Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oooh, You Make Me Live....

When I think of my high school days, I rarely have a memory that doesn't include my best friend, Steven. We played football together, we rented a limo to prom together and we hung out almost every day playing video games.

I'm proud to say Steven is still my best friend. Since I don't have any brothers, he was my best man and baptized one of my kids. It's very hard to break a bond with someone you've known since your formative years and spent almost every single waking hour with.

Why do I bring this up in a blog about the city of West Covina? Simple: City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman and local businessman/developer Henry "Hank" Attina.

Word around the campfire is these two are like two peas in a pod. They've been friends for ages. Best friends? I have no idea. But neither one has ever denied being friends. Our friends (well, we're not friends yet but I'm hoping to be) at the Foothill Cities blog lays out the relationship nicely with an article from former Whittier Daily News Reporter Ben Baeder.

Still, you ask, what does this have to do with West Covina?

Because what has been done in Montebello has happened in West Covina but no one knows about it. Why? I don't know.

This is what I do know: The West Covina Senior Villas was built with Telacu. The city gave Telacu about $4 million to build them back in 2002. They started negotiations and such in October of 2001, according to this document. And who was working to bring the Villas to West Covina? Why Hank Attina, of course. And who would be the negotiator on behalf of the city? The city attorney. In this case, Arnold Alvarez-Glasman.

Now, according to the story by Mr. Ben Baeder, Alvarez-Glasman hasn't worked as Attina's lawyer in years; certainly years before this negotiation between the city and Telacu. So it's all good, right?

Wrong, is what a source out of the city of Rosemead tells me (she read my first blog posting and wanted to give me a juicy tip). Apparently this woman wanted to keep Alvarez-Glasman out of her city and dug up a couple of skeletons.

Apparently, Mr. Attina had a little too much to drink one night back in May 2001 and decided to drive home. He got pulled over, arrested and charged with a DUI (he's practically a celebrity already!). When he appeared in court he had an attorney representing him. The attorney: Arnold Alvarez-Glasman. How that guy hasn't gotten his bar card pulled by now is beyond me.

Now I ask, is there a conflict of interest here? I think so, but it's not my opinion that matters. It's the folks at the California Bar Association. I heard a complaint was lodged against Alvarez-Glasman for this very issue, but that is all speculation, fourth-party hearsay and whatnot. He's obviously still practicing law so that means no complaint was lodged, or the bar threw it out.

I don't know what will come of this post, but I hope something. Anything. I just feel uncomfortable about how cozy everyone in leadership positions are with people who want our money to build things or buy our land on the cheap.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gas Stations and Beer

Most of you may not know this, but the sale of alcohol -- beer and wine included -- is prohibited at gas stations by ordinance in the City of West Covina. I only found this out a few years ago when I tried to grab a six-pack at a fill-up station after a loooooong day at work.

At the time, I might have been a little pissed, but I just went to the nearest 7-Eleven and picked one up there.

This kind if left my mind for a while, until February 5th of this year. What makes that day so special is that I watched this from home. Granted, it might take you a while to get to the good stuff, so I'll break it down for you.

* The City Council, which was wearing the hat of the Community Development Commission, approved 3-1 to sell a prime piece of real estate for a measly $1 million so that a gas station could be built there. It's a patch of land near the almost-complete Big League Dreams sports complex (some call it a sportsplex, which annoys me because I generally dislike two words merging to become one).

* The buyer is the McIntyre Cos. Anyone who has been paying attention the last three years knows Councilman Mike Touhey works/worked for McIntyre as a consultant/lobbyist before getting re-elected to the council four years after getting ousted in 2003. He swears up and down and to anyone who would listen that he does not lobby his colleagues on behalf of McIntyre and other developers who have projects in the city. To protect himself, he always recuses himself. Admirable, no?

* Um.... No. At the very same meeting, February 5th, Councilman Touhey asked his colleagues to hold a discussion on repealing the ordinance that prohibits the sale of alcohol at ** drum roll, please ** GAS STATIONS!

Now, could it be a coincidence that he's pushing for a code change that would greatly benefit his client monetarily? Sure. But as the great Williams S. Burroughs once said:

"In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Moment of Silence

It's not like me to post more than once a day, but this warranted it.

Though we all have our grievances from time to time, and we bitch and moan about things over which we have no or little control, something like the death of this poor woman puts things in perspective. She doesn't live at all far from me and I think that could have easily been MY wife and I was the husband coming home to find the haunting sight of flashing police lights in front of my home to be told she was gone.

It could be any of us.


If you haven't already, you have to read the San Gabriel Valley Tribune's "Leftovers from City Hall" blog. My only complaint is that it's light on news from West Covina, the headquarter city of the SGV. But I got an e-mail from one of the blogs authors, Tania Chatila, that the new blog is branching out to include more posts from other cities. She, along with reporter Jennifer McLain, tells us about the stuff going on at city halls that doesn't make it into the paper.

Hey! That was my idea... But I forgive them. I was late. I'm hoping that maybe one day they'll mention this little blog and more people will read it. **hint, hint**

The latest from "Leftovers" includes a subject that's near and dear to my heart: Spelling. Yes, that's right. Reporter Alison Hewitt wrote a post called "Mye Badde." Ms. Hewitt is hoping "Old Town West Covina," which is being requested for "downtown" West Covina (the strip of Glendora Avenue behind the Edwards movie theater), doesn't turn into "Olde Towne West Covina" with those obnoxious Es.

