Mexico numbers are in


It looks like the city has the numbers after all for the cost of sending city officials on a sister city trip to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Airan Scruby reports.

City defends lack of disclosure on Sister City trip cost
Airan Scruby, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/26/2008 10:44:17 PM PDT

PICO RIVERA – Officials said it was “happenstance” that the cost of sending a Sister City delegation to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was not released last week.

City Manager Chuck Fuentes said he did not provide information because he believed Interim Finance Director John Herrera would have records of how much money had been budgeted for the trip. Herrera was unable to provide the numbers, he said, because he was out of the office.

“This was one measly little trip, and I’m dealing with multimillion-dollar issues here,” Fuentes said. “I think it’s just out of proportion.”

City spokesman Bob Spencer said he had prepared information on the cost of the trip and the goals of the visit last week, but was not asked for information when this newspaper reported that no figures had been released about the trip.

“Nobody called me,” Spencer said. “I had the information. I don’t know whether the city manager had that information at his disposal or not.”

The city spent about $5,200 to send its five delegates, Spencer said. This was offset by $1,600 earned through sales of DVDs from the Miss Pico Rivera Pageant.

Let’s go to Mexico

Pico Rivera might be in fiscal crisis, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the money to send a delegation to Mexico for four days.

Whittier Daily News reporter Airan Scruby reports:

PICO RIVERA — City officials are mum on the cost of sending a delegation on a biannual visit to Sister City San Luis Potosi, Mexico, this month.

City Manager Chuck Fuentes said Pico Rivera paid for one city employee, Ray Chavez, to go as an official liaison to the Sister City. It also paid for Mayor Ron Beilke, Councilman Bob Archuleta and for Sister City Commission Chairwoman Grace Gallegos to attend. Miss Pico Rivera also went on the city’s dime
Guests of those people were not paid for by the city, Fuentes said, and other community members who chose to go did not receive financial help from City Hall.

However, the cost of the four-day trip is not yet known, Fuentes said.

Interim Finance Director John Herrera said Friday that spending records would not be available for another week. He said he did not have access Friday to the amount budgeted for the trip because he was out of the office.

Archuleta said he was not sure of the numbers, but he believed the cost came out to about $1,200 to $1,300 per person, and that Miss Pico Rivera’s tickets were partially paid for by fundraisers.

Some questioned the necessity of the trip, considering the city faces a $4.8 million deficit if voters do not approve a 1 percent sales-tax hike in November.
“It has zero benefit to the residents of Pico Rivera,” Salcido said. “It’s a city-paid vacation.”

What do you guys think?


Feeling taxed?

My story today goes into the half-percent sales-tax hike proposal that will appear on the November ballot in El Monte.

The tax is among several that voters in nearby cities and county will see, including a 1 percent sales-tax increase in Pico Rivera and a half-cent sales tax measure that the MTA board approved yesterday. (Check out Pasadena reporter Dan Abendschein’s blog Under the Dome for more MTA info. He was blogging from the MTA meeting yesterday.) 

With such tough economic times, it will be difficult getting the voters on board, said Dean Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California. But then again, Southgate voters approved a 1 percent increase by nearly 74 percent.

Are you going to be voting for more taxes come November?

Ongoing Pico coverage

Whittier Daily News reporter Airan Scruby has been closesly following the inner workings of Pico Rivera’s City Hall.

Her most recent story ran in today’s paper and was about Mayor Ron Beilke’s threat to recall two of his colleagues on the dais —- Councilmen Gregory Salcido and David Armenta.

Tomorrow, Scruby looks at City Manager Chuck Fuentes and how he may or may not play a role in the council’s deep divide. Here are some excerpts from the story:


PICO RIVERA — City Manager Charles ”Chuck” Fuentes has been at the center of Pico Rivera politics since he took his position for the first time in 2005.
His supporters say he is a capable civic leader, but detractors say Fuentes has politicized City Hall, showing favoritism to the three City Council members who hired him.
“Am I more political? I’m the first one to say yes, and that’s a plus,” Fuentes said. “Every city manager does what he or she has to do to take care of his majority.”


When City Manager Dennis Courtermarche was fired in 2005, Beilke, along with then-allies councilmen David Armenta and Pete Ramirez, quickly brought in Fuentes, an acquaintance of Beilke’s.
Armenta, Ramirez and Beilke were ultimately served with recall papers because of hiring Fuentes.


Armenta left the voting bloc and voted with Gregory Salcido and Carlos Garcia to fire Fuentes just nine months later. They cited Fuentes’ lack of education and city administrative experience as reasons for his termination.
Fuentes said he felt wronged by the decision and believed his work for the city had been positive.
He said being fired motivated him to help Beilke when he backed Gracie Gallegos-Smith and Bob Archuleta for City Council in 2007. Fuentes even did consulting work on their campaigns, he said.

What do you think?

Just some clarification

I received an e-mail earlier this week from Bob Stern, President of the Center for Governmental Studies. Bob was quoted in Monday’s Leftovers column, however he did not make the comment listed in bold below:

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said if staff time is being used, it could be considered insignificant, depending on the kind of work they are doing.

For example, if staff members are just putting out a press release on the mayor’s position, that’s not such a big deal.

“Basically, (this is) propaganda from some of my colleagues,” he said, adding that his opponents on the dais are using the incident as a political tactic.

That last quote was made by Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke. Beilke was referring to the fact that he believed his colleagues on the council were spinning the arrest story involving two of Beilke’s employees to make the mayor look bad.

