It is increasingly likely that the debate over whether the city should disband its police department will go to voters. The Council has asked city staff to draft a ballot initiative allowing Baldwin Park residents to vote whether to maintain the department or contract policing services from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. At the same time, a separate, resident-driven movement to put the question to voters is advancing, according to supporters. Members of Baldwin Park Citizens United have collected more than half of the 5,000 signatures they need to put the public safety issue on a ballot in a special election. Signatures must be collected by December 30th 2013. Any vote would be advisory only, as according to the City Attorney only the council has the authority to dissolve the department. They say the switch could save the city some $4 million, citing a preliminary study that concluded patrolling by the Sheriff’s Department would cost about $15 million annually, while the Baldwin Park Police Department costs more than $19 million a year. In other matters The City Council extended for 10 years the city’s contract with Waste Management for trash collection. The renegotiated contract will provide a small economic boost to the financially struggling city. Under the new agreement, Waste Management will pay Baldwin Park a one-time $1 million “contract modification” fee and an annual $50,000 “benefit fund” fee. In addition, the trash company will continue paying an annual franchise fee, which will amount to an estimated $1.2 million this year Under the new contract, Waste Management is allowed to increase rates annually based on the Consumer Price Index, up to 5 percent, for the next two years. After that, rate increases will require a hearing. The company is also required to implement an internship program for local high school students and provide backyard valet service for the homes of disabled residents.
Southern California Edison has begun work to take down the first of 16 electrical towers in Chino Hills. The utility had intended to string 500-kilovolt power lines through the towers, above residential homes, until the state Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 in July to re-route 3.5 miles of the project underground. The decision reversed a 2009 PUC vote to permit the above-ground lines through 5 miles of Chino Hills. Undergrounding the lines will start at an Edison easement at Pipeline Avenue and the 71 Freeway and continue west through residential areas of the city. But before that can begin, the utility must remove 16 towers in its right-of-way, of which 11 are tubular steel towers and 5 are lattice. According to Edison, it will take up to two days to remove each tower and another three days remove the foundations, which are up to 60 feet below ground. Removal of all the towers in this part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project can take up to three months. Edison Project Manager Jennifer Wolf said the lattice towers, once down, will be disassembled, bundled, stored and reused, while the tubular towers will be shipped to Edison’s salvage yard to be recycled. Edison officials said the PUC has authorized $224 million for the whole undergrounding project, with $4 million slated for demolition of the towers. Edison officials believe, however, that the total cost will be in excess of $300 million because the authorized amount doesn’t include voltage control equipment. The Tehachapi project through Chino Hills is expected to be complete by 2016.
The El Monte Union High School District’s use of a $148 million construction bond is facing increased scrutiny from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and a citizen’s lawsuit. The District Attorney’s Office is reviewing a complaint regarding the school district’s use of funds from Measure D, a bond measure passed by voters in 2008. The school district has conducted a comprehensive audit on the use of those funds, but refuses to release the results. Information revealed by the audit, conducted in 2011, led the district to sever its contract with its former construction management firm, Alsaleh Project Management (APM). Superintendent Nick Salerno dismissed APM in a scathing letter accusing the firm and its principal Atta Alsaleh of falsely billing the district for more than $230,000, violating conflict-of-interest laws through another company owned by Alsaleh and his wife, and violating other laws. APM responded by accusing the district of libel and defamation. To avoid litigation, El Monte Union entered a settlement agreement with APM in October 2011 and Salerno retracted the allegations, according to district officials and documents. In the two years since, the district has remained tight-lipped about the accusations and the audit. Officials point to the settlement agreement with APM as justification for why they cannot comment or provide documents on various construction-related issues that have emerged, such as cost overruns and construction plans lacking required state approval. The California Public Records Act requires governmental records be disclosed to the public when they are requested, unless there is a specific reason not to, such as a personnel matter or ongoing confidential investigation.
The arraignment of four current and former Irwindale officials accused of corruption dating back to 2001 was delayed for a second time to give the judge time to review motions filed by the prosecutor and a defense attorney. City Council members Mark Breceda and Manual Garcia, former Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez and retired Finance Director Abe De Dios appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office refiled the charges on Aug. 13. They stem from multiple trips taken to New York City between 2001 and 2005. Prosecutors allege the officials spent $200,000 in public funds on expensive hotels and restaurants, Broadway shows and Major League Baseball games. The officials have denied wrongdoing and said the purpose of the trips was to improve the city’s bond rating. Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss two of the charges filed against Garcia — misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Deputy District Attorney Kennes Ma said the statute of limitations had expired on those charges because Garcia was not named in the original case the District Attorney’s Office filed against the officials in 2010. Torrealba granted the four defendants continued released on their own recognizance. She ordered the defendants refrain from contacting witnesses in the case.
