Sheriff’s Deputies’ Union Unable To Get Traction In Contract Negotiations

In recent weeks SEBA, the union representing San Bernardino County’s sheriff’s deputies, has stepped up activity aimed at persuading top county officials to accede to its demands for compensation increases.
At the depth of the 2007-2013 recession, with the county’s revenues shrinking, raises in general were denied to the county’s workers across the board, and SEBA, an acronym for Safety Employees Benefit Association, made some $28 million in concessions on its previous collective bargaining agreement with the county. It is now SEBA’s contention that the county has made a fiscal recovery and that county officials remain intent on “needlessly stockpiling money” that more properly should be freed up for raises and benefit increases for the county’s sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s investigators.
SEBA officials maintain the county is in a position to provide deputies with their first raise since 2011. San Bernardino County has proven itself uncommonly stingy, they contend, to the point that San Bernardino County’s deputies are paid on average 14-percent less than officers with surrounding agencies. In December, an impasse in the negotiations was declared as the union turned its nose up at what the county offered and the county refused to budge beyond what it had previously put forth.
This week, SEBA sought to ratchet the pressure up, with union officials accompanied by some 80 Safety Employees’ Benefit Association members and family members gathering outside the San Bernardino County Government Center Tuesday morning, an effort to upstage the board of supervisors, which was to hold one of its regularly scheduled meetings a little later that morning inside the building. The intent was to assert that the deputies are not being treated fairly by the county and show by their presence their determination not to be ignored.
If the union’s current leadership thought this would immediately bring the board of supervisors and the county’s chief executive officer, Greg Devereaux, the county’s lead negotiator, to heel, they miscalculated. By day’s end the impasse remained and there was no indication the county was ready to move toward the position held by the union.
Indeed county officials believe they have good cause to hold their ground. More than two decades ago, Chris Smith was elected president of SEBA. One of his first moves was to raise the monthly dues paid by union members to the hourly rate of the base pay of a deputy sheriff. This angered the rank and file, initially. But Smith and SEBA’s then-treasurer, Jim Erwin, did not let the money molder in a bank account. In short order they put it to work, seeking to strengthen the union.
Smith then went to work, persuading the sheriff and board of supervisors to up the pay of San Bernardino County’s sheriff’s deputies to levels closer to those provided to law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions.
After Smith left as president, he was succeeded by Nancy Smedley, who stayed in place only two years. Smedley’s relationship with the union’s rank and file deteriorated when she failed to hold her own in negotiations with Barbara Musselman, the county’s employee relations division chief and secured what union members felt was a substandard contract and allowed non-sworn custody specialists to serve as guards within the access points within the sheriff’s department jail system.
Jim Erwin succeeded Smedley. He escalated Smith’s political efforts, this time upping the contribution each deputy made to SEBA’s long dormant political action committee tenfold, from fifty cents per month to $5 per month, subsequently to $10 per month and then to $20 per month. In time, SEBA’s political action committee was transformed into the most formidable political vehicle in the county, into which was deposited more than $440,000 annually.
From that political action committee account the union began doling out contributions – substantial contributions – to the county’s elected officials with a command over both the fate and remuneration of deputies. Previously it had been the development community that infused the campaign war chests of those elected officials – members of the board of supervisors, the sheriff, the district attorney and the county treasurer – with the lion’s share of the cash used to purchase newspaper and radio advertising and create and mail out campaign brochures. Virtually overnight, SEBA was making contributions that rivaled or surpassed the money being provided to the county’s top politicians by builders and other members of the development community.
Erwin pressed for higher wages as part of the collective bargaining agreements arrived at with the county, using that as a litmus test for politicians. Those who supported the provision of higher deputy salaries were awarded with mega-contributions. Those who did not were targeted for removal from office. In 2000, First District Supervisor Kathy Davis fell victim when SEBA supplied a significant portion of the bankroll Bill Postmus employed in his effort to unseat her. Erwin turned to outside sources, including developmental and other business interests, for contributions to the SEBA political action committee. By that point, there was no doubt that SEBA had become the new political kid on the block. In 2002, Erwin convinced the SEBA board of directors that then-supervisor Jon Mikels should be targeted for removal, and SEBA endowed the Paul Biane campaign with a major portion of the funding used to oust Mikels.
At that time, a deputy who reached the age of 50 was eligible to retire and draw a pension that equaled his highest annual compensation times the number of years worked times two percent. Thus, a deputy who started with the department at the age of 25 who had stayed there for 25 years and promoted to the rank of sergeant making $100,000 per year would be eligible upon reaching his 50th birthday to receive an annual pension of $50,000 [$100,000 X 30 X .025] for the rest of his life.
Erwin moved to persuade the county to raise the multiplier in the pension formula from 2 percent to 3 percent, succeeding in doing so. Thereafter, a deputy’s pension was calculated by taking the deputy’s highest yearly salary times the number of years he worked with the department times 3 percent, such that the above-cited hypothetical retiree’s pension would be boosted to $75,000 per year.
Erwin left as SEBA president but was subsequently hired on as SEBA’s chief of administration before leaving to become assistant county assessor during a portion of Bill Postmus’s abbreviated tenure as county assessor. Erwin’s successor as SEBA president was Bill Abernathie. Abernathie was succeeded by Laren Leichliter, the current president. The economic downturn that began in 2007 and was accompanied by poor performance in the stock market led to pension funds, including public employee pension funds, missing their expected earnings goals for several years running. This has resulted in public agencies, including San Bernardino County, being required to make up the difference between expected and actual pension fund investment earnings in the county retirement system. This led to the county proposing, and SEBA ultimately accepting, that each new deputy hired after December 31, 2013 wait until the age of 55 to retire and receive a pension that is 2.7 percent, as opposed to 3 percent, of his or her top salary for each year worked with the department. Those in place prior to the January 1, 2014 deadline are entitled to use the 3 percent multiplier in their pension derivation formula. With the specter of pension funds continuing to miss their projected investment earnings targets which would result in governmental entities being continuously required to underwrite the cost of those investment shortcomings, San Bernardino County officials are reluctant to provide further raises to deputies, particularly since most non-safety county employees are entitled to retirement only upon reaching the age of 60 and have a per-year pension multiplier of 2 percent.
Over the last five years, SEBA presidents Abernathie and Leichliter accepted the parameters dictated by the county and the economy. More recently, dissatisfaction has set in among the rank and file represented by SEBA based on the consideration that deputies have gone five years without a raise. Last year, in an effort to pick up some leverage, Leichliter seized upon the opportunity that presented itself when the county’s former human resources director, Andrew Lamberto, found himself caught up in a prostitution solicitation scandal in Orange County. County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux had learned of the incident shortly after Lamberto’s arrest in March 2015, exacted some form of undisclosed administrative discipline against Lamberto and did not inform the board of supervisors. When Orange County’s processing of the case against Lamberto led to belated public discovery of Lamberto’s arrest and Devereaux’s role in keeping the matter under wraps, a firestorm of controversy ensued, during which Devereaux was roundly criticized from several quarters, and discussion of his possibly being terminated as county chief executive officer made the rounds. Leichliter and the union participated openly in that criticism of Devereaux and the effort to have him cashiered. Ultimately, however, the board of supervisors receded from relieving Devereaux of command over the governmental structure in the 2.1 million-population, 20,105 square mile county.
