Review of BP councilman’s arrest complete

9933-anthony.jpgI’m sure most of you remember Baldwin Park Councilman Anthony Bejarano’s arrest last year.

It was just after 10 p.m. on a Friday night in September. Bejarano and two friends had just visited a few restaurants and bars in downtown Los Angeles before taking the train back to Baldwin Park, then stopping for nachos and beer, according to the councilman.

Except his friends were pulled over by Baldwin Park PD. And after an exchange with officers — in which Bejarano says he was trying to inform his friend of his legal rights — Bejarano was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public.

The DA declined to file charges against Bejarano in the case, so it was eventually dropped. But Bejarano didn’t let things die there — he filed a personnel complaint with the Police Department in a matter he felt was handled “inappropriately.”

Police Chief Lili Hadsell responded by hiring a company, who then hired a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigator to review the incident.
That review was completed three months ago, and Hadsell said she’s made decisions as a result.

No one is talking specifics about the complaint or the officers involved, because it is a personnel issue. But Bejarano said “there were some concerns that will be handled internally.”

A police report from that night includes narratives from officers Matthew De Hoog and Richard Ogas, and Sgt. Doug Parnell.

I wonder how much the investigation cost?

Olson Co. comes to town

A few graphs from a story running in tomorrow’s paper:

BALDWIN PARK — Eight months after a massive revitalization project fell through the cracks, city officials are hoping a new developer can salvage their dreams for a downtown urban village.

The city is in preliminary negotiations with Seal Beach-based The Olson Co. for a 13- to 14-acre project around the site of the old Albertsons grocery store on Ramona Boulevard, Baldwin Park’s Chief Executive Officer Vijay Singhal said.

If built, the project would be drastically smaller than a proposal from developer Bob Bisno. His plan, put forth last year, involved a 109-acre, multimillion-dollar revamp of the city’s downtown.

If built, officials said they would want the Baldwin Park project to complement a separate $7 million proposal to build a new parking structure at the city’s Metrolink station.
That project is being funded through a grant.

The project already seems to be going in the direction of the former Bisno proposal — city officials are eager to get things off the ground, and a group of opponents are eager to put the flames out.

Arguments are still the same: City – “We want development.”  // Opponents – “This isn’t New York.”

Of course this project, should it be built, would be significantly smaller than the Bisno proposal, but would still include that urban village feel.

City officials are in the middle of drawing up an exclusive negotiating contract. It’s expected to come before the council in the next few weeks.

BP’s Monica Garcia running for Assembly

11035-monicagarcia2web.jpgThe race for the 57th District Assembly seat is heating up.

Baldwin Park Councilwoman Monica Garcia is the latest candidate to throw her name in for the June 2010 primaries.

She joins a growing list of local politicians vying for the seat. La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan, West Covina Mayor Roger Hernandez and West Covina Councilman Steve Herfert have all filed statements of an intent to run for the seat, according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State.

Assemblyman Ed Hernandez — who lives in West Covina and has an optometry office in La Puente — currently holds the post.

Garcia, 34, said people have been encouraging her since last year to run for the 57th district. She finally made her decision last month.

“I know that right now is a critical time for our state and even more so for our district, for the 57th,” Garcia said. “I want to go up to Sacramento and make sure our district is getting its fair share.”

Garcia said she has always been an advocated for “working-class communities,” and has spent about a decade working in public service.

“I want to make sure the working families I’ve served over my career — over 10 years, children, seniors — I want to make sure they are protected and we take a sustainable approach to balance the budget,” she said.

Garcia was elected to the Baldwin Park City Council in 2007, and served on the city’s Planning Commission prior to that.

She has also worked for state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-East Los Angeles, has spent time working with inner-city youth while attending USC as undergraduate student, and has worked in Washington D.C. with a group advocating for women, children and families, Garcia said.

“I really have committed myself since college to serving populations that are disadvantaged,” she said.

BP park improvements move forward

28754-bppark.jpgDriving through Baldwin Park the other day I noticed some significant progress on Morgan Park.

