My Christmas gift to you: weekend links

I know presents are more important, so I saved these important weekend links for you. This is a one-time offer exclusive that you can’t get anywhere else!

How did the past week’s rainfall help our water coffers? Rebecca Kimitch has some answers.

After years of haggling, the city finally agreed to sell the site of a former bowling alley to a developer – taking an $8 million write-down in the process.

And finally, if you Christmas spirit and holiday hope is beginning to wane, read Hector Gonzalez column from Friday where he writes updates us on a story from long ago.

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Tessitor named chairman of Gold Line construction board

Glendora Councilman Doug Tessitor was named the chairman of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority Board of Directors (try saying that title in one breath).

A councilman since 2003 (up for re-election in March 2011) Tessitor has been the Pasadena City appointee to the board since Jan. 2009 and served on the Joint Powers Authority board since Nov. 2008.

“This is a very exciting time for the project and the Construction Authority, and I am honored to lead the board as we begin construction on the nearly $700 million project that will connect communities from Arcadia to Azusa to the entire L.A. County system, create thousands of jobs and generate nearly a billion dollars for our region,” Tessitor said in a written statement.

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Rare Ansel Adams photos bought for $45 at Fresno garage sale

I don’t have any new perspective or rich commentary on the subject, but when I hear about this sort of thing it drives me crazy.

A man, doing his usual garage sale shopping, bought a box of pictures for $45. They turned out to be worth $200 million when experts agreed they were some lost photos taken by Ansel Adams.

I go to garage sales and I am ecstatic if I find a warn down piece of furniture I can maybe turn into something usable. But $200 million photos for $45. I would hate to be the guy that sold them, but luck isn’t for the foolish.

Oh! And there is a local connection, Ansel Adams taught in Pasadena and possibly stored the photos there, so says an expert in CNN’s story.

“Photography expert Patrick Alt, who helped confirm the authenticity of the negatives, suspects Adams carried them to use in a photography class he was teaching in Pasadena, California, in the early 1940s.”

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Violent crime down in largest San Gabriel Valley cities


The amount of violent crime in the San Gabriel Valley’s three most populous cities dropped dramatically last year, reflecting a national trend, according to 2009 crime figures released Monday by FBI.

All three Valley cities of over 100,000 residents — El Monte, Pasadena and West Covina — saw a drop in both violent and property crimes with one exception. El Monte property crime saw an uptick from 2008 to 2009.

Highlights from each of the cities, according to the FBI and police chiefs:

  • West Covina brought back a crime analyst in 2008, which allowed the city to aggressively target certain areas and criminals, Police Chief Frank Wills said.
  • West Covina was also able to keep patrol officers on the streets, but had to cut its S.W.A.T. team to do so, Wills said.
  • Murders in West Covina jumped from three in 2008 to eight in 2009.
  • El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong said the drop in murders to three in 2009 from 12 in 2008 is proof that the spike was an aberration.
  • Pasadena had five murders in 2009 compared to three in 2008.

For more, read the story here.

Final note: We keep track of homicides in the San Gabriel Valley, as well as the FBI which relies on data provided by the law enforcement agencies. In some cases, we have a couple more murders than the FBI’s tally. Here are the totals from 2009, and what we have so far for this year. (The map pictured above shows all the 2009 murders across the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier areas.)

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Pasadena looks at retirees for possible cost-savings

Pasadena officials may have identified an easy way to save millions in crucial city dollars — identify retiring employees and then decide whether to fill their positions.

Dan Abendschein reports the city has identified 35 employees who are likely to retire this year and are studying the potential savings of keeping their posts vacant.

There’s no telling who will actually retire and its still unclear if city officials would actually keep their positions open, fill them or opt for some kind of solution in between.

But the move could potentially save the city millions.

Need Rose Bowl tickets? Gotta get on the list

If you were lucky or connected enough to score some Rose Bowl game tickets last year through a Pasadena official, that may have been the last time.

The Pasadena City Council has tightened the rules behind giving out complimentary tickets to the annual game, Star-News reporter Dan Abendschein reported last week.

This comes after a California Fair Political Practices Commission decision last December ruled in favor of disclosure.

That means now, council members have to submit the names of people to whom they give tickets and a reason for the gift.

And there’s a special list of “qualified ticket recipients,” too, which includes business owners, family members, volunteers and residents who do work on behalf of Pasadena.

Each council member gets 90 tickets to distribute, and the mayor gets 150.

No, the tickets aren’t free.

But considering how fast the Rose Bowl game sells out, it would be nice to have the option of buying tickets without having to stand in line for hours, or purchasing tickets at three times the price online.

Pasadena could ban bulky furniture from parade route

Thinking of lugging that old couch to Colorado Boulevard to watch the Rose Parade this year?

