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Monthly Archives: March 2016
Lawsuits On Voting Rights Pushing Cities Toward Council Ward Districts
By Mark Gutglueck
Like the city of Highland before them, the cities of Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Chino are on the brink of capitulating to the threats of three law firms demanding that they reorganize their respective municipal governance representation formulas to include ward systems, i.e., councilmanic districts.
In San Bernardino County, only the two oldest cities, San Bernardino and Colton, have ward systems. In all 22 of the county’s other incorporated cities, the council members are elected at large.
In 2001, the California Voting Rights Act was passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Gray Davis. The California Voting Rights Act established expanded protections for voters in minority groups to elect candidates of their choice. The Act was based on and furthered the provisions of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed voting practices that discriminated against minority voters.
Under the California Voting Rights Act, so-called protected groups – members of a race, color or language minority groups – are empowered to challenge a government agency’s at-large election system. By establishing that “racially polarized” voting has taken place in a city with an at-large voting system, a protected group can push to have an agency, city or school district convert to a by-district or ward voting system.
The way it has worked out practically in the fifteen years since the Act went into effect is the “protected group” that most often avails itself of the protections has been the Hispanic community. Far less effort has been made by African Americans to use the Act, perhaps because in predominantly black areas, African-Americans have acceded to political office. Likewise, Asian Americans have succeeded in achieving elected office. In Upland, for example, both the city’s Congresswoman, Judy Chu and its state senator, Carol Liu are Asian Americans, and its representative in the California Assembly is Chris Holden, who is African-American.
In some cities where Latinos represent a significant percentage of the population, there are no Hispanics on the city council. In Rancho Cucamonga, for example, 43 percent of the population is Caucasian, 35 percent is Latino, 11 percent is Asian and 9 percent is African American. In Upland, 44 percent of the population is Caucasian, 39 percent is Latino, 7 percent is African American and 9 percent is Asian.
While cities all over California have been voluntarily complying with or making a show of complying with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, in some cases Latino activists have taken up the cause of using whatever tools exist in the Act to either put Hispanics into political office or at least enhance the chances of doing so.
A case in point was the city of Highland, in which 48 percent of its 53,104 residents are Hispanic. Yet no member of the city council is now or has ever been Latino. In 2014, resident Lisa Garrett, who claimed Latino lineage, maintained that the city’s Hispanic population was not properly represented given that approaching half of the city’s residents have Hispanic ancestors but the city has never had a Hispanic council member. Represented by the Lancaster-based R. Rex Parris Law Firm, Malibu-based Shenkman and Hughes and Milton C. Grimes of Los Angeles, Garrett filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city is violating the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by continuing to hold at-large elections and not switching to a ward system whereby minority voters would stand a greater prospect of electing one of their own ranks to office.
In response to the lawsuit, the city council directed Highland City Attorney Craig Steele to draft documents that were later enacted by the council, placing a measure on the ballot in the November 2014 election. Measure T would have divided the city into five voting districts. Ward district elections would have begun in 2016 with two districts. The remaining three districts would have been subject to the 2018 election, according to the terms of the measure. Two of those districts would have contained a majority of Hispanic voters, and a third ward would have been populated by residents, more than 40 percent of whom were Latino. On election day in 2014 and by absentee ballot, 6,655 of the city’s voters participated, with 43.01 percent, or 2,862 voting in favor of Measure T and 3,793 or 56.99 percent rejecting it.
In December 2015, the Shenkman and Hughes law firm sent out letters to a slew of cities, threatening them with a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act.
Rancho Cucamonga was a recipient of one of those letters. No Latino has served on the city council since Rex Gutierrez was forcibly removed from the council twice, once in the 1980s and again seven years ago. Shenkman and Hughes charged that with Latinos accounting for more than one-third of the electorate, the extended period without a Hispanic being elected to the council is evidence of “polarized voting” in Rancho Cucamonga, a city with a population of 165,269.
Based on the unfortunate experience of some other California Cities where resisting similar legal actions resulted in settlements of anywhere from $1 million to a $4.7 million judgment based on indications or determinations that minorities were effectively denied an opportunity to voted into office, Rancho Cucamonga City Attorney James Markman is recommending that the council undertake a process to effectuate district or ward elections. The city council cannot simply impose such a system, however. With Rancho Cucamonga’s population above the 100,000, voters here have to weigh in on the issue. The council is now purposed to hold three public hearings on April 6 and 20 and May 4 at which the city’s residents will be heard from with regard to how boundaries should be delineated. A vote on approving the proposed district map and the ward electoral process will then go before the city’s voters in November.
For more than two months, the Upland City Council has been holding closed door discussions with regard to one item of potential litigation. That issue remained a public mystery until this week it was revealed that the potential litigation referenced was the threat of a lawsuit by the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, which is represented by the Shenkman and Hughes law firm. On the agenda for the Monday March 28 Upland City Council meeting posted on Thursday March 24, there is an item calling for a $45,000 “settlement agreement with Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to change the city council elections from at-large to district based elections to address potential California Voting Rights Act issues. “
City manager Rod Butler and city attorney Richard Adams wrote in the report for that item, “The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) authorizes suits challenging at-large elections that are applied in a manner that impairs a minority group’s ‘ability to elect’ its chosen candidates, or ‘ability to influence’ the outcome of an election. A violation of the California Voting Rights Act does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Rather, a violation of the California Voting Rights Act is established if it is shown that racially polarized voting (“RPV”) occurs in elections for members of the governing body or in elections incorporating other electoral choices by the voters of the political subdivision. In determining whether there is a violation, one thing the court can consider is the extent to which ‘candidates who are members of a protected class and who are preferred by voters of the protected class, as determined by an analysis of voting behavior, have [or have not] been elected to the governing body’ subject to the California Voting Rights Act challenge. The presumption underlying the California Voting Rights Act is that if a city had a by-district system, then minority candidates who are not elected under the at-large electoral system would, instead, be able to get elected to the city council. As such, a violation of the California Voting Rights Act allows a court to mandate that a city change to a district based electoral system.
If a city is found liable for violating the California Voting Rights Act, a court must implement ‘appropriate’ remedies (including the imposition of district-based elections) that are tailored to remedy the violation. In other words, a court is not limited to the imposition of a by-district electoral system as the only remedy. The statute is open-ended in the available remedies for a court to consider, limited only by what is ‘appropriate…to remedy the violation.’ Some courts have ordered implementation of district-based elections, selected the district boundaries in lieu of the council doing so, required special elections to replace all current council members, and imposed other remedies where violations have been found. ‘District-based elections’ means a method of electing members to the governing body of a political subdivision in which the candidate must reside within an election district that is a divisible part of the political subdivision and is elected only by voters residing within that election district.”
