Diamond Bar councilwoman Chang already on notice

Welcome to the big leagues, Diamond Bar councilwoman Ling-Ling Chang.

You won a council seat in November and have occupied it a mere four weeks.
But you’ve already done something to irk some people.

Already, a group (or what appears to be one) is bent on keeping tabs on you.

A recent example: “Citizens Watching Councilmember Ling-Ling Chang” has been circulating e-mails about a recent Chang vote.

(We received a couple this week.)

At a Dec. 15 meeting, the city council approved the contract of a city consultant Gary Neely by a vote of 3-2 with Chang voting in favor.

The problem, however, the group alleges, is that Chang took $198 in contributions from Neely in her successful council run.

She did, according to her campaign finance statements. A review of the other Nov. city council candidates — from current council members Steve Tye and Ron Everett to newcomers David T. Liu, Robert Velazquez, Lucy Huang and Shawn “S” Dhand — didn’t reveal any other Neely contributions.

The group didn’t return two follow-up e-mails seeking comment and more importantly, questions of who they are.

But there is one telling paragraph in their e-mail to us that shows we likely won’t be getting a response:

Unfortunately, we are not willing to disclose our names out of fear of political retaliation and rebuke by the New Diamond Bar Council Majority, because we will be ridiculed by the Councilmembers Herrera and Tye on the truth that we are trying to convey if anyone would listen and wake up!

Leftovers column: water crisis is boring

By Ben Baeder

Is it just me, or have we been in a water crisis my entire life? No joke, some of my earliest memories are sitting with my dad watching super-spooky “WATER CRISIS!” stories on the local news.

People in California’s water business are constantly screaming that the sky is falling – or that water or snow are not falling from it fast enough.

“Wolf! Wolf!,” they scream.

But every time I turn on the faucet, water comes out.

It’s cheap. It’s sort of clean. And it seems like there’s plenty of it.

I’m tired of hearing about water. It’s so boring.

Uh oh. My inner Andy Rooney is growing out of control and is taking over my body. My eyebrows are growing white and huge. “Stop, Rooney! Stop!”

He’s taken over. The rest of this column is by Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes.

If water agencies are so hard-up, they should stop giving their workers big pay raises.

And if they are still broke, they should raise rates.

Otherwise, I don’t care anymore.

Seriously, Azusa Light and Water employees just got a one-time payment of 3.75 percent of their pay from the city. LA’s utility workers recently got a similar deal.

Maybe they were due for a raise, but they got it when everyone else in the private sector is getting hammered.

And, before its board buckled under political pressure, the Metropolitan Water District in October was on the verge of giving employees a 23-percent raise over the next five years.

So, do water companies have ample water and lots of money, or don’t they? I can’t tell.

If water is so scarce, why is the Inland Empire full of homes and mega malls?

Why are Southern California lawns lush and green?

Why, when my kids get bored, do I make their plastic slide a little more interesting by running the hose at the top?

All the while, farms in the Central Valley are going fallow and pumps in the Sacramento River Delta – at least until last year – were grinding up fish that are the bedrock of the area’s ecosystem.

Logic and economics aren’t applied to water issues. And I think I know why.

Quick, name the directors of your water district.

See. You don’t know. In the desk that is the human mind, water districts are just clutter that gets tossed away.

It’s so boring that our elected water board officials flit away public money on booze and conferences, and we don’t even pay attention.

Someone needs to do away with the whole system.

I wish I could say right now the best way to fix everything. My first instinct is: keep water rates low for businesses, farms and most residential customers, then jack the rates up super high for big consumers.

Hit extravagant people in the pocketbook.

If you want a Ferrari of a front lawn, you’re going to have to pay for it.

Maybe the wasters can pay for all the new water infrastructure we supposedly need.

Secondly, we need to get rid of water districts. Nobody watches them, and they’re inefficient.

I would offer more solutions, but my mind got too bored.

