Sunday, June 24, 2018

A State of Confusion: All the California News that fits

Mod: Depending on who you are talking to California is either the planet's 5th largest economy and therefore a wonder of the world, or going to hell in a hand basket. Or perhaps a little of both. Here are the stories that are rocking the Golden State.

California is full of psychopaths, ranks 2nd in nation, study finds (KCRA link): Ever feel like there's something sinister lurking behind the crunchy granola, yoga-loving, avocado-eating facade of your fellow Californians? Now there's research to back you up.

California is among the two U.S. states with the highest concentration of psychopaths, according to a working study from Southern Methodist University released on the Social Science Research network this week. The study looks at trends in personality traits across areas (the study hasn't yet gone through the full peer review process, so take the findings with a grain of salt).

The only places with more psychopaths? Connecticut (thanks, hedge funds!) and, shocker, the District of Columbia. Other highly psychopathic states include New Jersey, New York and Wyoming, while West Virginia, Vermont and Tennessee are among the least psychopathic states.

"The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy (2016) that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere," the author writes.

The author, Ryan Murphy, combined the findings of two past papers, one that mapped distribution of the "big five" personality traits (neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and openness to experience) across states and one that tracked which of those five personality traits most closely corresponded with psychopathy, to get the results.

Murphy found that the greater the share of a state's population that lives in dense urban areas, the higher the rate of psychopathy. Other findings were more intuitive. Two things that correlate with a state with lots of psychopaths? High concentrations of journalists and lawyers.

Venture investor Tim Draper is back with a pointless plan to split California three ways (Los Angeles Times link): The late Robin Williams used to have a great line about how “cocaine is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money.” But it’s a new day and a different world now. Here in California, it may be more accurate to say that God’s way of saying you have too much money is to have you spend millions of dollars on a chuckleheaded and self-interested ballot initiative. Case in point: Tim Draper.

Draper is the Silicon Valley financier whose ballot initiative to break up California into three states was certified this month for the November ballot. That achievement resulted from his submitting more than 365,880 valid petition signatures to the state attorney general’s office.

Given the lack of evident clamor statewide for breaking up the state and the manifest fiscal imbalance that would result, Draper’s initiative looks more like an investment by a Silicon Valley fat cat to keep more of his money in the long run while telling the rest of California to go to hell.

The three-state plan is widely thought to have no chance of passage in November; political experts have so far treated the initiative as a silly stunt, with the attitude that there’s no downside to letting Draper have his fun.

But that’s not so. This is a dangerous and dishonest proposal, with consequences that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. As long as it’s on the ballot, anything can happen — unexpected election outcomes occur all the time. So it’s proper to examine the measure’s ostensible rationale and its implications seriously.

Jerry Brown will decide whether Californians vote on daylight saving time in November (Sacramento Bee link): The fate of daylight saving time in California now rests in Gov. Jerry Brown’s hands.

The Assembly on Thursday sent Brown a measure that would ask voters to repeal a 70-year-old initiative enshrining the biannual changing of clocks into state law. If signed by Brown, that question could appear on the ballot as soon as November.

"While I would love to enLIGHTen you on this, our office typically doesn't chime in on pending legislation," Brown spokesman Brian Ferguson wrote in an email. "Please don't be alarmed, we will be sure to circle back when the time comes."

Assemblyman Kansen Chu, the San Jose Democrat who introduced the bill, has been trying for several years to eliminate the practice of springing forward and falling back, which he considers “outdated” and a detriment to public health.

Is sleeping on the streets a crime? Los Angeles Times link): Eleven years ago, Los Angeles officials agreed to stop arresting people who bed down for the night on streets and sidewalks until the city built more homeless housing.

The deal ended a legal battle with skid row residents and their advocates, who argued that the law trampled on the rights of homeless people who had nowhere else to go.

Now Mayor Eric Garcetti says enough housing has been built to meet the settlement requirements, clearing the way to enforce the law again. But if L.A. starts ticketing people under the contested code, it is likely to kick off a new battle with homeless advocates.

“There is a snowball’s chance in hell that a court will let them enforce that,” said Carol Sobel, one of the attorneys who represented skid row residents in Jones vs. City of Los Angeles. “The city will lose in court again.”