Butler and Adams’ report continued, “Of all the California Voting Rights Act cases which have been filed throughout the state, only one city has successfully had a case against it under the California Voting Rights Act dismissed. Even though that city voluntarily placed a measure on the ballot to allow for district-based elections, the city was still ordered to pay attorney’s fees and costs just under $1 million. Other cities which have gone to trial and lost California Voting Rights Act cases have paid attorneys’ fee orders upwards of $3 million, not including their own fees for defense. Even if a city succeeds in defending against a California Voting Rights Act case, it cannot recover its own attorneys’ fees from the plaintiffs. Under all these circumstances, becoming involved in California Voting Rights Act litigation is expensive and fraught with peril. In Upland’s case, with the direction of council, the city attorneys’ office has been able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the potential plaintiff, the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, that will avoid litigation and all its attendant risks and expenses, while preserving the rights of Upland’s citizens to affirmatively vote on the issue of district elections and to maintain control of the process of selecting district boundaries.”
According to Butler and Adams, “For a general law city the size of Upland, there are two ways of establishing district-based elections without litigation. One is for the council to adopt an ordinance establishing district-based elections and then going through a district boundaries selection process. The other is to place a measure on
the ballot to allow registered voters to determine whether or not to establish district-based elections. Such a ballot measure would describe how the system would operate and provide geographical boundaries for the proposed districts. The geographic districts formed must be roughly equal in population according to the latest federal decennial census. Factors which may be considered in creating the districts are: (1) topography, (2) geography, (3) cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity, and compactness of territory, and (4) community of interest of the districts. One council member will be chosen from each district only by the voters residing in that district. In Upland’s case, because the city already has a directly elected mayor, the likely outcome of the public districting process would be establishment of four districts, although it is possible that six districts could be proposed.”
The report continues, “In essence, the city had three choices in responding to the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project California Voting Rights Act claim. The first was to decline to take any action and then defend any litigation which was filed. The second was for the council to adopt an ordinance establishing district-based elections without a vote. The final option was to allow the citizens to fully participate in the decision by engaging in a public process to identify proposed district boundaries and using a ballot measure to get voter approval of districts. Elections would continue to be staggered so that some council members will be selected at one election and the remaining council members will be selected at the next election.
“With this report the city attorney’s s office is recommending that the city council enter into the attached settlement agreement,” Butler and Adams state. “As noted, settling the matter as provided in the agreement protects the city from litigation and attendant expenses, while still allowing full public participation in the decision making process for district-based elections. Pursuant to the attached settlement agreement, the city and Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project agree that the city will contract with Compass Demographics to design one or more electoral maps for public and council consideration. The process for developing the electoral district map will include, at a minimum, two public hearings on a proposal to establish the district boundaries prior to a public hearing at which the city council votes to approve the electoral district map. The settlement agreement further provides that on or before August 16, 2016 the city council will place on its agenda for action a resolution to place a ballot measure on the Statewide General Election Ballot to occur on November 8, 2016, asking whether Upland should change from an at-large method of election to a by-district method of election with the proposed district lines to be included in the measure and requiring by-district elections for the non-mayoral city council seats for the November 2018 city council elections and thereafter. The city council will authorize the council to make an argument in favor of the ballot measure; however it will not make a ballot argument in opposition to the measure as an official council action. Finally, the city will pay to Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project the sum of $45,000 as a settlement of all costs, expenses and fees it incurred in preparation for bringing litigation in this matter. The city will incur $45,000 as settlement of this claim and will also incur approximately another $20,000 for consulting fees to assist with the development of district maps. There will be some additional costs for preparation of the ballot measure and placing it on the November 2016 general election ballot.”
The Chino City Council on March 18 held a special meeting at which it directed staff to draft an ordinance so that council members are elected by district. That action came in response to a letter written to the city by the Shenkman and Hughes law firm, according to city attorney Jimmy Gutierrez.
Upland Chamber of Commerce Offers State Of The City Forum Sans Mayoral Input
In the first of what are to be dual, and perhaps dueling, state of the city addresses for Upland this year, the Upland Chamber of Commerce put on an event at a spacious hangar at Cable Airport on Tuesday March 22 that featured presentations from Upland City Manager Rod Butler, Upland Development Services Director Jeff Zwack, regional economist John Husing and Harris Koenig, the president and chief executive officer at San Antonio Community Hospital.
Butler provided an economic development update for the city, speaking of key projects and new priorities. He said the relationship between the city and the chamber was important and it was demonstrated when an Upland family was recently temporarily forced from their home by a sewer backup. Through contact with the chamber Butler was able to locate temporary housing for the family at a local hotel immediately and at reasonable rates, he said.
“Upland is not bankrupt,” Butler said. “We actually have some good trends and had a very good year. According to the city’s audited financial statements, in the 12 month period from July 1 through June 30, 2015 we actually had revenue of over $49 million into our general fund against $42 million in expenditures.” The city did well, Butler said, in large measure because of a “one-time legal settlement,” though he touted other fiscal progress for the city’s nascent recovery.
have allowed us to come back,” Butler said. “Obviously the economic turnaround is driving sales tax revenue and property tax revenue,” he said. He credited former city manager Stephen Dunn and the city council with “making some very tough decisions in the two year period between 2011-3013 that reduced expenses as a result.” He said, “The city’s cost structure came down. We have had some one-time legal settlements.” He said that all of the city’s departments had managed to carry out their functions efficiently and with an eye to the bottom line.
“All of the departments stayed below budget,” he said. “Every single department came in below their budgeted amount.”
Butler, who was raised in The City Of Gracious Living, departed from the city’s financial picture to remark on quality of life issues. “Upland is still a very desirable place to live,” he said. He cited the city council’s approval of its general plan update as a significant accomplishment. Making oblique reference to the controversy that attended the consideration and approval of the document, which provides a blueprint for the future development of the city, Butler said the objections of some residents to the increases in density envisioned in the document made the approval process “more crazy and zany than we thought it would be.” But he said revamping the city’s development codes and playbook was not only necessary but overdue. “It was last updated 33 years ago,” he said. Butler sought to look past the controversy, saying, “Whether you realize it or not having an updated modern general plan and zoning code is a big accomplishment.
The city manager returned to themes of finance, hailing a tax sharing agreement with Ford of Upland and CNC Motor that will facilitate those dealerships establishing sales operations next to the 210 Freeway. He pointed to the hiring of “key members of the city’s management,” including police chief Brian Johnson, fire chief Paul Segalla, deputy city manager and city clerk Jeanette Vagnozzi and Scott Williams. He said the city had added four new full time police officers and that it had completed the drafting of a five year financial planning and economic development plan.
In looking toward future developments, Butler evinced optimism and confidence that what he referred to as the “Pattison property,” would soon undergo a revival, “The Yavitz Companies that has developed and transformed a lot of shopping centers and Albert Pattison, who owns the property on the north side of Foothill known [just east of Euclid] as Upland Village Center have entered into escrow. Without going into a lot of detail, it is a very underutilized center and we’re excited Mr. Pattison has decided he wants out. Yavitz is very experienced in rejuvenating shopping centers. We’re not going to be dancing in the street just yet but Yavitz has multiple letters of intent for the leasing of both restaurant and retail space. There will be some renovation, some new building and some existing buildings knocked down. They are going to add something exciting and totally revamp that center. We think it is going to be a much better use of that property. We are doing everything we can inside City Hall to get toward the finish line.”
