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Monthly Archives: June 2016
State Probe Of SBC Foster System Signals Harris’s Disillusion With Ramos
In a development of tremendous political import at both the state and county level, the California Attorney General’s Office this week announced it is looking into allegations of nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance by San Bernardino County’s Department of Children and Family Services employees which resulted in foster children being severely abused or dying at the hands of their adoptive parents or guardians.
That action comes nearly a year after such allegations surfaced and the San Bernardino County Grand Jury began looking into those circumstances. The grand jury’s efforts were short circuited, however, when certain county officials became alarmed over the potential liability issues associated with the circumstances under investigation. In particular, a grand juror who was pressing for the investigation to continue was removed from that panel in October, leading to accusations that San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and the deputy district attorney who was installed last year as the grand jury adviser, Michael Dauber, were purposefully obstructing the grand jury’s investigative efforts.
In the midst of the current election year, with California Attorney General Kamala Harris vying for U.S. Senator, her office has refocused attention on the foster child abuse issue in San Bernardino County, knelling a break between Harris and Ramos, who in some circles was considered to be Harris’s potential replacement as attorney general if her senatorial bid succeeds in November.
The California Attorney General’s interest in the situation in San Bernardino County comes almost three months after allegations that abused children had languished and died in the foster care system just across the county line. In April, former Los Angeles County social workers Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged with felony child abuse, negligence and falsifying public records in connection with the death of Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old boy who died in the care of a guardian in Palmdale.
The Palmdale case paralleled the cases of two children in San Bernardino County. Last year current and former social workers contacted the San Bernardino County Grand Jury, alleging that children under foster care, including at least two who died, had been subjected to abuse or sadistic treatment by their guardians, and that when higher-ups in the San Bernardino County’s Department of Children and Family Services learned of what had happened, they took inadequate corrective action and covered up what had occurred.
At least two of those former workers who sought to bring the circumstance to light were retaliated against, they now claim. Moreover, when the grand jury began to follow up the reports that reached it, the investigation was quashed by Ramos, Dauber and then-San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha Slough.
Former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department detective James Wiebeld was a member of the 2014-15 Grand Jury and was a holdover onto the 2015-16 Grand Jury, having been selected to serve as the panel’s sergeant-at-arms. He was one of the grand jurors most animated about the foster child abuse issue, and by mid-summer 2015 was aggressively pushing the grand jury to step up that and other investigations.
Ramos was alerted to Wiebeld’s agitating along these lines as early as late July 2015, when the grand jury’s adviser, deputy district attorney Charles Umeda, was elevated by Governor Jerry Brown to the position of Superior Court judge. In the vacuum created by Umeda’s departure, Wiebeld’s established status as a grand jury leader of sorts raised Ramos’s concern that he might be faced with a rogue grand jury.
His fears and alarm, as well as that of other high-ranking county officials, were confirmed when on August 27, 2015, Fox 11 News in Los Angeles reported that “children who were under the supervision of the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services … were being abused, tortured, and killed.” According to that report, in certain cases, children had been entrusted to foster parents who had previously been caught abusing children living in their homes. In one of those cases, according to Fox 11, a child had died at the hand of an abusive foster parent after the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services was made aware of the sadistic nature of that foster parent. The Fox 11 News report made reference to an ongoing grand jury investigation.
The following day, Friday August 28, a special meeting was convened at the county administrative building which was attended by County Executive Officer Greg Devereaux, District Attorney Mike Ramos, Children and Family Services Director Marlene Hagen and a handful of other high level county officials. The primary topic discussed, the Sentinel was told by a reliable source, was the formulation of a cover story and talking points calculated to defuse the issue of negligence in the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services Department which led to the deaths of children in the foster parent system it oversaw.
The county, through its official spokesman, David Wert, has denied that Devereaux spoke to the district attorney on August 28 or that he had ever spoken to Ramos about Children and Family Services or grand jury matters.
Forthwith, however, county officials in August and September moved to identify those responsible for the leaks that resulted in the foster child deaths becoming public and sought to squelch any further release of information. Grand jurors, whose investigations and proceedings are considered to be confidential and are informed of such and sworn to secrecy when a grand jury is impaneled, were threatened with arrest and prosecution if they violated that oath.
In September, attorney Valerie Ross filed lawsuits against the county on behalf of former social workers Eric Bahra and Mary Anna Whitehall. Those lawsuits alleged that Bahra and Whitehall were pressured to remain silent about what they knew of the abuse of children in the foster system, and when they did not they were retaliated against.
Wiebeld was suspected of being Fox 11’s source for its August 27 report and subsequent follow-ups. District Attorney Mike Ramos accompanied his office’s grand jury advisor, deputy district attorney Michael Dauber, and a single member of the grand jury to the office of Marsha Slough, who was then the presiding judge of the San Bernardino County Superior Court. Wiebeld, Slough was told, was proving disruptive. Slough subsequently summoned Wiebeld to her office. She informed him that he was an at-will volunteer and that his services were no longer needed. After Wiebeld was bounced from the panel, Dauber, with some prevarication, told the remaining members of the grand jury that Wiebeld had voluntarily resigned his commission as a grand juror for personal reasons.
For months these events have percolated throughout the county. There have been recurrent reports, some of which have made it into press and other media accounts, that county officials have closed ranks to prevent abuse in county-supervised programs, such as those overseen by Children and Family Services, from being documented, such that civil cases, in which the county has potential liability in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars – are rendered unviable. This has allegedly involved the district attorney’s office refusing to prosecute crimes against children involving foster parents.
The Bahra and Whitehall civil cases shed light on those allegations.
Whitehall claims she stood witness to an effort to discredit Bahra after he locked onto a series of cases involving some 39 children who had been placed into the care of a single foster father over a period of 12 years, during which time accusations surfaced that the foster father had sexually abused some of his charges, including photographing them nude. Bahra who was just short of serving out his 12-month probationary period as a county employee, was terminated after he raised the issue of inadequate cross-referencing of abuse reports in the department’s computer system in June 2013 and then sealed his fate the next month by reporting that he suspected one or both parents of an infant who had died showed signs of methamphetamine use and that the dead child’s four siblings appeared to have been abused.
According to Whitehall, supervisors in the Department of Children and Family Services did not move against the parents Bahra had reported to comply with his recommendation that the children be placed into foster care, but acted against Bahra for having breached confidentiality and for having falsified his reports. The Department of Children and Family Services’ rejection of Bahra’s recommendation, according to Whitehall and Ross, endangered the safety of the four surviving children.
According to Whitehall’s suit, she and two of Bahra’s colleagues went to the extraordinary step of filing motions in juvenile dependency court alleging their employer, the Department of Children and Family Services, committed fraud upon the court as part of an effort to discredit Bahra and justify his firing. Six days later, Whitehall was placed on administrative leave. She later resigned.
Locked in a tough political battle against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez for Senator in the upcoming November election, Harris this week used the bully pulpit of her position as attorney general to strengthen her position, latching onto her putative role as the protector of those who cannot defend themselves in announcing, “The Bureau of Children’s Justice is investigating San Bernardino County’s compliance with California laws intended to ensure the safety and well-being of children, including children in the dependency system.”
