Canyon City Alliance changes website to include Vulcan Materials

It was brought to my attention (Thanks, commenter David) that after reporting on this blog the Canyon City Alliance did not list Vulcan Materials as part of its coalition on its website, it has now been changed.

This also comes following a letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission that outlines an investigation into the group for alleged violations of the Political Reform Act. The group has been accused by an anti-mining group for not clearly listing its sole donor, Vulcan Materials Co., on campaign material.

Canyon City Alliance officials said they did not plan to change any material because they believed to be in compliance.

The website change must have been some sort of exception…

Email: | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

An addendum to the FPPC investigation into the Canyon City Alliance with bonus analysis

I reported in today’s newspaper about a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into “potential issues” regarding campaign literature from the Canyon City Alliance.

The first thing I want to discuss is the assertion by Azusans Against Mining Expansion that the FPPC found violations the CCA was guilty of violating the Political Reform Act.

Is that claim true? To my best knowledge and understanding, that answer is: undetermined.

Let me explain.

The FPPC’s letter is highly ambiguous regarding any violation. In the second paragraph it states:

In our investigation of this allegation, we have identified several potential issues that may be violations of the Act

The key words in this sentence are “potential” and “may be.” If you are citing someone for a violation, you don’t leverage your claim by adding crutch words like potential and may be. That suggests there is room for error, interpretation or argument. I think that is what we have hear.

That is demonstrated by the claims of a violation over the 410 committee statement paperwork. That potential violation was already taken back by the FPPC after speaking with Vulcan, according to FPPC spokesman Roman Porter. A new letter was issued without that allegation and Porter said the CCA was previously in compliance regarding the 410, prior to the original FPPC letter being drafted. If this letter was citing steadfast violations, the FPPC wouldn’t have changed its tune on one of the “violations” in just a few days.

When I asked Porter what this letter meant, he declined to speak about an open investigation. The fact this is an open investigation directly implies that CCA has not be found in violation. If this was a done deal, Porter would speak freely about the investigation, the violations, and all the documents related to that would be posted on the FPPC website. Maybe they will in the next couple days, but right now, that just isn’t the case. It is very possible that by the end of the week, Vulcan is fined. It is possible this all will be taken back. The point I am making is that none of this is solidified yet.

For now, Porter said this was a “cease and desist” letter, but wouldn’t comment on any actual violations due to the open investigatation. Whether or not anything needs to be stopped or changed, is still a matter of debate. I think we will have our answer soon, but the fact is, we don’t have it yet.

QUICK UPDATE: I did go to the Canyon City Alliance website and found it curious that in the “Who We Are” section, it lists “Yes on A, Canyon City Alliance is a coalition including the Azusa Chamber of Commerce, the Azusa Police Officers’ Association, community leaders and local residents.”

Where’s Vulcan?

Item number two.

There has often been the argument that if the development agreement doesn’t nullify the entire conditional use permit for Vulcan’s mining plan amendment, why are they fighting to support the referendum election?

Jeri Vogel said just as much to me yesterday.

“If Yes on A gets rid of all the money they have to pay the city of Azusa, then why do they plan to fight that unless they plan on making a whole lot more money later on?” she said.

To her credit, I think it is an easy conclusion to assume. I wondered just the same myself when the referendum was first proposed. In fact, that same thing happened in Rosemead with its Wal-Mart referendum. When the people came forward to the City Council to ask them to take back the development agreement, Wal-Mart stepped forward and said sounds like an awesome idea. Guess what? The city lost the money and Wal-Mart kept its use permit.

So the question arises, why is Vulcan promoting Measure A?

For Vulcan this situation is a lose-lose. Fight for Measure A and you get accusations like Vogel’s (which aren’t without merit).

Yet, if they fought against Measure A, they would make themselves an easy target to be cast as the greedy mining company out to squeeze whatever they can out of the community, including tricking the people into giving them a mining plan without Vulcan giving anything back (except its regular tax rate) to the city.

I posed the question to Vogel.

“That is kind of a hard one. They are in a lose-lose position as far as that goes,” she agreed. ” I still think they are going to make a whole lot more money on the other side.”

For Vulcan, it was an easy choice, especially since they made a promise to the city they would defend against any referendum.

“The city can’t campaign in favor of it, but we can and we said we would,” Vulcan spokeswoman Peg Casey said. “The development agreement requires that if there was a challenge, that Vulcan would defend against that action. It is perfectly appropriate that we defend and support Measure A.”

Email: | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

UPDATED: If Measure A (Azusa Rock Quarry referendum) is turned down, could Azusa just renegotiate a new agreement?