Husing’s remarks were focused on trends and issues in the Inland Empire, with occasional reference to accompanying statistics for Upland.
“The major economic challenge to the Inland Empire is the education of our labor force,” Husing said. “Forty-seven percent have a high school education or less. That population is barely able to work in the modern economy.” He said that Upland’s residents were more highly educated than those in the region as a whole, with 33 percent of adults in Upland having and educational level that topped out at having a high school diploma. Husing said education was “where the high end jobs lie. Health care [positions are] continuously growing. They pay just under an average of $55,000 per year. Those jobs deliver enough money to put people into the middle class. Husing said the Inland Empire had also recently transformed into a magnet for “sophisticated warehousing operations where you have a lot of people working with more sophisticated tools.”
He said the region has seen a 95.6 percent improvement since 2000 in the level of diesel pollution with just 5.3 days over the standard deemed unhealthful compared to 120 previously.
Husing said petroleum prices are back at 2003 levels, boosting the overall and the local economy.
Husing said the Inland Empire’s location proximate to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach made it an ideal location for logistics operations. Husing said the Inland Empire, consisting primarily of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, was “at the forefront of the construction of warehousing and industrial facilities. With more containers coming into California’s ports, container volume is up. Amazon, Fed Ex, Home Depot and other operations are creating fulfillment centers [locations where on-line orders are responded to and where merchandize is warehoused and from which those stocked products are shipped]] and buying on line is now driving the Inland Empire economy. He said 750,000 square feet to over a million square feet of space to house warehouses, shipping centers and industries are now under construction. Logistical operations and fulfillment centers he said, provide “more jobs per square foot” than traditional warehouses, which average one worker per 35,000 square feet. Husing said fulfillment centers average one worker per roughly one thousand square feet. “These are labor intensive job generators,” Husing said. Whereas the workplace is increasingly demanding in terms of the education workers must have to be employable, the logistics industry is one of the few exceptions to that where workers with a high school education or less can get jobs that pay on average $45,000 per year. “This is one of the few places where people who are not well educated can do well in our economy,” he said.
According to Husing, in 2007 California had 15,844,325 people at work but the state lost 1,178,158 jobs during the recession. Since 2011, the state has gained 1,809,542 jobs, so that there are now 630,483 more people employed statewide than in 2007, a four percent gain. In the Inland Empire between 2008 and 2010, Husing said, 140,650 jobs, or 10.8 percent were lost. From 2011 until 2015, 196,896 jobs were created in the Inland Empire, which represents 56,058 jobs above the previous high point of employment regionally.
The Inland Empire has exhibited at best lukewarm private sector job growth in terms of the quality of remuneration associated with the new jobs, Husing said. Some 2.1 percent of the jobs gained from 2011 until 2015, or 4,358 in total, provided what he termed high pay, or over $55,000 per year. He said 33,533 of the new white collar private sector jobs, or 16.3 percent, offered moderate pay, between $45,00 and $55,000 per year. New blue collar jobs, remunerating workers between $45,000 and $55,000 per year, accounted for 80,858, or 39.4 percent of the new job growth. Disappointingly, he said, 42.2 percent of the new jobs, or 86,608 offered lower pay, which he defined as under $30,000 per year.
With the 58,692 jobs it gained in 2015, the Inland Empire experienced the second highest rate of job growth in the state, Husing said.
Unemployment has dropped to 5.8 percent in the Inland Empire, Husing said.
In the Inland Empire, Husing said, 18.2 percent of all of the population is living at or below the poverty level, which he defined as less than $2,000 of income per household per month. He said that 25.4 percent of the Inland Empire’s residents under the age of 18 were living in poverty. In Upland, he said, the statistics were slightly more favorable with 15.1 percent of the entire population in poverty and 17.3 percent of those under the age of eighteen who are under similar financial distress. He said there was powerful growth in the logistics industry and that logistics jobs pay a mean of $45,677 per year. Building permit valuation is slowly but steadily increasing, Husing said.
One factor retarding growth in the Inland Empire and throughout California, Husing said, is the cost of electricity in California, which is the highest among all states west of the Mississippi. Five percent of job growth in the Inland Empire between 2011 and 2015, Husing said, was in the manufacturing sector, consisting of 10,408 new jobs.
The number of underwater homeowners in the Inland Empire has reduced significantly, with negative equity having dropped from 54.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 11.4 percent in the third quarter of 2015.
Husing said interest rates are low again, encouraging home sales, though the residential real estate market is not exactly on fire. He addressed home price trending in the Inland Empire, saying that just before the recession, after the “crazy financing” that went on between 2005 and 2007, the average price of homes in the Inland Empire rose to $389,924. With the devaluation of property that occurred during the recession, that average bottomed out at $155,319 in 2009. Inland Empire home prices have now returned to an average of $284,853. In Upland, he said, the average price of a home in 2007 topped out at $582,600, then dropped down to a low of $334.222 in 2009 and have now come back to $489,891.
Husing said the strong dollar against foreign currencies has been of benefit to local companies engaged in importing but has not been favorable to companies involved in exporting, such as manufacturers.
Traditionally in Upland, as in most other local cities, the state of the city address has been one which features the mayor as the centerpiece. In Upland, the chamber of commerce has for some time been a sponsor of the event, using the forum to generate money. Ray Musser, who has been Upland mayor since 2011, delivered the last five state of the city addresses in Upland. Because Musser is not considered an electrifying speaker, the chamber, in the planning that began last fall for this year’s event, moved toward minimizing the mayor’s role in the festivities. Musser took umbrage at that, leading to a contretemps in which Butler was left caught in the middle. Trying to assuage the mayor, whose pride was hurt, into accepting the diminished part he was being offered, Butler proved unequal to the task, as Musser balked at cooperating with the chamber of commerce, of which he is a longtime member and past president, and opted out of participating altogether. Instead, Butler temporized and left the chamber in the dark about the city’s participation in the event. This left Butler, at least temporarily, in the doghouse with councilwoman Debbie Stone, whose boyfriend, Eric Hanson, is the chamber president elect. Ultimately, Musser refused to participate and instead has scheduled his own state of the city speech for April 19. Musser did not attend Tuesday’s function, which was attended by 164 people, and thus did not see the content nor quality of the presentation, which the community will expect him to match or exceed next month.
