Don’t mess with their New Year

Business owners in Monterey Park are not happy with plans to cut their normally two-day Chinese New Year celebration to four hours.

Several community members at Wednesday’s City Council meeting voiced concerns over a recommendation that would reduce the two-day festival to a four-hour event.

The annual event closes down Garvey Street and typically attracts about 70,000 people.

“(Supporting) the Chinese New Year attracts many people to Monterey Park,” said Maggie Lam. “They invest in our city and our merchants and stimulate our local economy.”

But Lam and other community members left the meeting disappointed when a decision on the festival was pushed to a special meeting today.

The company that put on the event in years past, Lang/Pan/Chan Public Relations, decided not to participate this year. And only one company, YES Marketing, has expressed interest in coordinating the event. And YES was not willing to pay the $20,000 the city had requested.

At the meeting, Assistant City Attorney Adrian Guerra requested more time for staff to review YES’s proposal and make a recommendation.

Something doesn’t add up…

I know it’s not necessarily city-hall related, but none the less, reporter Amanda Baumfeld’s story about school textbooks filled with errors will likely pick up speed in the coming days.

I wouldn’t be surprised if our local representatives get involved.

Here’s a snippet:

Newly purchased, state-approved K-5 math books are flooded with errors that include typos, answer-key mistakes and changes in terminology, officials said.

Azusa Unified School District received Texas editions of a teacher reference guide and have error- filled tests from publisher Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.

Covina-Valley Unified School District has to replace all its fifth-grade books after receiving a draft version from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


Reports of publisher error are as widespread as Riverside County, but officials at the California Department of Education said they are unaware of the problem.

Considering the fact that API test scores are such a big deal for schools, you would think the state would be more concerned with this problem. How are students supposed to succesfully learn California’s state math standards with error-filled textbooks from Texas???



Government jobs the way to go?

This week’s leftovers…..

We’ve probably all had a similar version of the “career talk” with our parents at some point in our lives: If you want to be successful and wealthy, be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer.

Well, there’s one more career path parents should add to the list: government jobs.

Excellent retirement and health benefits, job security and a shortened work week are just some of the advantages of government employment.

No industry is immune from failing in a sinking economy, but a Time magazine article released last week declared government-related jobs — particularly those in education and public safety — recession-proof.

Take El Monte’s city attorney Clarke Mosely. Despite the city’s $400,000 budget deficit, he still manages to pull in a base salary of $13,210 a month, plus health and retirement benefits that total $2,462 a month. And any time the chief of police gets a salary bump, so does the city attorney, according to Mosely’s contract.

His hours grant him enough time to work for the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, and he even gets Fridays off.

The four-day work week is an increasingly common trend among San Gabriel Valley cities. West Covina is the one of the most recent cities to shift to four 10-hour work days.

Another great perk is the notion of job security. While private companies across the nation are laying off workers by the thousands, the San Gabriel Valley has yet to see a city lay off any full-time employees.

According to Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, government employees — unlike those in the private sector — often hold the perspective that job security is 100 percent.

“Anything that suggests that someone may be let go is assumed to infringe on some fundamental right, but of course that is just because they are looking at it from a government employee’s perspective,” Scheer said.

Even in retirement, government employees still are reaping the benefits of a career in public service. Retirement packages usually include health benefits for life and a steady income. In some cases, public employees have ended up making more in their retirement than they did while working.

It’s no wonder nearly half of all people in the public sector take advantage of their retirement options, compared to only a quarter of people in private agencies, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute

Of course, not everything is rosy working for city government. There have been hiring freezes and part-time employees have lost their jobs. There are complaints from residents. There are budget problems. And every now and then, you get a city like Vallejo that has to file for bankruptcy.

Regardless, cities provide necessary services that force them to stay open for business. If you want to convert your garage into a bedroom, you have to go through the city. If you are retired and depend on lunches from the senior center, the city runs that program. And your trash isn’t going to pile up on the side of the road just because the city can’t afford its hauling contract anymore.

So, if the saying is true and you can’t beat City Hall, you may as well join it.

Comments anyone?

And then there were four….

19880-melaniejuarez.jpgWe’ve just received news Covina Councilwoman Meline D. Juarez is resigning to move to the Great Lakes area of Minnesota.

At the next City Council meeting, the remaining council members will have to decide whether to appoint someone to Juarez’ seat or wait until the March 2009 election to fill the empty spot.

