$100,000 water director to be sworn in tonight

Former Central Basin Water District Director Charles Trevino will be sworm in tonight as the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District director at its office in El Monte. The event is basically just for Trevino’s supporters, friends and family. Trevino replaces long timer Frank Forbes, who served on the board for nearly 16 years.

Trevino, who resigned from the Central Basin water board in 2003, is the same candidate who stated he was prepared to raise up to $100,000 to get elected, acccording to a story I wrote on Sept. 27, 2008.

“Money is always a key factor in anything political,” said Charles Trevino , who as of June collected $39,000 and is the top fundraiser among the candidates running for the El Monte-based Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District. “I am prepared to spend between $80,000 to $100,000 if I have to.”

When the campaign records become available in January, we’ll just have to see how much it really took him.

Just say ‘no’

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Montebello officials don’t want their underage residents puffing on cigarettes they’re not old enough to buy.

So they’re thinking about adopting a tobacco ordinance that would enforce stricter rules on businesses that sell tobacco, Amanda Baumfeld reports.

Currently, if a Montebello business sells tobacco to a minor the clerk who sold it is cited and could get a fine of about $200, Gordon said.

Under the proposed ordinance the business owner would be responsible.

After the first offense a business would be banned from selling tobacco products for 30 days. The second offense would result in a 90-day license suspension. And if a third offense occurs in a 60-month period the seller’s license would be suspended indefinitely, Gordon said.

 

Councilmembers among those to take 10 percent pay cut

Looks like El Monte police chief Ken Weldon is retiring in the nick of time:

In addition, city manager James Mussenden, future police chief Tom Armstrong, and city council members all took 10 percent pay cuts. City attorney Clark Moseley will retire early and work on a contractual basis for the next five months – saving the city in benefit payments.

El Monte cuts employees, programs
Article Launched: 12/17/2008 11:04:31 PM PST

By Rebecca Kimitch

EL MONTE – Jobs will be cut, programs will be reduced and high-level administrators will take pay cuts to help the city deal with a $4 million budget deficit. And the city is still more than $1 million shy of a balanced budget.

The city council unanimously approved the cost-cutting plan Wednesday night.

Departments across the city, from planning to parks and recreation to the police department, were asked to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

More than 100 full and part time positions will be eliminated temporarily or permanently.

The aquatic center will be closed from January to May; some after school recreation programs will be eliminated; and park lighting will be reduced. Trees will be trimmed less; parks and medians will be watered less.

Employees will cut their attendance of conferences and overtime will be reduced.

In addition, city manager James Mussenden, future police chief Tom Armstrong, and city council members all took 10 percent pay cuts. City attorney Clark Moseley will retire early and work on a contractual basis for the next five months – saving the city in benefit payments.

The police department, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the city’s $33.7 million budget that could potentially be cut, will reduce its budget by 6 percent through elimination of several positions.

In all, city staff found $2.9 million in budget cuts.

City officials are still in negotiations with union leaders that could produce pay cuts, further layoffs or shorter work weeks for police officers and other city employees. Officials hope the labor negotiations will “soften the blow” of the approved cost-cutting plan and begin to address future budget shortfalls in the coming years, according to assistant city manager Dante Hall.

Without the plan, the city could have run out of cash by Februay to pay salaries and other expenses. The city has drained its operating reserves, which are used to meet monthly expenses, and it has no rainy day fund.

With the council-approved plan, the city will operate with $2 million in operating reserves – $3 million less than what is ideal.

Officials attribute the deficit to a major drop in sales tax revenue and a reduction in funds from the state.

Block by block reporting

Like many of my compatriots in the journalism biz, I am a bit of a news junkie. And with the formation of the Internet (thanks Al Gore) I am often cruising the net for interesting tidbits and news.

Today, while reading about the downfall of this industry in a story from Slate.com, I came across an interesting site called Everyblock.

This site is a news delivery internet site that breaks down news delivery to a block by block system. It doesn’t cover San Gabriel cities (yet) but this type of news delivery could be part of all online newspapers in the future (according to me). While it won’t replace the news reporting you are used to, it could be a welcomed accessory to newspapers new online world.

What do you think of the site? Check it out, look around and let me know.

Bisno just can’t catch a break

Looks like developer Bob Bisno’s failed Baldwin Park project isn’t the only one that’s hit a snag…..

 

Developer of San Pedro’s Ponte Vista plan is ousted



Bob Bisno, the developer who polarized San Pedro with his plans for a 1,950-unit condo complex, has been ousted from the project’s development team.