Erwin, the architect of the 3 percent at 50 pension formula for San Bernardino County’s deputies, said Leichliter and the union are floundering.
“The county has money to give them raises but the union and its president have done so much political damage to themselves they are not going to get what they want,” Erwin told the Sentinel. “The county is not legally required to give the union what it is asking for. There is nothing in the previous collective bargaining agreement requiring the county to meet their terms on any future agreements. It comes down to whether the union has enough good will built up with the board of supervisors or the ability to force them to reach a collective bargaining agreement with favorable terms. You have to have good relations with the board or have them fear the union to the point the supervisors give you what you ask for. In this case the union can’t do either. The best word to describe it is impotent. The county is holding out from SEBA despite having record monetary reserves.”
A combination of factors has put SEBA behind the eight ball, Erwin said, most of which pertain to the union’s leadership and tactics.
“They went after the chief executive officer,” Erwin said, referencing the gambit last fall relating to the Lamberto episode. “They tried to use the situation with the human resources director as a hammer to beat the chief executive officer up and as an issue to attack the board of supervisors. It didn’t work. They tried to take the chief executive officer’s job away while simultaneously embarrassing the board of supervisors. If you do that, you have to succeed, because if you don’t, he will come back and cut your head off. They didn’t get him fired. Now they have to negotiate with him. Greg Devereaux’s relationship with the board of supervisors is such that they listen to him and will back him in whatever position he takes.”
Erwin continued, “SEBA doesn’t have a friend on the board of supervisors. The only one they have a dialog with is James Ramos. Other than that, they have burned their bridges with [Robert] Lovingood, Janice Rutherford and Josie [Gonzales]. They have no relationship with anyone in management. It is a complete vacuum. No one has the foresight or vision to have a conversation with the right people.”
In addition, according to Erwin, the union has squandered its resources hiring individuals who have nothing to contribute toward reaching the union’s basic goals.
“They have hired as their political adviser the same political consultant, Dave Ellis, who works for the DA and the sheriff,” Erwin said. “What has that gotten them, other than a conflict of interest? They’ve hired a former deputy, Lolita Harper, as a full time public relations person. They have reconfigured their legal defense contract through PORAC [the Police Officers Research Association of California] to the top level of coverage so that once any kind of suspension or disciplinary action takes place, it is turned over to an attorney. But they still have two staff field representatives who used to handle the minor disciplinary cases. Each of those field representatives have nothing to do as a result but it still costs the union collectively $400,000 in salary and benefits to keep them in place, even though the need for them has been entirely eliminated. They are paying a whole lot of people who aren’t accomplishing anything.” Erwin said he “conservatively” estimate the money squandered in this way as “close to $600,000.”
Erwin said SEBA’s leadership has the union on a treadmill to nowhere. “The union, basically, is accomplishing nothing,” he said. “I see they held a protest in front of the county administration building in advance of this week’s board of supervisors meeting with their spokeswoman badmouthing the county and I’m left scratching my head.”
He said the union leadership is conflicted.
“Laren Leichliter wants to be promoted,” Erwin said. “He wants to be liked by sheriff’s management. But you can’t be president of the union representing the rank and file, and be in bed with the sheriff and the county at the same time. Those are incompatible goals. If you play that game, the union is going to suffer in the end. Right now they have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank but they don’t know how, or are afraid, to use it. It would appear that the union president wants to be a deal-maker and backscratcher so he can get promoted. There has been a pattern in this county of the union heads getting too close to management. That is not their role.” The union president needs to have no regard for his own promotional viability within the organization to be truly effective, Erwin said.
“When I was president, I pushed to have the MOU [memorandum of understanding, i.e., the labor contract between the county and the deputies] enforced,” he said. “We filed grievances. We nurtured relationships with the board of supervisors. We would listen to what the county administration said and then talk with members of the board of supervisors to verify what we were being told. If it turned out we were being lied to, there would be political and legal ramifications. I’d send a letter threatening a lawsuit if the county or the department did not resolve the issue within ten days. I had lawsuits filed. At one time, we had seven lawsuits going at once. We did everything that could be done under the law or politically. On more than one occasion, I instructed everyone in the transportation unit to start doing everything by the book, having the bus drivers [carrying prisoners to court appearances] obeying the speed limit, following all of the rules. What I knew is that the courts just won’t run on time if you go absolutely by policy. We essentially shut the courts down. I made my point.” The union, Erwin said, “Basically doesn’t have the wherewithal or courage to do that.”
This has left the union “powerless to do anything about all of these problems they are facing,” Erwin said. “They are spending money on field representatives and a political consultant, but the rank and file, in terms of wages and benefits, is back to where we started 20 years ago. They need to explain that. Total compensation has deteriorated, when you compare it to other law enforcement agencies, to what it was 10 years ago.”
Devereaux took Leichliter’s measure while watching him angling for a promotion, Erwin said. After Leichleiter misplayed the Lamberto situation, he put the union in a no-win situation, Erwin said. And the circumstance at this point defies repair, he said. “With the current mix of players, I don’t see how it can get resolved,” he said. “There is a bad dynamic here. And this was poisoned not by the county, but by the union. This is the worst situation since before I became president almost 20 years ago. Whatever gains we made have for the most part been unwound. It appears there is no one at the union now who has the skill to get things back on track. There has been this steady and continuous deterioration between the board of supervisors and the union the last two to three years. They’ve lost their way. There is no strategy to right the ship. It is clearly a tragedy to the rank and file”
Even if Devereaux softens up more than it is prudent to think he will, Erwin said, the union will continue to fight the law of diminishing returns, since the 3 percent raises for three years which the union is at this point willing to accept but which the county will not provide would not come close to putting a dent in bringing the pay rate up to what it should be. “That three percent annually would not bring them up to par with salary alone,” Erwin said “They are double digits below where they should be.”
Moreover, Erwin said, the county has seized the high moral ground to bolster its position of strength in the negotiating process. The FBI has opened up several investigations into deputies’ use of excessive force, including one into the abusive treatment of inmates at the West Valley Detention Center, where at least four employees were “walked off” the jail grounds by federal agents after the investigation began and six deputies have been terminated as a consequence of the inquiries. Seven lawsuits by inmates and former inmates at West Valley or their families have been filed against the department and county over the situation there as well. Noting that the county has come to an accommodation with all of the bargaining units representing county employees over the last two years except SEBA, Erwin said the county has now taken up the position that it cannot afford to increase deputies salaries because of the substantial payouts the county anticipates it will need to make to settle those lawsuits.
“The department is losing deputies due to attrition and they are not hiring at a rate to make up for that,” Erwin said, noting this has created a vicious cycle because the resulting challenge of maintaining professionalism in a circumstance where the department is understaffed “creates disciplinary problems. It will take ten years to recover from the institutional damage.”
Attempts to reach Leichliter were unsuccessful.