Garcetti, who is weighing a presidential run, has faced growing pressure to address the tent cities that sprawl across L.A. sidewalks. This spring, he launched plans to spend at least $20 million on new shelters and vowed to boost police patrols and cleanups to prevent encampments near those sites.

California net neutrality bill gutted as lawmakers cave to AT&T lobbyists (Ars Technica link): A California net neutrality bill that could have been the strictest such law in the country was dramatically scaled back yesterday after state lawmakers caved to demands from AT&T and cable lobbyists.

While the California Senate approved the bill with all of its core parts intact last month, a State Assembly committee's Democratic leadership yesterday removed key provisions.

"What happened today was outrageous," Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill author, said. "These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only."

AT&T and the lobby group that represents Comcast, Charter, Cox, and other cable have been lobbying against the bill and seeking changes.

"AT&T and other large Internet service providers are engaging in a massive and expensive campaign to lobby members of the committee to kill or water down the bills," Wiener's office said in a press release before yesterday's hearing. "Specifically, they are pushing to remove key protections such as the ban on charging website owners 'access fees' so that their websites are available to an ISP's subscribers and the ban on circumventing net neutrality protections at the point of interconnection."

California Billboard Credits ICE With Making ‘Kids Disappear’ (Huffington Post link): Activists in California altered a billboard on a busy highway to remind citizens what the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s priorities are all about.

 “We make kids disappear’ - I.C.E.” the billboard, changed Wednesday night, reads on Emeryville’s Shellmound St, referring to the U.S. law enforcement agency by its acronym. It previously read “We Make Junk Disappear” for an ad for trash removal, CBS San Fransisco reported.

Activist group Indecline created the new piece as a response to the separation of children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also refers to the migrant child detention centers springing up across the country.

Spokesman Heran Medhin said the billboard is an attempt to publicly condemn President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies. He also cited the president’s “willingness to inflict immense trauma on young children and their families under his banner of xenophobia” in a statement to the Washington Post.

See the 100 highest pensions in the CalPERS and CalSTRS systems (Modesto Bee link): How much does it take to make it into the 100 top-earning CalPERS or CalSTRS retirees? A pension of more than $219,000.

CalPERS is the retirement system for most state employees. CalSTRS is the retirement system for most certificated school district employees.

Both systems have faced scrutiny for years due to large unfunded liabilities — they don't have enough money at the moment to pay all the benefits they have promised. In response, both systems have increased the required contributions for local governments that are part of the system.

Most CalPERS and CalSTRS retirees will never make anywhere near the pensions earned by the top-earning 100 retirees. The 100 top-earning CalPERS employees, for instance, make up about one-hundreth of 1 percent of CalPERS beneficiaries. The pensions paid to them in 2016 were equivalent to about one-tenth of 1 percent of all benefits paid to CalPERS beneficiaries.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sierra Madre: It's Raises for Everybody All Over Again (Or: Did you hear the one where the city says it can no longer afford to fight mansionization?)

When Utility User Taxes were on the ballot in 2016, the word going around town from those claiming they needed the dough was that spending at City Hall had been cut as deeply as it possibly could, and that a firm hand would be guiding spending going into the future. Business as usual would no longer be an option in Sierra Madre.

It was also claimed that the money would be needed to rescue certain venerated at risk city institutions, the most famous of them being the Library. A 10% UUT forever tax would take care of such things. No, really. That is what they said. Though those holding positions of responsibility don't recall much about that now.

Remember, this was way before certain downtowners began advocating for the sale of the property the current Library sits on, or even seeking more money in the form of parcel taxes. Things that were somehow not discussed on any of those many informative "Yes on UUT" postcards sent out in early 2016. Which were mostly paid for by the same people now getting raises.

After all, this was the tax increase that was going to take care of just about everything. However, it was not quite the everything you were told about.

So let me ask you this. Have you heard any more lately about the urgently needed repairs to the Library now that those famous survey cards revealed only a relative few people outside of City Hall want to sell the property for several millions of dollars?  No, neither have I. That one has now grown rather quiet.

Apparently business as usual has become operational again. Even when it comes to capitulating on mansionization, which wasn't at all about the fees and other money the city anticipates getting. No, really. They haven't even added it up yet. That is what they are saying.