A division of Credit Suisse bank, Bisno’s top investor, has assumed control of the controversial Ponte Vista project, the development team announced Friday.

La Puente plaque mystery solved?

So I finally got my hands on the original designs for the plaques at the La Puente Community Center — and I say original because they are significantly different from the final designs that are sitting inside the community center today.

Here’s the original design:

plaques001.pdf

It includes the names of former councilwoman Renee Chavez, former Mayor Lou Perez and former City Manager Carol Cowley.

And here’s the new design:

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No Chavez, no Perez and no Cowley.

You might remember a story I wrote a few weeks back about claims that Louie Lujan asked a Chevron official to take the names of former Councilwoman Renee Chavez and former Mayor Lou Perez off the plaques.

Perez said Ken Casey, business development manager for Chevron, told him Chevron wanted to include the names of the previous council members because they were the ones who actually approved the project. Perez said Casey also told him after Lujan disapproved of the designs, Chevron refused to pay for the plaques.

In a recent conversation, Councilman John Solis backed up those claims, saying he was told the same story by former City Manager Carol Cowley.

Lujan called the allegations ridiculous, said he knew nothing about any “original” designs (as they never went before the council) and questioned why Perez was even concerned about the situation since he’s not involved in city politics anymore.

The city paid for the plaques from its own coffers — $1,467. Though industry experts tell me it’s standard from the contractor to usually eat that cost.

My question is how did the city get from point A (original design) to point B (current design)? Hopefully not at any cost to the taxpayers.

 

Immigration up for discussion

It’s back.

The debate over whether to allow day laborers to solicit work in parking lots is up for discussion — again — at Baldwin Park City Hall tonight.

According to the City Council’s agenda, Councilman Anthony Bejarano asked that the infamous Ordinance No. 1310 be placed on the agenda for a second reading tonight.

Baldwin Park has unsuccessfully tried several times to address the day laborer situation at its Puente Avenue Home Depot since the summer of 2007. But pressure from Latino advocacy groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund have squashed those efforts.

The most recent one was about a year ago. The proposed ordinance — 1310 — would have limited the uses of parking lots for things like parking and accessing buildings, and would have banned day laborers from soliciting work or street vendors from selling products there.

The ordinance was tabled before the it could go for a second reading, or final approval.

I can almost guarantee if the council revives this ordinance, MALDEF will be firing up their attorneys pretty quickly.

 

Covina seat to stay open until March

A vacant position created when Councilwoman Meline Juarez resigned in November will remain empty until the March election, the city council decided on Tuesday.

Juarez ended her four-year term three months early because she moved out of state to be closer to family.

The council had the option to temporarily fill Juarez’s position until the March 3 election, but decided to keep the position vacant.

“There are only three meetings left, and the council decided they could function with the four of them until then,” said city spokeswoman Bobbi Kemp.

‘The truth is the Mayor is living at City Hall’

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South El Monte Councilman Hector Delgado sent this letter to the Tribune earlier this week. Among his accusations is that Mayor Blanca Figueroa lives in City Hall. Figueroa has denied this, saying that she has a home but has so much work to do that she needs City Hall to be open late.

Here is the letter:

I would like to take a moment to thank my colleagues on the South El Monte City Council for their support in establishing an “After Hours” policy on a 4-1 vote. The effort and thought that went into establishing this policy is reflective of the genuine concern to address the issue of safety and liability.

Our communities’ safety and tax payer money clearly outweighs a single person’s individual desires. I question the work that is allegedly being done by the Mayor at city hall after hours. I have repeatedly asked what work is being done at two or three in the morning by her. She has refused to answer me or any of my colleagues.

We as tax payers have a right to know what the Mayor is doing. I call on the Mayor to provide the entire council, city manager, and most importantly our residents written reports that account for the work she purportedly is doing and provide us an explanation as to why with a laptop, wireless card, cell phone, fax and copy machine she cannot do her work from her home.

The truth is the Mayor is living at City Hall. I invite any resident of South El Monte to come and see for them selves. Residents have every right to view our offices and know exactly what we are doing while we are at City Hall.

Lastly, I would like the Tribune to poll any elected official in the San Gabriel Valley, and ask them if they stay in their public offices until two or three in the morning several days a week.

Once again, I thank my colleagues, Mayor ProTem Louie Aguinaga, Council members Joseph Gonzales, and Angelica Garcia who understand that safety and liability clearly out weights the Mayors extraordinary accommodations.

Hector Delgado

Councilmember

City of South El Monte