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: http://www.sgvtribune.com/ci_14385697#ixzz0fKuxgMNs

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: www.billandted.org

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.

Bye Blanca: South El Monte’s long-time mayor officially off City Council

I know she was eccentric, but it’s still kind of sad to see that Blanca Figueroa will no longer serve on the South El Monte City Council.

I am having trouble finding out when she was first elected, but I know she’s been on the council a long time, most of it as the city’s popularly elected mayor.

Blanca was a talker, that’s for sure. A phone conversation with her always took at least 30 minutes. I have to say, though, all 30 minutes were pretty fun. She talked in a stream-of-consciousness that assumed the listener knew all the inside stuff about the city. So every few minutes, I would stop her and have her explain something. It led to a lot of good stories.

Most recently, she made the national news for working all night at City Hall. The city passed a law outlawing working at City Hall at night, but the sheriff’s captain said he wouldn’t enforce it.

One of our reporters, I think it was Jennifer McLain, did a video interview with Blanca at a City Hall office. It was so funny. Blanca had a little stockings on, and a drawer full of snacks. She just gabbed in the kind, funny way she always did. I’ll re-post it when I find it.

I’m not super familiar with Blanca’s political career, but I think she was a fairly dedicated public servant. She served on lots of local governing boards and showed up at all the meetings. The other council members always kind of seemed jealous of her. I think they wondered how she remained so popular. Personally, I’ll miss talking with Blanca. She is a sweetheart.

Here’s a story about her replacement being chosen:

SOUTH EL MONTE – The City Council on Tuesday unanimously selected Willhans Ili as their newest colleague on the council. He was immediately sworn in.

Ili 34, was chosen from among eight candidates for the post, including former mayor Blanca Figueroa. He will fill the seat left vacant when Luis Aguinaga left the position to become mayor, after running unopposed for that post in November.

Ili said he was inspired to seek the seat in the wake of the death of his childhood friend and El Monte educator Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo.

“He was 33 and he did so much for the community. I’m 34 … I had to ask myself how I could help my community,” Ili said. “It is sad that it took the death of a friend to motivate me.”

Ili, who is finishing his master’s degree in education at Point Loma Nazarene University, said his priorities would be to keep the city’s budget balanced, build more affordable housing, and increase college graduation rates among South El Monte youths.

Before making its decision, the Council interviewed five of the candidates for approximately 15 minutes each.

In addition to Ili, Manuel Acosta, Dorris Hennings, Nancy Muniz and Robert Yrigoyen Jr. all answered questions about their ideas on the city’s budget and future.

Council members all praised the candidates for their responses and interest in the vacant seat.

Though they were invited, Figueroa and candidates Jesus Castillo and Michael Pugrad Jr. did not
attend the meeting or interview for the vacant seat.

Figueroa ran unsuccessfully for council, instead of mayor, in November. As the third-place vote-getter in the council race for two seats, she had hoped the council would select her for Aguinaga’s seat.

The council decided to select a replacement rather hold a special election for the seat, which would have cost approximately $30,000 to $50,000.

As a member of the council, Ili will be paid $771 a month.


626-962-8811, ext. 2105

Rosemead chickens to fly the coop?

From Staff Writer, Rebecca Kimitch:

The City Council will decide today (Tuesday) when and how to kick a controversial poultry slaughterhouse out of town.
Council members could decide to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to send Chinese American Live Poultry packing by the end of the year, or it could give the business three years to move, as suggested by city staff.
Animal slaughter has been banned in the city since 2001.
However, since CAL Poultry first opened in 1991, when slaughterhouses were allowed, the facilities were grandfathered in and allowed to stay. Today’s ordinance would strip that away while deciding when to close CAL Poultry.
CAL Poultry offers customers freshly killed chickens and ducks, slaughtered on site — a preferred option for many Asian American and Latino residents, according to CAL Poultry’s owners.
But the slaughterhouse has been cited multiple times for violations to air quality, water quality and health codes. And neighbors have complained of odors coming from the facilities and escaped chickens wandering the neighborhood.
City officials have debated in recent years whether to shut the business down or allow it to remodel its facilities to better mask odors.
Owner Dana Phu has said the business would mount a legal challenge against any forced closure.

– Blogger’s note: There’s another place like this on Telegraph Road in unincorporated South Whittier. I think it’s called Sing Lee Poultry and Seafood.

Leftovers from City Hall: The San Gabriel Valley gets a pot hub

LA PUENTE – I guess the San Gabriel Valley officially has a new marijuana capital – La Puente.

While officials at Los Angeles City Hall, the sheriff’s office, and the District Attorney’s office were all trying find ways to get rid of marijuana clinics, La Puente two weeks ago decided to allow six dispensaries.

By our count, that’s the most in the San Gabriel Valley.

It struck me as a curious move, especially for a city with only 40,000 residents that has spent the last five years unsuccessfully trying to attract developers.

When they passed the law, council members argued that their hands were tied because six clinics had already applied to set up shop.

That’s not a good excuse.

The city in August 2008 had the chance to temporarily ban the clinics, which would have given La Puente time to craft a law to regulate them.

Councilman Dan Holloway motioned to vote on the matter, but nobody seconded him. So the measure died. The city attorney at the time, Jamie Casso, warned that dispensaries would open.

Here’s another fun fact: The pot lobby, if it can be called that, has done a little work in La Puente.

A Political Action Committee run Mayor Louie Lujan’s brother Philip – called “Coalition for a Safe and Clean Environment,” – in 2006 donated $4,025 in mailers and money to Holloway, Louie Lujan and Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza.

Philip founded the Southern California Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). And treasurer Liz McDuffie teaches classes about how to use pot. Neither one would say what the PAC did for the environment, and the coalition’s MySpace page was full of references to marijuana culture. We wrote a story on the PAC last year. I don’t think it’s still active.

Last week I posted some of the information about the PAC on our Leftovers blog on the Tribune’s Web site, a post that drew more comments than anything I’ve ever put up there.

Personally, I’m not very anti-marijuana. I’ve never smoked it, but I do not think it’s a big deal.

I know for sure I would not want to live in a city that was going to become a hub for marijuana dispensaries.

I wonder if the city can gradually ratchet down the number of dispensaries.

I doubt it will happen. I feel like some sort of intrigue is at play. La Puente’s City Council has historically been a little more cloak-and-dagger than most of our cities.

Meanwhile, the Internet is buzzing with reviews of La Puente’s marijuana dispensaries. Reviewers say Trinity Wellness on Amar Road has good product, but they complained the prices were a little high. The company’s Web site said first-time customers get a free glass pipe. And it offers discounts on rainy days. Another one on Hacienda Road is remodeling, but will still deliver Cali Mist or Purple Urcle to users’ homes, according it’s Web site.

An online review for the clinic is titled: “Just what LP needed!”

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