48625-Azusa Rock-thumb-325x216-41996-thumb-325x216-48624.jpg

The Tribune had an editorial meeting with members of the Canyon City Alliance and Azusa council members Robert Gonzales and Uriel Macias today.

After listening to their pitch, an interesting comment came about during discussions about Measure A and the Azusa Rock Quarry mining project.

It is and has been the position of the majority of the City Council, Azusa, and the CCA that a no vote on Measure A would only nullify Vulcan Materials Co.’s amended mining plan’s development agreement, but that its use permit would stand. Essentially, the mining would be allowed to continue but many of the benefits negotiated by the city with Vulcan Materials would be lost (a fact that remains questionable).

Now, of course that all comes with the caveat that legal challenges – and you can be sure there would be one – could argue the CUP and development agreement are tied together and upon success in a legal challenge, they both could go down.

But barring that hypothetical, the question was posed what would stop Azusa from negotiating a new development agreement connected to the project if this one is rejected?

The answer, in short, was nothing, according to Macias.

The long answer was no one knows what will happen during a no vote. Litigation? New deal? It is all something of an unknown, Macias said.

“With (Measure A) we know whats going to happen,” if it is passed, Macias said. “With a no, we don’t know. (Supporting Measure A) is us taking control of our own destiny.”

But to me, that said that, barring a legal victory to the contrary, a no vote on Measure A could lead to the city renegotiating new benefits with Vulcan. Whether or not Vulcan will listen, is certainly a question. And the company would then be put in the position of having a significant amount of leverage.

UPDATE: Azusa Councilman Keith Hanks phoned me and reminded me that there is a one year “cooling off” period following a referendum of a council action. So if a new deal were to be struck, it would have to be done in 2012.

UPDATE TWO: Macias called and had this statement regarding the potential for future negotiations:

“We have done that already. We told them no when they wanted to expand to 270 acres and the first time in May when we negated it and went back to the negotiating table. We have in fact already done that.”

On a related note, I asked Canyon City Alliance officials if they would be donating to candidates in the City Council election. President Liz Ramirez said those discussions have not taken place with board members. Chamber of Commerce board member Mercedes Castro said that after Jan. 26 (the referendum special election is Jan. 25) the group intends to disband.

UPDATE: (I really hope this is the last one, I have received more phone calls on this post than any other.) Castro called me and told me she misspoke when saying the CCA would disband following the referendum election. The group will still exist, but may close its offices, she said.

Macias then jumped in and said he would not accept any money from Canyon City Alliance.

It is well known that Vulcan is a member of the CCA, contributes services and is the major source of funding for the group.

(An earlier version of this story identified Mercedes Castro as the Chamber of Commerce President. Castro is the former president.)

Email: | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Say hello to the new face of the Canyon City Alliance

I got a press release from Elizabeth Ramirez yesterday announcing that Canyon City Alliance had hired a one Elizabeth Ramirez. Weird, same name! I wonder if the other Elizabeth Ramirez even knows that!

OK, OK. I know they are the same person. Mostly because Elizabeth Ramirez said they were.

Anyhoo, since I haven’t really talked about them yet, the Canyon City Alliance is a group of businesses, police, and community members who support the newly approved Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan.

Ramirez will be the executive director of the group that also boasts Azusa Chamber of Commerce executive board member Mercedes Castro as president.

Here is the press release:

Elizabeth Ramirez Hired to Lead Canyon City Alliance

Longtime Azusa Resident to Serve as Alliance Executive Director

October 6, 2010 (AZUSA, CA) – The Canyon City Alliance has announced the hiring of Elizabeth
Ramirez as the organization’s Executive Director. Ramirez will be responsible for daytoday
operations of the Canyon City Alliance and will coordinate all community activities related to
the Alliance’s support for the City’s recent approval of the Azusa Rock project.

“We are excited and fortunate to have Elizabeth leading the Canyon City Alliance. As a lifelong
resident of Azusa, she will provide outstanding leadership to our organization. Throughout her
involvement with numerous Azusa nonprofit organizations, she has earned the respect of our
community and we look forward to her joining our team” said Mercedes Castro, President of
the Canyon City Alliance.

The Canyon City Alliance was founded by business, law enforcement and community leaders to
help promote a vibrant business climate in the City of Azusa and throughout the San Gabriel
Valley. The City of Azusa is home to nearly 50,000 residents and will soon be celebrating the
opening of a new Target department store, construction of a Metro Gold Line Station near
downtown, as well as the recently approved requirement to restore Azusa’s hillsides.

“I am excited to be joining a group of such dedicated residents and community leaders.
Working together, the Canyon City Alliance will be able to help promote the programs, activities
and quality of life projects that are critical to Azusa residents and the San Gabriel Valley,” said
Elizabeth Ramirez.