It’s on to something more exciting: prime numbers! Three, five, seven, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23. . .

Walnut gets monster property tax bill

Walnut recently got a bill from the state ‘s Department of Finance is asking for $4.6 million from the city’s redevelopment agency.

But there’s a problem: the city’s agency earned only $4 million all year.

For some reason, the state thinks Walnut’s redevelopment agency raked in $21 million this year, according to city documents.

A spokesman for the California controller’s office said he is checking to find out what happened.

Walnut’s Finance Director Chris Londo said the city has a $4 million yearly cap on what goes into its redevelopment agency. She said, under the guidelines spelled out by the state, the city should only owe $1.6 million.

Cities use redevelopment agencies to capture property taxes and reinvest them in the community.

The state is currently asking all cities to send over some of the money for education funds.

Cities are suing the state to stop it from taking money for education, and have won similar battles in the past.

Leftovers column: Toil and trouble brew in Montebello

I covered Montebello about five years back. I was 27 years old, and it was baptism by fire.

Montebello, hands down, had the most cut-throat politics of any city covered by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News and Pasadena Star-News.

People there truly hated each other.

I went from holding friendly interviews with city officials in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier – the other cities I covered – to getting off-the-record 11 p.m. cell phone calls from people in Montebello about drugs and conflicts of interest.

I eventually moved to other beats, but I never forgot about Montebello.

After taking a couple years off from the paper, I came back last year.

Montebello politics were still off-the-charts crazy.

In November, the city once again toppled its majority and elected a new council with a new agenda. This time the issue driving the election was the exclusive trash hauling contract the City Council granted to Athens Services in July 2008. Montebello is a city full of trash haulers, and the council’s fateful decision stirred up a big, outlandish hornets’ nest of a campaign.

It culminated with the election of incumbent Bill Molinari and newcomers Frank Gomez and Art Barajas.

Now there’s another recall campaign against Molinari’s last two opponents, Robert Urteaga and Kathy Salazar, scheduled for February.

And, like always, the city’s staff is turning over faster than than a rotisserie chicken at the Montebello Armenian Festival.

The new council this week fired City Administrator Nick Pacheco, who was appointed just last month. They also put Police Chief Dan Weast on leave.

Pacheco was replaced by former Interim City Administrator Randy Narramore, who a few years back replaced former City Administrator Richard Torres. Torres was reappointed, but he retired and was eventually replaced by Pacheco. You still with me?

And I haven’t even mentioned the lawsuits.

Weast is being sued by 13 of his officers. Salazar recently sued the Police Department and former Chief Garry-Couso Vasquez. I think some other people are suing other people, but I lost count.

I’ve never heard of a city where so many people sue each other. I’m thinking of quitting, testing for the bar and opening a law office in Montebello.

Anyway, Montebello’s voters deserve better. There is no way that much turmoil is good for a city. Montebello has a lot going for it, such as its proximity to LA, the tax-generating Montebello Mall, some nice parks and opportunity for homes or a wilderness park, or both, in city’s north hills.

Normally, a column like this should end with a speech urging Montebelloans to rise up. But, in Montebello, such urging is not necessary.

So Montebelloans, chill out. Your city is starting to become a punch line.


626-962-8811, ext. 2230

They huffed and they puffed and a new law was created

Disclaimer: Bad joke ahead

Question: How do you defeat the big, bad wolf?
Answer: make huffing illegal

OK, so that was really bad.

But in Azusa, they are trying to clamp down on the practice of huffing (not the big wolf variety, but young kids getting high on aerosol cans).

Here are a couple paragraphs from tomorrow’s story.

Officials are trying to cap the practice of using aerosol cans to get high by passing a law that prevents minors from carrying the cans in Azusa.

The cans are sometimes used to get high by inhaling its noxious fumes, which is often referred to as huffing.