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District board censured fellow board member Joseph Chang, citing several ethics violations, including taking unauthorized trips to China to recruit foreign students, violating the board’s conflict of interest policy and overstepping his authority. This was the first censure of a board member in the history of the district, according to school officials. Founded in 1970, HLPUSD is the largest school district in the San Gabriel Valley with 78,000 K-12 and adult students at 17 elementary, six K-8, four middle and five high schools and adult-education facilities. The board voted 3-1 for censure. School board members Jay Chen, Anthony Duarte and Rudy Chavarria voted in favor, while Chang voted in opposition. Board member Gino Kwok abstained. Censure is a rebuke by the board of Chang’s actions but holds no other legal ramifications The Censure motion was requested after a 66-page report authorized by the former superintendent said Chang’s trips were inappropriate and unauthorized. The report said his trips were paid for by BELA, a private recruiting firm, or by Norman Hsu, a former board member and the managing director of BELA. BELA can make between $7,500 and $15,000 over two years, according to the report. Chang’s participation, combined with his votes on the program and specifically on lowering district tuition for foreign students, could constitute a conflict of interest, according to the report. The report also contends Chang may have pressured teachers at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights to accept students from China who did not meet English language proficiency requirements in order to continue the flow of students into Wilson High. The report said Chang’s credibility could have been in question when he suggested a student from China continue attend district schools illegally, beyond the federal visa one-year limit. The California Fair Political Practices Commission is also investigating the matter.
The cities of Upland and Montclair are finalizing a proposal for the partial merger of their fire departments, one that is aimed at reducing costs and intensifying firefighting resource capability and which will be presented to their respective city councils for consideration as early November.
Under the parameters being worked out, the command staff and administration of the two departments will become one and the service boundaries separating the departments will be eliminated. Each department will maintain its own identity and retain responsibility for its own firefighters. At present the city of Upland employs 36 full time firefighters staged out of four fire stations. Montclair fields 24 firefighters and operates out of two fire stations. Previously, the city of Upland contemplated outsourcing options for its fire department in an effort to reduce costs, including considering contracting with the city of Ontario, the California Division of Forestry or the county of San Bernardino for fire protection service. Upland also approached Los Angeles County to see if its fire department would provide it with a fire service proposal. Los Angeles County turned Upland down because the California Division of Forestry, also known as Cal Fire, and LA County Fire have an agreement that Cal Fire will not come into Los Angeles County to seek contracts and Los Angeles County has agreed not to go into San Bernardino County or Orange County for contract agencies.
In Montclair, officials previously gave serious consideration to the outsourcing of that 36,664-poulation municipality’s fire department, specifically the concept of dissolving the department in favor of contracting with the San Bernardino County Fire Department or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. At the root of the move are financial causes, brought on by the downturn of the economy, dwindling governmental revenue and the conflation of governmental services.
More and varied types of housing, open spaces and development around transportation centers are among the features that could be part of Pomona’s future in the years to come. The features were discussed during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commissio when they reviewed a draft of the city’s general plan. The general plan, which is in the process of being updated, is a document that contains the vision and the guidelines for development in the city. The specific plan document provides details for the implementation of guidelines and standards meant to assist in the revitalization of four of the city’s major corridors – Garey and Holt avenues and Foothill and Mission boulevards. The plan calls for providing additional housing particularly that which appeals to college and graduate students as well as to young professionals, young families and empty nesters. Such housing is and will continue to be in demand in the years to come, said Erik Calloway, principal with Freedman, Tung and Sasaki, a San Francisco-based firm that has been working with the city staff in updating the general plan. Housing near transportation centers also has great appeal as people look to reduce their dependence on cars and turn to walking, bicycling and public transportations systems to get around.
The Police Department is using a new tool to distribute crime information to residents. The department has partnered with BAIR Analytics, Inc. to provide an online crime map for residents to view crime data and to allow the department to alert residents about crimes as they occur. The map, called RAIDS Online, is viewable on the city’s website, www.uplandpl.lib.ca.us, and through a mobile application. Residents are able to view crime information in their neighborhood, including the type of crime, location, block-level address, date and time. Users can also sign up for Neighborhood Watch reports and submit anonymous tips. The map is synced with the department’s record system.The department is also encouraging residents to sign up for alerts through Nixle, which sends out emails or alerts to mobile phones.The alerts could range from traffic accidents to community events as well as “most wanted” fliers and pictures of suspects.
City council approved the purchase of a new Mobile Command Post for the police department and two new ambulances for the fire department. It also gave West Covina police the green light to join a new digital radio communications system operated jointly throughout the San Gabriel Valley. The current Mobile Command Post is approximately 30 years old. With the approval of the council, the police department has joined the Interagency Communications Interoperability System. Through the newly formed San Gabriel Valley Region Communications Network Group, the cities of Glendora, Azusa, Covina, Irwindale, La Verne and West Covina will connect to ICIS, enabling a greater range of radio coverage and interconnectivity between the agencies through a digital radio system. The two new ambulances can accommodate up to three patients. The cities’ existing three ambulances can only carry three. A new modular box design of the ambulance allows it to be moved to a different chassis if needed, reducing the cost of future ambulances. The new purchases are paid through asset seizure funds, state grants and donations from the Castucci Foundation.. No general fund money was used.