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting it will be raises for just about everyone. It must be peace in our time all over again, to paraphrase Enid Joffe. Here are some curated passages from the relevant staff report, which you can access in its entirety here.

Why yes, of course. So, did you hear the one where the city claims it cannot afford to fight mansionization any longer? But can hand out raises to its employees?

Obviously they've picked their spending priorities. Or perhaps the concerned municipal employee organizations have already chosen them on their behalf?

It's getting kind of hard to tell.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Was this Melania Trump's 'Let Them Eat Cake' Moment?

Mod: It probably wasn't the best fashion statement for the First Lady to making right about now. Of course, that is assuming Melania even understood the impression she might be leaving with those who would be reading the back of her specially embossed Zara military jacket. But wouldn't you think that there might have been an image handler somewhere in her retinue who could have advised her against wearing it?

Melania Trump's 'I Really Don't Care' Jacket Did Not Go Over Well (Time Magazine link): First Lady Melania Trump drew a storm of controversy on Thursday when she made an unannounced visit to see the conditions of migrant families and children being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the outcry was not about the content of her visit so much as her attire. As Trump boarded her plane to Texas, she was photographed wearing a jacket that read, “I really don’t care. Do U?” While she was not wearing the jacket when she landed in McAllen, Texas, according to CNN, the First Lady’s choice of attire struck many as insensitive. Her husband’s administration has received widespread criticism in recent weeks over its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which has led to thousands of children being separated from their parents at the border while the adults are charged with illegally crossing into the U.S.

After the intense backlash, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Wednesday reversing the administration’s stance on family separation and saying families should be detained together. But immigrants’ advocates say this does not solve the problem and have accused the administration of not caring about the immigrants it is detaining.

When the internet took notice of Melania Trump’s jacket on Thursday, her communications director responded by saying there was no “hidden message.”

“It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe,” the First Lady’s Communications Director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Sorry Stephanie, but if you are the First Lady and wear something controversial written on your back while on your way to a highly publicized photo-op, people are going to talk. And there was an explosion of Internet activity about all of this. Here are a few of that Tweets that were making the rounds yesterday.

Even the fashion forward lexicographers at got in on the excitement.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why A Rogue President Was Forced To Back Down On Family Separation

Mod: There was a lot of interest in this story yesterday in the comments. Here by popular demand are some of the latest stories out there in Big Media.

Why A Rogue President Was Forced To Back Down On Family Separation (The New Yorker link): Why did Donald Trump reverse himself on Wednesday and call an end to his policy of separating migrant families detained at the southern border? It was clear from the start that the policy was cruel, heartless, and unnecessary. Although there has been a spike in the number of asylum seekers in recent months, the overall number of undocumented immigrants coming into the United States from Mexico and other Latin American countries is significantly lower than it was a decade ago. There is no “crisis” at the southern border, except the humanitarian one of Trump’s own making. Trump’s picture of the United States being swamped—or, in his words, “infested”—by Latino migrants is a fantasy that he concocted to whip up the racial fears and antipathies of his core supporters.

Clearly, Trump didn’t make this U-turn because he had grown tired of fear-mongering and racial incitement, or because he had experienced a crisis of conscience. (It’s far from clear that he’s even capable of such a thing.) He reversed course because he had no choice politically. Although he often adopts the rhetoric and body language of an authoritarian strongman, he’s an elected politician. And in the face of mass outrage, bipartisan opposition, and condemnation from church groups and other civil-society institutions, the child-separation policy was no longer sustainable.

At most, this was a very partial U-turn. If Trump’s executive order survives the inevitable legal challenges, which is far from certain, it will keep more than two thousand children away from their parents, and it could well lead to the creation of a chain of semi-permanent refugee camps on the southern border. Trump only went this far because he was facing a public relations disaster and a rebellion from Republicans fearful of losing control of Congress in the midterms.

A Quinnipiac University opinion poll that was released earlier this week indicated that Americans opposed the child-separation policy by an overwhelming margin of more than two to one. Only a majority of Republicans supported the policy. As The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein pointed out, on Twitter, white, non-college-educated white women, a key voting group for the G.O.P., were opposed to the policy by the whopping margin of fifty-six per cent to thirty per cent. And this poll was taken before the latest reports and pictures from inside the child-detention centers.

