Baldwin Park highlights accomplishments in 2011

Baldwin Park City Manager Vijay Singhal, referred to as the city’s CEO, on Wednesday laid out Baldwin Park’s accomplishments in the last year during his presentation of the city’s Year in Review report Wednesday night.

Among the achievements, he cited the city’s one homicide last year as the lowest in 32 years.

However, local businessman Greg Tuttle said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“We have a gang problem. We have a lot of problems in this city. It’s not safe,” he said during public comment Wednesday night.

During his report, Singhal said no city is crime-free.

“It doesn’t mean we are crime free, but no city is,” he said.

Singhal also highlighted the city’s upgraded bond rating and success in enacting more strict policies on tobacco, which has earned the city a top rating from the American Lung Association.

Months after El Monte Union bond mismanagement accusations, many are still not speaking out

It’s been about three months since I returned to the good old San Gabriel Valley Tribune and since that time I’ve been following this very intriguing and very secretive agreement that keeps anyone in the El Monte Union High School District from talking about what really happened between the district and its former bond management company APM.

I’ve attended one Board of Trustees meeting, flipped through a couple of months worth of minutes and spoken to community members and have found very little evidence that the public is pursuing the whole issue.

A little background:

- After an internal audit, district officials in August cut ties with APM, which it accused of misusing money from the district’s $148 million Bond Measure D, passed by voters in 2008.
- In October, Superintendent Nick Salerno retracted those statements, citing a new settlement agreement with APM.
- Terms of the settlement kept APM and EMUHSD from elaborating on issues between the two entities. Further, EMUHSD paid APM $150,000 in back invoices and APM’s contract was not re-instated.
- EMUHSD since hired Industry-based Del Terra, which works with several surrounding school districts.

Now as I continue to follow up on the issue, even bond oversight members, who are charged with the task of ensuring taxpayer money is properly spent, are uninformed of what exactly happened in those few months.

Mike Felix, a former district employee and member of the district’s Citizens Oversight Committee, is one of few speaking up about the issue, although he knows very little about what went on.

“I really wasn’t comfortable with this whole thing. It’s shrouded in mystery,” he said, adding that he has asked district officials what exactly the accusations were, how much money was involved and which employees were placed on leave as the district continues to investigate their possible involvement in the whole alleged scheme.

When it comes to others in the community, he said they don’t want to get involved.

“I think a lot of people are apathetic and a lot of people who work here or are associated here are afraid to rock the boat. I also think there’s that group of people who hope that it will just go away. I’m none of the above. I want to know what’s going on. Sometimes I feel like I’m the black sheep.”

Board member Carlos Salcedo said that the settlement agreement keeps him and other district officials from elaborating.

“We agreed to that. It was mutual and there’s certainly things that we can’t share,” he said about the agreement.

El Monte considers building brand new civic center

EL MONTE – The city’s El Monte Gateway project is centered on the idea of a transit-friendly village of homes and businesses adjacent to the 10 freeway. And now part of that development might be a brand new city civic center.

The City Council and staff are throwing the idea around, with some saying that it would be a nice amenity for residents, who would be able to shop and access city services all in one area.

The civic center could include other public agencies, such as the fire department, and private agencies like the University of La Verne. Officials are still in talks to see the feasibility of other entities sharing the space.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to continue down this road of exploring this possibility,” Mayor Andre Quintero said. “Obviously the numbers have to make sense. But that’s prime real estate next to the freeway.”

Rosemead City Council angered by utility company

ROSEMEAD – Several City Councilmembers expressed their frustration Tuesday evening that a utility company is tearing up a street that the City had just worked to beautify.

At its City Council meeting, Helen Romero Shah, of the Southern California Gas Company had just presented information on a federally mandated high-pressure pipeline maintenance project that is slated to begin in February 2012.

“We are trying to beautify our city, but we’re being backed up by the utility companies thinking they can come in whenever they want,” Councilwoman Sandra Armenta said.

According to city officials, the city checked with utility companies to see if they were planning on performing projects before they went ahead with improvements at Walnut Grove Avenue over the summer.

“We messed up. You did contact us,” said Shah.

Councilmembers also demanded that the utility company place the blame on themselves when alerting local residents that they would be again tearing up the streets and causing traffic delays in the area.

The gas line project, which is aimed at identifying any imperfections in the line, should be completed within eight weeks, officials said.