One of those who took a central role in the event was councilwoman Carol Timm, who introduced to the crowd the other officials in attendance. Among those present were councilwoman Stone, councilman Gino Filippi, former city manager and police chief Martin Thouvenell, chamber president Terry Jeffers, Upland activist Eric Gavin, Cable Airport owner Bob Cable, Chamber executive director Terry Gallardo, former city manager Stephen Dunn, auto dealer Richard Mayo, city treasurer Dan Mogan, police chief Brian Johnson, and Second District County Supervisorial Chief of Staff Andy Takata. Sponsors of the even included DoubleTree Hotel, Inland Productivity Solutions, HHARP, Galleano Winery, Brandt Family Winery La Villa Bella, Grocery Outlet, Rok Brewing Company Southern California Edison, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Upland Councilman Gino Filippi, Chaffey College, Mountain View Chevrolet. The Upland Police Officers Association, Dawn Kasnick AA U-Stor-M, Madole & Associates Visiting Angels Dale Bros Brewery Assistance Insurance Agency, SoCal Gas, Frontier Communities, Cable Airport LKQ, Right At Home, Alta Pacific and Prospect Mortgage.
County To Distribute Prepaid Grocery Cards And Bus Passes To Senior Citizens
The San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services has purchased and will distribute $240,000 worth of prepaid Stater Brothers grocery debit cards and $232,000 in bus passes to eligible senior citizens.
The county will begin passing those purchasing cards out after the start of the upcoming fiscal year on July 1. The $240,000 worth of grocery cards are intended to remain valid for three years, through June 30, 2019.
According to Ron Buttram, the director of the Aging and Adult Services Department, “As the designated area agency on aging, the Aging and Adult Services Department receives funding for a wide range of programs and supportive services. The issuance of prepaid cards has been a long-standing practice for the Aging and Adult Services Department in order to further its mission to assist seniors in improving or maintaining choice, independence, and quality of life. Prepaid bus passes and grocery debit cards are provided to seniors in need of transportation and food to support their efforts to remain healthy and involved in their communities. Per the auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector internal controls and cash manual, the purchase and distribution of prepaid cards in an amount of $2,500 or more must be approved by the board of supervisors.
The distribution of prepaid negotiables remains the same as in previous years. The Aging and Adult Services Department anticipates approximately 19,000 bus passes from various vendors and approximately 250 debit cards from Stater Brothers Markets will be issued annually to eligible seniors, dependent upon individual needs and the availability of funding. The cost per client varies based on the individual need of each senior, from a range of $1 to $40 for bus passes and $10 to $50 for grocery debit cards.”
On January 6, 2015, the board of supervisors approved annual distribution of prepaid cards as required by the auditor-controller internal controls and cash manual. The item also approved an agreement with National Gift Card Corporation (NGC) to purchase prepaid gas and debit cards, including Walmart and Target, that met the majority of human services’ needs. However, the NGC agreement did not include transportation needs in the form of bus passes or debit cards for alternative grocery choice to Target and Walmar, and Buttram said the purchase of the cards from Stater Brothers redresses that issue.
“The Aging and Adult Services Department has historically utilized Stater Brothers Markets for grocery debit cards because of their countywide locations (over 50 stores); Stater Brothers Markets typically have reasonable food costs; and Stater Brothers Markets are extremely responsive to the department’s needs,” Buttram said. “This will allow the Aging and Adult Services Department to purchase and distribute prepaid bus passes and debit cards to meet eligible senior’s countywide transportation and food needs that fall outside of the service provisions of the NGC agreement. Vendors for prepaid bus passes will include, but will not be limited to: Needles Area Transit, OmniTrans, Morongo Basin Transit Authority, Mountain Transit and the Victor Valley Transit Authority. Stater Brothers Markets will be the additional vendor of debit cards for food for seniors.
In accordance with the auditor-controller internal controls and cash manual, the Aging and Adult Services Department maintains and ensures adherence to internal policies and procedures regarding safeguards and proper handling of prepaid negotiables.”
Appeals Court Calls Upland Ploy Delaying Pot Vote Unconsitutional
The City of Upland’s effort last year to load the legal dice against the California Cannabis Coalition came up snake eyes last week when the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that the city’s theory that a voter-endorsed special election on a measure to allow three medical marijuana clinics to operate in the 73,732-population city could be postponed until this year’s general municipal election was a misapplication of the California Constitution.
Between October 2014 and January 2015 a group of Upland residents, nominally headed by Nicole DeLaRosa and James Velez, sponsored by the California Cannabis Coalition, Craig Beresh and Randy Welty, undertook a petition drive to qualify for the ballot in Upland an initiative aimed at overturning the Upland’s ban on marijuana dispensaries. On January 14, 2015 the California Cannabis Coalition and those involved in the signature-gathering effort came to Upland City Hall and handed over to then-Upland administrative services director/city clerk Stephanie Mendenahll the initiative petition endorsed with 6,865 signatures gathered in Upland. Mendenhall’s processing and evaluation of those signatures done in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters established that more than 15 percent of the city’s voters had endorsed the petition. Under the election code, petitioners’ gathering of the signatures of ten percent of the city’s electorate would qualify the measure for the ballot. By meeting the 15 percent threshold, the petitioners were entitled to the measure being placed upon a special ballot that would come at least 88 days but no more than 103 days after the city council accepted the city clerk’s certification of the ballots. That meant, that at the latest, the special election would need to be held by June 2015. The Upland City Council, however, had three members – mayor Ray Musser and councilmembers Carol Timm and Glenn Bozar, who were philosophically opposed to allowing medical marijuana to be sold within the city. Concerned that holding a special election would afford medical marijuana advocates the opportunity to utilize social media and other means to drive large numbers of voters who look favorably upon marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes to the polls in support of the measure while those city residents were not so galvanized, the trio signaled to city officials their wish that some means of preventing the special election from occurring be found. In response, city attorney Richard Adams cobbled together a strategy, based upon a somewhat dubious set of legal interpretations, that he told the council would very likely result in the vote on the measure being postponed until the city’s next municipal election, which is scheduled for November 8, 2016.
Adams seized on an element in the Cannabis Coalition’s measure calling for the imposition of a $75,000 licensing fee to be paid to the city by each medical marijuana dispensary granted a permit to operate. The framers of the measure intended the $75,000 to be utilized by the city to pay for a host of costs associated with the facilities, including background checks on the operators, staff time in inspecting and plan checking the premises in which the clinics would be located, police patrolling of the establishments and the like. Adams, however, said he believed the licensing fee could be represented as a tax and that under the California Constitution, votes to approve a municipal tax must be approved by voters at a regularly scheduled municipal election and not during specially-scheduled balloting. Though it was pointed out at the time that the constitutional provision Adams was applying, or misapplying, pertained to taxing measures put on the ballot by the governing body of a public agency and was inapplicable to a measure brought forth through the citizen initiative process, the council majority – Musser, Bozar and Timm – voted to schedule the vote on the medical marijuana dispensary permitting measure in conjunction with the November 2016. The upshot of the council majority’s action was the official contention that the $75,000 specified in the proposed dispensary licensing ordinance contained in the ballot measure would prove greater than the city’s actual costs for carrying out the licensing and permitting process. The council did so, going along with Adams’ legal representations, despite the assertions of councilman Bozar and his one-time appointee to the city council advisory commission, Pat Almazon, who was perhaps the most vociferous opponent of allowing the marketing of medical marijuana in Upland, that the cost to the city of permitting the facilities was far greater than the $75,000 the city stood to bring in from each operation.