Upland Tree Controversy Intensifies

Upland officials’ hopes that the controversy over the neglect of the trees that many consider to be a centerpiece of the 107-year-old City of Gracious Living might simply subside were dashed when even more of the city’s tree lovers showed up at the Monday May 23 council meeting.
The city stepped into controversy earlier this month when the city council took secretive action at its May 9 meeting that has yet to be fully explicated. That action consisted of the council being provided, in a closed session where the public was not present, with a so-called action report that was authored either by a city consultant or the city attorney. After the council members read the report, all of the copies were collected by top city staff. The council voted in that May 9 closed session, according to city attorney Richard Adams, to “accept” the report.
Precisely what the implication of accepting the report was is not publicly known. The report did pertain, city officials have conceded, to the city’s trees, the so-called urban forest which consists of all order of trees that line both sides of Euclid Avenue, blanket Euclid’s 53-foot wide median and garnish other streets throughout the city. In the days prior to the meeting, city employees had marked in excess of 120 trees with orange dots, a symbol arborists recognize as designating a tree for removal.
Later, during the open public session of the May 9 meeting, Rusty Cushing, a member of Upland’s tree street committee, publicly resigned from that panel,
stating that the marked trees were in fact slated for removal. He said that the street tree committee had been kept in the dark about the plan to remove the trees and he blasted city engineer/public works director Rosemary Hoerning for having long neglected the trees and then moving to irresponsibly remove the trees rather than attempting to save them. An agronomist who has taught horticulture at Cal Poly, Cushing said the trees suffered from neglect rather than disease, and he accused Hoerning of hiring a consultant to provide her with a disingenuous report justifying the removal of the trees. He said the tree committee and the Upland population at large included professional arborists whose assessment of the trees’ conditions contradicted the conclusion of the city’s consultant.
During the ensuing two weeks, city officials expressed dismay at the adverse publicity and press attention that resulted from Cushing’s broadside. In what was apparently an attempt to backpedal, city officials began removing or painting over some of the orange dots. Word went out that rather than removing somewhere between 120 and 180 trees, the plan was actually to take out just 76 of them, a mere 2.17 percent of 3,500 trees growing along Euclid or in its median in Upland.
At the May 23 meeting, Cushing returned. This time he was accompanied by a bevy of others who let the city council know they were upset at the city’s action. City officials attempted to martial the defense that they, rather than the trees or the city’s residents, were the victims in the situation. They were victimized, city officials suggested or even directly stated, by “rumor and misinformation.”
Upland resident William King cut right to the heart of that defense. “Rumors get started when things don’t get discussed,” said King.
This brought a mea culpa, of sorts, from city manager Rod Butler. “We made a tactical error,” Butler said. “We marked the trees with the infamous orange dots. We moved too quickly on that and left ourselves open for misinformation to get out there.”
Councilwoman Debbie Stone said, “We brought all this drama on ourselves,” though she said there might be some basis for the secrecy, since the report allegedly pertained to liability that, presumably, existed because of the deterioration of the trees and the possibility they or their limbs and branches might fall.
Councilman Glen Bozar and councilwoman Carol Timm bypassed the liability issue, which some residents had suggested was a smokescreen to hide the incompetence of city employees.
“Release the report,” said Bozar. “There’s nothing there that’s a secret. We can rectify it by being more transparent.”
While Cushing and a licensed arborist living in the city, John Ickis, likewise called for transparency, they both suggested that city staff does not want open disclosure. They hinted that the secretiveness had existed because the trees were put in their compromised state as a consequence of incompetence and neglect by city staff.
Ickis suggested the report read and “accepted” by the council in closed session May 9 was deemed secret because it revealed the level of neglect and incompetence.
“Clean up the lies and release the report to the public immediately,” Ickis said.
In his remarks, Cushing told the council what was already known to its members but never previously disclosed to the public: “The city paid $38,000 to hire an arborist to inspect our trees on Euclid,” Cushing said. This was a waste of money, he insisted. “John and I did it for free. How much tree trimming and tree planting could we do for $38,000?”
A management review is in order, Cushing said.
“A great deal of money has been set aside to cut down 121 trees on Euclid Avenue,” Cushing said. “Take that money and spend it on trimming the trees correctly and removing possible liability problems. Save the trees with that money. Do not remove them.”
Cushing laid the blame for the tree debacle at Hoerning’s feet.
Elements deep within City Hall, however, have said that Hoerning was forced into a situation that led to the trees’ neglect and dilapidation. Upon being brought in as public works director/city engineer in 2011, Hoerning was saddled with having Acquanetta Warren as assistant public works director, they said. Hoerning deemed Warren inadequate to that task but could not remove her for what have been described as “political reasons.”
Warren had been on the Fontana City Council from 2002 until 2010, at which point she was elected mayor of that city. As Fontana’s mayor, Warren participated in several joint powers agencies with an impact on Upland, such as SANBAG, the county transportation agency. Warren had also made political alliances with several other politicians, including current and former Upland City Council members and former Upland Mayor John Pomierski. Consigned to having Warren in her department’s second-highest ranking position, Hoerning cast about for a safe place to put her. Leaving Warren in charge of roads and streets as well as the city’s water and sewer divisions was deemed too dangerous, sources at City Hall told the Sentinel. Hence, Warren was given the task of overseeing the city’s trees. Warren functioned, the Sentinel is informed, with virtually no oversight by Hoerning. It was during the last four years, much of it corresponding with California’s drought and Warren’s management of the urban forest, that the trees deteriorated.
Last year, Warren abruptly resigned. There were reports that she had been forced out, terminated or asked to leave but, because it was a personnel issue, the city provided no clarification. Nor did Warren consent to explain the reason for her sudden departure.
Hoerning this week told the Sentinel she did not feel comfortable discussing issues related to the trees or her function as city engineer/public works director with the Sentinel.
Attention to the tree controversy intensified when the Los Angeles-based television stations KCAL 9/CBS 2 did a report on the matter on Tuesday, May 24.