This was widely seen as a slap at Ramos, with whom Harris, as a prosecutor, has been close over the last five years. Indeed, Ramos two years ago formed an exploratory committee with regard to a possible run for California Attorney General in 2018. This signal that he is interested in stepping up to become the state’s top prosecutor opened the possibility that, were Harris to be elected to the Senate this year necessitating that she resign as attorney general, Ramos might garner the governor’s appointment to serve out the final two years on her current term.
There are reasons for and against such a move by Governor Jerry Brown, who is, like Harris, a Democrat. Ramos is a Republican. Thus, his partisan affiliation would seem to auger against his appointment as attorney general. Nevertheless, his heretofore affinity with Harris and his efforts to establish himself as a staunch law-enforcement advocate could be seen as qualifiers for the job if Brown were to choose to make history by ignoring his party affiliation and appointing him as California’s first Hispanic attorney general.
This week’s development in which Harris tacitly acknowledged that as San Bernardino County’s top prosecutor Ramos has done an inadequate job in investigating and prosecuting cases of horrendous abuse against children within the county’s foster child care system would seem to indicate that Ramos’s vision of acceding to California Attorney General by appointment is no longer even a pipe dream.
Leon Denies Ontario Bit Off More Than It Can Chew With Airport Acquisition
Ontario Mayor Paul Leon this week downplayed suggestions that his city had bitten off more than it can chew and had acted too aggressively in its effort to wrest ownership and management of Ontario Airport back from Los Angeles. He said the city’s tardiness in taking control of the airport was due to bureaucratic snafus that were beyond the city’s control.
Ontario Airport had fewer than 200,000 passengers pass through its gates in 1967, at which time it entered into a joint operating agreement with Los Angeles. Under Los Angeles’ stewardship of the aerodrome, it grew exponentially, as the megalopolis was able to use its control over gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport to induce more and more airlines to fly into and out of Ontario.
All told, Los Angeles instituted some $550 million worth of improvements to the airport, including paving its gravel parking lot, laying down a second and entirely new east-to-west runway over its obsolete northeast-to-southwest landing strip, and modernizing its existing east-to-west runway, including the widening of taxiways and the addition of storm drains. Ontario Airport’s landing and take-off paths were converted into the longest such civilian facilities in Southern California, and Los Angeles erected a state-of-the-art control tower, and constructed two ultra-modern terminals at a cost of $270 million, augmented with a world class concourse.
In 1985, after all criteria in the joint operating agreement were met, Ontario deeded the airport to Los Angeles for no consideration. The airport continued to prosper under the guidance of Los Angeles World Airports, the airport-managing corporate arm of Los Angeles, which manages and operates Los Angeles International, Ontario and Van Nuys airports. In 2007, 7.2 million passengers flew into and out of Ontario. The downturn of the economy that ensued, however, prompted a drop off in the number of passengers and some airlines cease operating there. This triggered what turned into an acrimonious tussle between Ontario officials, led by councilman Alan Wapner, and Los Angeles officials over the management and ownership of the aerodrome. Ontario charged Los Angeles with purposefully mismanaging the airport to increase ridership at Los Angeles International Airport. Ultimately, in June 2013, Ontario filed suit against Los Angeles, seeking the return of the airport.
Last year, in a deal tentatively arrived at in August and ratified in December, Ontario agreed to pay Los Angeles $150 million for the airport, provide another $60 million to purchase assets technically belonging to Los Angeles World Airports that are in place at Ontario Airport and which are crucial or indispensable to its operations and assume bonded indebtedness of roughly $50 million related to the airport. Los Angeles agreed to transfer ownership and operation to Ontario as of next week, July 1, 2016.
It does not now appear that Ontario will meet that target date for the airport takeover.
In January, Congressman Ken Calvert introduced Bill 4369, intended to make future passenger fees at Ontario Airport available to partially defray the cost of building its two terminals, a major part of the investment Los Angeles made at the airport. Last week Bill 4369 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, clearing the way for up to $70 million in passenger facility charges being used to by Ontario to make good on its payments to Los Angeles.
The passage of Calvert’s bill is not sufficient to allow the airport to change hands. Another similar bill, one sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, is to be considered by the Senate soon. If and after it passes, any discrepancies between the two bills will need to be hashed out and approved.
Leon said the delay in the projected transfer of the airport to local control was part of the normal bureaucratic waiting process and did not reflect on Ontario’s ability to take on responsibility at the airport. “The July 1 date was in line with the projections given to us last year,” Leon said. “To do the takeover, we needed to commit passenger fees in the future to service our debt. We have done everything we needed to do on our side. We are all in agreement that we would like it to happen as soon as possible. Federal laws have to be passed. Congress has taken action. Now the Senate has to vote on the same thing. As soon as that happens, we’ll be able to take the keys. That is the last thing we are waiting for.”
Asked if he truly believed Ontario was up to the task of running an international airport and if he regretted the vitriolic tone of Ontario’s campaign in demonizing Los Angeles during its effort to take the airport back and whether such criticisms of Los Angeles with its world class airport facilities were actually warranted, Leon said, “They weren’t running a world class operation at Ontario. That is the point. We have nowhere to go but up from the way things were. I don’t think anybody would disagree that when we started down this road we did what we had to do to get the community and region united about what we were claiming was going on here. We were dealing with Los Angeles airport management and a mayor of that city at that time [Anthony Villaraigosa] who were not paying enough attention to our pleas and claims. We had to rattle our sabers louder and louder until someone took notice.
“Fortunately, Mayor [Eric] Garcetti won,” Leon said with regard to Villaraigosa’s successor. “He has been wonderful. Our prayers were met. He has been outstanding. I can’t say enough or give him sufficient accolades. He genuinely understood and was quite clear it wasn’t a matter of if but when we would make the transition. When we started talking about this 15 years ago no one was listening. No one thought we could accomplish this. We took the correct course in retrospect. I don’t have any regrets.”
Leon continued, “As far as being able to operate a successful airport, I am very confident we can. Kelly Fredericks [who was lured away from managing Rhode Island’s largest airport to manage Ontario Airport] is our new ace in the hole. This guy is the real deal. All we have to do, basically, is get out of his way. He knows what he is doing. I am convinced he has the ability to turn this airport into what we all want it to be.”
Asked about the delay in the takeover and when Ontario would actually take title and control of the airport, Leon said, “It is impossible to say. The day is nearer than is has ever been. With this recent vote by Congress we are just waiting for the next vote by the Senate. That’s in the federal government’s hands. This will come sooner rather than latter but I cannot give you a strict time frame or time line. If I make a mistake predicting something it would look to everyone like we are being overly optimistic and we are exaggerating toward the positive. I will say it is coming soon, if it is not imminent.”
Leon bypassed suggestions that the city’s rhetoric during the battle with Los Angeles for the airport entailed making claims about Ontario’s ability to take on the Herculean task of running an airport that it cannot yet live up to. He countered with a suggestion of his own that it was others who had unrealistic expectations.
“Some think the airport will become ours and overnight there will be a sudden falling cost for flights or tickets, and that is not the reality,” Leon said. “We have work to do in order to basically make it so the airlines can come in here at a lower rate so they can increase their profits. It is going to be a little while before we right the ship that has been listing for years. This is going to require changes in the way things are done. When you look at those changes and challenges, we have to use what money we have to debt service the past bonds, pay the Los Angeles staff that is there for two more years, carry out deferred maintenance we have to do, and we have to upgrade the entire perception of the airport to get it to where it should be from an underperforming airport. We want to change things as soon as possible but this isn’t going to be quick, boom, everything is done.”