City officials had originally planned for a million-dollar upgrade to the city’s most popular park. But when $600,000 in state bond money fell through the cracks because of budget cuts, the plans looked like they were going to be shelved.

Officials had said they would look into alternatives to complete the retrofit. Looks like it worked.

Harsh words in Baldwin Park

I wrote this story in Saturday’s paper about an investigation into whether Baldwin Park Councilman Ricardo Pacheco berated a department head in a recent telephone conversation.

Since I couldn’t fit everything into the story, I thought I’d throw a couple of other quotes here on the blog.

Mainly, Mayor Manuel Lozano had some harsh words for Pacheco, with Lozano comparing his fellow peer to council members in South Gate who landed in jail.

“(Pacheco) was highly trained in South Gate on how to play dirty politics,” Lozano said. “He’s no different than politicians in South Gate that ended up in prison.”

Lozano also said Pacheco has a history of berating employees — “I think at this point, he just got caught.”

Pacheco denies all of the allegations and said the entire City Council is conspiring against him because he filed intent forms to run against Lozano for the mayor’s spot in November.

The gloves are off in Baldwin Park

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It’s 4 vs. 1 and Baldwin Park Councilman Ricardo Pacheco is the one whose outnumbered.

An investigation into whether Pacheco berated a department head is getting heated, with Pacheco accusing his peers on the dais of lying and playing political games.

The council agreed Wednesday night to open the review, which will determine whether Pacheco harassed, intimidated or retaliated against a member of the city’s executive team during a recent telephone interview.

Different versions of the story are floating around with some saying Pacheco cussed this unnamed department head out, and called for their resignation. Pacheco denies all the allegations and says these are all ploys in an election year.

“I have been a council member for more than 10 years. I have never every disrespected anybody on this city … (This is) basically because (the rest of the council members) have no allegations to make about me. I haven’t been arrested. My residence isn’t in question. I don’t throw people out of council meetings. My family members don’t work here.”

Councilman Anthony Bejarano said Wednesday the issue isn’t personal, and it’s the city’s legal duty to investigate such allegations.

Bejarano also referred to West Covina, and the millions of dollars in lawsuits it is facing from harassment claims.

“We just want to make sure we do our due diligence under the law,” he said. “If it turns out this was nothing that rises to the level of harassment or retaliation — good.”

More to come in tomorrow’s paper.

Candidate Forum in Baldwin Park tonight

The League of Women Voters of East San Gabriel Valley is hosting a candidate’s forum today for the 32nd Congressional District race.

All 12 candidates are expected to attend, according to an e-mail sent out by event organizers.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the list one more time:
Christopher Agrella, Francisco Alonso, Gil Cedillo, Betty Chu, Judy Chu, Benita Duran, Teresa Hernandez, Stefan Lysenko, Nick Mostert, Rafael Nadal, Emanuel Pleitez, and David Truax.

And here’s the info on the forum:

Date: May 6th, 2009
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Julia McNeil Senior Center
4100 Baldwin Park Blvd.
Baldwin Park, CA 91706

BP’s Lozano says he’s “vindicated” in China case

I just finished writing up this story. There’s much more meat to it, but I was limited on space. This week’s Leftovers column will have more ….

BALDWIN PARK — A criminal probe of Mayor Manuel Lozano following his 2007 all expense-paid trip to China concluded the mayor broke no laws, authorities said Thursday.

Deputy district attorneys with the DA’s Public Integrity Division began the probe in September. They had received a complaint that Lozano took the all-expenses paid trip, but never claimed it on his statement of economic interests.

In a letter dated April 13, Deputy District Attorney Juliet Schmidt said that Lozano’s trip was paid for by the Chinese government, and did not need to be reported.

“As I said from the beginning, I had not done anything wrong and if I needed to amend my forms I would do it,” Lozano said Thursday. “I wasn’t worried about anything. I hadn’t committed any crime.”

Local businessman Greg Tuttle, who said the review stemmed from a separate grievance he filed last year with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said he was disappointed with the decision.

Tuttle had alleged the trip was paid for by a local businessman.

“(The DA) asked everyone that went on the trip if the Chinese government paid for it,” Tuttle said. “But they failed to do the one thing: (show) the Chinese government paid for it.”

