Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mom n Pop vs. Chains

The greatest thing, I think, about living in West Covina is the variety of restaurants. I love that I would have to kind of drive out of the way to a fast food joint and I have a cornucopia of choices that are either Mom n Pops, or chains.

I decided to take a break today from giving the City Council a literary brow beating and focus on my readers, to try to get them involved in something they can all agree on: FOOD!

So, I'll start with listing my favorite Mom n Pop eatery, followed by my favorite chain:

1. The Chicken Box on Glendora Avenue. Basically, if you slathered a volleyball in good barbecue sauce, I'll probably eat it. Don't get me wrong, though, the chicken is superb! In fact, any dead animal on my plate will brighten the Watcher's mood even in the bleakest of times. Isn't that why we eat so much after funerals?

2. BJs Brewery. I also love a good beer and the spicy avocado rolls were made by the Gods. Oh, but don't forget about their pizza, its soft crust and melty cheese. Oh, and the Pazookie. Whoever thought of that is obviously a stoner, I'm just glad he/she remembered to make some for the rest of us.

Now, it's your turn. Don't be shy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did You Feel It?

A 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Southland today and centered in Chino Hills, just a stone's throw from West Covina. Luckily for me, I work in Cerritos so it wasn't so bad. Not so lucky for the house though. The wife found a photo of Pops broken on the floor, along with a few knick knacks.

Hope all your houses are in tact and you are all safe.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Feel Like Perez Hilton!

Hey, Watcher readers. In case you missed it, a fine, classy person who uses the handle "Edgewood Insider" gave me my very first Hate Mail! I'm so proud I could piss. The aforementioned Insider states:

"talk about no balls. what's your name? MR. HYPOCRISY! at least shelley uses her real name.should i call you gen. wild bill donovan ( master of spy's [sic]) or bob's big boy. that's right bit** you have been called out. So go ahead take your F***ing comments and stick um up your F***ing As* P.S.BLD Rules"

With the last bit there, I could deduct the writer in question is a 13-year-old angst-ridden boy. Remember when you were that age and you wrote all over your Pee Chee folder: "Metallica Rules!"? Well, some of you may be a bit older or younger than me, but I came of age in the era of Beavis and Butthead, and well, the Insider's rant takes me back to that simpler time. Thanks, friend.

Also, I'd like to address once again why I don't reveal my true identity. Does Batman? Spider-man? Superman? No. They don't, mostly to protect themselves. I'm doing the same. The people in power in West Covina wield a lot of it and frankly, I don't want my family getting harassed or anything simply because the people in power don't like what I say.

I realize I'm comparing myself to comic book heroes, but give me a break. I just saw Dark Knight for the third time.

Friday, July 25, 2008


What did I say?

Got home last night and guess what was in the mail? That's right: Discover West Covina.

And what was on the cover? Yup: Big League Dreams.

Before anyone starts telling me, "Big League Dreams isn't the only thing on the cover, wha, wha, wha." 'Tis true. In the last year, BLD graced the cover of Discover West Covina four times-- That's about 33%.

However, there is not ONE single subject that gets more press in the newsletter than BLD. What about the new soccer fields? Didn't that deserve the star treatment this month?

The planning and community service commissions voted to redo Orangewood Park to include soccer fields for almost 2,000 youth soccer league players. In case you didn't know it, the league, which has been around for a gazillion years, never had a bona fide soccer field on which to play. NEVER. I think that is more interesting than BLD and its "success."

Look, I'm sure a lot of people use it. I'm not doubting that, but we're spending like $1.3 million a year on that damn thing, and in the meantime, we're making cuts to public safety and across the board.

While Discover West Covina tells us how many people go to BLD, how much money its making for the city is conspicuously missing.

Before I get accused of drinking too much Haterade, I do have plans to make Discover West Covina cheaper, if the city continues to insist on publishing it.

1. It doesn't need to be glossy. In fact, why isn't it on recycled paper? I looked for the little recycling symbol and it wasn't there. Yes, I know recycled paper can come in glossy, but I don't think the newsletter is one of those.

2. Make it online only! The Community Recreation Guide in online only now.

3. Take a survey: How many people will be torn up inside if they don't get it monthly or quarterly? Maybe those who really want it can subscribe to it, and those of us who end up just tossing it won't be getting it in the mail. I'm sure the postage costs will decrease significantly.