At a summer city beautification project where volunteers walked areas to pick up trash, a large amount of aerosol cans were found in concealed hangouts by Citrus Crossing, a shopping center at Citrus Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.

It was at that time when Councilman Robert Gonzales thought it would be best to take action. Over summer, he presented the option of making a new city law that would make possession of the cans by minors illegal.

“Our goal is not to hammer the kids, but to stop those who are on this path before they get into more serious crimes and drugs,” Gonzales said. “Back when I was a kid they had glue and white out. Kids nowadays are pretty smart and they are finding different ways to get into trouble.”

The city attorney reviewed laws to see if Azusa officials would be within their rights to make possession a misdemeanor offense in Azusa.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, officials unanimously approved the measure, citing it would be a tool to both police and school officials.

Walnut group wins award for longest name ever

I am officially giving the Leftovers blog “Longest name in the San Gabriel Valley” award to…
drum rollllllllllllllllllllll:

“Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, A Committee to Increase Voter Turnout by Consolidating Walnut City Elections with November General Elections.”

It’s a group in Walnut whose members want the county to take over Wallnut’s elections.

Here’s a story about them:

Group files paperwork to campaign to have Walnut’s city-run elections handled by county
By James Wagner
Staff Writer
WALNUT — Citizens have kicked off an effort to change the way the city handles elections.
A handful of residents filed paperwork with the city last week to form a political action committee, which would campaign for Walnut’s elections to be run by the county.

The group, named the Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, A Committee to Increase Voter Turnout by Consolidating Walnut City Elections with November General Elections, turned in its paperwork for state approval, said Walnut City Clerk Teresa De Dios.

To accept donations for a campaign, the leaders of a political movement must file with the state.
The city currently conducts elections, but Mayor Tom King wants it to contract with the county to provide that service, which he said would reduce the chance of fraud.

King’s most vehement criticism has been aimed at the city’s practice of placing an absentee-ballot drop box outside City Hall.

He claims campaign organizers help voters fill out their absentee ballots and submit them in bulk, which is against the law.

King, a former Los Angeles police veteran, also wants to end an election practice in which candidates are e-mailed a daily list of voters who have requested absentee ballots and but haven’t returned them.

A county-run election would be more secure and save Walnut hundreds of thousands of dollars, King said.

King said he is not part of the political action committee, however.

The group’s secretary, Santa Ana- based campaign services consultant Lysa Ray, did not name the members of the political committee.

Most San Gabriel Valley cities pay the county to conduct elections in November, except for some, such as Walnut and Irwindale.

King’s seat is one of two up in April’s elections, along with Councilwoman Mary Su’s.
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2236

A little update on the big old house on San Bernardino Road in Covina

Interesting piece of Covina history:

In Monday’s column, I wrote about Rudy Uribe, who was fixing up a big house on San Bernardino Road and North Larkin Avenue near Hollenbeck Avenue. The circa 1905 house is about 3,300 square feet with barreled ceilings, pocket doors and other cool features.

Turns out the home probably belonged to Daniel Houser or his family. Uribe said the planks used to build the home had a stamp on the back marking them for the Houser home.

Daniel Houser helped invent a combine harvester sometime around 1880 or a little earlier, according to several books about farm history. It was hard to find exactly when.
“Beasts of the field: a narrative history of California farmworkers” by Richard Steven Street said Houser’s harvester needed 14 horses and harvested 16-foot-wide swath.

The book had lots of other details about farming during the era.

Houser eventually ended up in Covina, where he helped town founder Joseph Swift Phillips dig a ditch to bring water to Covina from San Gabriel Canyon, according to the Covina Valley Historical Society.

West Covina City Hall may be open 7-days a week

WEST COVINA – Councilman Mike Touhey wants City Hall open seven days a week to accommodate working people, at a time when civic centers are slashing hours.

In a Dec. 3 letter to City Manager Andy Pasmant, Touhey requests a “one-stop counter” in City Hall where a cross trained part-time employee works Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Touhey asked for the idea to be placed on the next City Council agenda.