That would seem to require that the city use taxpayer money to subsidize airport operations until such time as it meets its performance goals. But Leon said the city could not legally do that.
“We’re still bound by federal aviation law,” Leon said. “The airport has to be self sustaining. It is not something we can somehow prop up. It has to pay for itself. That means we are going to have to be creative in attracting a new kind of customer base. Ticket prices may not come down immediately but we will find a way to make people understand it is much more efficient and convenient to fly from Ontario, and the savings in time and distance traveled on the freeway and the convenience far outweigh the cost savings they might get in flying from another airport. We have to find a way to promote it in a way it has not been promoted before, that Ontario is the place to fly out of.”
Chino Hills/Edison Postscript: Window On Privileged Entitlement & Corruption
By Mark Gutglueck
Moving toward three years after a group of persistent Chino Hills residents wrung from the California Public Utilities Commission an unlikely and almost unheard-of reversal of a previous decision which had the effect of requiring Southern California Edison to underground high-voltage power lines for 3.5 miles of the five miles they are to run through the city at San Bernardino County’s southwestern extreme, the same group is once again defying the electrical utility behemoth.
This time, the grass roots group that spontaneously formed after the California Public Utility Commission in 2009 approved that portion of Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Renewable Energy Project which gave Edison go-ahead to string 500 kilovolt cables from 197-foot high towers running through the heart of upscale Chino Hills wants the city to be allowed to establish a pathway over the underground utility corridor at the park created to memorialize that victory.
The saga of Chino Hills’ long-fought victory over Edison has an involved back story, one rife with favoritism, intrigue, misdirection, high level political influence and corruption, including a criminal investigation and pending prosecution.
Depending how close or distant one is from Chino Hills, the success a determined group of its residents had in getting the company to spend some $450 million more to convey electricity intended for use in the Los Angeles basin across its expanse than it originally intended is perceived differently.
To locals, that is, the residents of Chino Hills, the battle to prevent their community from being marred with the nearly 200-foot tall towers is perceived as a noble, indeed heroic, David-versus-Goliath struggle. To residents of other less affluent communities where Edison has already erected such towers or is in the process of establishing them, the chapter is seen as an object demonstration of the lack of balance and justice inherent in the legal and administrative processes of the State of California in which the wealthy can trade on their wealth and status to obtain from the government’s decision-makers a favorable outcome the less well-heeled and downtrodden could never hope to achieve. For others, those with a window on the tawdry backroom dealing and double-dealing, the corruption, cronyism and manipulative and exploitative political horse trading that inhabit our governmental institutions and regulatory processes, the favorable treatment Chino Hills and its residents were able to get from the California Public Utilities Commission is recognized as something different still. To them, Chino Hill’s fortune is perceived as the mask behind which the commission, or at least its president, was able to hide their or his complicity in Edison’s shirking of the lion’s share of its corporate culpability in its $4 billion mismanagement of its premier nuclear generating facility and its ploy to saddle its customers rather than its stockholders with the financial liability that mismanagement represented.
Having once achieved a $450 million special accommodation from Edison to which few others outside their own circle believe they were entitled, Chino Hills residents are again looking to force the issue with the electrical utility, and have Edison make that accommodation on their terms. Having forced the high intensity power lines from overhead to underground, Chino Hills residents are now insisting that they be allowed to freely pass over the ground where those cables are buried.
A key portion of the basis of Chino Hills’ residents collective belief that they hold the upper hand in their dealings with Edison is the career trajectory of Michael Peevey.
Peevey was a senior executive and eventual president of Edison International and Southern California Edison Company. During his time with the company, the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Orange County became a major source of electricity provided to Southern California Edison’s customers. In 1995, Peevey left Edison to become the president of New Energy Inc. He left New Energy in 2000. In 2002, he was appointed by then governor Gray Davis to the California Public Utilities Commission. By the end of that year, he acceded to the position of chairman of the commission. In December 2008 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger re-appointed Peevey to another six-year term on the California Public Utility Commission.
As early as 2004, Southern California Edison, in response to state mandates that it move toward the goal of deriving at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources, began contemplation of the concept of creating what was to be the world’s largest windfarm, consisting of hundreds of electricity-producing windmills in Kern County. As plans for that system became more tangible, they grew to include the 173-mile Tehachapi line, which is intended to connect the windfarm with the Los Angeles metropolitan basin, where the lion’s share of the electricity is to be used.
Southern California Edison completed plans for the undertaking and sought project approval from the California Public Utilities Agency. In 2009, over the city of Chino Hills’ protest, the commission, headed by Peevey, granted Southern California Edison clearance to erect high-tension power transmission towers through the 44.7-square mile city at the extreme southwest corner of San Bernardino County along a long-existing power corridor easement owned by the utility.
Shortly thereafter, Chino Hills residents banned together into two groups, which were functioning on parallel tracks, to challenge the project approval, in particular the erection of the towers in Chino Hills. Those groups, one of which underwent a name change, eventually merged under the title Hope for the Hills. They pressured the City of Chino Hills to take up a legal challenge of the project. That effort initially garnered little success, however. The City of Chino Hills expended $4.4 million to employ attorneys and make other efforts to contest the Public Utility Commission’s action, including filing suit against Southern California Edison, alleging the company had “overburdened” the 150-foot wide power line easements. That legal effort failed when West Valley Superior Court Judge Keith D. Davis ruled the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison, and the suit was thrown out. An appeal of Davis’s ruling was denied by the 4th District Court of Appeal.
Southern California Edison forged ahead with its plans. In 2011, the plans became reality and it began erecting the 197-foot high transmission towers within the Chino Hills city limits. As summer gave way to fall that year, Edison had completed the erection of 18 of those towers.
Nestled against northeast Orange and southwest Los Angeles counties, Chino Hills is the most upscale of all of San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated municipalities, with per capita and per household incomes that exceed those of every other city in San Bernardino County. Earnestly, the Chino Hills community’s activists propounded their insistence that the towers from which the electrical lines were to be suspended were quite simply incompatible with the affluent community in that they clashed unacceptably with the aesthetics and character of neighborhoods wherein the least expensive homes were going for over $400,000 on the open market. This was met with Southern California Edison’s stern response that the company simply could not afford any alternative to stringing the high voltage lines from tower to tower and that burying the cables across the five mile long span of the Tehachapi line through the city would increase the project’s cost by at least $631 million and as much as $828 million. According to Edison, the cost of undergrounding a double-circuit line would run anywhere from $703 million to $1 billion. Edison claimed it could erect the towers along the same span and string the cables between them for an estimated $172 million.
Seething with outrage but poised on the verge of accepting the inevitable, Hope For The Hills made the desperate last ditch effort to appeal to Peevey directly and personally, inviting him to Chino Hills to see for himself how the 197-foot high eyesores were blighting the splendid community. As much or more than anyone, the Hope For The Hills activists were astounded when Peevey accepted the invitation. After touring the city and observing the towers from various perspectives, Peevey called for the suspension of the erection of further towers beyond the 18 already in place.
Simultaneously, beyond the parochial concerns over Chino Hills’ visual presentation to its corner of the world, far more powerful forces and considerations involving Edison were tugging and shoving Peevey.