Leftovers column…

Here’s monday’s Leftovers column. This week we chose to look at the criticism surrounding Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke’s support of two of his son’s friends in a case where a reserve deputy’s gun and vehicle were stolen.

I have to say, when I called Beilke Friday to talk about the issue, he was less than pleased that we — like other news outlets, according to him — were getting this all wrong by focusing on tagging. Well, the two he’s supporting are alleged taggers … but that’s another story, I guess.

Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke said Friday he is “absolutely, positively in no way in support of taggers.”
But he supports 19-year-old Miguel Perez and 24-year-old Ivan De Jesus Marquez, who Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators believe are members of the “Pico Drunk Punx,” a Pico Rivera tagging crew.
The two are suspected in a case where a reserve deputy’s .45-caliber revolver and vehicle were stolen.
They are also employees at Beilke’s Wienerschnitzel and friends of Beilke’s 17-year-old son who was originally detained by deputies in the case, but wasn’t charged.

“I’m as confused as anyone as to why this has turned into a tagging story,” Beilke said. “They are not being charged with any tagging crime.”
Beilke’s right. The two face charges of receiving stolen property — namely, the gun — charges Beilke thinks will eventually go away.
But some of Beilke’s colleagues are concerned with the fact that Beilke is “throwing his weight” behind these alleged taggers, even if the case has nothing to do with tagging.

“It doesn’t look good for the city for something like this to be happening,” said Pico Rivera Councilman David Armenta. “It just sends a bad message, possibly a wrong message, to the kids that if they do something as serious as this, that there could be someone to bail them out.”

Beilke reportedly told The Los Angeles Times, “There’s tagging crews and party crews, and nine times out of 10, you find out it’s a party crew. A few may tag, and all of a sudden, they’re all called taggers.”
Armenta took issue with the quote, especially since the city is trying to “send a firm message: no tagging, no party crews, no gangs.”

Councilman Gregory Salcido said the issue, while personal, has now become the city’s problem.
“Once city employees become involved to protect Ron, it becomes city business,” he said.
Salcido said the city manager, assistant city manager and public information officer have spent hours working on ways to “spin” the mayor’s involvement in the issue.
Beilke said he doesn’t know of any staff time being used on the issue — which he called a “non-event.”

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said if staff time is being used, it could be considered insignificant, depending on the kind of work they are doing.
For example, if staff members are just putting out a press release on the mayor’s position, that’s not such a big deal.

“Basically, (this is) propaganda from some of my colleagues,” Beilke said, adding that his opponents on the dais are using the incident as a political tactic.
Beilke said he’s known the kids for years and is just trying to provide them with direction in their lives.

“If you have the sheriffs going around saying they are taggers I’m not going to disagree or argue with (that) … I think they are good kids.”

They may tag, but they’re not taggers

10598-RonBeilke.jpgThe L.A. Times ran a story today on Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke and the recent incidents involving his son and some employees at Beilke’s Wienerschnitzel.

Beilke makes some really interesting comments, including this one:

“The kids got the world against them right now,” Beilke said. “They’re trying to say they’re all in a tagging crew. There’s tagging crews and party crews, and nine times out of 10, you find out it’s a party crew. A few may tag, and all of a sudden, they’re all called taggers.”

First of all, should kids really be involved in any kind of “crews?” And second of all, the fact that a “few may tag” sounds concerning, especially in a place, where as the Times put it,  “has burnished a reputation as a city that goes hard after tagging.” 

Pet services

While driving back from a beach day in Huntington Beach last weeked, I passed a pet cemetery. It had more flowers on the gravesites than I’ve seen at many human cemeteries!

This came to mind as I was reading Airan Scruby’s story this morning about a low cost pet clinic that recently opened.

Low cost Clinico keeps pet population down

The low-cost spay and neuter center offers services at below cost to people with dogs and cats.

Clinico opened Tuesday on Slauson Avenue, funded through a grant from PetSmart Charities. The first installment of the grant was $2.2 million, paid last year to the program to establish its first three locations.

Other charitable organizations, including the Found Animals Foundation, will contribute to the project.

The Pico Rivera location is the first of seven scheduled to open over the next five years, including locations in Baldwin Park, Van Nuys, South Central Los Angeles, North Central Los Angeles, Compton or Carson and Lancaster or Palmdale.

“The overarching goal is to reduce euthanasia in shelters due to overpopulation,” director Mary Martin said.

Funny business at the mayor’s home



Sounds like someone living under Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke’s roof could be in hot water…

PICO RIVERA – A unidentified person was detained at Mayor Ron Beilke’s home Wednesday as part of an auto theft investigation, authorities said.

Sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station deputies said their investigation led them to several locations in the city, including the mayor’s house on Aero Drive. It resulted in the arrest of seven adults – five males and two females – and the detainment of one juvenile.

Reporter Airan Scruby goes on to report that deputies questioned Beilke’s 17-year-old son, but no one would say who exactly from the mayor’s home had actually been detained.

This should be interesting…You think we’ll get a copy of the police report?

San Marino schools vs. Pico Rivera schools

While driving through San Marino last weekend, I passed a beautiful, remodeled high school. Then, I saw a sign that marked the donations — which is in the hundreds of thousands — to the school district. “Public education is not free,” the sign read.

I normally don’t meander through San Marino. My routes usually take me through West Covina, Covina and Baldwin Park. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I guessing that there is a significant disparity among the donation efforts in San Marino versus Baldwin Park or Pico Rivera.

Airan Scruby reported today that four Pico Rivera schools are slated for closure. I am sure that San Marino schools are facing their sets of hardships, but I wonder: Have any schools closed in San Marino?