Rosemead round up

Tomorrow is the Rosemead council meeting, and the most exciting thing about it isn’t on the agenda: The City Council Chambers are finally completed.

For anyone who has ever been to a Rosemead meeting before, you know why this is exciting. I’m hoping this means that, for starters, we will actually be able to hear what speakers saying, and won’t have to look at the “No Soking” sign anymore.

But in case you are interested, here are the agenda highlights:

1. The City Council is considering hiring a consultant to look at employee positions and define job duties, and to see if the duties are administered correctly compared with pay amount.

2. The City Council will likely hire a consultant to ensure that they don’t mess up the elections like they did three years ago by not providing voter registration in multiple languages.

3. The City Council will vote on a $57,000 contract to get the staff reports online and other recrods.

4. The City Council will vote on awarding a contract to the Nazerian Group for construction of the Rosemead Park Trail Enhancement.

5. The city has been asked by Savannah Memorial Park and the San Gabriel High School Football Team. Each want about $15,000 for their organizations.

Coming to America

I just received this e-mail from La Puente pastor and Mt. Sac Professor Edward Romero’s friend and unofficial spokesman:

Just gone midnight and I’ve been woken by a call from Rosie Romero telling me Eddie is on his way home and will arrive San Francisco tommorrow some time. More details as they arrive.
Tony

The message was sent at 8:30 this morning. We had heard reports yesterday that Romero had in fact – as promised – turned himself into Chinese authorities forvandalizingthe walls of two Beijing hotel rooms in opposition to Chinese oppression.

This was his last Twitter post, uploaded two days ago:

All is going as well. Last twit till surrender on sunday, 10pm Beijing time. Live audio stream of surrender atwww.exodus

8one.orgGIG

At the Web site for Romero’s project, Exodus8One.org, there apparently is audio of Romero’s surrender in Tiananmen Square (seems fitting).

Also, these pictures from the site:

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Geez! Where the heck was this guy living? He really meant it when he said he was hiding out in a “hobbit hole.”

When gas was cheap

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This weekend, I visited the Petersen Automotive Museum. (Not by choice; my Dad wanted to see it.) But it ended up being a really interesting museum, and told a great story of how cars shaped the culture and landscape of Los Angeles.

One thing that caught my eye was a display of old gas pumps.

First, it was interesting because the gas prices are so low! (Yes, that says 28 cents a gallon!)

Secondly, one of the pumps resembled the pumps spotted at an abdandoned gas station on Shamrock in Monrovia. Any one know anything about that abandoned station?

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Big money in little city

 

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Some people I talked to, both on and off the record, said that they were surprised that Rosemead Mayor John Tran has raised $100,000 for a local race. Tran says that he has done so because of his surprise two years ago that Wal-Mart contributed so much to back former Councilman Jay Imperial and Councilman Gary Taylor during a recall election.

“The last time I ran, Wal-Mart contributed over $400,000 to a local election and taht was an eye-opener. I want to make sure I have enough funds to get my point across,” Tran told me on Friday.

(As far as any speculation goes about Tran raising money for the Assembly, that can be put to rest right now, Tran said. He is now just focusing on the city council race, as well as on his family.)

Here’s my story that ran today:

Mayor outpaces all others in money for City Council race
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/24/2008 07:07:36 AM PDT

ROSEMEAD – Mayor John Tran is leading the fundraising pack and has collected more than $100,000 for a City Council election that is seven months away, finance records show.

The city’s election will be held in March, and candidates will be vying for three open seats currently held by Tran, Councilwoman Margaret Clark and Councilman John Nuez.

Officials said they are surprised that Tran, who is seeking his second term on the council, has raised so much money so early.

“It’s outrageous,” said Clark. “We are a little city. It is outside money trying to buy power.”

Campaign finance records show that from January to June, Tran raised $102,218; Nuez raised $31,684; and Clark raised $1,969.

Also actively fundraising this period is Councilwoman Polly Low, whose seat is not up until 2011. She raised $37,407 this period.

Rosemead is a city of nearly 55,000 residents. Traditionally, candidates have raised no more than $50,000.

But a recall election in 2006 prompted by the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter heightened the bar for fundraising efforts.

During that race, Wal-Mart contributed nearly $400,000 to support the recall targets: Councilman Gary Taylor and former Councilman Jay Imperial.

Taylor and Imperial were not recalled.

Read more.

City sets Sept. 2 move date for mobile home residents

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Looks like the Plaza Del Sol development in South El Monte will be completed soon, after a three year stall. Here’s part of a story I wrote for Monday’s paper:

SOUTH EL MONTE — After a three-year battle to keep their homes, five remaining families at a Durfee Avenue mobile home park are packing up their things, officials said.

As part of a settlement agreement finalized three weeks ago between the city, residents and owner of Avalon Trailer Park, the tenants have until Sept. 2 to vacate the property. That will pave the way for the completion of a commercial retail center dubbed “Plaza Del Sol.”

“I’m glad it’s finally come to an end and we’ll be able to start our development that will benefit our whole community,” said Mayor Blanca Figueroa said.

Linda Griegorian is trustee of the Linda Griegorian Revocable Trust — which owned the property in the 1800 block of Durfee Avenue. She had been attempting to sell the land to Beverly Hills-based Primestor Development, Inc. for about three years, said Paul Parilla, Griegorian’s attorney.