Designed by Westinghouse and constructed by the Bechtel Corporation, the San Onofre Nuclear Power Generation Plant’s first unit was commissioned in 1968, its second in 1983 and its third in 1984. It had structural and operational problems throughout its existence, including Bechtel’s infamous 1977 assemblage/installation of a 420-ton nuclear-reactor vessel backwards. In 1992 the first unit was decommissioned and by 2010, the useful life of the two remaining units was approaching expiration. Southern California Edison had a 78.2 percent stake in the plant’s ownership and operation, with San Diego Gas & Electric controlling 20 percent and the City of Riverside Utilities Department holding the remaining 1.8 percent. Looking forward to the decommissioning of the entire plant, Edison was looking to reduce to the extent possible the cost of closure the company’s stockholders would need to bear and maximize to the extent possible the transfer of the closing costs to Edison’s, San Diego Gas & Electric’s and Riverside’s ratepayers. Such discussions, ones carried out in secret, were ongoing as early as 2010 between Peevey, then serving in his capacity as California Public Utility Commission chairman, and the company he had formerly headed as its president. The matter was given even greater urgency in January 2012, when Unit 3 suffered, during what was said to be a routine refueling and replacement of the reactor vessel head, a small radioactive leak largely inside the containment shell and the reactor was shut down per standard procedure. A subsequent examination found both units 2 and 3 were showing premature wear on over 3,000 tubes and in 15,000 places in the replacement steam generators installed in 2010 and 2011. Plant officials, pledging not to restart the units until the causes of the tube leak and tube degradation were understood, intensified the inspection of the facility. Further problems were discovered. Consequently, neither unit was ever restarted.
Hope For The Hills’ timing had been impeccable.
As it would turn out after much investigation, Peevey was at that point colluding with Edison corporate officers to ensure that the cost of the San Onofre plant closure would be transferred to the company’s customers. During 2012 and 2013, in secret dialogues between Peevey and Stephen Pickett, Edison’s executive vice president, as well as with other Edison corporate officers, the shape of a plan evolved. The deal was sealed, essentially, on March 26, 2013, not in Southern California but at the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, where Peevey met with Pickett and hammered out a deal by which utility customers are to pay more than $3.3 billion of the $4.7 billion in costs for the full shuttering of the plant. The meeting between Peevey and Pickett was a secret one, and so it remained until a private investigator working for a public interest lawyer was able to unearth evidence of the meeting almost two years later.
For both Peevey and Edison, it was imperative that no connection between them be made while the pending approval of the plant closure funding agreement hung in the balance. Throughout 2012, the Chino Hills community sought to build on the momentum Peevey’s suspension of the further erection of the electrical towers in the city had provided, most of which consisted of a series of motions and requests by the City of Chino Hills that went before Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Jean Veith in 2012 and early 2013. Veith consistently denied those motions, which were aimed at forcing Southern California Edison to underground the 500 kilovolt electrical lines. At last, the city loaded all of its eggs into a single basket, a petition for rehearing before the five member commission that ultimately was heard in July 2013. At that hearing, a bare minimum three votes emerged – those cast by Peevey and commissioners Mark Ferron and Catherine Sandoval – to effectively undo the then-four-year standing vote of the Public Utilities Commission that gave Edison go-ahead to erect the towers. That 3-2 vote, with commissioners Michel Florio and Carla Peterman dissenting, endorsed Peevey’s proposed decision calling for the 3.5 mile undergrounding of the line through the heart of Chino Hills.
Peevey’s championing of Chino Hills’ cause against Edison effectively shrouded in total obscurity his machinations on behalf of the San Onofre closure deal in favor of Edison.
Lost in the shuffle was the consideration that both of the intrigue-filled Edison decisions Peevey involved himself in – San Onofre and Chino Hills – redounded to the detriment of the totality of Edison’s customers, as they would be saddled with higher rates to cover both expenses. Previously, it had been widely suggested that if Chino Hills and its residents insisted that Edison be forced to adhere to a standard applied nowhere else – namely the undergrounding of the power lines through that city, then the city and its taxpayers should pay for that undergrounding. Cited as a concern at that time was that if the California Public Utilities Commission was to accommodate Chino Hills in its request, it would establish a precedent whereby every other city and community in California where there are substantial above-ground power lines would be able demand that the electrical towers they hosted be taken down and the power lines buried.
Immediately after the July 2013 decision in Chino Hills’ favor was rendered, the first such demand came in. In neighboring Ontario, the southern end of that city features a power line easement that is likewise being used for the Tehachapi Line. Edison stonewalled that request. Then on October 31, 2014, Ontario filed a petition for modification of the Tehachapi Line design in its jurisdiction with the public utility commission. Administrative law judge Vieth, who routinely considers matters brought before the utilities commission prior to that panel making its decisions, refused to accede to Ontario’s request that Southern California Edison be enjoined from proceeding with the project as previously approved. And the full California Public Utilities Commission, which by that point no longer numbered Peevey as one of its members, has not deigned to take up Ontario’s request, a tacit indication that Chino Hills was indeed the beneficiary of Peevey’s machinations as the favorable ruling it received in 2013 provided the perfect, and perfectly-timed, smokescreen to allow him to commit Southern California Edison’s customers to a $3.3 billion subsidization of that company’s operating costs, ones that more properly should have been defrayed by the company itself and its shareholders.
Unofficial indications are that the cost of doing the undergrounding in Chino Hills will cost Edison $623 million, which is roughly $451 million more than the $172 million the company had slated to spend in erecting the towers and suspending the electrical lines to convey the electricity originating in Tehachapi across Chino Hills.
Now, in 2016, comes a postscript.
In complying with the mandate to underground the power lines in Chino Hills, Edison is laying the high voltage lines into a linear underground vault running across the city. A three-sixteenths of a mile span of this vault transits in an underground swath pretty close to the middle of Hope For The Hills Park, which was named in honor of the grass-roots movement that brought down the 197-foot high towers. To one side of the underground utility corridor is the park’s picnic area, playground and some other recreational amenities. On the other side of the park are tennis courts. Edison at this point is insisting that no pathway be built over the underground easement, such that a walkway between one side of the park and the other cannot be laid down. This would necessitate that park patrons walk on Avenida Cabrillo, fronting the park, to reach the tennis courts.
This has the created a throwback to three, four, five and six years ago, with Chino Hills residents screaming foul and again demonizing Southern California Edison. Edison, some city residents maintain, is refusing to allow the park walkway to be completed out of spite over the company’s lingering ire with the community growing out of the undergrounding issue. Edison’s vituperation, some say, is evident in the refusal to allow the walkway to traverse the underground electrical vault beneath the park. Edison is pointedly rubbing it in, some have suggested, because the park itself is named for the group that waged the long twilight battle against Edison.
Hope For The Hills members and other city residents are pressing the city to lodge an administrative petition with the California Public Utilities Commission with regard to the walkway and, if that fails to achieve the desired end, file yet another lawsuit. Publicly last week city attorney Mark Hensley appeared to be summarizing points and authorities for just such a lawsuit, which is rumored to be under preparation. Hensley said Edison’s intransigence with regard to allowing the pathway to traverse that portion of the park lying above the underground easement will effectively bifurcate the park and limit pedestrian access to the tennis courts. Hensley said Edison’s was being inconsistent in that it had made no objection to pathways or usages over other parts of the underground vault at various points between Pipeline Avenue to Carbon Canyon. Hensley’s office has reviewed the various communications and documents submitted with regard to the easements, property purchases, exchanges and transfers relating to the right-of-way arrangements for the undergrounding project. No specific indication of Edison’s intent to prevent passage over the vault at the park was expressed, Hensley maintains, though the agreement does indicate that there would be limitations, imposed for safety concerns, on above-ground crossing points. Nevertheless, Hensley has indicated he is prepared to “challenge this in front of the CPUC [California Public Utility Commission] and the court system.”