It seems a special election may be out of the question considering budget concerns.

Anybody have any suggestions for who should take the spot?

Bye, bye Bisno

I wrote this story for today’s paper about Bisno Development Co. pulling out of the Baldwin Park redevelopment project. Apparently, Bisno is the latest victim of a faltering economy.

Looks like opponents of the project finally got what they wanted – though it seems residents can’t cry victory just yet. First of all, there is a possibility Bisno could come back in the future. 

Second of all, hopes of any development project in the downtown area anytime soon are likely going to take a back seat to the tanking economy. That means no face-lift of any kind.




Leftovers from El Monte city hall


While reporting this follow-up story on El Monte Mayor Ernie Gutierrez’ Tuesday arrest, I made a round of calls to the rest of the El Monte City Council. Here is what they had to say:

Emily Ishigaki: “It’s a huge disappointment and embarrassment to the people of El Monte.”

“He needs to start reflecting on what’s important to this community and he needs to redeem himself by caring about the community and not himself because it’s been about him all along. He needs to redeem himself and he needs to redeem himself by focusing on what’s best for the community.”

“He made his bed. He has to lay it in now.”


Pat Wallach: “Anytime something like this happens it’s a negative on the city. I think when you are in that position, you need to be above everything that you normally would be. He should be setting an example for young children in the community.”

“He is the leader to our community. We don’t need any more bad publicity.”

“I could ask until the cows come home and he won’t make a statement, that’s for sure. I don’t understand how he can just let it go and not say anything? But that’s the mayor.”

Better late than never

Most budgets — except for our State budget — were approved at the beginning of July, the start of the fiscal year.

In Covina, the city didn’t have a finance director and the final approval of the budget has been on hold. But as now that the city has an interim finance director and the state’s preliminary budget was approved, Covina’s budget got the final approval Tuesday night.

The city council adopted the 2008-09 budget, and it also got an update from its interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz on the state of the city’s finances. Like many cities, times are tough in Covina. The city has seen a $1 million decline in sales tax revenue. Much of this revenue is largely attributed to the auto industry, which we’ve all seen in recent weeks has got significant problems.

Also this week, Covina received a letter from the State that it would be tapping into Covina’s redevelopment funds by taking $522,000.

Give me my penny

The Covina City Council agreed to increase its trash fees by 6 percent on Tuesday, and officials said that water rate increases will follow next month.

The water rates won’t be nearly as high as those proposed at a study session in August, when rates were projected to increase as much as 35 percent. Because of the economic times, officials said, they are going to consider how to slightly increase the costs without over-burdening the residents.

Hey, at least Covina is trying to be sensitive, unlike the city of South Attleboro, MA. There, city officials threatened to put a lien on the home of a blind woman because she had an outstanding sewer and water bill of….drum roll please…. one penny! Read more.


Update on El Monte mayor arrest

I put in a records request earlier today for the police report detailing El Monte Mayor Ernie Gutierrez’ arrest. According to Police Chief Ken Weldon, I’ll get the report within 10 days. That’s the allotted time under the Public Records Act.

In the meantime, I did speak with the Deputy District Attorney handling the case and he told me the mayor may have been acting in self defense or there may have been mutual combat between Gutierrez and the alleged victim.

According to the evaluation worksheet the DA filed in relation to the case, a witness said the victim poured beer on Gutierrez.

There will be a follow-up story in tomorrow’s paper.

“We continue to fully support our mayor”

What are your 19732-chief_weldon.jpgt

houghts on this quote from Police Chief Ken Weldon:

“There was not enough evidence to move forward,” Weldon said. “We continue to fully support our mayor.”

Read more:

El Monte mayor arrested

EL MONTE – Ernie Gutierrez, the mayor of El Monte, was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of domestic violence and detained for most of the day, police said.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office refused to bring charges against Gutierrez, whose term expires in 2009, El Monte police Chief Ken Weldon said.

Gutierrez did not comment on the incident.

Police did not identify the victim, or indicate how they received the complaint.

Gutierrez was held by police while the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case. He was released when officials determined there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

Gutierrez was arrested about 2:15a.m. and was booked at L.A. County Jail, according to El Monte police Lt. Robert Roach.

“There was not enough evidence to move forward,” Weldon said. “We continue to fully support our mayor.”