This comes at a time when cities such as Covina are changing its hours and moving to a four-day work week to save money.

Below is the letter sent last week:


I would like to agendize a one stop counter for the next council meeting. A counter on the 1st Floor of City Hall where we have one cross trained Part-Time employee to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also volunteer counter people to help the staff member similar to our SHOP Program. So residents can take care of business when they are off of work. Making City Hall more available for the people. City Hall open 7 days a week to serve you, I like the sound of it.

Friday 4 PM 9 PM

Saturday 12 PM – 5 PM

Sunday 12 PM -5 PM

I have had great concerns since we have gone to a 4 Day work week I think it’s poor customer service for the Residents.

Mike Touhey

Leftovers column: Nobody seems to care about old houses in Covina

By Ben Baeder
Staff Writer

I can’t stand it when people go all out to save street trees. Unless they’re grand old native Oaks or cottonwoods or some other California tree, I’ll choose the cracking, root-clogged sewer line over the tree every time.

Sorry tree huggers.

But I’m a sucker for old houses. You can’t grow those.

In October, I noticed that no one seemed to care when a fire torched three turn-of-the-century homes on Center Street near downtown Covina.

We got no telephone calls decrying the loss of history. On the reader Internet posts, only one woman lamented the loss, and that was only because she grew up in one of the homes.

According to our statistics, not too many people read the story online.

If the fire was in Pasadena, or Whittier or Monrovia, this would have been among the day’s most-read stories on those cities’ newspaper Web sites.

But it was only Covina.

Despite having some of the oldest homes and buildings in the county, the people of Covina, for some reason, don’t seem to care much about the city’s historic character.

Councilman Kevin Stapleton first realized this years ago when he and his wife tried to drum up momentum to increase preservation efforts.

After getting a little initial support, the effort soon fizzled.

Stapleton said Covina has a Mills Act program in place, which allows owners of historic homes to get property tax reductions in exchange for a promise to keep a property looking

But no one ever signs up, said Stapleton, whose home was built around 1905.

“I love older homes,” he said. “You actually have rooms. Things like a dining room, a living room, things like a yard for relaxing.”

Perhaps the city’s conservative residents don’t want “the man” telling them what to do with their old house.

“Maybe people don’t turn to government as readily as they may in other cities,” Stapleton said.

But Covina resident Rudy Uribe has evidence that old-home lovers do exist in the eastern San Gabriel Valley.

He owns the big green house on San Bernardino Road and North Larkin Avenue next to the old Badillo homestead.

He bought the the 1910 American Victorian for $300,000 10 years ago, and he has been working on restoring it ever since.

He recently repainted most of the outside, and most of the inside is immaculate. It has hardwood floors, barreled ceilings, pocket doors – all the things old-home nerds like me go gaga for.

Uribe, an electrician, said the restoration has been hard work – way more than he thought when he bought the 3,300-square-foot monster.

But when he’s working outside, people let him know they appreciate what he’s doing.

“They stop by all the time,” Uribe said Friday after he climbed down from a ladder. “People wave, honk, they tell me they love it.”

Stapleton said it might be time to try to stoke the passions of preservation again – especially because the city’s downtown is thriving.

“It might be time to talk about it again,” he said.

As for the trees, maybe they can be milled down and used for facia.

After losing in SGV, Cedillo going for another seat

I spotted this on the blog site LA Observed (laobserved.com):

Check out this story about Gil Cedillo in the Capitol Weekly.

Cedillo, who is known for supporting drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, tried for the San Gabriel Valley House of Representatives seat won by Judy Chu. But he was trounced by Chu, who had much stronger local connections.

Here are the results for May’s Democratic primary:
JUDY CHU DEM 17,668 32.63
GIL CEDILLO DEM 12,577 23.23

He looks like he is going to take a run at an assembly seat in Los Angeles.