cave, topographer; John Mayfield, Oscar T. Barren and Stephen Hales, chainmen; George Evans and Edwin Williamson, teamsters; James M. Burnet, stake marker; Frank B. Daley and Milfort Torrass, flag and axe man, respectively; Ah Fong, cook, in the plotting of the line in December, 1880. The route later went by way of Orange, as Temecula Canyon was abandoned after the track had been washed out by a flood the second time.
Of the arrival of the first locomotive from San Diego on September 13, 1883, Perris later said, “It was a great event. The engine was decorated and there was a crowd to welcome us in. The Santa Fe’s first station in San Bernardino was a single box car. Those were strenuous days in building railroads. The Southern Pacific held us up at Colton for eleven months and Joe Bright and Austin Chute cut the Southern Pacific rails following a condemnation suit. Big time then? I should say there was.”1
In the mid-1880s, the California Southern Railroad became part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe System in its expansion in Southern California. From 1883 to 1900, Perris, as chief engineer, oversaw the construction of all the lines for the Santa Fe system in Southern California, supervising the laying of 264.2 miles of rail lines. He further built 210.6 miles of lines for the California Southern Railroad, including that from Barstow to San Bernardino, a span on which he collaborated with Jacob Nash. Along the way he built and equipped large shops at San Bernardino and the shops at other points on their roads. After the completion of the line, he had charge of the entire California sub-system of the Santa Fe. “The excellent condition of these roads and their equipments comprising this system, demonstrate beyond question Mr. Perris’ superior qualifications for the position he occupied and the faithful discharge of its great responsibilities. He was an active and zealous worker and thorough master of the situation,” according to The Illustrated History of Southern California, published by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago in 1890.
Fred’s proposal to lay the California Southern Railroad’s route through Cajon Pass had to overcome an effort to block that option made by the Southern Pacific. San Bernardino’s economic condition was benefited by his foresight and perseverance.
According to historian L. Burr Belden, Perris “outmaneuvered the opposition.” In handling the Cajon Pass right-of-way, according to Belden, “After the LA & I bankruptcy the Southern Pacific had inherited assets of that little road including what it supposed was the half-completed grade and partially dug tunnel crossed by State Route 138 In West Cajon.Perris knew of a lower pass but both he and other California Southern officials were being watched. He accordingly loaded his surveying instruments in a wagon, took along one of the California Southern backers from the east, and headed out San Gorgonio Pass, then turned up Morongo Canyon. He was followed as far as Whitewater and then the trailing party was satisfied that Santa Fe was considering a Morongo entry. Such a roundabout line seemed to pose no threats to Pacific supremacy so Perris and his companion were allowed to enter the high desert country alone.
Perris reached Warren’s Well then swung west through Old Woman Springs and Lucerne Valley to enter the eastern branch of Cajon Pass unobserved. He staked out the line for the Santa Fe subsidiary through the present summit and down the canyon thousands of feet below the useless Southern Pacific holdings. Up to that time none, except Perris, knew of the route from the Mojave River at Hesperia over the low summit to Cajon. The old wagon road had never been considered for a railroad because of the narrows in Coyote Canyon, it seems. Perris’ line avoided the little narrow canyon by passing through the badlands to its north. Its possession by the Santa Fe brought the new transcontinental line through Cajon Pass and made San Bernardino a principal railroad center instead of the terminus of a little local line.”
In accordance with the tradition of naming railroad stations for their important officials, in 1885-86 “Perris” was bestowed upon the station now in Riverside County which later became the site of the present city that bears his name.
In addition to his railroad duties, Fred Perris managed to indulge himself in family and demanding civic duties and interests. He served as a member of San Bernardino’s first board of water commissioners, a remunerative position, and he endorsed the pay warrants over to support various churches, not a dollar going for his personal use. On May 15, 1886, San Bernardino, through re-incorporation, became a city of what was called the “fifth class. Perris was among the six men, the others being J.G. Burt, Smith Haile, I.R. Brunn, John Anderson and B.B. Harris, elected to the charter San Bernardino Board of Trustees, later called the city council. Perris spearheaded the drive to obtain from Andrew Carnegie’s foundation funds for a public library. Perris persuaded Carnegie, through his contact with prominent Santa Fe officials in the East, to increase the initial gift from the sum of $15,000 to $20,000 following the completion of the first set of plans submitted.
In August 1902 a city resolution honored Perris’ work. Perris Hill in San Bernardino was named for Perris’ to commend his success int acquiring land for reservoir purposes.
According to John Brown and James Boyd, in their 1922 book, The History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, “Mr. Perris was a pioneer of the valley and has been identified with the upbuilding of not only San Bernardino, but Southern California. Under his direction most of the lines of the Santa Fe were built and he drove the first passenger train into this city on the California Southern Railroad from Los Angeles on September 13, 1883. Mr. Perris was retired with the most liberal pension and with letters of appreciation from many high up officers including President E. P Ripley.”
Fred and Mary had three daughters and three sons. Fred and Mary Perris celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on May 5, 1909, At the age of 77 in 1914, he retired. On the morning of May 12, 1916, at the age of 80, he died at his home in San Bernardino.

Volunteers Needed For Fish & Wildlife’s Bighorn Sheep Count

San Bernardino February 16, 2016–The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), US Forest Service (USFS), and Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) are seeking volunteers to assist biologists on March 5 and 6, 2016 (Saturday evening and all day Sunday).
No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend an orientation on Saturday, March 5, at 6:00 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia.
Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from CDFW, USFS, or SCBS. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although most survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes, and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.
Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.
For volunteers who wish to camp, complimentary campsites will be available to volunteers on a first come, first served basis at the Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek the nights of March 4 and March 5.
Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined over 80% through the 1980’s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.
Please sign up online at If you do not have access to the internet, you may call either (909) 627-1613 or (909) 584-9012 to receive a volunteer packet.