La Puente’s Lujuan charged with perjury, pleads not guilty

This from the DA’s office:

La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan was arraigned and pleaded not guilty today to one count of perjury stemming from an allegedly false report he filed in February 2009 regarding campaign funds, the District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division said that in the event that Lujan, 33 (dob 6/06/76), is convicted the defendant would be removed from office. Lujan, who was first elected to the La Puente City Council in 2001, would also be barred from holding future elective office.

Deputy District Attorney Huntsman filed the felony complaint for arrest warrant on Feb. 16. The defendant is next due in court on Feb. 25.

Lujan allegedly received and spent dozens of campaign contributions in 2008 but failed to report the contributions and expenditures.

Is the budget ax about to fall in West Covina?

It looks like everybody’s pay is up for discussion at tonight’s West Covina City Council meeting.

Here’s a news brief.

The City Council today will negotiate labor contracts with representatives from various city agencies.

The Council will meet in closed session with contract negotiators from the Police Management Association, Police Officers’ Association, General Employees, Confidential Employees, Maintenance and Crafts Employees, Non-Sworn Safety Support Officers, Firefighters’ Association, Firefighters’ Management Association and Mid-Management Association, according to city documents.

The police chief, assistant city clerk, fire chief, assistant city manager, director of Human Resources, director of the Community Development Commission, planning director, community services director, city engineer, deputy city manager engineer, finance director and the director of risk management will also negotiate their contracts in closed session, according to city documents.

Citizens can address the Council at 5:45 p.m., according to city documents.

Leftovers from City Hall: So long, disc man

Fly long and straight into the great beyond, Walter Frederick Morrison.

Morrison, formerly of La Verne, is the inventor of the Pluto Platter, which eventually turned out to be the Frisbee.

He died Tuesday in Utah at age 90.

The WHAM-O company for years manufactured the Frisbees in a plant behind the San Gabriel Nursery. The plant closed in the 1980s or early 1990s, according to city officials.

To those of us who spend our free time throwing discs around local parks, Morisson is a member of the disc Pantheon.

His invention eventually led to Frisbee golf, which most people now call disc golf.

The idea for the flying disc came when a 17-year-old Morrison and his girlfriend and future wife, Lucile, began tossing a large popcorn can lid back and forth for fun during a Thanksgiving party, according to the Associated Press.

He and a partner eventually developed a plastic disc.

In 1957 he sold his idea to WHAM-O, a fad company begun in the garage of one of its South Pasadena founders.

From 41,000-square-foot plant in San Gabriel, the company produced Frisbees, the SUPER BALL, the Slip `N Slide and the HULA HOOP, among other products.

WHAM-O has been sold several times since 1982 and is now based in Emeryville, according to its Web site.

WHAM-O employee “Steady” Ed Hedrick improved a little on Morrison’s design and opened the world’s first basket Frisbee golf course at Oak Grove in what is now called the Hahamongna Watershed Park near Pasadena, according to disc golf lore.

The sport – in which golfers throw discs into baskets from hundreds of feet away – is scored like golf. There are excellent courses at La Mirada Regional Park and the Whittier Narrows in South El Monte.

It’s usually free to play and the discs are cheap – less than $20. A beginning golfer really only needs two or three to get started.

I like to say it has all the self-hatred and failure of golf, but none of the expensive green fees.

Some people might tell you that its mandatory to sneak beer in your disc bag and smoke marijuana, but I can’t find any rules about that in the Disc Golf Association guidelines.

While this is mostly about flying discs, there is a local politics twist to all this.

San Gabriel really wants somebody to do a retail development at the WHAM-O factory, but it’s not visible from San Gabriel Boulevard.

San Gabriel, like all cities, is addicted to retail, because it gets a penny for every dollar spent on taxable items in city limits.

They get diddley squat for bringing in a manufacturing company that provides decent jobs.

Unlike most manufacturing industries, disc golf has not fled Southern California.

The world’s leading flying disc maker, Innova, has a big plant in Rancho Cucamonga. The world-record of an 820-foot throw was accomplished with an Innova disc.

The sport of disc golf is growing, and workers are optimistic the company will be around for a long time, said Mark Molnar, a staffer for Innova.

Hopefully the next governor will work to give companies like Innova a good reason to stay.

You never know when someone will come up with the next Pluto Platter.