Moreover, the council voted to postpone the election, despite clear language in the constitutional provision that it was applicable strictly to taxing initiatives by governmental entities.
Welty, the owner of the Tropical Lei nude dancing venue in Upland, the Hawaii Theatre in the city of Industry, Eye Candy Showgirls Theater in Chula Vista, three Spearmint Rhino bars, several adult bookstores and the owner of the Flesh Club on Hospitality Lane in San Bernardino before it was shut down amid charges of being a venue for prostitution activity, also has an interest in at least 63 medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California. He has on permanent retainer attorney Roger Jon Diamond, the legendary Santa Monica-based First Amendment rights attorney. He detailed Diamond to legally challenge the city’s action.
Diamond, on behalf of the sponsors of the initiative, filed a lawsuit on March 19, 2015 accompanied by a peremptory writ in which it was asserted the city had denied “the signers of the initiative…the full benefit of California law, which requires that the initiative be put on the ballot within 88 to 103 days of the certification of the signatures.”
The city did not have the legal option to postpone the election until 2016, Diamond said, and Adams had misapplied the section of the California Constitution that prohibits governmental entities from imposing taxes on citizens without the benefit of a vote to an initiative brought forth not by the government but citizens. Moreover, Diamond, insisted, the fee involved in the Upland initiative was not a tax, but a reasonable element of the licensing procedure intended to recoup the city’s costs for accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries within its jurisdiction.
The matter came before Judge David Cohn in San Bernardino on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. After Cohn got Adams, assistant city attorney James Touchstone and Diamond to agree to have the matter adjudicated by motion, i.e., on the basis of his ruling rather than through a court trial including a jury, Cohn devoted the lion’s share of his questioning to Diamond. He questioned Diamond as to why the Cannabis Coalition was so intent on getting the initiative on a special ballot rather than having it voted upon during the 2016 election, suggesting as he did so that it would stand a greater chance of passage during a special election. Diamond did not confirm that there was any political motive to his client’s desire for a special election, stating only that the goal was to make medical marijuana available to patients at the earliest date possible. Cohn then pressed Diamond to deconstruct the city’s primary defense for postponing the vote for over a year, which consisted of its representation of the fee as a tax. Cohn asked Diamond to identify in a series of the city’s legal submissions evidence to controvert the city’s assertion that the $75,000 fee is a tax. In his responses, Diamond took aim at the city’s claim that the background checks, licensing processing, follow-up inspections and investigations would at most cost $56,540 and that enforcement and prosecutions of violations would run no more than another $10,000. Diamond asserted that the city had “artificially” minimized the cost and that while the exact costs could not be quantified ahead of time, the $75,000 fee was a reasonable one intended to cover the city’s outlays in accommodating the uses envisioned in the initiative. “You cannot come up with an exact mathematical figure when you are talking about a future event,” he said. “They [the city] can set any cost they want.”
Touchstone retorted that the total itemized costs of $66,540 was under the $75,000 specified in the initiative.
In his ultimate ruling, Cohn shut the door on Diamond and the Cannabis coalition, stating “I wasn’t able to find anything that stated $75,000 was a reasonable cost,” Cohn said. “The city has an affirmative obligation not to place a measure on the ballot it believes is unconstitutional.” He allowed the city to put the election off until November 2016.
Diamond, however, appealed the ruling and the ten months later, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside ruled that Cohn had erred and it was the City of Upland that had acted unconstitutionally when it denied the rights of the 6,865 Upland residents who had signed the petition to seek redress from their government.
The appellate court’s opinion, released on March 18, found that Upland must hold the special election and that the city must bear the cost of doing so, which under the current conditions, with the county Registrar of Voters office tied up with making preparations for both the June primary election and the November general election, will likely cost one-and-a-half times as much as the estimated $88,000 it would have cost to hold the election last year. The city is also on the hook for Diamond’s legal fees, which he pegged at around $100,000. Cohn will be asked to determine the actual amount Diamond should be awarded after examining Diamond’s itemized bills to the Cannabis Coalition.
The appellate court released its tentative decision in favor of the Cannabis Coalition in February and then heard final oral arguments on the issue on March 1. The city was unable to dissuade the appellate court panel from its earlier expressed interpretation of the circumstance and Diamond pressed the appellate court’s three judge panel to comply with the election code and hold a special election at which the only item on the ballot will be the dispensary permitting initiative.
As it stands, however, depending on the dispatch with which events ensue, it is possible the measure might be placed on the June primary ballot.
One indication of what is underway is the speed with which the appellate panel acted, issuing its decision just 18 days after those oral arguments, on March 18, when it had until April 9 to reach its final decision. The rapidity of the ruling and the consideration that it came in the form of a “published decision” indicates the unanimity of the panel on the underlying finding that the city did violate the petitioners’ rights and a willingness to expedite the holding of the election.
City officials are now mulling their next move. While some of the city’s anti-marijuana zealots are pressing for the city to appeal the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s ruling to the California Supreme Court and thus angle toward delaying the vote to the point where by default it will end up on the November ballot where they believe it will stand far less of a chance of passing because of the larger voter turnouts that traditionally occur during presidential general elections. If Upland were to ask the California Supreme Court to take up the matter, those justices might take up to 90 days to determine whether to undertake that review. Depending how far into that ninety day window the court proceeds, the ticking of the calendar might make it impossible for the lower court to hear the matter within 88 days of the November 8 election.
Cooler heads, however, conscious that the Supreme Court consents to hear fewer than ten percent of the petitions for rehearing that come to it, as well as the weakness of the city’s legal position, are willing to capitulate to the virtually inevitable, thus saving the city a likely expenditure of more than another $200,000 in legal fees.
Diamond told the Sentinel “Obviously, we are pleased with the appellate court’s determination that the city acted illegally to delay the election. It shows the superior court judge was wrong in denying us relief last year. The case has been returned to him and we are looking toward scheduling the special election. This was a published decision. I am very excited about that. It goes into the law books, so it is a precedent.”
Diamond said he is not certain what the city will do and what the ultimate timing of the election will be and whether or not it will be of benefit to his clients. “If there is another appeal by the city, that could carry it into the November election,” he said. “Either way, we will definitely get an election by November 8. There may well be other procedural remedies to shorten the process but at this point I cannot say.”
The city council will take up whether or not the city should appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision at its April 11 meeting.