Well you better think twice — city officials are looking to ban such items and other bulky furniture from the parade route as a way to ease New Year’s Day clean-up.

Star-News reporter Dan Abendschein reports the Pasadena City Council is mulling an ordinance that would allow police to issue citations to people who bring in big furniture or lots of chairs to the route.

“The prohibition will likely be against anything that can’t be moved by one person alone,” said Nicholas Rodriguez of the City Attorney’s Office.

Apparently, it costs the Old Pasadena Management District several thousand dollars each year to clean up old barbecues, mattresses and couches along four blocks of the route.

DJ Caruso: Buddies with Spielberg, famous movie director, and … little league president?

This isn’t politics, but I couldn’t resist writing about it.

It was pretty cool, not to mentioned surprising, when I happened to call a famous, and somewhat well known, movie director when calling various little leagues for this story.

When I first looked at Pasadena Southwestern’s little league website, I saw the presidents name and thought it looked familiar: D.J. Caruso.

I, by own definition, consider myself a movie buff. I haven’t been as involved in recent years, but it wasn’t too long ago that I could tell you the best movies to see from American, Korean, Polish and French filmmakers.

So, when I noticed a name that was familiar, I did what any sane person would do – I Googled it. When Caruso’s name came up as the director of Eagle Eye, Disturbia – and most notably for me – The Salton Sea, I was skeptical. What are the odds that a president of a local little league was also a director of films that have grossed more than $100 million.

I talked it over with fellow Tribune reporter Rebecca Kimitch and we both agreed the scenario was unlikely. But still, I promised I would ask.

During the interview about his little league program, I decided I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ask. The guy probably gets that all the time and I didn’t want to annoy him.

But I went through with it, although somewhat backhanded. I asked what he did for a living, and then he responded, without much pressure but with a laugh “I actually direct movies.”

My voice jolted.

“I knew it!”

This is a man who is buddies with Steven Spielberg, has directed Val Kilmer, Shia Lebouf and “The Shield” and I just happened to talk to him for a story about local little leagues hitting hard times. Crazy coincidence.

He said he gets that all that time. In fact, sometimes people come up to him and say “You know, you have the same name as a movie director.” And not knowing they are one in the same, Caruso just lets them carry on. “Ya, I get that all the time,” he says.

When I asked him how he ended up the president of the board for Pasadena Southwestern, I expected…well I didn’t know what to expect but I half expected it to be something elaborate or out of the ordinary.

Instead, it was very similar to any dad or mom’s story. He has five kids, all going through the little league at one time or another and he had helped out as a coach or volunteer over the years.

One year, he took a board position looking over the maintenance of the fields, something he said he was interested in.

This year they asked him to be president and since he is in-between movies, he decided to do it. He felt grateful to the league for all they had done for his family and wanted to give back.

Sometimes this job has some pretty cool surprises.

Honoring Obama’s ‘Call to Service’



A comment I frequently hear when I am out and about is that residents want to help their community, but they just don’t know where to go. Now that Obama has called on our public service, I am hoping to provide regular information on the blog about where people can go to help.

I’ll post more as I find them. If you have any ideas, want to volunteer, or need volunteers, keep us posted.

1. One agency is Women At Work, a Pasadena-based career counseling agency aimed at helping women find work. They need volunteers Monday through Thursday. To find out how to volunteer, call 626-796-6870.

2. Cory’s Kitchen in Irwindale also needs volunteers. Cory’s Kitchen is a food bank that provides groceries to the needy. To contact them, call (626) 305-0392. 

Pasadena smokers beware


Smoking bans in cities have become pretty popular over the last several years.

The latest city to join the club: Pasadena.

According to reporter Dan Abendschein, the City Council approved the new smoking ban Monday.

It takes effect in November, would prohibit smokers “from lighting up in outdoor restaurant patios, at bus stops, in ATM lines and within 20 feet of the entrance to any commercial building.”

It doesn’t look like enforcement is going to be very rigorous though.

But exactly how the smoking ban will be enforced — and whether the city will actually issue citations to violators — is still up in the air. And given the city’s past history with a previous no-smoking law adopted in 2004, an aggressive crackdown seems unlikely.
Enforcement will be primarily the responsibility of several employees at the Health Department, not the police.

Health Department employees will not be out patrolling for smokers, said Wilmore. But like Calabasas, they will respond to complaints from businesses and individuals, he added.

Pasadena police will be trained about the new law, but enforcement will be a low priority, Chief David Melekian said. Don’t expect a cop to show up if you complain about illegal smoking, he added.

Other valley cities that also have smoking bans include South Pasadena and Baldwin Park.

Look for Dan’s story in tomorrow’s paper.