Nunez, high school kids and Palm Springs

Well, it was a fairly painless council meeting. Painless in that it was only two hours long, council banter was kept relatively short and the agenda items moved right along. But here’s a quick recap:

A handful of protestors opposing Councilman John Nunez stood outside City Hall holding signs that said “resign now Nunez,” “Sexual harassment is wrong. Say no to Nunez,” and “A step down for Nunez is a step up for women.” The protestors got a few honks of approval from drivers passing by. But at 6:55 p.m., they wrapped up their protest and headed in the meeting. A couple of them spoke against Nunez and the harassment issue. And that’s when Nunez unleashed. More of that to come in Thursday’s paper.

There were a couple of agenda items authorizing funds from Rosemead, including the approval of $20,000 to eight San Gabriel High students for a trip to Washington, D.C. The kids, the principal and the students were sitting in the audience as Councilman Gary Taylor questioned whether the city should dish out the money. He said that in the past two weeks, the city spent $200,000 on various city organizations, which is just too much money. Councilwoman Margaret Clark seemed annoyed at the spending as well. But it was nothing personal against the kids, Taylor insisted. In the end, the kids got the money.

At the end of the meeting, Taylor mentioned something that wasn’t agendized about a city employee retreat that will be held in Palm Springs. Last year, 22 employees attended the retreat – and me too! – held in Rosemead. This time around, it will be only seven employees, and they will get dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and will be put up in a $114 a night hotel room. But the best part? The Tribune won’t be sending a reporter down there. On second thought…

Oh, and Clark went off for about 10 minutes because she was upset at the scheduling process for the general plan review process.

Oh, that Irwindale

In an interview with Irwindale resident Dena Zepeda about the city’s Citizen of the Year award, she makes a dig at the city’s shady past. He is a good person, Zepeda said of Sal Hernandez, whose selection as the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year was put on hold because the chamber found a ‘discrepency’ in the process.

I wouldnt stick up for him if were a child molester, spiked enchiliads or picked up a prostitute, Zepeda said. LOL! I don’t know if the chld molester reference has anything to do with Irwindale, but the spiked enchiladas and prostitution pick up sure do.

Metro Editor Edward Barrera wrote in his column: “In the early ’70s, Richard Diaz, who was a longtime mayor, was the target of a blackmail plot that involved spiked enchiladas, lewd pictures, drugged drinks and chloroform. All were an attempt to blackmail him into backing legalized gambling in the city. The effort failed, and people went to jail in connection with that mess.”

And this was reported in the Trib on Oct. 6, 2004 about former Irwindale City Manager Steve Blancarte:

Steven Joseph Blancarte Jr., 50, of Altadena was cited on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution Sept. 16.
Blancarte verified he was cited. An undercover officer arrested Blancarte about 7:50 p.m., then cited and released him, she said. Police made four arrests that night: Blancarte on suspicion of soliciting prostitution and three women for alleged prostitution.

More sexual harassment allegations surface


The sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Councilman John Nunez may have been settled, but information recently surfaced that indicates Nunez could have a habit of unprofessional conduct at Rosemead City Hall.

Here’s a copy of the investigative report.

UPDATE II: Just got a call from Rosemead Partner’s president, Steven Ly, saying that members of the political action committee will be protesting Nunez outside of City Hall at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The Rosemead City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m., and is located at 8838 E. Valley Blvd. in Rosemead.

Fresh and Easy, and no stupid club cards

Opinion’s editor Steve Scauzillo may not approve of Fresh and Easy, but I gotta tell you, having something that resembles a Trader Joes or Whole Foods in West Covina is a blessing.

I’ve been to the store about six times since Fresh and Easy opened in West Covina, and I love it. So Scauzillo says the packaged foods are loaded in sodium. Duh. What packaged foods aren’t? Fresh and Easy is worth a visit if you want a break from rowdy kids running in the aisles or are tired of having people run you over with their carts. Carts are small, and no one seems to have discovered the store. It is never crowded, and the self-check out lines scare away incompetent people who can’t figure out how to work them.

And best of all: It’s cheap. Plus, there’s no damn “club card” you have to sign up for and remember to bring at each visit. (I have about five of these cards to stores and I get annoyed each time I’m asked to use it but then realize I took it out of my wallet because I got tired of carrying it.)

The next Los Angeles County city to get the store could be Baldwin Park.

We just report the news

Since writing the story on the recent surge in gang violence in Monrovia, Ive received a myriad of calls, e-mails and letters from residents, students and even former home-grown Monrovians.

Ive also received a call from Lionel Chambers, who professes himself as the, the only black civil rights leader thats willing to stand up and make a stand out there in Monrovia.

I commend his passion my problem is he insists that I set up a meeting with other television news stations, gang leaders, city officials and residents to discuss the problem.
Hes left several messages for me, asking that I Get back with (him) on that meeting, and the phone numbers to Channel 4, Channel 5, Channel 7 and Channel 11.

OK, if someone else facilitated such a forum, Id be there in a heartbeat. But when did I literally become a newsmaker? People often think that because we report on a problem, that automatically means we need to facilitate the solution. No, we just report the news.

This is where people like Chambers should be taking the lead. He can start with the yellow pages.