County Spent An Average Of $135,650 On Each Of 31 Psychiatric Patients In 2014-15
San Bernardino County in fiscal year 2014-15 spent an average of $135,650 on each of 31 psychiatric patients, a total of $4,205,150. That care for adults and children with psychiatric disabilities included lodging in a hospital setting. The county is on track in the current fiscal year running from July 1, 2015 through this coming June 30, to spend yet more.
This week the county board of supervisors acceded to a recommendation from the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, CaSonya Thomas, that it approve a $9,155,629 retroactive memorandum of understanding with the California Department of State Hospitals for hospital beds and inpatient health care and support services provided to adults and children with psychiatric disabilities, for the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016.
Thomas asked the board to provide her department with the authority to use so-called Realignment funds to cover the cost of the memorandum of understanding – essentially a contract – with the state to pay for the $9.1 million-plus worth of psychiatric care some two to three dozen county residents are getting at state-run or state-licensed facilities. Realignment funds consist of what was originally state money freed up by the state of California for return to its 58 counties through reducing the state prison population of roughly 156,000 inmates consisting mainly of men (93%), Latinos and African Americans (roughly 67%) and 60 percent-drawn from Los Angeles County to no more than 137.5% of its 85,000-inmate design capacity. This realignment is effectuated by shifting much of that population to county jails and through releases of non-violent offenders. Realignment was intended to free up money to meet a court-order to provide more funding for medical and mental health care for the state’s prison and general population.
According to Thomas, “The California Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 4330 through 4335 require the California Department of State Hospitals and the county to maintain an agreement for the utilization and reimbursement of state hospital beds. The memorandum of understanding with the California Department of State Hospitals will allow the behavioral health department to meet this requirement and reimburse the California Department of State Hospitals for psychiatric inpatient hospital beds and inpatient health care and support services to adults and children with psychiatric disabilities for 2014-15 and 2015-16. Approximately 31 unduplicated patients were served during 2014-15 at an annual average cost of $135,650 per client. Each patient’s length of stay varies and is dictated by the severity of the patient’s mental illness. The increase in the amount for reimbursement for 2015-16 is due to the inclusion of Superior Court referrals, an increase of clients needing this level of care and the higher overall acuity of the clients in state hospital beds requiring longer stays.”
The behavioral health department is responsible for providing mental health and substance use disorder services to county residents who are experiencing major mental illness and/or substance use disorders. A basic part of the service delivery system consists of providing psychiatric inpatient state hospital services to the seriously and persistently mentally ill population. The behavioral health department provides care that consists of county operated clinics and contracted service providers delivering a variety of mental health treatment services within each geographic region of the county. The state hospital psychiatric unit allows the behavioral health department to accommodate seriously and persistently mentally ill patients at an appropriate level of care in a psychiatric inpatient state hospital setting.
The highest level of care is the state hospital psychiatric unit; the next highest level of treatment is provided through the Institute of Mental Disease.
Patients in need of a lower level of care are placed in board and care facilities. Programs at each facility depend on the patient’s level of care, specific patient needs, and condition under which the patient is admitted. State hospitals provide services to patients who are committed pursuant to sections of the Penal Code and Welfare and Institutions Code or who are found to be incompetent to stand trial.
County residents in need of state hospital level of services are primarily admitted to Metropolitan State Hospital (Metro) in Norwalk and Patton State Hospital (Patton) in San Bernardino. Metro, a skilled nursing facility, specializes in acute care (severe symptoms that last for a short period of time), sub-acute care (recent onset, somewhat rapid symptoms lasting less than 3 months), and psychiatric rehabilitation. Patton provides state-of-the-art sub-acute mental health care and treatment to forensic and civilly committed patients in need of a structured, secure environment.
On June 24, 2014 the board of supervisors approved the prior memorandum of understanding with the California Department of State Hospitals for the period of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. Annually, the behavioral health department notifies California Department of State Hospitals of the number of state hospital beds anticipated to be used by the county in the upcoming year.
Historically, there is a delay by the California Department of State Hospitals in sending a new memorandum of understanding due to the negotiations with counties pertaining to the bed rates and budget schedules.
During the negotiation period, the prior memorandum continued to serve as the county’s bed agreement. The behavioral health department received the memorandum of understanding from the California Department of State Hospitals for the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016 on October 26, 2015.
The behavioral health department fiscal and program staff worked with the California Department of State Hospitals to verify the bed rates and budget schedules for the county.
The board of supervisors this week approved Thomas’s request for the $9,155,629 retroactive memorandum of understanding with the California Department of State Hospitals for hospital beds and inpatient health care and support services.
The Chino Groundwater Subbasin: Where Definition Diverges From Reality
In this world, some things are what they are, irrespective of how they are perceived. They are entities unto themselves, defined by their own integrity and their natural physical limitations. Some other things exist based solely or in large measure on their being defined as what they are or the name, label, title or status conferred on them by people.
At the west end of San Bernardino County, a host of governmental entities – state, regional and local – are testing the absolute applicability of the actual versus the perceived and whether something is what it is or rather what it is defined as being.
The California Department of Water Resources has been tasked with ensuring all-around compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA), which was signed into law in September 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown and which requires local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Local agencies are required to submit groundwater sustainability plans (GSP) relating to most of the state’s 127 groundwater basins and subbasins designated as medium or high priority to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) by January 31, 2020 or January 31, 2022, respectively.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 also authorized local agencies to request a modification of the state-drawn boundaries for a basin or subbasin by March 31, 2016.
Adjudicated basins and subbasins are exempt from the groundwater sustainability plans requirement and, instead, must annually submit organization and basin management documents to the California Department of Water Resources, starting on April 1, 2016.
In 1978, the Chino subbasin (labeled 8-02.01 by the California Department of Water Resources) was adjudicated through a judgment in Chino Basin Municipal Water District v. City of Chino, et al. (Case No. RCV 51010), establishing boundaries covered by the judgment.
The adjudicated boundaries of the Chino Basin do not exactly align with the California Department of Water Resources boundaries for the Chino subbasin. As the Chino Basin Watermaster does not meet the definition of a local agency under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District have joined to develop an application to request that the California Department of Water Resources conform the majority of its Chino subbasin boundaries to the adjudicated boundaries. If approved, the proposed basin boundary modification would result in the entirety of the Chino subbasin in San Bernardino County being covered by the basin management activities of the Chino Basin Watermaster and the continuing jurisdiction of the court. Small portions of the Chino subbasin extend into Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
One catch applies, however.
Under the California Department of Water Resources’ regulations for basin boundary modification requests, those applying for and supporting the modification agencies must marshal scientific and technical data to support a finding that there is grounds to redefine the basin. As such, the County Geologist will review the scientific and technical information contained in the Chino Basin boundary modification request. The engineering consultant for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District will provide its technical information to the county by March 25, 2016. San Bernardino County’s geologist will review the technical information and then make a recommendation as to whether the County should submit a statement of support for the basin boundary modification request in time for it to be included in the application. It is anticipated that the county will indeed make such a recommendation.