Those are my ideas. Since Councilwoman Shelley Sanderson is now a Watcher reader, maybe she can take those ideas to her colleagues. The rest of the council can be readers, too, but she's the only one with the cojones to post, even if she disagrees with me. I like her spunk. And her sense of humor.

Don't think the Watcher's getting soft, but you can't deny her cuteness :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Boy's Back

Looks like Councilman Mike Touhey won't be the biggest guy in West Covina for much longer.

According to this, there's gonna be a new Bob's Big Boy in town.

(Warning: the linked article above refers to the area as an "evolving downtown landscape." I believe that's a typo and the "d" is missing in front of the "e" in "evolving", plus the area is not really the alleged downtown area)

It's taking over the building deserted by Chevy's "Fine" Mexican food restaurant. "Fine" is in quotes because the "food" made me want to "vomit."

The Big Boy was in town up until 1994 then left. To be perfectly honest, I've only went into a Big Boy once (that doesn't sound right, does it?) and that was on my way to Vegas in a little town called Hesperia in the high desert. They call it the high desert because there's a lot of meth there.

Anyway, I remember the food being subpar, but a helluva improvement on Chevy's. If you want some killer Mexican food in West Covina, I STRONGLY, HIGHLY recommend Senor Baja on Glendora Avenue, or Ghost Town West Covina, as I like to call it. Best. Fish Tacos. Ever.

I consider myself a connoisseur, if you will, of fish tacos. I've been all over the land, from the Frisco Bay, to Baja California, and the best fish tacos are right here in the San Gabriel Valley. Yes! Even better than Ensenada. I want to drown in the fish batter and eat my way out.

For the old schoolers, Senor Baja used to be called El Taco Nazo. In fact, the location in Baldwin Park still is called El Taco Nazo, but the fishy goodness is all the same: just the right amount of cabbage and sauce, and fish fried to a crispy brown. Hold on a sec... I think I'm drooling.

So what the hell is this post supposed to be about?

Whatever, man. I'm goin' to Senor Baja. I'll be the guy in the corner in the food coma, sauce all over his face and cabbage on his shirt. Just shake me awake so I could finish my meal.

All You People Up There at City Hall....

OK. I will start with a disclaimer: In no way do I advocate violence, riots in the streets, breaking windows of small businesses and starting f***ing fires.

It's a joke. It's a song called "City Hall," by comedy musical duo Tenacious D. I found it fitting since I write about City Hall. So, from me to you: Enjoy and lighten up!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Newsflash: Shelley Sanderson Agrees with the Watcher

This just in: West Covina City Councilwoman Shelley Sanderson has publicly said she agrees with the West Covina Watcher!

In fact, her exact words were: "I couldn't agree more!"

Ch-che-check it out here!

Actually, whether she intended to or not, she let slip her real motive for voting to halt the broadcasts when she claimed the broadcasts helped Fred Sykes "stand on his soap box and have his 5 minutes to campaign for free on the taxpayers money."

You campaign for free on taxpayer money every time you open your mouth on the dais, lady. Tell me, how much taxpayer money over the years have YOU used to fly to conferences, stay in nice hotels, eat, etc? I'm sure a lot. I'm not saying that's a completely bad thing, but if you're going to live in a glass house...

Why not cut the council's and commissions' per diems all together and put that into public safety? Because those per diems are supposed to help enhance the city -- just like the broadcasts.

Bring 'em back!

New Look, New News

Hey folks. As you can see, the Watcher did a bit of an overhaul. In no way, shape or form am I web savvy, so I had to go with one of's templates.

The reason I changed it is because I discovered California City News and since they were kind enough to link to this very blog on their site, I figured I should do the same, and make it dominant enough for others to see. The other layout made it a bit harder for me to do that.

On to the new news: Concernced Citizens for West Covina is handing out a petition to get the City Council meetings back on the air!

Like I've said over and over, I find the uncensored meetings are a lot more helpful than relying on Discover West Covina, or "Herfert Herald," for my city news, considering the newsletter is controlled by the powers that be.

If you're interested in signing the petition, just shoot me an e-mail and I'll send your info to Mr. Sykes. I'm sure he'll come to you!

