Slaughterhouse won’t have to fly coop

The city’s only slaughterhouse is going  to expand, Rebecca Kimitch reports.

Council approves slaughterhouse expansion
Article Launched: 12/17/2008 09:26:42 AM PST

ROSEMEAD – The city council voted last night to allow poultry slaughterhouses in Rosemead, despite accusations of corruption and fears of avian flu from residents.

The 3-2 decision was made in order to allow one already existing slaughterhouse to expand, but it would also allow new slaughterhouses to open in various areas of the city.

“People don’t know that this is happening all over… this ordinance tonight is effecting every manufacturing zone in the city,” said councilwoman Margaret Clark, who, along with Councilman Gary Taylor, voted against the municipal code change to allow slaughterhouses.

Chinese American Live Poultry, which freshly kills chickens and ducks for customers at its store on 8932 Garvey Ave., will benefit most immediately from the change.

If the council confirms its vote in a second reading next month, CAL Poultry will be allowed to expand its facilities. Owner Quan Phu says the expansion is necessary to reduce odors from the slaughterhouse, which have long bothered nearby residents.

Slaughterhouses have been prohibited in Rosemead since 2001. CAL Poultry opened a decade before that. It was allowed to stay, but it was prohibited from expanding.

Read more.

Rebuilding downtown Covina

Downtown Covina seems to be in a bit of a renaissance. After the Covina Center for Permforming Arts opened last October, a number of new businesses have opened. Among the newest members to the downtown are Claros, a wine bar on Badillo, and Rude Dogs is expanding. They also opened the new parking garage a few weeks ago.

The owner of the performing arts center said business has been great. So good that shows, including the Christmas Carol, are sold out.

Of course, not everything is merry in downtown. Several businesses are closing.

More on this story later in the week.

Industry asking for HUGE loan

The city is asking its 82 registered voters to give the city permission to borrow $500 million.
On Jan. 20 – the same day Barack Obama will be inaugurated – the city will hold a special election in which voters will decide whether to let the city sell bonds, which would be repaid by property taxes.
Mayor Dave Perez said most of the money would probably go toward widening Grand Avenue and doing other infrastructure around the proposed NFL stadium/retail center project.
In a story about the project, experts said the loan amount sought is uncommonly large.
Voters will also vote on five other amendments to the city charter, including one that would limit who can vote and another that would give the City Council complete discretion over who gets city public works contracts.

Chin’s prospects for foundation funding looking slim

Garvey School District Board of Education vice president Janet Chin is hoping to get $57,000 from the Rosemead City Council tonight, but she may walk away disappointed.

Chin is looking for funding for her organization, the M. Janet Chin Youth Foundation.

The city has about the requested amount left in its budget for community-based organizations, but the Rosemead Youth Association is also hoping for some support and city staff has recommended that the council reject Chin’s request for funds.

In addition to lacking the money, staff concluded that Chin’s organization would duplicate efforts already going on in the Parks and Recreation Department.

The funding would go to the Foundation’s Operation Civic Pride program that aims to increase civic engagement among young people. Chin says the program would complement city programs, not duplicate them. It would feature a volunteer database to provide young people opportunities to volunteer in the community, she said.

UPDATE: FPPC rejects claim by Herfert

One day after Roger Hernandez was sworn in as Mayor of West Covina, Councilman Steve Herfert filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Hernandez violated two government code sections.

Herfert alleges that Hernandez is trying to influence the outcome of a proposed settlement with the city’s Community Development Director, Chris Chung, who is demanding $3 million from the city because of the alleged hostile work environment Hernandez subjected him to.

But on Nov. 25, the FPPC returned the complaint, stating that the information Herfert provided was “insufficient to established a violation of the Act,” wrote executive director Roman Porter.

In his Nov. 19 complaint, Herfert states:

“Mr. Hernandez is participating in legal discussions regarding a lawsuit involving the City of West Covina and Chris Chung, Community Development Director. At the heart of the lawsuit is a contention that Mr. Hernandez has created a hostile work environemnt for Mr. Chung. The lawsuit is confidential at this time and I cannot release any documents. However I am attaching a copy of a confidential letter I have sent to the City Manager of West Covina… .”

Herfert goes on:

“My complaint involved Mr. Hernandez participating in our closed session and trying to influence the outcome of the lawsuit. In the closed session of November 4, he proposed a financial deal and participated fully.”

Witnesses are needed for a valid FPPC complaint. The signed witnesses are City Manager Andrew Pasmant, City Attorney Arnold Glasman, and Councilwoman Sherri Lane, records show.

Here is the confidential letter Herfert send to the City Manager:

This letter is to serve notice that participation by Councilmember Hernandez in further closed sessions regarding legal actions between the City of West Covina and Chris Chung, Community Development Director is illegal. It is clearly a violation of the fair political practices act. His participation violates Gov. Code Section 81002(c) and 87100.

I site two items and the law:

As stated in the Closed Session on November 4, 2008; Mr Hernandez can be held liable for punitive damages in the lawsuit.

As stated by Mr. Hernandez in the Closed Session on November 4, 2008; “if the Council takes a certain action, I will pledge to backstop the City financially”.

“Assets and income of public officials which may be materially affected by their official actions should be disclosed and in appropriate circumstances the officials should be disqualified from acting in order that conflicts of interest may be avoided.”

Gov. Code section 81002(c)

“No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.”

Gov. Code Section 87100


Steve Herfert


City of West Covina

***UPDATE: For the record, Herfert did not give me these documents.

After exploration, Azusa choose Lewis Corp.

In an effort to bring a booming business center to the downtown area, Azusa took the first major step in the process by selecting a developer for the project Monday night.

