The paradox, ruthlessness, absurdity and inherent inconsistency of what some consider the bane, and others see as a positive attribute, of local government was on display in Grand Terrace this week.
Two decades ago, when Grand Terrace could still lay claim to being one of the county’s more affluent bedroom communities, city officials reigned supreme over the 3.5-square mile municipality’s citizenry. At present, city officials, buffeted by financial blow after financial blow and no longer able to wield the authority of government like a cudgel against anyone who stood in their way or challenged them, cower before an animated and energized electorate.
For nearly a century, code enforcement has been, if not an everyday, then a recurrent element of Southern California urban life. Municipal codes, which can vary slightly or substantially from place to place, extend to the texture of shared existence and the social contract among those living in community with one another. Those codes touch on a myriad of issues, from the colors you can paint your house, to requirements that you cultivate a lawn and landscape your yard to mandates that you not let your grass grow too tall nor water it on a date that is neither odd nor, in the alternative, even, to how many people can dwell in your home, to how long you can leave your vehicle parked in front of your home, to how loud or late you can play music, to what sort of repair work you can engage in inside your garage, to how many dogs or cats you can own, to whether or not and where you can hang your clean laundry out to dry in the sun and the wind, to how long you can delay in retrieving your empty garbage cans, to how high you can allow a hedge to grow or construct a fence or wall, to what items you can store outside, to how long you can leave a garage door open, to how many guests or nonresidents you can welcome onto your premises in any 24 hours and, literally, hundreds of other regulations relating to the conditions of a landowner’s property or activities a resident or those on his or her property can or cannot engage in.
Code enforcement officers can be somewhat officious, and enforcement can be draconian. Given government’s reach and extensive assets and financial means, not to mention the consideration that it controls the forum in which citations are adjudicated, resistance to code enforcement is likely to prove entirely futile, giving object demonstration of the phrase, “You can’t fight City Hall.” Continue reading
Governor Gavin Newsom and both houses of the California legislature this week carried the torch across the finish line after environmentalists’ efforts to effectuate protection of the western Joshua tree through administrative appeals to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission matched with legal action carried out over the last eight years failed.
As a consequence of the legislation carved out as part of this year’s legislative budgetary process, the yucca brevifolia Engelm, referred to in common parlance as the western Joshua tree, will be given what environmentalists say is crucial insulation that will shield the distinctive desert plants from encroaching development and climate change.
Environmentalists in 2015 asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, to study the status of the trees, their fragility and prospect for survival, seeking a determination that the Joshua Tree is threatened and therefore in need of certain protections. That examination, which began during the Barack Obama Administration, extended itself into the Donald Trump Administration. Slightly more than halfway into President Trump’s tenure in office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the listing “not warranted.” Continue reading
At its specially rescheduled meeting on Wednesday of next week, the Redlands City Council is set to raise City Manager Charles Duggan’s salary by seven percent from $280,000 to $299,600.
If the council, as anticipated, grants Duggan the raise, he will see his total annual compensation jump from its current $400,650.74, consisting of $280,000 in salary plus perquisites and add-ons of $12,131.92 in addition to $108,518.82 in benefits, to $420,250.74.
In addition, the council, which is going to meet on July 5 next week rather than Tuesday because its normal meeting day of the first Tuesday of the month is preempted by the July 4 holiday, will further sign off on giving Duggan a two percent raise in July 2024, upping the $299,600 he will be receiving at that time to $305,592. It also appears that the city may intend to provide Duggan with a two percent raise from $305,592 to $311,703.84 in July 2025. Because of what is likely a typographical error that substituted “2023” for “2025” on the staff report for the agenda item, that point remains unclear at press time.
Given the degree of apathy with regard to the function of local government that is typically the case throughout Southern California, the vast majority of residents in Redlands do not seem to have an opinion one way or the other with regard to Duggan’s performance since he became city manager in Redlands in January 2020. Nevertheless, among residents of the 36.4-square mile city of 73,168 population who are animated with regard to issues of governance, Duggan is far less popular than he is with the five-member city council. Continue reading
San Bernardino County’s transportation agency is gambling that gambling will remain as popular throughout the rest of the 21st Century as it is today.