In order to ensure the application deadline of March 31, 2016, is met, the county board of supervisors this week directed San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux to execute and submit the statement of support.
Forum… Or Against ’em
By Count Friedrich von Olsen
The big story in the Sentinel this week is the pressure several of the county’s cities are being put under to transition to ward systems in their elective politics. This is come about as a consequence of low voter turnout among some ethnic groups in these cities, despite the consideration that those particular ethnic groups represent a sizeable percentage of the populations of the cities in question. In some cases the allegedly underrepresented or outright unrepresented ethnicities in these cities may even represent a plurality among all of the different ethnicities in those places. What is happening is that legal representatives of, or some lawyers claiming to be legal representatives of, those ethnicities as a whole are threatening lawsuits under the auspices of the California Voting Rights Act and the various tools it embodies to force the cities to switch from the current systems whereby city council members are elected at large from around their respective cities by all of the city’s voters to a political arrangement by which the instant city is divided into wards and each ward is represented by a resident of that ward, such that residents of each ward are permitted to vote only for their representative and not the representative of wards located elsewhere in the city. This will create, theoretically, wards where the underrepresented or unrepresented ethnicities will embody such a majority that the election of individuals from that ethnicity will be far more likely if not absolutely guaranteed…
I am not sure I am totally against the idea. Anything that will electrify the voters in our democracy and drive them to the polls is most likely a good thing. And there are advantages to such ward systems beyond the consideration that they will enable unrepresented and underrepresented ethnicities politically, which I will discuss momentarily. But there are disadvantages to this approach, as well, and before we embrace ward or districts as a panacea, we should consider exactly what it is we are doing and what we are creating…
First, let’s look at the advantages. Indeed, setting up wards or internal city districts may assist in getting members of unrepresented and underrepresented ethnicities into office. That outcome is not a certainty, but it is likely, at least in some cases. Another healthy outcome is that this will ensure that cities will have equal, balanced and something approaching uniform geographic representation. In some of San Bernardino’s cities and incorporated towns, three, four and even five members of five-member city councils live in the same neighborhood or within what seems to be a stone’s throw from one another, leaving whole areas of those cities unrepresented and in some cases neglected. Making it so that the council is not dominated by individuals from one specific area but rather reflects the interests of all areas of a city will help prevent the unfair and lopsided distribution of public amenities and improvements as well as keep one section of town or one neighborhood from being neglected or saddled with undesirable land uses, projects or burdens because none of the decision-makers, i.e., the council members, live there and will not be subject to the consequences of their collective decision. And the ward system presents the further advantage, I believe, in that it makes removing a poorly performing elected official – a councilman or councilwoman – much easie if that council member is not yet entrenched. In cities where the city council members are elected at large, recalling a local politician is a daunting task because of the sheer numbers of valid signatures that must be gathered to qualify a recall question for the ballot against that office holder. In such a circumstance, those seeking to remove an office holder must get a percentage – generally ten percent, fifteen percent or even twenty percent, depending on the population of the city – of the municipality’s registered voters to call for the recall vote to take place. In cities the size of 204,000 population Fontana or 163,924 population Ontario or 115,903 population Victorville, this is almost impossible. Even in Upland, where a signature gathering effort to recall three of that city’s council members is ongoing, the prospect that the advocates will be able to gather the signatures of 15 percent of the 73,732 population city’s voters is exceedingly dim. A ward system that divides a city’s population into quarters makes the assignment of garnering the necessary support to undertake the grave and serious goal of removing an unwanted politician from office, assuming of course such action is justifiable, more achievable…
But there are disadvantages to ward systems. One disadvantage is the way in which they might provoke factionalism, encouraging conflict between council members and creating gridlock with regard to action needed for the city as a whole when this conflict devolves into political enmity. It can also result in pork barrel politics where projects or improvements of dubious value that would not otherwise be approved find acceptance because the council member in the district where that improvement is going to take place insists upon it as a price for his or her vote to approve like projects in other wards…
The most serious drawback of the ward system is the fashion in which it lends itself to corruption of the public interest. Perhaps the best example of this is what has existed for a century or more and continues to exist in the City of Chicago. The problem is that the ward system installs if not absolute, near absolute, power in a single individual within a jurisdiction and within that jurisdiction that individual has no equals. The ward becomes a fiefdom and the office holder becomes a political boss. The office holder has the power to dole out perks and favors at will; a cavalcade of liegemen, who are fiercely loyal to the office holder and willing to do anything to sustain him or her in office, attend him or her. And from the office holder those minions have the power that enable them to act with efficiency and ruthlessness. As this machine grows around the office holder, he or she becomes virtually unassailable…
One entrenched and corrupt politician is bad enough. Now, imagine two such political entities acting in league together. Go further, dear reader, and consider the depredations that could be wrought if you had three such personages on a five-member council acting in concert, scratching each other’s back, covering for one another, a situation where three people, looking to enrich themselves and their allies at the public trough are in a virtual undeclared and stealthy war against all of the citizens of a city, with the exception of each of their separate retinues of political henchmen, in control of the city manager, the police chief and his department, the planning and building officials, the plan checkers, the code enforcement officers, the city’s public relations staff, the finance director, the investment officer and the city attorney…
Almon Burr Ruggles
Born in Brookfield, Massachussetts on the Ides of March 1840, Almon Burr Ruggles was the son of Sherman Booth Ruggles and Sara Burr (Oakely) Ruggles. He was a descendant of Aaron Burr’s sister, as well as Thomas Dudley, governor and deputy governor of Massachusetts from 1630-1635.
Almon received both a common school and academic education. At the age of 16, he began work as a clerk in the dry goods store of W.H. Clark of Danbury Connecticut, and the next year he taught at a school in nearby Bridgewater, Connecticut. After one term he was offered a position in the store of Starr, Clark and Company of Watertown, were he remained for two years.
In 1860, Ruggles entered business for himself and, with his brother, opened the general merchandise store of Henry B Ruggles (1837 – 1865) and A.B. Ruggles in Shelton, Connecticut. After one year his brother sold his interest to C.W. Randall and the store’s name was changed to Ruggles and Randall and so remained for eighteen years, the last six of which saw a branch store in Birmingham as well as Shelton.
Almon B. Ruggles and Susan Smith Shelton were married on April 28, 1862, and resided for ten years in the Shelton ancestral home in Southbury, Connecticut. In 1872, the family moved to Shelton, Connecticut. Over the years Almon and Susan became the parents of seven children, Sara Elizabeth, Henry Benjamin, Nell Hinman, Anne Jane, Frederick Shelton, Charles Almon and Susan Eloisa.
From 1882 until 1889, Ruggles was in the hardware business as a member of the firm of Ruggles and Clark and was, from 1878 to 1889, also the proprietor of a highly renowned toy manufacturing establishment in Shelton.