What is going on in Chino Hills with regard to the park pathway dispute is of little note or interest to those outside of the city, a post script, and an obscure post script at that, to what occurred nearly three years ago. Among at least some outsiders who are aware of the contretemps, however, there is wonderment at the boldness with which Chino Hills residents continue to hammer at Edison over issues relating to the Tehachapi Line, now that the community has achieved the central objective relating to the issue, which is having the towers taken down and the 500-kilovolt capacity lines buried below ground. Indeed, among those who are knowledgeable about the back story against which Chino Hills achieved that victory – the serendipity and the timing of Peevey’s machinations to do Edison a $3.3 billion favor that could be camouflaged with the $450 million concession to Chino Hills on the undergrounding issue – there is a feeling that Chino Hills wants to have its cake and eat it, too. After demanding that Edison bring down the towers and somehow achieving such an unlikely accommodation, Chino Hills residents are now insisting that the towers’ replacement – the underground vault corridor – be built to their, rather than Edison’s, standards and specifications. Some see in this a community-wide sense of entitlement on Chino Hills’ part, a feeling that the wealthy community need not play by the same rules imposed on other cities throughout the state which must simply accept that they must host with grace and equanimity, in the interest of the state as a whole, regional infrastructure necessary for the state’s utility companies to serve the entirety of California’s population.
At the same time, there is the perception that by threatening to take its current beef with Edison before the forum of the California Public Utilities Commission or into a court of law, Chino Hills could well be pushing its luck, as these venues could create opportunities for closer and deeper scrutiny of the city’s entanglement with Peevey, whose militating on behalf of Edison relating to the San Onofre closure is currently under close examination by the California Attorney General’s Office for its criminal implications.
Hope for the Hills President Bob Goodwin told the Sentinel that the community’s effort to pressure Edison to allow the pathway to be constructed over the underground electrical corridor at Hope For The Hills Park is a logical and defensible one. Pointing out that Edison is permitting other uses to be placed over the vault at several other points, Goodwin said the ball is now in Edison’s court to demonstrate why things should be any different at the park.
“The right of way dissects the park,” Goodwin said. “The initial design of what Edison was going to allow was a pathway between the recreational and picnicking area and where the tennis courts are. Without that walkway, people will have to go out of their way to get to the tennis courts. Now Edison is saying, to use their terms, it is ‘not safe’ for people in the park to pass over. Yet they are not saying it is not safe for people to walk over the line at Pipeline [Avenue] or on Chino Hills Parkway. We have asked why there is a difference and have not heard back. It makes no sense why they are saying now it is not safe at that spot. They have not really said they cannot construct the walkway over that spot but they have said they will not construct the walkway there. They have said that maybe in another year or another two years, the pathway can go in there. What is going to change in a year? They say there is a safety consideration and it is not safe to cross there. Maybe there is a safety issue, but the community wants facts. I don’t know what that safety issue is and neither does anyone else. We want them to answer us as to why it is not safe.”
Goodwin said he saw no problem in having the issue taken up by the California Public Utilities Commission.
That the favorable outcome Chino Hill’s obtained with regard to the Tehachapi Line undergrounding through the city involved entanglement with Peevey during the critical period of what some people believe were depredations relating to the San Onofre closure did not undo Chino Hill’s victory, Goodwin said.
“I am aware of some of the issues involving him since he left his job as PUC president,” Goodwin said of Peevey. “He did some wonderful things for the community of Chino Hills. He is not without his detractors and he is not without controversy. What he did for us in Chino Hills does not blind people to the policy decisions and tactics he involved himself in at the PUC while he was president.”
Conceding that what Peevey did entailed “possible” violations of the public trust, Goodwin suggested that Peevey was functioning in an environment in Sacramento and San Francisco that was corrupt.
“The problem goes beyond him,” Goodwin said. “State legislators have taken this seriously enough to pass a law which bans ex parte communications on the part of state commissioners and the entities they are regulating. The word is that Governor [Jerry] Brown will probably veto that legislation. The governor apparently believes confidential communications back and forth between these public officials and the folks they are regulating are somehow necessary. These commissioners are sworn to protect the interest of the public and it is very difficult to understand why they should have the privilege of secret communications on some issues that have tremendous bearing on the public and its welfare. The governor’s sister sits on the board of Sempra Energy. Something like that should not excuse the commissioners from their duty.”
Veteran Upbraids SB Officials For Abuse Of City’s Homeless
A homeless veteran who has spent more than a year subsisting on the mean streets, alleyways, parks, nooks and crannies of San Bernardino sternly rebuked public officials in the county seat, charging them with violating both common decency and the law in their treatment of the city’s indigent population and then engaging in prevarication, artful misrepresentation, fabrication and outright lying to keep their action from being disclosed.
“I’m a veteran,” said Frederick Douglas Bennett, Sr. “I’ve been in San Bernardino for quite a few years. Recently, I have come to a point where I had to be out and about on my own with no residence, no support. I get no financial aid. I have a disability. The VA [Veterans Administration]’s given me heck about that. I don’t have a lot of resources but I maintain the Good Lord Above provides for me.”
What he has experienced while he has been without a house has shown him that city officials and the police department have disregarded not only there own polices pertaining to the homeless but federal law, Bennett said.
The Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prevent governmental entities from criminalizing homelessness. The federal case Jones v. City of Los Angeles held that “the Eighth Amendment prohibits the city from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless.” The federal case of Lavan vs. Los Angeles prohibits the police or other governmental officials from seizing, discarding or destroying the personal belongings of the homeless that have been temporarily left in a public place.
The San Bernardino Police Department’s manual lays out Policy 418, pertaining to “guidelines for when officers may take a person into custody for psychiatric evaluation and treatment,” stating “When a person is taken into custody for evaluation, or within a reasonable time thereafter… the officer shall take reasonable precautions to safeguard the individual’s personal property in his/her possession or on the premises occupied by the person.” Policy 804 in the San Bernardino Police Department policy manual pertains to “property and evidence” and to “the proper collection, storage, and security of evidence and other property.” It provides that property seized as evidence and “found property” which “includes property found by an employee or citizen that has no apparent evidentiary value… be held for a minimum of 90 days and 60 days respectively. Policy 464 in the San Bernardino Police Department policy manual pertains to “homeless persons.” According to Policy 464, “The San Bernardino Police Department recognizes that members of the homeless community are often in need of special protection and services” and that the department “will address these needs in balance with the overall mission of this department… while protecting the rights, dignity and private property of the homeless. Members of this department will not use homelessness solely as a basis for detention or law enforcement action.” Policy 464 states that “The personal property of homeless persons must not be treated differently than the property of other members of the public. Officers should use reasonable care when handling, collecting and retaining the personal property of homeless persons and should not destroy or discard the personal property of a homeless person. When a homeless person is arrested or otherwise removed from a public place, officers should make reasonable accommodations to permit the person to lawfully secure his/her personal property.”