– Ben Baeder is the deputy metro editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Montebello $3 million in the hole

Montebello city officials finally announced what their deficit is: $3 million.

I wrote a column a while back about all the drama in Montebello:
Here’s the link

And here’s Tom Himes’ article in today’s Tribune:

Montebello deficit fueled by overtime costs and less revenue than expected from red-light cameras
By Thomas Himes, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/11/2010 07:00:49 PM PST

MONTEBELLO – Officials Thursday estimated the City’s budget deficit at $3 million and outlined reasons for the short fall that range from red light cameras to overtime hours.

Over the past week, nine employees lost their jobs, dozens more took 5 percent pay reductions and several agreed to retirement, as officials worked to close the deficit.

“Unfortunately, this day has been coming for a long time,” said retired city administrator Richard Torres. “I was hoping it could be avoided for at least another year.”

Red light cameras fell about $500,000 short of the projected revenue they were expected to create.

“If the program does not result in a positive revenue my recommendation is that we end it, Narramore said.”

The city paid consultants $55-per-hour to administer the red light camera program, according to city documents.

“We incurred a lot more expenses and a lot less revenue than we thought we would from the cameras,” City Councilman Robert Urteaga said. “People simply identified where the cameras are and stopped.”

Mayor Bill Molinari said the cameras, which are located at six intersections, have increased public safety.

“The intersections where these cameras were installed had frequent collisions and a number of fatalities,” Molinari said.

Also, overtime hours the city paid to firefighters, exceeded estimates by about $500,000, Narramore said.

“All overtime has been stopped,
unless it’s an emergency,” Narramore said. “We’re just not paying overtime for someone to come in and do something they can do the next day.”

But, the state’s Government Code mandates a minimum of four firefighters to a truck, Narramore said.

“If someone calls out sick, we have to pay some else time-and a half to come in,” Narramore said.

Additionally, the state owes Montebello $500,000 for firefighters the city sent to help combat the Station Fire, Narramore said.

To cut payroll spending, five employees have agreed to retirement, Narramore said.

“I’ve frozen vacant positions so they can’t be filled,” Narramore said.

Non-represented staffers, mid-management, police management and department heads will all have monthly furlough days, Narramore said.

“Somehow I need 5 percent from every employee,” Narramore said. “I met with finance this morning, we haven’t made it up yet.”

Finance Director Michael Chickwan Tam refused to comment, directing all questions to his secretary.

Narramore said the more employees who agree to furloughs, the less he will have to layoff.

“The different bargaining groups understand there’s challenges and they want to help solve them,” Narramore said.

626-962-8811, ext. 2477

Read more:

Big delay for La Verne athletic complex

This from Wes Woods II last week:

LA VERNE – The completion deadline for the University of La Verne’s new athletic complex has been pushed back five years to January 2018, due in part to the state of the economy.

The extension for the joint city and university project was approved Monday night at the La Verne City Council meeting.

Philip Hawkey, executive vice president of the University of La Verne, described the vote as a formality in terms of modifying the contract because the university had been in discussion with the city.

“It reflects the state of the economy,” Hawkey said

I’m looking for a partner to open a snack shop in La Puente

La Puente has approved nine marijuana dispensaries:

If you have nine snack machines available, please call me. I have some great locations lined up.

Here’s the first part of reporter James Wagner’s story, which comes out Wednesday:

The city has approved nine business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries despite a proposed city ordinance that caps the number at six.
One city official said La Puente’s strict code, which goes into effect Friday, will force out dispensaries that can’t keep up with the city’s numerous building, health and safety rules.

Then Louie Lujan says the city’s law will “weed” out the clinics.

Leftovers from City Hall: What would Bill and Ted say about their San Dimas hometown?

– Sorry about the lack of entries last week. I was out filling in for a colleague:
Here’s this week’s column

I know I’ve already waxed on about a bunch of cities in the San Gabriel turning 50 this year, but I need another crack at San Dimas’ semi-centennial celebration.

The city has chose “An excellent adventure” as its anniversary slogan.

It harkens to 1989’s movie masterpiece “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which was set in San Dimas.

In the film, two slackers in a noisy garage band get a quick study of history when they embark on a rollicking time-travel journey, eventually bringing hell-raising French conqueror Napoleon back to modern-day San Dimas.