Tuttle said he would continue to pursue the matter with the FPPC, which is still actively investigating the case, according to Executive Director Roman Porter
.
Lozano previously said the trip was paid for by a bank in Rowland Heights.

But on Thursday, he said he knew all along it was paid for by the government, and simply had not clarified his statements before.

According to Schmidt’s letter, because witnesses confirmed Lozano gave speeches during the trip, he did not need to report it on his statements.

A not-so hairy job, but somebody’s gotta do it

No one ever said being a local elected was easy. And if you ask Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano, he’ll tell you the proof is in the hair.

During the city’s annual State of the City address on Friday, Lozano joked that when he was first appointed to the Planning Commission in 1992, he had a fuller head of locks.
“I used to have a lot more,” he said. “So I don’t know if being a politician is bad for your hair.”

Regardless, some might argue it’s worth it considering the strides Baldwin Park has made in the last year — and even prior to that.

The budget has a surplus, crime is down 29 percent since 2005 and millions of dollars in capitol improvement projects are in the pipeline, Lozano said.

“It’s times like these that test cities and times like these that make us stand up,” Lozano said. “In difficult times, government must be strong enough for those who are hurting.”

Longtime Baldwin Park resident Nadine Galindo summed up the address in one sentence: “I just wanted to go out the doors and yell, ‘I’m so excited to live in Baldwin Park!’”

More to come about the address in tomorrow’s paper.

Blanca Rubio drops out of the race, endorses Chu

First came former Assembylman Ed Chavez’s announcement. Now, it’s Baldwin Park School Board Member Blanca Rubio, who announced she’s dropping out. But instead of endorsing Sen. Gil Cedillo, like Chavez did, Rubio is endorsing Board of Equalization Chairwoman Judy Chu.

Here’s the press release Chu’s office sent over:

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

Blanca Rubio Decides Against Running for Congress, Will Endorse Chu

Baldwin Park Unified School District Board President Blanca Rubio announced Thursday that she will not be running for the 32nd Congressional District seat vacated by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and is instead endorsing Board of Equalization Vice Chair Judy Chu for the position.

“I want to thank all of my friends and fellow citizens who have encouraged and supported me so far in my efforts to represent the San Gabriel Valley in Congress,” said Rubio. “I urge them all to join me in helping to send Dr. Judy Chu to Washington.

“Dr. Chu is without a doubt the most qualified person to fight for the needs of San Gabriel Valley residents in our nation’s capital,” Rubio added. “She has represented the people of our district for more than two decades at the local and state level. She knows our communities like no one else in this race, and is a proven legislator, negotiator and coalition builder who will bring the kind of fiscal experience needed in Washington to get us out of our economic crisis.”

Rubio’s endorsement caps a marathon week for Dr. Chu, during which she also secured the support of the League of Conservation Voters for her 100 percent environmental voting record, which is extremely important to residents of the 32nd District. She also received the endorsement of the California Teachers Association, which has more than 6,000 members in the 32nd District.

Rubio joins a diverse coalition of more than 75 elected state, city and school officials representing the vast majority of the 32nd District who have already endorsed Dr. Chu’s campaign for Congress. Among her supporters are the entire city councils of El Monte and West Covina, the district’s two largest cities; the mayors of Duarte, Azusa and South El Monte; and all three Assembly members who represent the district in the state Legislature: Dr. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, Mike Eng, D-El Monte and Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles.

Dr. Chu has been elected nine times over the past 23 years by residents of the 32nd District, starting as a school board member, then as council member and mayor of Monterey Park for 13 years and later as Assembly member representing the 49th Assembly District from 2001 to 2006. She is currently the elected representative for Los Angeles County on the state Board of Equalization, which collects $53 billion a year in sales, use and property taxes for the state of California.

The special election for the 32nd Congressional District seat, which includes the cities of Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Baldwin Park, West Covina, Covina, Irwindale, Azusa and Duarte, as well as the Los Angeles communities of El Sereno and unincorporated portions of East Los Angeles, will be held on May 19.