The Trump administration misspelled “separation” in an executive order on family separation (Vox link): The Trump administration released its highly anticipated executive order on family separation Wednesday afternoon. And in the grand tradition of many Trump White House documents, something wasn’t quite right. See if you can spot it:

That’s right: The order meant to address family separation misspelled “separation.”

While the misspelling was quickly fixed, the latest example of the Trump administration’s ongoing struggles in that domain (see: the Department of Education Snapchat) left the impression that the executive order had been prepared hastily.

The White House’s executive order addresses the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes all adults entering the United States illegally. As part of this policy, adults were held in federal jail while awaiting trial and their children were put in federal custody, forcing family separations.

Migrant Children Drugged Without Consent At Government Centers, Court Documents Show (Huffington Post link): Staff working on the behalf of the Office of Refugee Resettlement are routinely drugging detained child migrants with psychotropics without their parents’ consent, according to legal filings.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly insisted that the family separation policy they implemented over the last six weeks is humane. But the ongoing lawsuit over the Flores agreement, a 1997 settlement that partly governs the detention of child migrants that the White House hopes to overturn, alleges a litany of wrongdoings at the ORR-contracted facilities.

The drugging allegations are among the most disturbing. One child cited in the lawsuit reported taking up to nine pills in the morning and another seven in the evening, without knowing what the medication was.

ORR routinely administers children psychotropic drugs without lawful authorization,” a memo filed in the lawsuit on April 16 reads. “When youth object to taking such medications, ORR compels them. ORR neither requires nor asks for a parent’s consent before medicating a child, nor does it seek lawful authority to consent in parents’ stead. Instead, ORR or facility staff sign ‘consent’ forms anointing themselves with ‘authority’ to administer psychotropic drugs to confined children.”

Lewandowski refuses to apologize for 'womp womp' comment (CNN link): Corey Lewandowski refused to apologize Wednesday after he dismissed the story of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was reportedly separated from her mother after crossing the border illegally.

While appearing Tuesday on Fox News, former senior Democratic National Committee adviser Zac Petkanas shared an anecdote he had read about "a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome" who had been "taken from her mother and put in a cage."

"Womp Womp," the former Trump campaign manager responded.

Lewandowski refused to apologize for the remark when asked about it on Fox News Wednesday morning.

Stephen Miller called 'fascist' by protester at Mexican restaurant (The Hill link): White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was called a fascist earlier this week while dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., according to the New York Post.

The encounter took place on Sunday at Espita Mezcaleria. The Post reports that a patron of the restaurant called out Miller — an immigration hardliner — over the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy that separates migrant families.

“Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?” a customer said to Miller, according to the Post.

Miller reportedly did not respond to the hecklers.

The incident occurred just a few days before activists similarly interrupted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's dinner at a Mexican restaurant, resulting in her leaving the restaurant.

The group repeatedly yelled “shame” at Nielsen and “End Texas concentration camps.”

US officials likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant kids (McClatchy Media link): The Trump administration has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, thousands more than lawmakers were alerted to last month, according to a McClatchy review of federal data.

Federal officials acknowledged last month that nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors arrived on the southern border alone without their parents and were placed with sponsors who did not keep in touch with federal officials, but those numbers were only a snapshot of a three- month period during the last fiscal year. “There is a lot more,” said a field specialist who worked in the Office of Refugee Resettlement until earlier this year and was tasked with reaching out to sponsors and children to check on their well-being. “You can bet that the numbers are higher. It doesn’t really give you a real picture.”

The new estimate comes as backlash widens over President Donald Trump's' decision to separate parents and children. Advocates argue the growing numbers of unaccounted children should be expected as families and sponsors become more fearful of federal officials that is now using information from government social workers to run immigration checks and, in some cases, target sponsors, including parents and family members, for removal.

'Was that a man or a woman?' Trump mocks protester at Minnesota rally (USA Today link): After protesters interrupted President Donald Trump's Minnesota rally, the president mocked one protester's appearance questioning whether they were a man or a woman.

"Was that a man or a woman? Because he needs a haircut more than I do," Trump joked as the protester was escorted out of the Duluth event. "I couldn't tell. Needs a haircut." The protester appeared to hold a picture of Trump with another person. Trump also told the protester to "go home to your mom, darling. Go home." The crowd chanted "USA" as the demonstrator was escorted out of the crowd.