In Looking To Stem Drunkenness Barstow Considers Banning Small Booze Bottles

BARSTOW — A century after several communities in the High Desert went dry in the years prior to the onset of Prohibition in 1919, the City of Barstow is looking to again ban liquor, not in large measure but in small measures.
Under the proposal advanced and considered but not yet given the planning commission’s imprimatur is that those of the age of majority will still be permitted to buy intoxicating beverages, as long as they do so in quantities of 12.68 ounces (375 milliliters) or greater.
Twice this month, the planning commission considered, but ultimately receded from, adopting a proposed amendment to the municipal code dealing with conditional use permits for liquor stores and stores in general that would prohibit operators from offering for sale bottles of distilled spirits in containers containing less than the aforementioned 375 milliliters.
The planning commission focused on the issue at its May 9 and May 23 meetings, a year after the proposal was first floated. And though the restriction, as was expected, ran into rather stiff opposition from those who make their way in the world as purveyors of alcoholic beverages, the possibility remains the planning commission and eventually the city council will revisit the issue.
On April 25, 2016, the city’s rules and policy committee directed city staff to devise an ordinance directed toward the regulation of what was termed “Off-Sale Alcoholic Beverage Sales.” This was the second time the city took the matter up, following a proposed ordinance originally initiated in 2015 from the city attorney’s office at the request of the rules and policy committee.
According to a staff report “The city is in an area determined to be ‘over-concentrated’ by the Alcoholic Beverage Control department. What this means is that the city has more off-sale (for consumption off-premises) liquor licenses than the average established by the state. This is calculated based upon the ratio of licenses per population for each census tract. For instance, when there is a mix of Type 20 (off-sale beer and wine) and Type 21 (off-sale general, including distilled spirits), it is one license for each 1,500 persons. In Census Tract 93, where there is a population of 1,257, there is one liquor selling outlet, which meets the state recommended standard, per the population. Census Tract 94, with a population of 3,493, is most of that area north of Main Street, from Interstate 15 to just beyond Highway 58, a distance of approximately 5 ¾ miles. Along that stretch there are 11 alcohol-selling outlets, which exceeds by nine the state recommended standard of two.
Census Tract 95 located in the central part of the city, with a population of 7,094, has 15 outlets in an area where five are deemed appropriate. Census Tract 118, on the southwestern side of the city with a population of 7,000, has eight liquor-selling retail stores in an area where the state’s recommendation is that there be five. In Census Tract 120, with a population of 7,020 on the southern side of the city, sports 12 alcohol outlets where the state says five would suffice.
“It should also be noted that Barstow is not typical of other cities,” the staff report states. “As Barstow is considered a disadvantaged city, vehicular transportation is not readily available to some of the population. Therefore, there are a number of convenience stores throughout the Barstow area, especially along Main Street. These are, in many instances, located within walking distance of many residential areas. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of freeway traffic along the I-15 and I-40, and an off-highway recreational area at the Outlet Center Drive off-ramp. There are a lot of individuals that will buy their items here, whether it is for the weekend camping as part of the off-highway vehicle area, or on their way to the river.
Another factor is that Barstow is the supporting city for much of the surrounding area. Regardless, it appears that Barstow has an overconcentration of off-sale licenses, and a mechanism is necessary to help regulate how many, and where additional licenses are going to be located. This ordinance gives the city a better tool to either approve or deny such licenses.”
At the May 9, 2016 Planning Commission Meeting, the commission tabled the item, directing staff to contact the business owners for their feedback. A total of 48 letters were mailed out on May 11, 2016 to the various businesses, with a link to the planning department’s website for the draft ordinance. A number of the operators of local retail establishments which rely to some degree on alcohol sales were on hand at the May 23 planning commission meeting. The upshot of their input was that a significant percentage of the sales that keep them in operation consisted of the 375-milliliter “hip flash” containers as well as the 50-milliliter “airline bottles” which have become popular with consumers in recent years. Store operators said their bottom line would be impacted, in some cases to the point that it might drive them out of business, by the ordinance if it passes. Some suggested that the city, if it adopted the new policy, would give an unfair advantage to “big box stores,” forcing the exodus of mom and pop operations.
Also on hand were members of a group calling itself the “Safe Coalition,” who want the city to do all it can to discourage wanton drunkenness in town. There rationale in supporting the restriction on the purchase of small portions of alcohol is that it will keep it away from alcoholics who measure their lives out drink by drink. Additionally, they reason, the lack of availability of smaller containers of alcohol for sale would make it harder for the constantly besotted to panhandle sufficient funds to make a stopgap alcohol purchase.
Some of the store owners suggested that the proposed new restriction would have the diametrically opposite effect of its intent, forcing those who have a hankering for just a single drink or a single shot to buy their booze in quantities that will lead to heavier indulgence. “If I limit the size of the bottles, [a] person can’t get a single shot,” said store owner Ben Fedrick. “They’ll go get the largest size. You are sending the message no, don’t have one shot, have 20.”
One of the most respected entrepreneurs in town, Barstow Station owner Ben Rosenberg, said anti-alcohol crusaders, their allies at City Hall and store owners should “hash out their differences” before codifying any new regulations.
After planning commissioner Bea Lint called for tabling the item in favor of having all parties hold discussions to determine what the best route was to achieve the goal of limiting profligate alcohol consumption as advocated by some of the Safe Coalition activists without placing onerous limitations on the business community, the commission, with commissioner Andrew Ziemer absent and commisoner Marilyn Dyer-Kruse dissenting, voted 3-1 to again table the item.
In the meantime, according to city planner Mike Massimini, the city will not grant any further off-site conditional use permits beyond those already in place until a final decision on the proposed amendment is made.