Some doubt the petition will do much good, and others suggest just about anyone could sign it, whether they live in West Covina or not. I have to disagree. Mr. Sykes ran for City Council, so I'm sure he has a nice database of West Covina voters he could get to. Secondly, three members of this esteemed board are up for re-election soon. How would it look if they went against the people's will?

What I think, though, is the recent West Covina Fire Department commercials on Charter are sticking in their collective crawl a bit more than this petition. There I am, watching Family Guy on the Cartoon Network when I see this building burning and hear a 9-1-1 call playing over and text on the screen that reads something like "A person can't live without oxygen for more than 4 minutes" and then a little girl is chasing a ball in her pool, then a voice over talks about budget cuts increasing response times.

At first I thought it was regarding all California fire departments, then at the end I learn it is in regards specifically to the WC firefighters.

It probably would have been even better if they showed a photo of the council or the city manager with the voice over saying, "These people want you to DIE!" LOL! I kid, I kid. But they did use the "fear" tactic, of which I have never been a fan, especially since the whole "Going-to-Iraq-without-proper-intelligence-causing-the-deaths-of-over-4,000 Americans-using-people's-fear-of-9/11-to-justify-it" thing.

But that's just me. Any opinions or thoughts?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where the Streets Have No Name

Looks like the Tribune finally made some calls to figure out what the hell is going on in Ghost Town West Covina.

As the Watcher's already reported back in March, all the great businesses excited for a "downtown revitalization" have packed up and left, such as Romano's Macaroni Grill, Dono Sushi, Vieta Coffee, Juice it Up, Red Brick Pizza and the Hawaiian restaurant that later became Seafood Bay and the Red Room.

Some blame the economy.

I blame petty politics.

The thing is this: Since being elected to City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Hernandez has been talking about downtown revitalization to anyone who would listen. He's been pushing for it for, I don't know, five years or so now.

When the new Lakes development started, everyone was talking about it being a catalyst for something huge -- pedestrian friendly, mixed-use where commercial and residential can co-exist in the same building, and so on. It's all the rage. They even have one of those developments in freakin' Maywood! Maywood, for crying out loud! I used to date a girl from Maywood and my mother wouldn't let me go see her there because she was sure I'd get shot.

Fast forward just a little: The council changes and Hernandez happens to have a beef with re-elected-after-being-ousted Mike Touhey over God knows what, and all of a sudden -- Downtown West Covina revitalization is not plausible, even after the city spent a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS on a plan and a gazillion citizen meetings. In fact, at one point, the City Council, with Herfert absent, offered to take the plan off the shelf.

The very next meeting, when Herfert was back, it was re-shelved. Wonder why.

While doing research for this post, I came across a very interesting article from the Los Angeles Times, and I think I'd like to post it in all its glory on this very site:

West Covina revives lofty goals for downtown; Talk of transforming the area into an urban village has resurfaced, but not everyone thinks it's a good idea.
Paloma Esquivel
Times Staff Writer

In West Covina, where "downtown" could best be described as a pair of mid-sized avenues anchored by a movie theater, there's talk of transforming the city's core into a bustling urban village. But there's been talk before.

For at least 10 years, the city has fostered visions of a busy downtown where high-end loft-dwellers stroll around the corner to restaurants and locals pass the time chatting at coffee bars. Plans were made and community meetings held. There were even whispers that the city was ready to use eminent domain. But nothing happened.

Earlier this month, talk started up again when the City Council proposed creating a subcommittee to revisit downtown revitalization. What the committee will actually do isn't clear.

There's widespread agreement that downtown businesses are in trouble, but little consensus on how to fix their problems, officials said. Even those who agreed to create the committee disagree about its goals. And the question of whether high-end development addresses the community's affordable housing needs is hardly on the radar.

Business leaders, city officials and community members are split on whether mixed-use development, which blends high-end lofts and condos with office space and entertainment venues, is a good idea, said Gary Lawson, who heads the West Covina Chamber of Commerce. But he said that most agree: "Something needs to be done."

Since 1994, nearly $2 million has been spent on downtown infrastructure improvements and almost $500,000 has been allocated for area planning studies, according to city reports. But downtown still isn't attracting enough customers, Lawson said.