Ruggles began business in a modest way. By industry, honesty and ability during his 28 years of active mercantile life, he not only enjoyed financial comfort but won the esteem and confidence of the community and filled many offices of trust and responsibility. He was the postmaster of Southbury for eleven years, a justice of the peace, grand juror, assessor and town auditor. He was chairman of the Republican Town Committee for eighteen years in Huntington and for ten years in Southbury. He was a member of the Connecticut State Legislature in 1884 and served on the Committee on Banks. He was an active member of the committee to secure the charter for the Borough of Shelton. He was also one of its original incorporators and was similarly identified with the Derby Saving Bank. He was a member of the Odd Fellows and a Grand Master of the Ousatonic Lodge #6, I.O.O.F, of Shelton.
Following a very extensive business trip around the United States during 1889-1890, during which he explored Southern California, Ruggles sold out his business interests in Connecticut and brought his family to Redlands in March of 1891. He immediately established a home at the corner of Garden and Hilton in Redlands Heights, surrounded by a terraced orange grove.
This property was subdivided in 1960 and the Ruggles home was destroyed by fire on May 13, 1960 , while in the process of being moved.
Ruggles was one of the original members and the secretary manager of the Redlands Orange Growers Association and marketed his fruit as “Rose Brand” oranges. Much of the success of that association was due to his ability as a manager and to his integrity as a businessman. He was director and vice president of the Redlands Orange Grove and Water Company and a director and secretary of the Redlands Heights Water Company. He made a thorough study of the ever-present water problems in the area, and was well acquainted with the local conditions. He frequently wrote editorials for the New York Times, usually extolling the virtues of Southern California living.
Prior to Ruggles’ arrival in Redlands, in October, 1889, some of the wealthier women in the city had organized and conducted a Woman’s Exchange in the Book and Art
Store of Mrs. J. L. Jones, collecting some money in the process that they placed in the Union Bank as seed money toward the establishment of a public library.
Some two years later, when Ruggles learned of the effort, he bave the movement encouragement. The proposition of establishing a reading room and public library was brought to general attention by a meeting called by Alfred H. Smiley, J. B. Breed,
Albert K. Smiley, Ruggles and others on December 5, 1891. Consequently, in March, 1892, a coffee
parlor and reading room was opened in the old Y. M. C. A. Building on East State Street. On November 1, 1893, Alfred H. Smiley, raised the matter of a public library before the city trustees and asked their assistance. On November 23, 1893, a public meeting at Redlands City Hall was held, at which A. H. Smiley was elected chairman and Prof. C. N. Andrews’, secretary.
Mr. Smiley reported he had received subscriptions amounting to fourteen hundred dollars and presented a plan of temporary organization until the next city election.
On motion the meeting resolved itself into an association, the Redlands Public Library Association, and the trustees elected were A. H. Smiley, T. E. N. Eaton, F. P. Meserve, J. B. Breed, Almon Burr Ruggles, Mrs. W. Howard White, Mrs. N. S. McAbee and Miss L. E. Foote. Dr. Eaton subsequently resigned and was replaced by the Reverend A. L. Park.
These trustees immediately asked gifts of books, and in all about two thousand dollars was raised by voluntary contributions. January 1, 1894, the board purchased books to the value of a thousand dollars. The trustees on February 7, 1894, donated the library to the city, and the city trustees on the following day accepted the gift. The new library, consisting of about two thousand volumes, was inspected at a general public reception held in the Y. M. C. A. Building on Cajon Street on Washington’s birthday 1894. At a formal meeting in the city trustees’ meeting chambers Alfred H. Smiley on behalf of the trustees dedicated the library to the people and it was accepted on their behalf by Mayor Edward G. Judson.
In the meantime, on December 12, 1893, the Redlands Chamber of Commerce was organized and Ruggles was elected as its first president.
There had been a good deal of political discontent in the southernmost lying area of San Bernardino County as early as 1892. In early 1893, what is today Riverside County secceded from San Bernardino County. The new county was fomred on July 1, 1893. Albert S. White, who is considered a great patriot in Riverside County but a turncoat traitor in San Bernardino County, had been San Bernardino County’s Third District Supervisor. Residing in Riverside, he transferred his affiliation to his new county, and turned his back on San Bernardino county. With Fred Loveland of Winchester, S.A. Stewart of Elsinore, William McVicar of Corona and Martin Hoover of Riverside, white formed Riverside County’s first board of supervisors.
On July 17, 1893, Almon Ruggles was nominated by Mayor Frank Prescott of Redlands at a special Republican convention to become the new San Bernardino county Third District supervisor. He was elected, with only token opposition on August 8, 1893, and took office on August 14, serving San Bernardino County faithfully, indeed far more faithfully than had his predecessor White.
Ruggles remained in office until January 8, 1897. He did not seek reelection and was succeeded by James B. Glover, also of Redlands.
Following years of declining health, Mr. Ruggles died at his home on October 3, 1901. He was survived by his widow, four daughters, three sons and many close friends. He was a member of the Redlands Trinity Church and was the senior warden of the parish. He was highly respected as a Christian gentleman and Redlands was a finer place because of his having lived there.
California Black Bears
Today there are about 250 California Black Bears living in the San Bernardino National Forest. They are not, however, native to the mountains. They were brought to the Big Bear area in 1934 from Yosemite National Park as a tourist attraction.
California Black Bears, which can actually be honey brown, cinnamon brown, or black, are one of sixteen different subspecies of North American Black Bears. The subspecies is found from southern Oregon to the coastal mountains of southern California. In California, they are found in both the coastal and Sierra mountain ranges. Black bears are not native to the coastal range, but since the extinction of the Grizzly Bear in California, the black bears have been expanding their range west.
Males are about 30 to 40 percent heavier than females. Their maximum weight is around 550 pounds, with most bears around 200 to 425 pounds. Shoulder height is around 3-4 feet and 4-6 feet in length. Standing bears can be as tall as 7 feet.
Black bears are attracted to areas with dense forest cover that is able to provide them with food. High elevation forests and chaparral are prime bear habitats in California. They generally are found in elevation ranges from 3,000 to 7,000 feet.
The diet of a Black Bear consists of leaves, nuts, berries, fish, buds and insects. Their diet will vary from season to season. Though they are carnivores, black bears get the bulk of their diet from plant or insect sources.
Breeding season is from June to July, and the gestation period is around 235 days. Cubs are weaned by the time they are 18 months old. After their cubs have weaned, females may mate again. Cubs will reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age, but continue to grow until they are 5 years old. Average life span is 18 years.
Like other members of the order Carnivora, black bears don’t hibernate in the true sense of the word, engaging instead in a winter lethargy. During this time, they decrease their body temperatures a few degrees and have endocrine changes to facilitate their bodies for a torpor state. They remain fairly active and can wake up quickly. An animal in true hibernation would take several hours to get its body back to the right temperature for normal movement.