In Longshot Bid, Donna Muñoz Looking To Oust James Ramos

Despite the perception of many that her challenge of incumbent Third District Supervisor James Ramos is a quixotic undertaking, Donna Muñoz said she is driven to take it to its ultimate conclusion because “I still feel a lot of people are left out of the picture.”
Ramos has been supervisor since 2012, having vaulted to that position with a victory that year over then-incumbent Neil Derry.
San Bernardino County’s Third District covers a large span of territory, extending all the way from Barstow at the district’s northwest extreme, through the eastern portion of the San Bernardino Mountains, the Morongo Basin and the most populated portion of the district, which involves Highland, Yucaipa, Redlands, Mentone, Loma Linda, Grand Terrace and the eastern portion of the city of San Bernardino.
Shortly after acceding to office, Ramos turned to Muñoz, a longtime member of the Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees, to serve as his field representative in the Morongo Valley, a place with which he was not too terribly familiar. In February 2014, Muñoz resigned from that post when she was hired as the Morongo Valley Community Services District’s general manager.
In her challenge of her former boss, Muñoz has engaged in only the mildest of criticisms of him, suggesting that at worst he is somewhat distant from those he represents.
She speaks highly of him in some regards, particularly with respect to his generosity.
“I feel James is a good man,” she said. “He is a kind man. He is putting his own money into worthwhile causes. If I had the funds available, I would do the same.”
Ramos is one of the controlling board members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which owns and operates the San Manuel Casino. One unverified report has it that James Ramos personally realizes income of approximately $18,000 per day from the casino’s operation – providing him with an income of more than $6.5 million per year. In defeating Derry in 2012, Ramos raised and spent over $400,000, much of it his own money, to promote himself and his candidacy.
Once Ramos was in office, Muñoz said, she did not feel “he spent enough time in the Morongo Basin area. I am not going to say he did not get involved in the Third District, but I feel, like others do, that he did not put in enough time in the outlying areas of the district. I think there is a disconnection between large parts of the Third District and the board of supervisors. I feel that there are issues not being addressed, which is the feeling I had going into this. That still remains strong with me.”
Muñoz said that “Countywide we still have a lot of problems. Crime is supposedly down, but in many areas, including several in the Third District, there is an upswing in certain types of crime such as burglaries. We have problems with homelessness, in all of the communities, really, and in the desert we have a serious problem with what is a different kind of homeless population.”
Despite the personal success Ramos has had with the casino on the San Manuel reservation, Muñoz suggested Ramos was not embracing another Indian gaming proposal near Barstow. “The Barstow area is a very economically depressed one,” Muñoz. “They want that casino, which will be on the route to Las Vegas and Primm. James is kind of wishy-washy when it comes to that. He’s not against it but he’s not really for it, either. They need the money it will bring into that town. I fully support it.”
Muñoz cited a bevy of citizen complaints from a well-to-do neighborhood in Yucaipa where there are an overwhelming number of flies bedeviling residents. She said the flies are emanating from a chicken ranch in the area. The county’s agricultural, vector control and public health divisions should be much more aggressive in meeting that problem, she said.
While acknowledging that allowing an upscale neighborhood to be built in proximity to existing poultry ranches was a major mistake and that the chicken ranchers, who have long been established in the area, should not be scapegoated, she nevertheless said that “The houses are there now. The county needs to take action. I was going door-to-door in that neighborhood passing out my [electioneering] material. I would go onto the porches and people would not open their doors when I tried to hand them my brochures. It was really that bad. There was one young boy there, with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair who couldn’t use his arms to bat the flies away. I feel the county needs to take the bull by the horns and work on that problem, seriously. You have people who live in very nice expensive houses who cannot use their backyards. We can’t shut the farms down, but they should be required to clean up the droppings and engage in disposal and drying, things that could mitigate the problems. Something needs to be done.”
In campaigning, Muñoz said, she is getting out to walk neighborhoods on evenings and on weekends, making contact with residents. She said this is something Ramos should be doing not as part of his campaign to get reelected but as the needed outreach incumbent upon him as supervisor. “I have to work, so I get out on evenings and Saturdays and Sundays, because it is the only time I can meet people. I was in Sugarloaf one Saturday and then again later on. I was told James has never been to Sugarloaf. I think he should have been there at least once in three-and-a-half years. People there, people everywhere want to get to know their supervisor. But I keep hearing from people that nobody knows anything about him. And I would think he would want to get out there, to meet with every organization, wherever they are in his district. I know now that he has been getting out to a lot of places he hasn’t been to before now, because of the campaign. I think the supervisor has to put more time and energy into the job, not just when he is running for office. People want a personal touch from their supervisor. It is a big district but it is not so big that you can’t get out to every community once in a while. It is not like being in the state legislature or Congress where you are flying up to Sacramento or Washington on a constant basis. I think it is important to meet people face-to-face.”
Another problem is the lack of consistent services into the district’s outlying areas, she said.
“In Morongo Valley, the building and safety office is only open two days a week,” she said. “That causes problems for septic operations and contractors. The building and safety office is only open on Mondays and Wednesdays. That means it is closed from Thursday to Monday. If someone wants to get a permit, that is a gap of too many days. They have to wait four days or otherwise drive down to San Bernardino. The courts have been closed in all of the outlying areas. They should be reopened.”
Muñoz said she was concerned with the high salaries being provided to many county workers. “I hear there is a move afoot to bring down county salaries,” she said. “I am interested in that.” She said that in the battle between higher pay for county workers or fuller provision of services to citizens, “the decision should be to improve services.” She pointed out that in her current position as the Morongo Valley Community Services District’s general manager she had taken a pay cut “three times so I did not have to reduce the number of people who work under me.”
Muñoz said she is conducting “a grass roots campaign” against “someone who has a lot of money and power. I’m hoping my message is resonating with people,” she said.
Muñoz began her participation in governmental affairs nearly three decades ago when she was a field representative for Marsha Turoci, the First District county supervisor from 1988 to 1996, when the Morongo Valley was contained within the First District. She was later a field representative for Third District Supervisor Barbara Cram Riordan, after the Morongo Valley was moved into the Third District as a consequence of redistricting. She worked in the county assessor’s office, rising to the position of assistant assessor under former assessor Don Williamson.
Muñoz attended Pasadena City College. In addition to her work in government she worked for Robinson’s Department Store, moving into a management role, and was a Pacific Telephone service representative and manager. She also ran a Sears corporate offshoot, a Sears Dealership Store, which is an outlet located in a small community. She assisted her daughter in starting a day care business. She has been married to Art Muñoz for 37 years. They have five children, 18 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Art is retired from 37 years in the restaurant industry, having served as general manager to Clearman’s North Woods Inn.

