Gomez Trial Start Mired In Snags & Provocations

By Mark Gutglueck
Victorville Councilwoman Blanca Gomez’s trial on public disturbance charges has begun as awkwardly and with as much disconcertion as the events which led to her arrests entailed, as the court system must now assimilate the idiosyncratic form of dissent that she has intermixed into her representation of her constituents over the past six years.
At stake in the prosecution of Gomez are differing consequences, including those for the defendant and another set for the array of officials who have put her in the docket. For Gomez, she is at risk of being convicted of three relatively minor misdemeanors, which may or may not harm her political viability going forward. For San Bernardino County and Victorville officialdom, what hangs in the balance is an exposure of the degree to which political insiders and the establishment wield the machinery of government at their command to maintain, or attempt to maintain, the reins of power and perpetuate themselves in their positions of authority.
Already surfacing in the trial are elements and themes indistinguishable from Gomez’s political existence and formulas, ones of a paradoxical amalgamation of Gomez’s own status as a privileged elected official contrasted with her characterization of herself as a disenfranchised member of the community, her naive or virtually nonexistent command of procedure, protocol and the law coupled with her contradictory use of sophisticated cutting edge electronic devices in documenting her public interactions, which inevitably provoke officials and now the court to physically seize those devices, a questionable reaction that has the effect of swinging a segment of public opinion sharply in her favor. Continue reading

Albert Okura 1951-2023

Albert Okura, the founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain who stands with Glen Bell, Neal Baker, Ed Hackbarth, David Jameson and Richard and Maurice McDonald as a member of San Bernardino County’s pantheon of worldwide fast-food originator/innovators, has died.
Okura, 71 of Chino, died of a yet-undisclosed illness this week.
Okura, a sansei, that is, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in Wilmington in 1951 to Tsuyoshi and Chiyoko Okura. His first job, other than having a paper route as a kid, was making Whoppers at the Harbor City Burger King when he was 18 in 1970, shortly after he graduated from high school. Three years later, he was entrusted with an assistant manager’s position at another Burger King. At the age of 24, he jumped to Del Taco and a soon landed a job as a manager of one of its operations.
In 1981, he was the manager of the Del Taco in Carson. An El Pollo Loco, featuring char-broiled chicken, opened nearby. This inspired him to consider striking out on his own with a restaurant featuring grilled chicken. Continue reading

County Giving Them Short Shrift On Resort Approval, Wonder Valley Residents Say

Wonder Valley residents’ previous misgivings that a resort facility proposed for development in their community would severely compromise the desert tranquility they now enjoy has been heightened by the county planning division’s preparation of documents to allow the project to proceed through the approval process without being subject to a full-fledged environmental impact report.
Concern is growing among Wonder Valley locals that David Mlynarski, a politically well-connected development professional who is working on behalf of the project proponents, has prevailed upon county officials to keep them from applying the more exacting land use standards that those living in the desert community believe are proper for any significant construction that is to take place in their midst.
Alan Greenberg and Jason Landver have retained Mlynarski and his company, Transtech Engineers, Inc., to chaperone the conversion of the 4,407-square foot former Southern California Edison facility most commonly known by locals as “the pink building” and a portion of the 134.6 acres around it into year-round resort through the county land use division’s approval process. Continue reading

Couple Who Touched Off El Dorado Conflagration To Face 28 Of 29 Counts Against Them, Judge Rules

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and his wife Angelina Renee Jimenez will go to trial on a total of 28 counts, including involuntary manslaughter, over their ill-advised use of a flammable device during a gender reveal celebration at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa on September 5, 2020 that led to the ignition of what turned into the El Dorado fire, which raged out of control for 24 days, charring 22,680 acres, destroying five homes and damaging four others and resulting in the death of firefighter Charles Morton, who lost his life battling the blaze more than a week and a half after it started.
Originally, each was charged with the 29 counts, one felony count of PC 192(b), involuntary manslaughter; three felony charges of PC 452(a), arson that causes great bodily injury; four felony charges of PC 452(b), arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn and 22 misdemeanor charges of PC 452(d), unlawfully causing a fire of property. Continue reading

Operation Consequences Continues Apace After More Than 3 Months

Fourteen weeks after the The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department initiated “Operation Consequences,” intended to suppress criminal operations perpetuated by the community’s already identified criminal element, efforts to target those residing in the county who are violating the conditions of their parole or probation continue.
According to the sheriff’s department, the program is intended to focus in particular on the High Desert, where the sheriff’s department provides law enforcement service on a contractual basis to the cities of Hesperia, Victorville and Adelanto, the Town of Apple Valley and the unincorporated county areas surrounding and in between them, as well as those places surrounding the City of San Bernardino, which includes the unincorporated county areas there and the cities of Highland, Grand terrace and Loma Linda.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors authorized funds to assist with county-wide crime suppression. “The intent is to provide additional funding to the Sheriff’s Department, allowing for increased law enforcement services related to quality-of-life issues affecting the communities in our county,” said Sheriff Shannon Dicus. Continue reading

Alexander Brought In To End SBCUSD Board’s 13-Month Span At 6/7s Strength

After more than a year, the San Bernardino City Unified School Board will return to its seven-member strength on February 7.
At that time, Felicia Alexander, who was appointed to fill the most recently vacated position on board, will be sworn in.
She is to fill the gap left by the departure of Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers, who was first elected to the San Bernardino City Unified School Board in 2015 and reelected in 2020 when the district changed to even-year elections, and who was elected to a position on the San Bernardino County School Board in November 2022, necessitating her resignation from that previous post. Continue reading

Armendarez Securing Funding For San Antonio Heights Improvements

To help improve the quality of life for the unincorporated community of San Antonio Heights, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved more than $7.5 million in infrastructure improvements on Tuesday. The project includes over 20 linear miles of roadway and concrete work for sidewalks, ADA compliant curb ramps, curbs, gutters, guard railing and painting roadway traffic stripes.
“Road repair and safe walking routes for our families is a priority I will continue to champion,” said Second District County Supervisor Jesse Armendarez. “More than 20 miles of roads will be improved along with sidewalks, curbs and gutters.”
The project will be funded by Senate Bill 1, The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. Senate Bill 1 was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor which invests $54 billion over the next decade. The funds are restricted specifically fixing roads, freeways, bridges and putting more dollars towards safety.
“We have a responsibility to ensure our unincorporated residents have safe routes to drive and walk,” Armendarez said.
The board approved an agreement with Calmex Engineering, Inc., a local company within San Bernardino County, to complete the project. It is anticipated the project will begin in February 2023 and be completed by end of July 2023.