Bennett said San Bernardino officials, including its police officers, obey the law and function by those policies and guidelines in pretense only.
“I have written proof – citations and tickets – showing our police department is taking people’s personal property, locking people up who speak up about it and telling us we can’t come to a public park We’re the public. On about May 31 I heard someone in here mention about you are not having property taken from the [homeless]. Well, I’m a member of the public and I was using a public park – Seccombe Lake. They say it is illegal to camp. That’s what the sign says. Camping is a leisure activity. Look in any dictionary: It’s a leisure activity. That’s something you do when you have someplace else to go, like home. If you don’t, you’re homeless. It’s not camping. It’s not a leisure activity. We are citizens. We have the right to be treated like citizens, regardless of whether we’re holding a full time job or whether we’re living in a square abode with 2.2 kids, a cat and a dog. I have here a notice that told me to leave the park. Several times I have been thrown out of the park in a daylight period when the park is open to the public.”
In some instances, Bennett said, his rights had been abridged by some people acting out of ignorance. Other times, he said, his rights had been violated as a consequence of mistaken presumption. In other cases, he said, those who trampled on his rights knew their actions were illegitimate.
“It’s a public park,” Bennett said. “We have certain people who are miseducated. Education is a very good thing. Education is something we give each other in life. There are prejudices we continually pass on, knowing better. If a person doesn’t want to come around me while I am sitting in a park with my personal belongings, and you don’t want to come around me period, you shouldn’t come to the park.”
Bennett personally indicted the council and all city officials with inhumanity and contempt of the U.S. Constitution, simultaneously explaining that the term “homeless” is a misnomer.
“I would like to see: What does the government intend to do for the citizens who are houseless?” Bennett said. “We’re not homeless. This is our home. America is, too. I’m a veteran. And I will stand and fight for that. The way we are being treated is unfair. We are taxpaying citizens. Some of us do have jobs. Some don’t live in homes, because it is hard. No job, no rent, no house. No house, you can’t even apply for a job. It’s a Catch-22. A cycle. Nothing. We have all this land, all this work, people going around doing things that are going to improve the government, picking up trash. How about employing the homeless, employing the unemployed?”
Moreover, Bennett said, city council members and other city officials are falsely crediting themselves with being proactive in addressing the homeless situation. That they are now having the police resort to brutally treating the homeless in an effort to induce them to leave San Bernardino betrays their real nature, Bennett suggested.
“I see and hear a lot about all these good things people say they are doing and believe they are doing,” Bennett said. “I just want everybody to think about what is the difference between a hypocrite and [someone who] acts by belief. When you believe something, you act according to it. If you believe you’re on fire, you drop and roll. If you believe in your heart that you are doing things that benefit the quality of life for people and say that you are doing things because you care about people, then we should see it.”
Bennett continued, “You have selectively created codes and enforce codes against a selected group of people because of their status in our society. It sounds like discrimination. Doesn’t matter if you are black, white or gay. If you are poor, the world comes down on you. What is the difference between an illegal encampment and a legal encampment? I’ve heard mentioned illegal encampments. What’s a legal one? Work for the taxpaying citizens? Our homeless could be doing that. We don’t have any jobs. No one’s trying to employ us. Federal funds are being received by our city and used by our city to fund outrageous police conduct against citizens who are houseless in their own home. I am such an inhabitant and repeatedly a victim of seizures, of depriving me of quality of life. Our founding fathers provided for the quality of life for all citizens. President [Barack] Obama says an assault against one person regardless of race based on social origin, religious belief is an attack on us all because we all have the right to be free and to live as we choose to live and it’s your job and we pay for you to ensure that. You’re not doing that.”
All things considered, Bennett said, he recognized that the city’s homeless population could not count on assistance from the city. Nevertheless, he said, it was unconscionable for city officials to be engaged in activity to drive the indigent away by citing them, arresting them, criminalizing them, or seizing their property.
“You don’t have to help me,” he said. “Just don’t hurt us.”
Councilman Jim Mulvihill took issue with Bennett’s comments, refuting the suggestion that by enforcing the city’s codes city officials were doing something wrong.
“The point is we spent a great deal of time talking about homelessness,” Mulvihill said. “We are doing a great deal with regard to homelessness. We have an access center that is available. We spent over half of a million dollars over the past year on the homeless issue. Parks are meant for visiting, to enjoy the natural environment. They are not meant to live in, to defecate in and to damage the irrigation, which seems to quite commonly take place. To our homeless speakers, you need to listen up: We are doing a great deal and all you need to do is take a look at the city’s website. Visit the access center, which has been available now for at least two-and-a-half years.”
San Bernardino resident Bonita Rodriquez, who had previously advocated that the city take action to alleviate the homeless problem at the city’s parks, told the council she thought city officials had acted improperly and inappropriately with regard to the matter. “I spoke to you about two weeks ago and I told you we would all like to enjoy our parks, but the way you guys went about it, throwing the homeless out like that instead of you offering some kind of assistance to them,” Rodriguez said, was wrong.
“Some kind of organization could have come out and helped them but nobody was there for them,” Rodriguez said. “It was a sad day. I had to look at it. My feelings were hurt. I can only imagine how they felt just being thrown out of the park like that, with nowhere to go, nothing to do. They just sat there, just stunned. I didn’t understand. Why didn’t you guys try to go and reach out to these people? There’s some, yes, I understand, that don’t want the help and then there’s some who need the help and want it. There have been a lot of people who have been contacting me, veterans, people who want to help these people. I’ve been in contact with them, but I just don’t understand why you guys just turned them out and you did it in that harsh way.”
Barstow Gives Local Land Use Authority Clearance For Lenwood Indian Casino
BARSTOW—The City of Barstow has cleared things on its end to allow an Indian casino and resort to be erected near Lenwood, leaving the final steps in the approval process to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has proposed, in conjunction with Barwest, L.L.C., to develop a $160 million gaming house, hotel and spa on roughly 23 acres of ground in Lenwood owned by Barwest. That concept has been in discussion for more than six years.
There yet remains the possibility that the Indian tribes and/or Barwest will abandon the project if the parameters of the environmental and project approvals impose prohibitive conditions. Moreover, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Interior have already pronounced certain conditions the tribe is willing to meet but are in the process of updating or altering those conditions.
For its part, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently released a draft conformity determination for the proposed fee-to-trust acquisition of 23 acres of land on which the Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians propose to construct the casino, hotel, parking areas and other facilities.
The site is well outside the tribes’ reservations and what is recognized as the tribes’ ancestral lands, so the tribes are required to file an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in a public trust and transfer the tribes’ rights from their tribal property to the Lenwood site. That involves making a case that at least one of the tribes had ancestral roots in the Barstow area, where it or they had an historical relationship to the property in question by virtue of aboriginal activity, including hunting, foraging and trading in particular. That application would have entailed an anthropological study to demonstrate the tribes’ ancestors ranged into Barstow.
There is some concern that Lenwood lies within the aboriginal and historical territories of the Serrano Indians and San Manuel Indians as opposed to the Los Coyotes.
The Los Coyotes Reservation is located approximately 70 miles from San Diego, between the Cleveland National Forest and the Anza-Borrego Desert.