Paradoxes Emerge As Lovingood, Holland, Roelle, Valles & Russ Race For Supervisor

Paradoxes abound in this year’s race for First District Supervisor. The incumbent is looking to win. His challengers seem less fixated on winning and more focused on keeping the incumbent from claiming victory. Everyone in the race is a Republican. The incumbent, more than any of the others, is a creature of the private sector. Yet the company he owns, a temporary help employment agency, as often as not supplies personnel to work in public sector positions. He appears dead set on remaining in office, an enviable public employment position. The others, despite their Republican affiliations, come across as sympathetic to unions, public employee unions in particular. The incumbent, representing the lion’s share of the county’s desert residents, has put his strongest foot forward by championing aggressive construction and economic development in the desert. Yet he is the lone candidate on record supporting a controversial effort by out-of-county interests – ones based in Los Angeles and Orange counties – intent on drawing billions of gallons of precious water contained in the water table underlying San Bernardino County’s eastern Mojave desert. The loss of that water availability will, his opponents claim, limit the desert’s ability to achieve its development potential, now and well into the future.
Lovingood, who was first elected nearly four years ago, is seeking reelection. Four seasoned politicians hope to stop him: former Apple Valley Mayor/Councilman Rick Roelle, former Victorville City Councilwoman/Victor Valley College Board member Angela Valles, Hesperia Mayor Bill Holland and Hesperia Councilman Paul Russ.
A first obvious paradox is that Roelle, who ran for First District supervisor in 2012 and managed to get enough votes in a seven-candidate race to force a run-off with Lovingood which he narrowly lost, is married to Valles. That they are political antagonists – of a sort – does not seem to threaten the couple’s marriage. Rather, it seems to be bringing them together in a common goal, which is to deny Lovingood reelection. The theory here is that having an overflow of candidates in the June Primary will likely result in no one candidate capturing a majority, forcing, as in 2012, a November run-off. If the two top vote-getters turn out to be two of the challengers, which seems unlikely given Lovingood’s power of incumbency, all the better, figure Valles and Roelle. Roelle and Valles calculate that if one of them or Holland or Russ qualify for the run-off against Lovingood, then that will provide four more months in which the concerted attacks from as many quarters as possible can be vectored toward Lovingood, perhaps leading to what for them is the desired outcome of consigning Lovingood into political retirement.
Russ and Holland, colleagues on the city council in Hesperia, seem to get along and generally vote identically on issues that come before them in the City of Progress. Both celebrate themselves as populists from the right of the political spectrum, Holland having worked in law enforcement and Russ touting himself as a genuine Constitutional conservative who has garnered the endorsement of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, the regional arm of the State GOP. Like the husband and wife pair of Valles and Roelle, the two Hesperia City Council blood brothers, political allies, have squared off against one another in the fight to displace Lovingood.
Russ and Holland’s dual populist stance and appeal to the voters of the district runs head-on with a vote they made in January to approve the 16,000-home Tapestry project partially located on the grounds of Las Flores Ranch in Summit Valley. That project, intensified from the 9,000-dwelling unit Las Flores Ranch development proposal of the late 1980s and early 1990s that fell apart after it was learned that former Hesperia City Manager Rob Rizzo had facilitated the delivery of monetary payoffs to the former council members who advocated for and promoted the proposal, leaving laege numbers of Hesperia residents angered and disillusioned. Both Russ and Holland have sought to defend the vote, but it opened up the one major difference existing between the anti-Lovingood candidates. Roelle, who made his political mark in Apple Valley by consistently voting to keep in place that town’s half-acre lot size standard on single family residences, found himself deviating from his game plan of continuously hammering on Lovingood when asked about the Tapestry project. He made clear he would never have voted to approve such an aggressive land use proposal, by extension calling the judgment of Holland and Russ into question.
Except for that squabble, what emerges is that the four challengers dislike Lovingood. The most intense of those attacks consists of Valles’ charge that Lovingood, as supervisor and as the owner of ICR Staffing Services, has entangled himself in a conflict of interest that puts him at odds with the district’s residents. In particular, Valles claims that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority has pushed Lovingood into the area of illegality, since one of the constituents of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority is San Bernardino County and, by the terms of its charter, one of its board members is the First District Supervisor. Valles has documented that ICR has received at least $560,000 in fees from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.
Lovingood, however, refutes Valles’ claim, pointing out that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority predated his election as supervisor and that he prudently avoided being seated as the authority’s board member, conscientiously and fastidiously remaining above such a conflict. Instead, Lovingood pointed out, his fellow board of supervisors colleague, James Ramos, has served in his stead on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Board. Valles has retorted that this arrangement, in which the First District supervisor has not represented the Victor Valley’s residents but rather left them to be represented by someone who neither lives in the area nor was elected by them, violates the Victor Valley Wastewater Authority’s charter.
Lovingood’s strongest suit is that he more than any of the other candidates embodies the ethos of the private sector. Unlike Valles and Roelle and Holland, Lovingood has made his way in the world as a businessman, one who must meet a payroll every week, one who has provided gainful employment for his employees, one who pays taxes and feels the lash and burden of governmental regulation and taxation on his daily function. Roelle is a retired sheriff’s lieutenant who was a public employee all or nearly all of his career and who is now drawing a hefty pension that is close to his highest salary when he was working. Valles, too, has worked much of her life in the public sector. Holland was a law enforcement officer now drawing a pension. Lovingood, as a taxpayer, can assert that he represents the common man in a way that three of the others, who are supported by the taxpayers, simply cannot.
Moreover, Lovingood’s business credentials provide him not only with entrée to monetary donors, they give him a legitimate claim to being in a position to “run the county like a business.”
For many of the First District’s residents fed up with government intrusion through overregulation and taxation into their lives who have come to resent county employees represented by a powerful public employees union that has extorted from the county’s political leadership salaries and wages two to three times the rate of what is paid in the private sector for comparable work augmented by pensions that dwarf their own, they are putting their faith in Lovingood, hoping he will carry forth proposals to take the public unions down a notch or two, resist demands that overpaid county workers be paid ever more, terminate unproductive members of county staff and reduce the burden on taxpayers generally.
Still others are concerned that Lovingood is too close to and too indulgent of the corporate world.
A case in point consists of his support of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc.’s project to extract billions of gallons of ancient and pristine water lying in the aquifers of the East Mojave Desert, which it could then sell for use in urban Orange County, Los Angeles County and Riverside counties.
Cadiz, Inc. achieved permission to proceed with what it refers to as Cadiz Valley Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would sink 34 wells into the desert on property owned by the company to tap into water from the aquifers beneath both the Cadiz and Fenner valleys and then convey that water into a 44-mile long pipeline to be constructed along a railroad right-of-way until it meets up with the aqueduct that carries Colorado River water to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan areas, by arranging for the Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County as the lead public agency overseeing the environmental assessment of and permitting of the project. The Santa Margarita Water District, the second-largest water agency in Orange County which is located more than 200 miles from where the 50,000 acre-feet of water is to be drawn on an annual basis, is one of the scheduled purchasers of the water, along with Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont; Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County.
There are significant numbers of desert residents who believe it was absolutely inappropriate for the a water agency from Orange County, in particular one who stood to benefit from the outcome, to have been allowed to oversee the California Environmental Quality Act review process for the project, given that the members of the Santa Margarita Water District Board do not represent the Mojave Desert and are not answerable to the Mojave Desert’s voters.
Moreover, the removal of that water from the region severely complicates, limits or obliterates the prospect that development will be able to take place in the region, as water availability is a requisite to such activity.
Four years ago, during Lovingood’s initial run for the board, the Cadiz Water Project was a roiling topic. Since then it has been delayed by legal, procedural and environmental challenges. Lovingood said at that time,
“There is a storied history to the use of water in California and we wouldn’t have some of the urban areas we have if water was not taken from one place to be used in another,” Lovingood said. “Inherently, water rights come with property. I am in favor of property rights. If you own property, then there is ownership of the water. Much of this issue would be controlled by the environmental impact report.”

