Craigslist foreshadowing

And some of you laughed at me at the my random Craigslist blog post. I just call it foreshadowing on the story that Amanda Baumfeld reported today.

COVINA – Stevan Ortiz and his girlfriend planned to move into a three-bedroom home on Calera Avenue on Thursday.

The couple – expecting their second child in June – gave notice at their apartment in Baldwin Park, bought a washer and dryer and even made plans to pick up a dog.

But Tuesday afternoon, Ortiz, 22, discovered he was among a group of people who appear to have been victims of real estate fraud.

“We made so many plans,” said Ortiz, who tried contacting the owner over the weekend. “I had this in the back of my mind when I couldn’t get ahold of him.”

Few women serving on water boards

I just came up with a list of public water board officials that are elected that serve all the SGV and Whittier areas – a total of 16 agencies. Out of 81 elected officials, 13 of them are women.

That’s 16 percent.

That seems really low. I wonder how that number stacks up to the city council’s.

Water coverage

As you may have noticed, there have been more stories and blog entries about water agencies, water officials and water issues. Thats because I am now assigned to the water beat.

The stories that I would like to focus on are those of malfeasance. There are about 45 public water agencies in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier areas, and about half of them have elected water officials. As weve seen from Dolores Holguin, Xavier Alvarez and Albert Robles,* elected water officials certainly have their share of legal troubles.

And these people are responsible for making decisions that affect nearly 2 million people, and are running budgets that are larger than those of many cities.

But there is more to water just like in government than corruption. Gasp. So, the Tribune will also be running stories covering the water crisis we are in now.

So far, it hasn’t been easy learning about water. The learning curve is extremely high. Last weekend, I went on a trip to a Metropolitan Water District of Southern California trip to the Colorado River Aqueduct with a bus full of people invited by director John Morris, who represents the small and affluent community of San Marino. San Marino is one of 26 member agencies of the MWD, and was part of the original 11 when the district formed in 1926.

During the two-day trip, we stopped at several reservoirs, dams and pumping stations. What I found amazing was that the technology in the 1930s and 1940s was enough to provide water to millions of residents, even until today.

During the trip, I asked everyone dozens of questions about water, the challenges of water, how we get our water and how we should prepare for future water problems. For each answer, I felt as though I had five more questions. The complexity of the water industry is one of the reasons that no one pays attention including the media to water. As one director put it, People go the faucet, water comes out, so the public doesnt think there is a problem.

As the water industry deals with increasing environmental pressures, that means that we will pay for it. Thats not just on our water bills. But just as it took a nearly $220 million bond measure approved by voters during the Depression, building new canals or developing new technology is going to come with a price to tax payers.

What Im hoping is that within the next six months, my stories on water will expose corruption, tell the story on water, and make it easier to understand how water works. That way, when were asked to pay for new water projects, well know what the issues are.

*Dolores Holguin is a former Valley County Water Director who is being investigated for misusing public funds. Valley County is out of Baldwin Park. Xavier Alvarez is a Three Valleys Municipal Water District director who is being investigated for lying about having received the Medal of Honor. There are also charges now that he lied about still being married to his wife, who has been receiving health benefits. Albert Robles, a director at the Water Replenishment District, is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly distributing illegal mailers.

Solis’ divine intervention

I just got off the phone with a Home Depot spokeswoman who confirmed the company is in talks with Baldwin Park officials about a solution to the citys day laborer issue.

You might remember several articles I did a while back on this topic: one failed ordinance barring day laborers from soliciting work, a second failed attempt at another, slightly different ordinance barring day laborers from soliciting work, and a lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund that was eventually dropped.

Anyway, Councilman Ricardo Pacheco tells me they are trying to negotiated an agreement with Home Depot to build a day laborer center near the Puente Avenue home improvement store.

It sounds like they are still working out some glitches, but the parties are expected to meet in closed session on May 7 to possibly finalize an agreement.

Of course, some big questions still remain: whose gonna build it? Whose gonna pay for it? Whose gonna run it? And whose gonna assume liability for it?

Im sure those details will be ironed out.

As a final note, everyone tells me Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, got her little hands involved in the whole issue speeding up talks between Home Depot and the city.

As Pacheco put it: It took an act of Congress.

You can say that again.

A look at Bob Bisno

I’ve just confirmed some interesting information about the state of developer Robert Bisno’s economic affairs. I’ll be working over the next several days on trying to get a story in the paper.

If you don’t already know, Bisno is proposing a multi-million dollar development in Baldwin Park that would essentially transform 125 acres of the downtown – for better or for worse, depending on what side your on.

Bisno’s got an interesting track record, including a development in Santa Ana that is apparently causing quite an uproar. I’m trying to find out more about this as well. Anyone heard anything about that project?

Willard Murray in news again


A former four-term Assemblyman is still serving two masters even though the Attorney General said he shouldn’t. Willard Murray, who represents the Water Replinishment District of Southern California and West Basin on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, has continued to sit on these boards despite a ruling that said he shouldn’t.

What wasn’t in the story is that Murray gets paid by West Basin for his MWD representation, at $207 a meeting. He also gets a car allowance and a phone allowance. Interesting, because he gets those same things from WRD, and also gets paid for his meeting attendance. I haven’t researched it, but I am going to assume that he also gets a nice retirement package for all those years he spent on the Assembly.

Murray’s son is also a representative on the MWD, and Murray’s daughter works for the District Attorney’s office. I’m sure the lectures Murray gave to his children went something along the lines of: “Government jobs are the way to go.”

I wish I would have gotten that lecture.

Everybody’s working for the weekend

Alright, it’s Friday!!!! What a perfect night for a … meeting?

Rosemead City Council is having a special meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to reconsider a land use designation from medium density residential to low density residential. I’m sure there is a reason that they are having the meeting tonight, but come on. It’s the start of the weekend!

In course you’re wondering, no, I won’t be covering the meeting. Not because I have crazy weekend plans, but I’ll still be at work cranking out stories for the weekend.