Walnut election up in the air until Monday

It ain’t over until it’s over. And this one won’t end until Monday morning.

That sums up the Walnut City Council election, left in limbo Tuesday night by 645 uncounted ballots and a pending claim of polling place incompetence in a race in which at least 2,135 people voted.

Although first-place finisher Nancy Tragarz, the current mayor, is well ahead with 2,135 votes, the battles for the second and third spots on the five-member council are much closer, and the outcomes remain uncertain.

Tony Cartagena, a 12-year council veteran, came in second in the unofficial tally with 1,746 votes. Challenger John Saleeby took the third seat with an even 1,700 votes. But once the uncounted ballots are tallied, Saleeby could be overtaken by fourth-place finisher Eric Ching, who with 1,649 is only 51 votes behind.

It would be unlikely for fifth-place finisher Michael West, with 1,333 votes, to leapfrog over Ching and Saleeby into a council seat.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story ELECTION.

Incumbents joined by Saleeby in Walnut council race


Incumbents Nancy Tragarz and Tony Cartagena were the top vote-getters Tuesday in the City Council election, while challenger John Saleeby appears to have landed the third open seat on the dais.

Still, provisional ballots have yet to be counted and one voter may call for an outside audit of the election after a ballot box was opened during the middle of voting Tuesday.

Tragarz led the race the entire night and ended with 2,135 votes. Cartagena was the next highest vote-getter, with 1,746 votes. Saleeby, with 1,700 votes, edged out a strong showing from fourth place finisher Eric Ching by only 51 votes.

The top three vote-getters earn spots on the City Council.

Candidate Michael West came in a distant fifth.

Walnut election consultant Linda Gair said many provisional ballots have yet to be counted, so the results are still very unofficial.

“There are still several hundred ballots to be counted,” Gair said.

“Many were ballots turned in to City Hall and at the polling places,” she said. “Many were provisionals.”

All the provisional ballots will be counted on Monday.

Hacienda Heights Improvement Association to meet Monday

The Hacienda Heights Improvement Association will meet 7 p.m. Monday, April 16, in the board room of Hacienda La Puente Unified at 15929 E. Gale Avenue, Industry.

There will be updates from the Sheriff and California Highway Patrol, as well as Supervisor Don Knabe’s local office and other government representatives.
Residents are invited to attend. For more information call 626-536-3407.

Lemon Avenue ramps move ahead in Diamond Bar and Walnut

The nearly decade-old plan to make the 60 Freeway accessible at Lemon Avenue is moving forward. Residents living along the Freeway at Lemon Avenue have received notices to possibly sell portions of their property to Caltrans for construction of on-and-off ramps, according to Diamond Bar and Caltrans officials.

To make room for a westbound on-ramp and eastbound on- and off-ramps, nine property owners, including several along Flintgate Drive, will have to sell portions of their backyards. They were sent notices by Caltrans that their properties would be appraised in anticipation of a sale. Four commercial properties also will be asked for slivers of their land but they have yet to be notified by mail, said Maria Raptis, spokesperson for Caltrans District 7.

The LA Fitness that abuts the eastbound 60 lanes at Golden Springs Drive east of Lemon Avenue could lose 7 parking spaces to accommodate an eastbound on-ramp, according to a city report issued Tuesday.

If after appraisals are performed, the property owners refuse to sell, condemnation procedures will be started, explained city officials. Condemnation procedures can take 6 to 9 months. “That is always a last resort,” Raptis said.

It will take Caltrans the rest of this year and most of 2013 to acquire the land necessary to build the ramps. Land acquisition will cost $2.3 million and the city of Industry is picking up the cost, said Diamond Bar officials.

The city report said construction of the new on- and off-ramps will begin in May 2014 and be completed by December 2015.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story LEMON

Volunteers help out a vet in Rowland Heights


Alex Cardiel’s father was never a part of his life. And his step-dad, the father of his four younger siblings, died in 1996, leaving Alex as the man of the house as a young teen. “I kind of had to assume that role,” said the 29-year-old Rowland Heights resident.

But after long being the one to take care of others, Cardiel this week was the recipient of some much-needed care from the community.

After graduating from Diamond Bar High School in 2000, Cardiel signed up with the U.S. Marine Corps, hoping to set a good example for his brothers and sister. He was on his second tour in Iraq when a fuel truck rigged with a car bomb exploded nearby.

“In that blast I was picked up and I was thrown, and I crashed into my best friend (in midair). It picked him up and threw him,” Cardiel said.

Read more in J. Velasco’s story MARINE.

Map shows quarantine area for citrus disease in Hacienda Heights

State officials have released a map of the area under quarantine for a deadly and incurable citrus disease discovered in Hacienda Heights last week.

Huanglongbing causes citrus trees to produce shrunken, bitter fruit, and the yellowing of leaves and shoots. It will kill a healthy tree within a few years of infection.

It can be spread through insects or by grafting infected tissue onto a healthy tree.

In order to keep the disease contained, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has put in place a 93-square mile quarantine stretching from Baldwin Park and West Covina in the north, to La Habra in the south, to El Monte in the west and Walnut in the east.

The quarantine prohibits the removal of any citrus fruit from the property on which it is grown unless it is cleaned and commercially packed. Fruit may be processed and/or consumed on the premises.

Find the map at QUARANTINE.

Officials quarantine Hacienda Heights citrus


The discovery here last week of a bacterial disease with the potential to wipe out every citrus tree in California has federal, state and local agencies scrambling to stop its spread.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has instituted a 93-square-mile quarantine centered over the 60 Freeway and Hacienda Boulevard in Hacienda Heights.

The quarantine prohibits the removal of any citrus fruit from the property on which it is grown unless it is cleaned and commercially packed. Fruit may be processed and/or consumed on the premises.

“The success of any quarantine depends on cooperation from those affected,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the state agriculture department. “The stakes couldn’t be higher for California citrus. We urge residents in the Hacienda Heights area to do all they can to comply.”

The quarantine extends south into into Orange County, north into Baldwin Park and West Covina, west into South El Monte and Whittier and east into Walnut and Rowland Heights.

The quarantine is expected to last at least two years – the length of the latency period for the development of huanglongbing disease symptoms in an infected tree.

Read more in J.D. Velasco’s story CITRUS.

Sheriff’s captain reports on crime trends in Rowland Heights

Rowland Heights residents are invited to meet with law enforcement officials, political leaders and school officials next week to discuss issues affecting the city.

The Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council is hosting the 7 p.m. meeting April 9 at the Pathfinder Park Community Center, at the southeast corner of Pathfinder and Fullerton roads, RHCCC President Beth Hojnacke said in a written statement.

The meeting is to include two special reports. Capt. David Halm of the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station, which patrols Rowland Heights, will give a presentation on crime trends in the Rowland Heights area, Hojnacke said.

Additionally, Rowland Heights Unified School District Superintendent Maria Ott and other district officials will discuss the state of the RUSD budget.

Representatives of the offices of State Rep. Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe are expected to attend.

For more information, visit rhccc.netfirms.com.