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Abruptly Retires After Detectives Brag About Beating

A series of incidents early this month has resulted in a sheriff’s lieutenant electing to take what appears to be premature retirement.
The precise reason why lieutenant Linzy Savage has decided to make his exodus from the department has not been given, though sources say it is in some fashion related to the still unfolding events that occurred at the Victorville sheriff’s station on May 8.
On that day, in response to a request from KNBC News in Los Angeles, a sheriff’s officer sent to the television station a video taken in the detective squad room in the Victorville station. That video was taken on a smart phone by a member of the department and was intended to provide KNBC with information relating to a missing person case.
Upon receiving the video, news station personnel, in listening to the audio on the video, overheard a conversation among what is believed to be three detectives working out of the station. Inadvertently, the phone’s owner had recorded portions of an ongoing exchange between the detectives in which one could be heard talking about how he had, by his own description, “stomped” on a suspect’s head and used a baton to beat the suspect. This elicited laughs from the others involved in the conversation.
KNBC made a re-recording of the video and subsequently contacted the sheriff’s department to inform officials there of what could be extracted from video’s audio. It is further reported that a copy of the video and its accompanying audio track is in the possession of the FBI.
Word now comes that lieutenant Savage, who was in the command loop at the Victorville Station, has tendered his retirement from the department, effective as of tomorrow, May 28. A report was that an effort to keep Savage from leaving was made, including offering him a promotion to captain to replace a captain, Sam Lucia, who is set to retire soon. Savage’s replacement of Lucia was said to have sheriff John McMahon’s support. Nevertheless, Savage declined that offer.
One report is that Savage had knowledge of the beating referenced in the conversation on the video now in KNBC’s possession and he does not want to be caught between the expectations of the department to keep a lid on the incident and the FBI’s inquiry. Knowingly lying to an FBI agent is a federal crime.
The department has given no official response to the report but the retirement board agenda for June 1 shows Savage is retiring. Savage could not be reached for comment.

John P. Domecq

John P. Domecq, a Frenchman who came to America in the 1860s, proved to be one of the pioneer exponents of ranch enterprise in San Bernardino County, where he developed and improved a fine landed estate and won substantial prosperity. At the time of his death, he was one of the honored and representative men of the county.
Born in the Pyrennes Mountain District of France in 1846, Domecq was reared in his native land, the recipient of good educational advantages in his youth, and he continued his residence in France until March 22, 1867, when he embarked for the voyage to the United States. He first settled at San Francisco, California, where he engaged in the dairy business, in which he had gained experience in his youth. He later established himself in the same line of enterprise at Los Angeles, and in 1882 he came to San Bernardino County, where he entered into a contract with John Anderson, Sr., to plant and develop a vineyard of 160 acres, a provision of the contract being that he should have the supervision of the vineyard until it became productive and was then to receive a deed to the ownership of one-half, or eighty acres, of the tract. It was on this homestead, two and one-half miles northwest of Colton, that he passed the remainder of his life, the place being eligibly situated on Rancho Avenue.
According to John Brown Jr. and James Boyd, the authors of “The History of San Berardino and Riverside Counties,” published in 1922, “Mr. Domecq had meager financial resources when he came to this country, but his ability, ambition and persistent application enabled him to achieve large and worthy success of material order, the while he stood exemplar of loyal and liberal citizenship, and his sterling character gave him secure place in popular esteem.” While he was in San Francisco, Domecq married Christina Kupferschlager, who was born in Cologne. Germany on June 24, 1852 and was like him a devout Catholic.
Politically, Domecq was aligned with the Republican party.
John and Christina had three children, only one of which, Peter J. Domecq, born on August 17, 1883 in Los Angeles, survived well into adulthood.
On the 24th of September, 1892, John Domecq died at the age of 46.
After John Domecq’s death, his widow assumed active charge of the home ranch, setting orange trees on eighteen acres of the land and sold twenty acres of the property, at the southeast corner, to James Barnhill. The remainder of the place remained intact as a valuable and splendidly improved property for decades.
Peter J. received his early education in the public schools of Colton and San Bernardino, and he supplemented this with a a course in the Los Angeles Business College. He was but nine years of age at the time of his father’s death, and after leaving school he learned the machinist’s trade.
On the 11th of July, 1909, Peter J. Domecq married Miss Nettie DeWitt, one of the daughters of Alonzo DeWitt. Nettie was born in San Bernardino on July 2, 1886, and reared and educated there.
Peter and Nettie continued to reside with Peter’s widowed mother on the old homestead until, on the First of September, 1913, Mrs. Domecq passed over into eternity. Peter remained on the homestead and continued to work as a skilled machinist until 1919.
After the death of his devoted mother, Peter J. Domecq added to the area of the old homestead by purchasing an adjacent tract of sixty-two acres, and this he planted to grapes.
According to Brown and Boyd, “The Domecq Ranch is one of the finest and most picturesque in this part of the county, the home standing on a terrace rising above Lytle Creek and commanding a fine view of the mountains, of Colton and of the City of San Bernardino, as well as the valley below.” Peter J. Domecq was among the most prominent and influential citizens of the Colton District. Like his father, he was a staunch Republican. He had, for himself, no desire for political activity or public office. He was a member of Ashlar Lodge, F. and A. M., of Colton.
Peter and Nettie Domecq had three children, of whom two were living in the 1920s: Alvin Joseph, who was born December 22, 1914 and died in 1978, and June Irene, who was born June 1, 1918 and available records indicate is still alive. May Christiana was born February 23, 1916, and died July 24, 1918.
Peter Domecq’s father in law, Alonzo DeWitt, came to live with the family on the Domecq Ranch.
DeWitt was, in the words of Brown and Boyd, “a native son of this county and a representative of one of its sterling pioneer families.”
Alonzo Dewitt was born on December 16, 1861, the son of John and Nancy (Long) DeWitt, the former of whom was born in Iowa and the latter in Texas. In the early 1850s John and Nancy crossed the plains with the pioneer colonists of the Latter Day Saints who founded Salt Lake City, the wagon train having fought many hostile bands of Indians on the long and perilous overland journey. Later John DeWitt and his wife came with another band of Latter Day Saints to found a new colony in San Bernardino, the journey having been made with wagons and ox teams. John DeWitt established his home on a tract of land that was later developed as a race track in San Bernardino near present day Mill Street, and there he grubbed the underbrush and cut off the timber to make the land available for cultivation.
“Both he and his wife passed the remainder of their lives in San Bernardino County and were upright and earnest pioneer citizens who commanded the respect and confidence of the community in which they established their home,” Brown and Boyd wrote of John and Nancy.
Nancy and John had five children: George, Alonzo, Jane, Nettie and Emma.
Alonzo was born in the house that stood on the site of the old race track and he was reared under the conditions and influences marking the pioneer period in the development of San Bernardino County. As a young man, he married Miss Orissa F. Boren, who was born and reared in California, her father having come to California with ox teams and having been a pioneer settler in San Bernardino County. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt was solemnized by Judge Knox, and from that union issued five children: William Henry, who in the 1920s was a foreman in the Hanford Iron Works at San Bernardino and had married Miss Emily DeLore, with whom he had one son, Arthur; Inez, the wife of J. E. Harris, with whom she had one daughter, Joy; Alonzo, who married Miss Eva Roberson and had a son, Elmer; Fay, the youngest of the children, who married Miss Bessie Olsen, with whom he had one daughter, Violet Belle; and May the wife of Peter J. Domecq.
Peter Domecq died on July 22, 1970.