After meeting Genghis Khan, Socrates and Abraham Lincoln, they end up giving the world’s most awesome history report, sparing Ted from being forced to go to military school.

For a really funny, well-done Web site about the hapless slackers, go to:

The creators of the film chose San Dimas because they wanted their characters to be in a place without a clear identity, according to interviews given at the time. Bill and Ted weren’t surfers. They weren’t San Fernando Valley people. They were fictional slackers in need of a bland suburban home.

Except for a few shots at Raging Waters in San Dimas, the movie was filmed in Arizona, according to reports about the film.

It’s kind of sad that San Dimas couldn’t think of a better slogan for it’s year-long party. The city’s inclusion in the film was a jab at its drabness.

I have to say, however, San Dimas’ slogan beats Temple City’s: Celebrating 50 years as a community.


Back to San Dimas, though.

Despite the big birthday, a lot of business owners in downtown San Dimas aren’t in a partying mood.

Many say the city needs to invest in the area and possibly do away with the campy Old West theme, which nobody seems to keen to keep.

Instead, San Dimas is doing a $13 million overhaul and expansion of City Hall.

Not to get too Old West, but is that not an obvious case of putting the cart before the horse?

San Dimas only has about 36,000 people, not much more than it had in 1980. Why the sudden need for more space?

A retrofit of the current City Hall would probably cost about $4 million, according to data from City Hall.

In fairness, San Dimas is a very fiscally sound city with $17 million in savings.

Maybe the city should try to live up to its slogan and do something totally excellent in downtown.

But a big public expenditure in the middle of a recession?


– Ben Baeder is the Deputy Metro Editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Leftovers from City Hall: A colorful character out of South El Monte politics

A year before Blanca Figueroa was elected South El Monte’s mayor in 2003, the city was a disaster.

It had no city manager. The finance director quit.

The City council even considered firing all the department heads.

Leaders back then seemed proud of the chaos.

“People who want the (city manager) job have to realize you deal with five different personalities, and some realize that you have to put up with a lot of crap,” then-Mayor Art Olmos said unapologetically.

Then came Blanca Figueroa.

She won the mayor’s position in 2003, and, despite a few bizarre incidents here and there, she had a good run in the 21,000-resident, mostly industrial city.

In November, Figueroa decided not to seek re-election for mayor and lost a try for a council seat.

Last week, the council appointed Willhans Ili to fill an open seat, which killed Figueroa’s chance of getting back on the council this year.

Voters first elected Figueroa to the City Council in 1997, and she became mayor in 2003. Her first order of business was to reduce the amount a council member could spend per day from $75 to $50.

She also led a successful effort to take away City Council members’ credit cards.

In October, the city saw its first major retail development when officials opened the Marshalls center on Durfee Avenue.

In addition, South El Monte has had only two city managers since 2003. Gary Chicots served ably from 2003 to 2005. And Anthony Ybarra has done a good job since taking over in 2006. I know that doesn’t seem like any big accomplishment, but South El Monte used to burn through city managers.

While the city has made progress, Figueroa had a few bizarre episodes, too.

In 2007, she spent nearly $21,000 in travel expenses, most of it in South El Monte’s Mexican sister city.

And in December 2008, she made headlines when her fellow council members decided she could no longer work all night at City Hall.

She had essentially turned the City Council office into her own personal work center, complete with slippers, a drawer full of food and a “Mayor” sign on the door.

And during much of the 2000s, she threw her support behind developer Ron Jenkins, who never made good on his promise to develop a retail center near City Hall. But most of the council supported Jenkins.

Figueroa was a colorful character, to say the least.

A phone call with her always lasted at least 30 minutes. She talked in a stream-of-consciousness and assumed I knew all the insider information on local politics. And she was always, always gabbing about her medical problems. But she had an easy way of talking that made the conversation fun. She bragged about hanging out with all the “old-lady” councilwomen from surrounding cities.

When she lost her council bid in November, she was confident her fellow City Council members would appoint her to a seat vacated when Councilman Louie Aguinaga was elected mayor.

They didn’t, even though she got the most votes of the losers.

Instead, she got nice little double cross in a town where people shouldn’t leave home without back armor.

The current council seems pretty unified, however. Maybe it was time for Figueroa to go. But this new group ought not embrace ruthlessness.

They shouldn’t forget how nasty things were seven years ago.

Ben Baeder is the Deputy Metro Editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.