While 17 of the property’s 22 tenants accepted assistance offers to move, five tenants held out, arguing they were entitled to more relocation benefits, Parilla said.

“They felt they needed additional funding beside what was offered by the private party,” City Manager Anthony Ybarra said.

In June, eviction actions were filed against the five tenants. One month later, the residents filed suit against the trust, the city, the Community Development Commission and Primestor, Parilla said.

“Once the lawsuit was filed, the CDC got involved and the city manager and I tried to bring all parties together to be able to find some common ground and arrive at an amicable settlement,” City Attorney James Casso said.

According to the settlement agreement, signed July 31, the tenants will split $210,000, $5,000 of which will go to their attorney.

“It’s a little, not a lot,” said Feliciano Gomez, 82, one of the residents who sued. “But it’s OK. I have to take it. I’ve been here more than 20 years.”

Gomez will be leaving his trailer, which he bought for $5,000, and moving into a room in a house nearby. He said he plans to start packing his things this week.

Once all the residents have moved out, officials say Primestor can begin developing a commercial retail pad to complement the already-constructed Superior Market.

Together, the two developments will make up Plaza Del Sol.

Let’s go to Mexico

Pico Rivera might be in fiscal crisis, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the money to send a delegation to Mexico for four days.

Whittier Daily News reporter Airan Scruby reports:

PICO RIVERA — City officials are mum on the cost of sending a delegation on a biannual visit to Sister City San Luis Potosi, Mexico, this month.

City Manager Chuck Fuentes said Pico Rivera paid for one city employee, Ray Chavez, to go as an official liaison to the Sister City. It also paid for Mayor Ron Beilke, Councilman Bob Archuleta and for Sister City Commission Chairwoman Grace Gallegos to attend. Miss Pico Rivera also went on the city’s dime
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Guests of those people were not paid for by the city, Fuentes said, and other community members who chose to go did not receive financial help from City Hall.

However, the cost of the four-day trip is not yet known, Fuentes said.

Interim Finance Director John Herrera said Friday that spending records would not be available for another week. He said he did not have access Friday to the amount budgeted for the trip because he was out of the office.

*****
Archuleta said he was not sure of the numbers, but he believed the cost came out to about $1,200 to $1,300 per person, and that Miss Pico Rivera’s tickets were partially paid for by fundraisers.

Some questioned the necessity of the trip, considering the city faces a $4.8 million deficit if voters do not approve a 1 percent sales-tax hike in November.
*****
“It has zero benefit to the residents of Pico Rivera,” Salcido said. “It’s a city-paid vacation.”

What do you guys think?

 

Medical mystery solved

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In a story Star-News reporter Alfred Lee writes in Monday’s paper, Temple City Councilman David Capra’s medical mystery is addressed.

Apparently, Capra suffered a mild stroke.

Lee writes: Capra added that although he is still in physical therapy, he has recovered “100 percent, mentally.”

“I’m feeling great and the progress is remarkable,” he said. “I look at things with more open eyes, a more open heart. It just changes things, because I was on a death bed and I got a second chance.”

Leftovers column…

Once again, this week’s installment. I can hear the phones ringing already on this one:

West Covina Councilman Roger Hernandez had an interesting idea last week about how to save the city some dough: Get rid of the public information officer.

It wasn’t anything personal, he said. He just didn’t understand why a city really needed a PIO, a position that reaps nearly $100,000 annually in West Covina, including benefits.

As expected, the suggestion didn’t sit well with everyone — namely the PIO herself, Sue Williams, and Councilman Mike Touhey, who said Hernandez’s public recommendation violated employee rights.

Whether Williams’ position should get axed is a discussion for the council and city management. But the suggestion brings up an interesting question: What are the responsibilities of PIOs and how effective are they, considering some of them make over a $100,000 a year?

As reporters, we’re used to working with PIOs. Often, agencies will make us run our questions by them first before getting any information.

And on some occasions, these media liaisons are extremely helpful.

In Los Angeles County, Judy Hammond is the premier PIO. Any time we’ve got questions, she’s got answers, or at least she knows from whom we can get the answers from.

But this is an agency with a budget in the billions, thousands of employees, and a directory that is so confusing it actually saves time to go through the PIO instead of leaving messages in the voice mail black hole.

The question then becomes whether smaller agencies like Covina, Rosemead, El Monte, Pico Rivera and Pasadena need such positions.

While each of these cities would prefer we go through their PIOs for all questions, we often find it is easier and quicker to just sidestep and go straight to the source.

So if reporters are avoiding these liaisons, what else are they doing and who else are they talking to? And is their job really worth $100,000?

In La Puente, city officials chose earlier this year to “redirect” the funds that normally went to PIO Jeff Schenkel into another program. His contract didn’t go over $25,000 annually.

Touhey said that in West Covina, it has been the PIO’s role to manage the newsletter, press releases, and the cable program — when it was running.

In Pasadena, the vision is clear: “The Public Affairs Division is the information link between city government, the community and the media.” It produces the community newsletter, prepares and distributes news releases, and answers media inquiries.

In Rosemead, the responsibility of the PIO, whose base salary is $84,000, ranges from managing and upgrading the city’s Web site to publicizing city programs.

She also has an intern and staff assisting her.

“There is a misperception out there about the position. Some people wonder, ‘What does a public affairs person really do?’” Rosemead City Manager Oliver Chi said. “But in Rosemead, we send a ton of responsibilities her way.”