The U.S. Department of Interior has asked for a special dispensation involving the application be provided, including obligations inserted into the Los Coyotes’ title policy for the installation of infrastructure to accompany the development of property falling under the City of Barstow’s land use authority. The city gave its approval contingent upon the Los Coyotes providing infrastructure in accordance with the Barstow Municipal Code. Barwest, as the land owner, is bound by the agreement.
Solid Community Opposition Not Enough To Prevent Needles Fire Merger
It was 105 degrees at a quarter ’til seven on Thursday morning, June 23, in Needles, which three days previously was declared the hottest place on earth that day by one weather bureau. But things got even hotter Wednesday afternoon in the packed room of the historic El Garces train depot, with a standing room only crowd, the seventy some chairs taken. It was 120 degrees in the shade outside. Inside, dozens of property owners were fuming when they learned that they were only 52 votes shy of 392, the number necessary to force a new county fire district tax to a vote. Twenty-five percent of the voter population was needed and a little over 21 percent was determined to have protested.
The protest hearing conducted by Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, executive director of the San Bernardino County Local Area Formation Commission, known by its acronym “LAFCO” was held only to call an end to the 21-day protest period and tally the vote with regard to an application by the City of Needles to annex most of the area within its boundaries into the San Bernardino County Fire District and to tax all non government property owners $148.24 with a potential 3 percent annual increase. The application for annexation approved by the Needles City Council on a majority vote made by Robert Richardson, Tony Frazier, Tom Darcy, Jeff Williams and Shawn Gudmundsen, cost taxpayers a non refundable $10,000.
After providing a summary of the commission’s resolution “LAFCO 3206,” approving the reorganization by forming “Service Zone FP-5 Needles and annexing it to the to the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District and its ”South Desert Service Zone” and the “Service Zone FP-5” which includes a previously authorized tax, Rollings-McDonald stated that the number of registered voter signatures needed to take the tax increase to a ballot vote is 392 and the number necessary to terminate the proceeding is twice that.
She stated that the total number of protest parcels is 4,849 but after questioning at the hearing she clarified that only 2,769 of those parcels are subject to the subject flat tax, the remainder (about 2000 parcels) are government and tribal parcels not subject to the tax.
“You would think that 392 voter signatures would be a cinch but we were up against the messaging by proponents, including the county fire division chief and the Needles City Manager Rick Daniels whose statements in the local paper misled some to believe that the only alternative to the county’s services is a volunteer fire department that receives a low rating from the insurance industry and that the cost of fire insurance would sky rocket if we did not go along with annexation” reported Ruth Musser-Lopez who is an activist and administrator of the newly formed Needles Safety and Fire Protection Auxiliary. “We were on a mission to educate the voters as to the advantages of a ‘paid call’ city fire department staffed by professionals who call in extra trained fire fighters as needed as opposed to a ‘volunteer’ fire department. The heat and the fact that people leave town for the summer or are on vacation with school being out also made it really difficult to collect the necessary signatures. Our team submitted 270 protest signatures out of the 340 signatures LAFCO said it received. The rest were submitted directly to LAFCO by property owners,” she reported.
“We had to conduct our protest signature –gathering drive during the hottest time of the year, making it next to impossible to go door to door,” she said. “We also discovered a high percentage of bogus voter names and addresses which artificially increased the required number of protests imposed upon us,” Musser-Lopez added.
Auxiliary member Mary Stein handled the returned envelopes with blank protest forms that the auxiliary mailed to voters on the current register, mindful that protest forms were not mailed out from LAFCO and residents would not know how to search on the website to find and download the form. Stein showed the Sentinel the returned envelopes saying “We found about 100 phony registered voters and at least four people have been dead for years and never taken off the voter role. We did not send envelopes out to at least 25 voters who we knew were invalid. We did not send envelopes out to the entire remaining voter population, but out of our mailing, the U.S. Postal service returned 25 of our envelopes addressed to registered voters as “attempted, not known, unable to forward;” 30 were “not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward;” 10 were marked “return to sender, no such number, unable to forward,” with this latter category explained by the postal service as an empty lot, where there used to be a mobile home or house, but the structure is gone; 4 were marked “unable to forward;” 4 were marked “moved, no forwarding address, unable to forward;” and 4 were marked “insufficient address” which were found to be actual properties with structures on them but nobody has lived there for years— a vacant house that the post office has known about. Two envelopes were returned ‘unable to forward/For review.’
Among these invalid addresses or unknown recipients were those that were otherwise undeliverable. We learned that many names were registered at vacant lots. Superior Court Judge Joe Brisco continues to be registered to vote in Needles on Beach Drive though a protest form to him was returned to the auxiliary as ‘not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward’ and it is known that he moved when the Needles justice court was closed years ago. The fire insurance sales person, Jan Jernigan, is reported to live across the river in Arizona but is registered to vote at her Farmers Insurance business office in downtown Needles.”
Musser-Lopez and Stein plan to challenge the protest count saying the number of valid registered voters is inaccurate and artificially high and the number of required signatures should be about 360 not 390 or 400. They said that had the date stamp on the protests been used to calculate valid protests, then there would have been sufficient signatures. Mailed protests were received the day after the protest period was closed, since the mail is now shipped to San Bernardino for processing and then returned to Needles. Further, Musser-Lopez asserts that LAFCO, with County Supervisor Robert Lovingood on the commission, is not impartial and his staff should not be in charge of counting the protests. “That should be the job of the Registrar of Voters and we should be able to see the roster of voter protests,” she said.
There is some resentment in the community that Lovingood is in large part responsible for having exacted the new flat tax by first doubling the price of the fire contract from roughly $600,000 to $1.2 million and then ushering the way into the taxed service zone via the commission he serves on. As a part of the annexation agreement, the county will receive all of the new parcel tax plus 73 percent of the existing property tax, all of the city’s fire equipment and the fire truck.
On the agenda at the protest meeting, the City of Needles was provided 5 minutes for speech while registered voters, landowners and/or the public were given only 3 minutes per person to state their case. Representing the city was its mayor, Ed Paget, who acknowledged that there was significant opposition to the annexation but that he would take no position on it.
Tom Marshall, representing the South Desert Division of the SBC Fire District informed the crowd that by annexing to the fire district the community’s insurance rating would not change but that the rating would decrease if a volunteer fire department was employed. This statement was responded to with jeers from the crowd, questioning why he refused to acknowledge that a “paid call” fire department is different than a “volunteer” fire department. None of the remaining speakers were sympathetic toward the new tax and most demonstrated strong opposition. Those protests were responded to with support and cheers from the audience. These speakers included Edward Sanchez. Paul Pletcher, Billy Bradshaw, Margaret Perry, Don McCone, Terry Campbell, Cheryl Sallis, Mary Stein, Ruth Musser-Lopez, Councilman Shawn Gudmundsen and Nyla Anderson.