Lewis Operating Corporation will be in charge of the project that will bring a full service super market across from the new planned Target, as well as business to the Block 36 area that fell victim to the housing crisis after a mixed residential and retail was proposed for the area earlier.

Here is a snippet from tomorrow’s story to run in the paper and online.

“We went through an extensive interview process,” said Councilman Uriel Macias, who along with Mayor Pro Tem Angel Carrillo was apart of the sub committee that conducted the interview process. “What it came down to, especially in these economic times, in the end it was financial strength and the overall where-with-all for this type of development.”

Developers were evaluated by financial capability, speed at which they could begin development, development time frames, prior experience and relationships with key retailers, and working knowledge of the planning process.

The priorities for the council were solidifying the developer was financially capable to perform the project — Lewis can self-finance the project — matching visions with the city’s Downtown North Advisory Committee, and the ability to develop Block 36 “immediately,” according to the staff report.

“(Block 36) is priority one,” Macias said. “That is one of the areas (Lewis) has to concentrate on. The city has already done everything it can to get it T’d up for development. It is basically ready for a developer to come in here and get going.”

Christmas trees, condos, and chain restaurants

The West Covina City Council is meeting tonight, and among the topics of discussion are:

1. Securing an exclusive negotiating agreement with Kendrew Development, which has plans to turn the AAA pad into a nationally recognized restaurant. The pad is located at the northeast corner of Azusa Avenue and Giambi Lane intersection, which is the entrance to the Sportsplex projet. The purchasing price is $1.1 million, or $40 sq. feet.

2. Councilman Steve Herfert is proposing changing the time frame that Christmas trees can be sold. Currently, trees can only be sold in the month of December. Herfert wants to extend it to begin the day after Thanksgiving.

3. Council will adopt an ordinance that will hold parents financially responsible for their kids who tag. It will become effective Jan. 15.

4. The frequency of meetings of commissions, such as senior citizens commission, will be cut in half.

5. Looks like the city is gearing up for the hiring of a human resources manager and deputy city manager.

6. There will be a public hearing on a proposed 33 unit condo project at 4101-4111 S. Nogales St. The property currently has a single family home and an office building.
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El Monte city employees brace for pay cuts

To deal with the increased deficit, the El Monte City Council on Wednesday will consider asking city staff to accept pay cuts, Rebecca Kimitch reports. This is the alternative to laying people off, which means that services can remain the same.

OPEN FORUM TO EL MONTE CITY STAFFERS: What are your thoughts about taking a pay cut?

Is there a place for Jesus in City Hall?

Ever hear someone pray to Jesus during a council meeting? I do, and quite often. The most recent meeting was at the West Covina City Council. Turns out, praying is OK, but sectarian prayer is banned in setting like City Council meetings.

But is it worth a story? Every meeting I’m at no one seems to mind it.

Prayer Ban for Public Meetings Upheld
By Jean Guccione
September 10, 2002 in print edition B-4

California city councils that begin meetings with an invocation will have to reassess that practice after a state appellate court on Monday upheld a ban on sectarian prayer in such settings.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the city of Burbank’s argument that the ban violates the free-speech rights of the ministers who lead the invocation at each Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The court ruled that a prayer that invoked the name of Jesus Christ “conveyed the message that Christianity was being advanced over other religions,” in violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment, which requires the separation of church and state.

Santa Monica attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represented the plaintiffs, was pleased with the ruling.

“Now, as of today, it becomes a precedent throughout the state of California,” he said. Local city officials “would be violating their oaths of office if they allow sectarian prayers to go on.”

Burbank Chief Assistant City Atty. Juli C. Scott was disappointed with the ruling, but said the city has not yet decided whether to appeal.

“It’s too bad,” she said. “I think the court missed the whole point. We shouldn’t be in the business to tell people how to pray.”

The case arose after Irv Rubin, chairman of the Jewish Defense League, attended a Burbank City Council meeting In November 1999 that began with a Christian prayer led by David King, a Mormon bishop, who ended with “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Subsequently Rubin, along with Roberto Alejandro Gandara, a Christian, sued the city.

A month later, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III issued an injunction banning sectarian prayer at council meetings. Ever since, the City Council has asked local ministers to offer nonsectarian prayers at its meetings.

Diamond said Monday that he would not be able to tell Rubin about the decision until today, when he plans to visit his client at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, where Rubin awaits trial on unrelated charges that he plotted to bomb a Culver City mosque and a congressman’s office.

In the 15-page opinion, written by Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, the court contended that “to demand neutrality when the interests of religion and government intersect is increasingly more important as our nation becomes more pluralistic.”

The court also rejected Burbank’s argument that the invocation is “private speech” and found “that any legislative prayer that proselytizes or advances one religious belief or faith or disparages another” is unconstitutional.

“By directing the prayer to ‘Our Father in Heaven

Los Angeles attorney T. Peter Pierce filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of 34 California cities that begin their meetings with prayer.

Pierce said he would advise city attorneys, but warned of potential problems. “I think it is very difficult to determine what is [sectarian] and what is [nonsectarian],” he said.

The appellate court, however, declined to consider his argument that the ban is ambiguous and unenforceable

Bust out your pocketbooks

A few things of interest on Tuesday’s Covina Council meeting:

1. Public hearing about the proposed increased water rates. Initial projections were that it could increase as much as 35 percent, but city officials recently said that is unrealistic.

2. I don’t see it on the agenda, but since it was cancelled last time around, the council should be discussing how to fill the vacancy created by the Nov. 30 resignation of former Councilwoman Meline Juarez.

3. The council could be joining the 21st technology if the council approves the purchasing of camera and web streaming equipment on Tuesday. It’s unclear from the documents I have just have much this costs.