Locals often head to Orange County, Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles for entertainment and restaurants.

Some local businesses are struggling to stay open, said developer Ted Slaught.

"I think downtown is a more idle place today than it was five years ago. We have fewer retailers," said Slaught, who helped develop the city's Lakes center, which includes an Edwards movie theater, a Barnes and Noble, a Macaroni Grill and other restaurants and stores.

Red Brick pizza, Juice It Up and Vieta Coffee have all failed at the center and others are looking to leave.

Slaught blames the city for not moving forward with revitalization plans.

"The Lakes Entertainment Plaza was always envisioned to be the centerpiece of a downtown pedestrian village," he said. Now, "there's a centerpiece but nothing surrounding it."

Councilman Steve Herfert said downtown isn't as troubled as some paint it. There's no need for dramatic change, he said.

"We're a city that's pretty well built out," he said. "Most of the businesses that are downtown are doing OK." But he acknowledged that most restaurants in the area "do well on the weekend, but they don't do well during the week."

The existing downtown area isn't on a major thoroughfare and doesn't attract pedestrians, said Doug McIsaac, city planning director. Without a natural center, the city has to "create the attraction," he said.

He looks to Old Town Pasadena as one possible model.

"Maybe you don't know what you're going to do when you get there," McIsaac said of Pasadena's popular center, "but there are multiple entertainment venues and restaurants and you can park in one place and walk to where you want to go."

Still, plenty of skepticism over revitalization remains. Three years ago, the city spent nearly $230,000 to develop an ambitious plan known as Scenario C. It called for realigning Glendora Avenue and Lakes Drive to create lofts and office space and would have cost nearly $20 million for the improvements necessary to get started -- $14 million was planned for parking upgrades, McIsaac said.

Initially, council members agreed to move forward, but plans were scrapped after elections changed the makeup of the board, officials said.

Councilman Roger Hernandez expects the new subcommittee to revive Scenario C, pushing West Covina into a future where dense housing meshes with entertainment and restaurants, he said.

"The goal is to spruce up the area and create a higher-end village downtown," Hernandez said.

But Mayor Sherri Lane said turning downtown into a bustling urban center isn't a reality.

"That's a major overhaul of that whole area," Lane said. "I'm not in favor of doing something that drastic . . . I have concerns regarding density, traffic and congestion and the strain on city resources."

Councilman Herfert said there may be unrealistic expectations surrounding the committee's overall goals.

"I just don't want to mislead people," he said. "We've gone through this thing so many times. I don't anticipate a whole lot coming out of it."


Interesting... Herfert thought all was well when, obviously, it's not. I can't help but wonder, with his head in the sand so much, how does Herfert's face maintain a perpetual sun burn?

Like I said, we could blame the economy, but before this horrific downturn, we had the money and the city probably had developers salivating to get in there and shake shit up. I know how those bastards work.

But, you know, since Roger Hernandez wants it, we'll probably never get it as long as he's on the council. But if he ever leaves, how much you wanna bet it'll be back on the table?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interesting Math

As most of you know, the Watcher is saddened by the cancellation of West Covina City Council meetings on Channel 55. According to city officials, it was due to budget cuts.

However, there was no attempt to kill Discover West Covina, the city's monthly newsletter that goes out to all residents. I have noted on this blog in the past that I would prefer to have the non-edited broadcasts of the meetings than the "Herfert Herald," which is loaded with warm and fuzzy Big League Dreams news and other fluff controlled by the city. Some call it propaganda.

An interesting tidbit, though: Discover West Covina probably costs more to produce than the airing of the Council meetings, according to one of my wonderful readers.

He or she says City Manager Andrew Pasmant stated the broadcasts cost about $150-180,000 a year to produce. However, nowhere have I heard how much it costs to publish the newsletter. So, our friend did some math for us, which is a good thing because the Watcher is not very good at the math. I have the lady in accounting balance my checkbook (I kid.) So, A. Williams is going to break it down for you:

The City manager also acknowledge[d] that the city publishes 35,000 copies of the Discover West Covina magazine every month.

If you conservatively estimate the cost of publishing the Discover West Covina @ approximately $1.75 + .41 postage=$2.16 each. or
35,000 X 2.16 X 12 montn=$907,200/yr.