Sanchez objected to the cost of services and taxes in Needles saying that funds are diverted to subsidize the city golf course and freebies for the rich while the rest of the town suffers. Several speakers said the tax should be voted on and objected to the nature of the tax being flat and not based upon the value of the property being protected, with a vacant lot taxed the same as a mansion. Musser-Lopez objected to the county leaving the city vulnerable as it uses up and depreciates the fire truck, taking it into the desert and 60 miles away on I-40. “Just think what this community could do to improve our own fire department and create local jobs with the over million dollars that will now be going to the county,” she said. Sallis inquired about funds that were in excess of what would be needed for operations and it was learned that the county would have complete control of the funds which would not be returned to the city. Anderson, who is a member of the fire auxiliary, thanked all who had assisted in collecting protest signatures and said though we may not all agree “our community is still family.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Councilman Shawn Gudmundsen advanced to the podium and protested vehemently that he was wrongfully accused of having supported the annexation. The Sentinel has since researched the question and concluded that in December 2015, the council split Resolution 2015-51 into two actions, one to approve filing an application with LAFCO for annexation to the fire district and the second to request that the new district territory be included within FP-5 service zone of the district which is an area subject to a previously authorized tax. Councilwoman Louise Evans voted against both actions while Jeff Williams voted against inclusion in a taxed service zone. The other four council members, including Gudmundsen, voted for the annexation and for being included in the taxed service zone.
Stein, speaking on behalf of the auxiliary, advocated for ditching the annexation and returning to a city fire department with “paid call” professionals when needed to supplement the regular round the clock three man crew suggesting that the local young people who want extra employment get trained at the existing local fire academy in Mohave Valley or set up a new program at Needle’s Palo Verde College campus. She said “Training and hiring locally would create jobs locally for those whose heart is in their community, appreciate its history and have a personal interest in saving heritage structures as well as homes and buildings from the throes of fire.”
After hearing about the decision, local business owner Kenny Baldwin of Premier Sports told the Sentinel he is “over it. This tax cinch tightening is strangling business in Needles. First it was the water and sewage increase and now this extra tax added to the business tax and existing property tax…basically taxing you out of business. So many rules and regulations, the EPA and fire department. The fire department could close my boat repair operation down in a heartbeat if they wanted to. You can only pay so much and then you aren’t making any money. Why be here? We are here to make a living. That is what happened to the Chevrolet dealer and Ford dealer…they are no longer here. You can put up with just so much of it and after a while it is just not worth it to be here.”
Count Friedrich von Olsen’s Forum… Or Against ’em
Hold this page upside down and in front of a mirror for the answers to these riddles…
Why won’t Hillary let her campaign staffers exercise?
She doesn’t want them to “Feel The Burn.”
Why is Hillary Clinton running for President?
Because it’s easier than running from Law Enforcement.
Why does Hillary want to have relations with her husband first thing in the morning?
She wants to be the first lady.
Why does Hillary prefer dogs to Bill Clinton?
A dog chases his own tail
What’s yellow, hen-pecked and lays chicks?
If called to testify in a trial how long will it before Hillary Clinton commits perjury?
When she’s sworn in
Francis M. Wood
Francis Marion Wood was born on May 17, 1833 in Independence Missouri, subsequently of historic note as the place where John and Mary Truman moved in 1894 and raised their son, Harry, who became the 33rd president of the United States. . At the age of 17, in 1850, he sojourned with others seeking gold to California and initially settled in Hangtown, since known as Placerville, east of Sacramento. He later moved to the Napa area and in April 1858 married Mary Elizabeth Vines, born in 1843, a daughter of Bartlett and Frances Yount Vines, also of Missouri. Mary’s grandfather was the very early pioneer George Calvert Yount, after whom the town of Yountsville in Napa County is named. Mary’s younger sister, Ellen, was the first full-blooded American child born in California, her parents having arrived in 1844. The town of Glen Ellen, near Yountsville, is named after her.
Francis and Mary Wood and five of their eleven children came to the San Bernardino Valley in 1869 and settled in the Rincon area in Chino Township. They moved to Colton in 1882. He served as a deputy sheriff for Rincon from 1873 to 1875. While still residing in Chino Township, Mr. Wood was elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, representing the Second Supervisorial District and served from September 24, 1875 until October 1, 1877.
In Colton, Mr. Wood and his family lived on their ranch near Agua Mansa. They raised fruit and vegetables which they delivered to markets in the nearby towns.
Mr. Wood was a member of the San Bernardino County Pioneer Society.
Later, the Woods purchased a home in Colton, where Mrs. Wood preferred to live. It was here that F.M. Wood died on January 18, 1906, of a sudden heart attack. Mr. Wood was survived by his wife and eight of their 11 children. Mrs. C.A, Johnson, Fred, Robert E., Frank B, and Fenton Wood of Colton; Mrs. Bessie Reber of Redondo; Mrs Ada Harris of Beulah in Inyo County; and Earl Wood of Humboldt County.
Faculty Senate At Cal State San Bernardino Cites Bullying, Leadership Shortcomings By President
As if seeking to make a pun, state college faculty members have charged Cal State San Bernardino President Tomas Morales with being a drag on morale.
Morales, the former president of the College of Staten Island within the City University of New York, was brought in to succeed Al Karnig as as president of California State University, San Bernardino in 2012.
Faculty members at CSUSB recently conducted a “campus climate survey” among themselves.
According the results section of the executive summary for phase one of the 2015 Cal State University San Bernardino Campus Climate Survey released on March 7, 2016, “Results from 756 respondents indicate that there are significant problems with morale on the CSUSB campus. Two thirds of respondents indicated that morale had changed since their hire. Nearly 90 percent indicated that morale had gotten worse. Significant proportions of employees agreed with the sentiment that they would leave if they didn’t already have so much invested in the university. Employees have lost confidence in the campus leadership, reporting with their numeric ratings that top leadership has not communicated a clear direction, that input is neither sought nor considered by leadership in the decision making process, and held perceptions that senior management does not act with integrity. Analysis of the numerous comments bolsters the sentiment that the downturn in morale on campus has largely been attributed to top leadership. The themes that emerged from the commentary sections of the survey indicated that senior management plays favorites, does not value or respect employees, is seen as ineffective, engages in abusive or uncivil behavior, and lacks authenticity. There were some positive themes that emerged: employees largely like the work that they do, enjoy working with students, and care about the university and its mission. A small proportion of employees indicated that they liked the new leadership, its direction, and thought that senior management had the best interests of the institution at heart. These were, however, very small proportions of the respondent base.”
In phase two of the report, released on May 10, 2016, the executive summary in part reads, “Bullying appears to be widely practiced on campus – a quarter of the respondents had personally experienced bullying and more than 40 percent had witnessed bullying. Comments show that key perpetrators of the practice tend to be those in powerful positions.”
It goes on to state, “Another dimension of concern is that many employees on campus characterize their work environment as threatening, or do not feel safe expressing an honest opinion for fear of inviting retaliation from management.”
Furthermore, the summary says that “although there is considerable support for diversity, with many respondents indicating that they personally value diversity and that they believe their coworkers and supervisors treat people with respect regardless of cultural background, many believe that senior management does not treat people fairly on this basis.”
The survey also cites “workload and work stress,” noting “working more than 50 hours is the norm for faculty and administrators. Although some respondents reported that they didn’t mind working long hours, a prevalent theme was that the amount of work to be done was not reasonable and caused stress.”
Morales is not mentioned by name in the survey, though the reference to “senior management” appears aimed at him. Morales has a B.A. in history from The State University of New York, New Paltz, and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in educational administration and policy studies from SUNY, Albany. He held held senior administrative positions at the three largest public university systems in the nation: the California State University, The State University of New York, and The City University of New York. From 2001 to 2007, Morales served in various capacities at Cal Poly Pomona, including vice president for student affairs, provost and vice president for academic affairs, professor of education and principal deputy to the president.