The California Pepper Tree

The Californian pepperThe Californian pepper tree, the Schinus molle is also known as the Peruvian pepper, the American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, escobilla, false pepper, molle del Peru, pepper tree, peppercorn tree, pirul and Peruvian mastic. It is an evergreen tree unrelated to the true pepper tree (Piper nigrum). Native to the Peruvian Andes, it has been transplanted to California, where it is now well established.
In recent weeks, the California pepper tree has been at the center of controversy in Upland. As one of the most common trees in the Euclid Avenue Median, scores of California peppers there were demarked for removal after the city’s public works division neglected them during the drought and failed to maintain them, and the lack of trimming and pruning led to a circumstance in which the extended limbs have now grown brittle to the point of breakage, representing a potential liability. A significant number of residents, intent on keeping the city from destroying trees, has initiated an intensive lobbying campaign to prevent their removal. The issue has not fully played out.
Schinus molle is a quick growing evergreen tree that will reach 50 feet in height and 16 to 33 feet in width. It is the largest of all Schinus species and potentially the longest lived. The upper branches of the tree tend to droop. The tree’s pinnately compound leaves measure 3.5 inches to 10 inches 28–25 cm long by two to four inches cm wide and are made up of 19-41 alternate leaflets. The flowers are small, white and borne profusely in panicles at the ends of the drooping branches. The flowers are dioecious, meaning individual flowers are either male or female, but only one gender is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. The fruit are 5–7 mm diameter round drupes with woody seeds that turn from green to red, pink or purplish, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries that can be present year-round. The rough grayish bark is twisted and drips sap. The bark, leaves and berries are aromatic when crushed.
Native to the arid zone of Northern South America and Peru’s Andean deserts, and Central Argentina and Central Chile, it has, however, become widely naturalized around the world where it has been planted, known for its strong wood. It was used as part of the Spanish colonies’ supply sources for saddles; as an ornamental and for spice production.
Although not related to commercial pepper (Piper nigrum), the dried and roasted pink/red berries are used as a pepper substitute. The berries are sold as pink peppercorns and often blended with commercial pepper. Some caution is advised, as fruit and leaves are potentially poisonous to poultry, pigs and possibly calves. Records also exist of young children who have experienced vomiting and diarrhea after eating the fruit. Presently Schinus molle lacks generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status with the FDA
An essential oil distilled from the fruit is used as a spice in baked goods and candy. The fruits are pulverised and used in cooling drinks called horchatas in South America and syrups. A wine is made from the twigs and another from the berries. A gum that exudes from the bark is used for chewing.
There is also significant archaeological evidence that the fruits of S. molle were used extensively in the Central Andes around 550-1000 AD for producing chicha, a fermented alcoholic beverage.
In traditional medicine, S. molle was used in treating a variety of wounds and infections due to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It has also been used as an antidepressant and diuretic, and for toothache, rheumatism and menstrual disorders. Recent studies in mice provide possible support for its antidepressant effects. It has been speculated but not yet demonstrated that S. molle’s insecticidal properties make it a good candidate for use as an alternative to synthetic chemicals in pest control.
Fresh green leaves in bunches are used shamanically in Mesoamerican traditional ceremonies for cleansings and blessings.
The Incas used the oil from its leaves in early mummification practices to preserve and embalm their dead.

Grace Bernal’s California Style: Suited

Men get ready, as I noticed lately Brook Brothers is booming with all the suits that they have to tailor for the different occasion. Suits are at their height, making May and June the mad months for the suit. All because of all the parties and events that come this time of year. . Men’s dinner jackets are looking hot and guys are really experimenting with color and black ties for the formal events. There really are no rules anymore and that’s okay! The last highest suit note was in the 60s with the peacock revolution, and today it has hit an apex again as I see a bit of everything from floral, and of course the dashing traditional tail suits with the white tie. Suited, what a fantastic way for men to look. It’s neat to see that men are getting daring and stepping out of the comfort zone. It looks marvelous! I can’t wait to see all the young boys in tuxedos, and all the men in suits whether they go traditional or mix and match.

“A man in a well-tailored suit will always shine brighter than a guy in an off-the-rack suit.” Michael Kors