The City Manager also indicated that they could cut back on the publication, with a 2/3 cut back there would still be a publishing cost $302,400

So... does anyone know how much it costs to publish and distribute the newsletter? If so, I would LOVE to know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

For Those About to Rock....

We Salute You!

And who, exactly, will be doing some rockin'?

That would be the Sangria Band and hopefully lots and lots of West Covina residents at the Summer Concerts in the Lakes Entertainment Center.

The city is kicking off the Summer Concerts TOMORROW at 7 p.m. Every Thursday until August 28, the city's Community Services Department promises another night of rock 'n' roll, but you'll have to get your sex and drugs elsewhere. Maybe Baldwin Park Unified Board Member Sergio Corona knows where.

This Thursday is the Sangria Band, followed by Opa Opa, Chico, Mariachi Divas, Proud Mary, The Answer, Cold Duck and Soul Sacrifice. Not in that order, though. More details are here.

I'm one of those lame people who go to a bunch of these summer concerts with my fold-out chair and blanket and kids. I used to hate those people. Now I'm one of them.

I'm just glad the summer concerts aren't going to be the latest casualty in the budget cuts.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Think Green

This post is Leftovers from City Hall got me thinking. No, I don't praise the council enough on the decisions it makes. In fact, I criticize more than anything else.

But, it did do something a while back that wasn't publicized too much, which considering the state of our planet at the moment, is a bit of a mystery to me, that I whole-heartedly agree with: going green.

As a hybrid driver himself, Mayor Pro Tem Roger Hernandez requested last year that the city create a policy where city purchases, including vehicles, are economically friendly.

It passed 4-0.

Congratulations, City Council. I should have gave you kudos a lot sooner, but I didn't have the blog then. Councilman Mike Touhey likes to think my sole purpose for the blog is to take swipes at the council. That's not entirely true.

It's just a fringe benefit.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thanks, My Spies

The Watcher is in a bit of a pickle. Maybe just a little depressed.

As I've mentioned, the City Council meetings are no longer on TV or online, so, unless I go to the meetings, I have to rely on my readers to tell me what happened. "Why don't you just go to the meetings yourself, Watcher?"

Well, two reasons: My wife usually works late on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which leaves me with the kids.

Secondly, I don't want to run the risk of people figuring out who I am. The last thing I need is folks scanning the room for an unfamiliar face, and when they see this tall, lanky, pale guy with a goofy haircut and Don Johnson stubble, they'll go into attack mode and who knows what will happen next.

So, this is what I gathered from at least one reader: The city put the brakes on the much-touted golf course. Thank Jeebus! That would have cost a ton. But be wary: Big League Dreams was shelved once, too. That shelving was pushed by its biggest supporter, Steve Herfert, only to be dusted off when the City Council changed.

Secondly, there was some hub bub about vending machines. Councilman Roger Hernandez wanted to make sure city machines were filled with healthy stuff; Mike Touhey said the city shouldn't play Big Brother.

I know these two often have philosophical differences, but this difference, however, can be easily explained by a picture. In fact, a picture says a thousand words:

You guessed it, Touhey's the guy on the left, Hernandez on the right.

Far be it from me to criticize a person on his/her weight. But Touhey, himself, said for him a Mini Cooper would be "An expensive skateboard."

I like the idea, though, that the city of West Covina follow the lead of its neighbor, Baldwin Park, and stock vending machines with nutritious snacks. The reason this country is looking more and more like the fellow on the left is because we are always in a hurry. What better way to help curb this epidemic than to offer quick snacks to go that don't pile on the pounds?

While I'm in a "criticizing pictures" mood. Hernandez, dude, that grin is cheesier than a high school senior portrait. Take it down a notch.

On a side note, the ladies at Leftovers from City Hall are taking a beating lately, and I'm always up to defend them, despite the fact Jennifer McLain wrote a glowing story on Big League Dreams.

People are just nasty to them and all they are really doing is disseminating the news. I don't get half the flack they do and I'm a lot meaner and opinionated than them. I think they're doing a fine job. Keep it up, Ladies.

In closing, I'd like to thank my friends out there with their tips on everything from Satellite Radio to Budget Semantics.

Have a happy, and safe, Independence Day.