First thing on the agenda: Give Torres more power


This just in from Montebello. I don’t understand how it will increase efficiency. Do you?

MONTEBELLO – In its first meeting since re-hiring City Administrator, Richard Torres, the City Council will consider giving him more negotiating power.

The council, on Wednesday, will vote on a ordinance that would allow the city administrator to carry out certain contracts on the city’s behalf with an increased level of authority. If approved it would increase the dollar amount on contracts that are signed by Torres.

The action is expected to increase efficiency and provide flexibility for the city when reaching agreements or making purchases, according to staff reports.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1600 West Beverly Boulevard.

The public’s right to know

My appreciation for the Irwindale City Clerk’s office reached a whole new level today when a request I made at 11:30 a.m. was ready for my pick up just two hours later. The request – two staff reports that were prepared in April of last year – was not complicated.

But I have made similar requests at other city halls, and the staff makes it seem like I asked for the Dead Sea Scrolls. Take Montebello, for example. Yesterday, I spent all day requesting copies of contracts that should have been made available to me on Tuesday. It wasn’t until five phone calls and a written records request that I got what I needed – at 5 p.m.

City hall’s aren’t the only ones who give us at the newsroom a hard time. Reporter Brian Day spent four hours today and over a dozen calls haggling with the Sheriff’s department to get a name of a murder suspect. And after all that, the cops said nope, you won’t get it. Wait till the press conference tomorrow.

As much as I know how reporters can be a pain, it’s our right and the public’s right to have this information. When agencies stall, it makes us wonder what they’re trying to hide. Irwindale does not have the cleanest record in the world, but at least their clerk’s office is efficient.

For the Record

This just in from Staff Writer Dan Abendschein:

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting Councilman Kevin Stapleton spent a few minutes lamenting the fact that we had been so active in covering the DA’s Brown Act violation case against the city while it was an open case, but had not bothered to run an article when the
case was dismissed.

You won’t read that in the newspaper, was the way Stapleton put it, a familiar refrain from this City Council.

Problem is, like so many times in the past when members of the council have made this complaint, we actually did write the story, on December 3 of 2007.

Here it is, For the Record:

COVINA – The district attorney’s office asked the state Attorney
General’s office for an opinion on whether the city was allowed to
make a redevelopment loan in closed session. The city and DA differ
in their interpretations of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which governs how
public meetings are conducted.

The DA’s Public Integrity Division dropped an open-meeting violation
case against Covina last week with the understanding that the
Attorney General would give a clear interpretation of the law.

The case was filed in response to a complaint from Bob Low, a former
Covina mayor and frequent council critic.

The complaint centered around a December 2005 City Council meeting
where the council went into closed session and agreed to issue a
$1.75 million redevelopment loan to a local business.

Both the DA and city agreed the matter was best left to state

“This is an equitable and economic solution that will save taxpayers
the money it would cost to try this case,” said Deputy District
Attorney Jennifer Snyder.

Snyder said that her office’s aim was not to punish Covina, but to
establish whether decisions about redevelopment loans can be held in

“The ultimate outcome is what we want: either a decision that
vindicates us, or clear reasons why our interpretation is off,”
Snyder said. “We’re confident our interpretation is solid.”

Paul Phillips, Covina city manager, said the dismissal of the
complaint was an exoneration of the city.

“I think it proves we were clearly following the law as we understood
it,” Phillips said.

The dismissal ensures that the city will not face any penalty, no
matter what opinion the Attorney General’s office issues, Snyder
said. She added that the opinion will likely not come out of the
office for at least six months.

Covina’s attorneys had maintained that there were entitled to meet in
closed-session under a Brown Act exemption for real-estate price

But Snyder argued that the 2005 loan to Bert’s Mega Mall, a
motorcycle and watercraft business on Azusa Avenue, did not involve
the “purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property,” which are
the activities the Brown Act allows for closed-session real-estate

Snyder noted the city rescinded the action and re-made the loan in
open-session, which was a factor in the office’s reasoning in
dropping the case

Muscles, statues and West Covina

This is from staff writer Alison Hewitt:

Here’s a funny bit of news out of West Covina.

A statue of a generic baseball player about to swing a bat is planned for the parking lot
of a new shopping center in West Covina, as part of the city’s public art requirement. Apparently, there was some unexpected controversy at recent Planning Commission meetings about whether, in light of
baseball’s steroids scandal, the statue was too muscular.

A couple of gadflies who frequently comment at city meetings and at least one planning commissioner said the muscular appearance of the baseball player was inappropriate due to the recent steroid
controversy in professional baseball, according to an official summary of the meeting.

The development’s project manager consulted with the artist and they agreed that the eyes had a kind of intense look to them and they thought they could tone it down a little, Planning Director Doug
McIssac recalled. But they opposed changing the muscles since it would involve an expensive redesign, McIssac said.

The city’s Art is Public Places consultant spoke in favor of the statue, noting that the muscles helped represent the heroic concept the artist was trying to convey.

The statue was approved on a 4-1 vote, muscles and all. Commissioner Gordon Fisher opposed it because of its overly muscular build. The statue is one of two that will go up eventually in West Covina’s Home
Depot-Target shopping center south of the new, baseball-centric Big League Dreams sports complex.