Using a $25 million stake granted it by the federal government, The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority is betting that money on the prospect that Brightline West will make good on completing its Las Vegas to Los Angeles highspeed trainline.
Brightline for a decade has been proposing to construct a high-speed rail line – one on which a train will reach a maximum of 180 miles per hour – that in time will stretch from Las Vegas in the east, variously, 264 miles to Anaheim or 270 miles to Union Station in Los Angeles. Brightline committed to breaking ground on the first phase of the project, which previously was to run on an electrified rail line some 190 miles to Victorville and is now slated to run 187 miles to Apple Valley. That line is to be constructed on right-of-way adjacent to Interstate 15 leased from Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation. According to Brightline, the trip between the Nevada gambling mecca and Apple Valley would take just under 90 minutes. Another stop on the line will be in Hesperia and, eventually, the Metrolink rail station in Rancho Cucamonga.
In a rare arrangement, the federal government approved providing the $25 million grant to the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, formerly known as San Bernardino Associated Governments (SanBAG), and Brightline West for the purposes of constructing the train stations in Apple Valley and Hesperia. Continue reading
This upcoming year, running from July 1, 2023 until June 30, 2024, a number of San Bernardino County’s cities will be throwing caution to the wind by moving away from the fiscally conservative practice of operating on balanced budgets.
Exuberant confidence with regard to the expanding economy was a hallmark of the late 1990s and first couple of years of the Third Millennium, as investors and public officials alike believed that a booming economy based upon a well-established financial system would last forever, or at least the duration of their lifetimes.
But the bursting of the so-called dotcom bubble followed a few years later by the economic downturn of 2007 that proceeded from the real estate collapse which had its roots in predatory lending practices reinstilled a sense of discipline in the public sector and county and local governments, as they were forced to contract their operations and either lay off employees or seek givebacks from the unions representing those employees with regard to salaries and benefits that had been promised in employment contracts derived during collective bargaining sessions prior to the downturn.
The economy remained sluggish for six years, and municipal governments, particularly in California, resolved to set conservative yearly budgets that were balanced in terms of revenue equaling or exceeding expenditures. Continue reading
With state legislation that would have mandated that school officials within three days of learning that a student is identifying as a gender other than that indicated on his or her birth certificate inform the child’s parents having collapsed from its own weight in the Democrat-dominated legislature in Sacramento, a question now stands whether the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, which endorsed the legislation by a supermajority in April, will use their authority to impose that requirement on district educators this summer before the opening of the 2023-24 school year.
For roughly a decade, the Chino Valley Unified School District had fallen under the heavy influence of Christian fundamentalists, in particular those aligned with the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs.
Hibbs made an object demonstration of the impact his brand of evangelism can effectuate when in 2010, through an extension of his church known as the Watchman Industry and with Board Member James Na’s and then-Board Member Sylvia Orozco’s assistance, he successfully lobbied the school board to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum.
Hibbs’ grip on the district was strengthened when another member of his church, Andrew Cruz, joined Orozco and Na on the board. Continue reading
San Bernardino County is pushing forward with two arrangements with Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC to allow that company to capture methane produced at the county’s Rialto and Colton landfills despite progression toward compliance with a state law aimed at radically reducing methane production at all of the state’s landfills.
In June 2022, the solid waste management division of the San Bernardino County Public Works Department entered into agreements with Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC that involve selling landfill gas from the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill and the Colton Sanitary Landfill.
At the Mid-Valley Landfill, the landfill gas will be processed and turned into renewable natural gas, known by the acronym RNG. This renewable natural gas will be sold and delivered to the nearby SoCal Gas pipeline, which is a system for distributing natural gas. The gas will be processed to meet the standards set by SoCal Gas for accepting RNG into their pipeline. Continue reading