I agree with her wholeheartedly. It shouldn't be called "Olde Towne West Covina."

It should be called "Ghost Town West Covina."

Have you ever been there? Lately? I remember when they opened the Macaroni Grille, that sushi joint and that Hawaiian restaurant. It was a big to-do. Hawaiian dancers were shakin' their hips, people were wearing leis and stuff. That's what I read in the paper anyway because I don't recall getting an invitation to the event. But everyone there was all, "Oh, this is the kick start to revitalizing the whole area," "pedestrian friendly central hub," blah blah blah. That was like, three or four years ago!

So, what happened? Where is my pedestrian friendly central hub? Does anybody know where it is? Did they move it? According to this, it hasn't moved, it just plain sucks! This isn't an overhaul, it's frikkin' landscaping for Pete's sake.

We were promised a real downtown and now all the places that moved in at that Hawaiian-themed event are moving out! I went to that restaurant a couple times and I swear my family and I were maybe one of three or four customers. Why are they all leaving? I bet if you'd ask the owners they'd say it's because they were also promised a big overhaul of Glendora Avenue, too, and never got it. I'd be pissed if I spent all this money on opening a business on the promise of "revitalization" and never got it.

Oh well... Another promise from elected "leaders" promptly thrown out the window. We should be used to that by now. Especially if you happen to live in West Covina.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Calling on the South Side

For years the folks living on the south end of West Covina regularly ignored what was happening at City Hall. They had the lowest voter turnout of all regions in the city, according to voter registration rolls.

And then, land slated to be used for park space was in danger of becoming condos.

Finally, they woke up and in this last election, the voter turnout increased by about 50%, according to the LA County Registrar's office.

They mobilized like crazy. Everywhere you went "Hernandez & Sykes" signs were up. See, Hernandez was the only current council member who opposed the sale of the land and Fred Sykes was a south side resident who was also like me: he voted, but didn't pay attention to what he voted for.

So that's the history in a nutshell. Many candidates used the "We are 1 West Covina," "United We Stand...," but all those candidates lived in the same neighborhood as four out of five of the city councilmembers, the posh-for-West Covina South Hills area.

After the election, though, the mobilization didn't end. They created a group of concerned citizens called, aptly enough, Concerned Citizens for a Better West Covina. Beyond reading their website, I don't know much about them, so if you do, let me know. I would love to go to a meeting.

They discuss issues like graffiti abatement, creating "districts" and tax hikes. It's good stuff and I urge anyone to take a gander at their site. In fact, I was so inspired by some of their topics, they are definitely on tap for future postings.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why I'm Here...

I've lived in the city of West Covina for many years now, but up until the end of last year, I didn't really pay attention to what was happening at city hall. Like most people, I lead a busy life. I have a full-time job, spouse, kids, etc. While I did what I believed was my due diligence by voting in every election, I could honestly say I cast my vote without really being educated on the candidates.

Who has time?

It wasn't until about October 2007, I started paying attention. I got one of those political fliers in the mail about Roger Hernandez, a city council member, from the West Covina Senior Citizens Taxpayers Association. It said all this stuff about him with these graphics of newspaper headlines on it. But at the time, I didn't know this so I said to myself: "Self, don't vote for Roger Hernandez."

Soon after receiving that flier, a woman came to my door and said she worked for Hernandez's campaign. The fact that I didn't close the door on her speaks volumes of my innate morbid curiosity. I grilled that poor woman, but she was calm and informed me that the West Covina Senior Citizens Taxpayers Association was a bogus front for Hernandez's opponent, Steve Herfert. She showed me a form that proved the only people who made up this organization were Steve Herfert, his family and some random people who didn't even LIVE in West Covina. I still wasn't convinced and I went to City Hall myself, which also speaks volumes to my constant need to always be right.

Well, I was wrong. Steve Herfert was the main contributor to this "organization." Still, I wasn't convinced. I looked for those newspaper articles that were posted on the flier. I found them. Yes! I thought. Retribution!! It's all there in black and white....

But then there was more. Turns out every last charge on that flier was embellished, there was so much more to the story. Defeated, I turned my energy toward finding out more about City Hall, and I found a whole lot. I started reading the local paper more and I had this bright idea to send everything I learned about the West Covina Senior Citizens Taxpayers Association to them.

Have not since read one word about this phony organization -- even after Steve Herfert boasted his endorsement from the association at the Candidate's Forum. OF course he's endorsed by them. I'd endorse myself, too!

Anyway, I decided to start a blog to let people know about it. Turns out Steve Herfert is no longer the biggest contributor to this "Association." They went on full attack mode toward the end of the campaign, and I thought "Who could afford this?" Turns out many, many big developers with whom another council member has financial ties. But that's a story for another day.

City Hall is chock-full of drama and I am proud to say that I have given up reality TV to bring it to all of you. I mean, like a few of you since this is brand new and I still don't know how to advertise it.

Please don't hesitate to send me messages and tips!

**Disclaimer: I don't love or hate any of the members of the City Council. In fact, I've never met them. As far as I'm concerned, they're all politicians and therefore all susceptible to scrutiny.