During the rally, Trump also praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, predicting he'll "turn that country into a great, successful country," blamed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his no vote on an Obamacare repeal last year and bashed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The rally came just hours after Trump signed an executive order that aims to stop family separations on the border while still maintaining a "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute all illegal immigrants. The Trump administration faced harsh, bipartisan backlash over the policy, which resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 children of adult illegal immigrants in the past month. The scope of the order, however, did not address how the already-separated children would be reunited with their parents.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Horses and Landfills: Keeping Up With Arcadia's Kin Hui

Kin Hui, lead eminency of the business investment firm Singpoli, is one of those big Arcadia developers you hear a lot about. He is also deeply involved in local politics, and is suspected by some of being the hand that guides the strings of Arcadia's new mayor, Sho Tay. So much so that he stepped out on on April 24th to deliver an impassioned speech on Sho's behalf. Perhaps done out of fear that his guy would be passed over for the mayor gig due to some investigative entanglements with Sacramento's political ethics watchdogs, the FPPC. Who apparently are extremely concerned about Mr. Tay.

All of which means that you are going to want to keep up with Hui's business affairs. Below is a compendium of articles that details what he has been up to over the last couple of years in the horse racing business. It isn't all that Kin Hui is involved with, of course. But it does cover everything from the horses to landfills, which really is quite an activity arc.

Horse Racing Betting: Chinese horse racing fans get new website (Frank C. Girardot, Pasadena Star-News link): Entrepreneur Kin Hui on Tuesday unveiled North America’s first Chinese language website exclusively devoted to the sport of horse racing.

The site,, gives a fun feel to a sport that long sought to attract more native Chinese speakers to the thoroughbred game. The venture is a partnership between Hui’s Singpoli Capital and Xpressbet, LLC., a Stronach Group company headed by Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach.

“Horse racing and horse race wagering are extremely popular with the Chinese-American community in Southern California; yet this population has been largely underserved, mainly due to language barriers and cultural gaps,” Hui said. “I think this is a great opportunity for the horse racing business. I really hope that our Chinese community will like what we have to offer. The YUPRacing website features several Chinese language videos, which showcase the beauty of Santa Anita and explain some of the nuances of the sport.

Mod: This next three articles detail some of the problems local horse racing has encountered lately. It is background for much of what follows.

Santa Anita cancels Thursday races for lack of entries (Art Wilson, Daily News link): According to veteran trainer John Shirreffs, the closure of Hollywood Park four years ago is still adversely affecting Southern California thoroughbred racing.

For the first time since 2011, Thursday’s eight-race program at Santa Anita was canceled because of a lack of entries. Three times during Hollywood Park’s summer meet in 2010, racing was disrupted because there weren’t enough horses to fill the races.

Santa Anita faces a season of change that may make or break the 83-year-old track (John CherwaLos Angeles Times link): Even by his own admission, Santa Anita’s top executive realizes the six-month meet that starts Tuesday may be the most critical in the track’s more than eight-decade history.

“We have to see the business turn around,” said Tim Ritvo, who was sent to Arcadia from the East Coast to try to revitalize the underperforming track for its owner, the Stronach Group. “This is the time some of the implemented changes will kick in. There is no silver bullet. It’s a grind process. We hope to see the trajectory in the right direction.”

Tim Ritvo Lays Out Substantial Changes for Santa Anita (Jeremy Balan, Blood Horse link): Significant changes to the property at Santa Anita Park have been proposed in the past and many went by the wayside, but the tone from Tim Ritvo, The Stronach Group's chief operating officer, Jan. 7 was different.

What Ritvo stressed Sunday was that the drastic changes this time around—ideas to expand the barn area, build a second turf course, expand the main track, and build a brand-new training facility in nearby West Covina, Calif.—are not only desired, but essential. "For racing to continue on, this has to happen." the executive said. "If this doesn't happen, we're in trouble."

Horse racing does have its critics - video link here.
Santa Anita Park reinvents itself to survive in a world filled with entertainment options (Lynne CurryPasadena Weekly link): To tap into Chinese culture, Santa Anita is negotiating with Asian business executives in Arcadia and Pasadena to create a members-only, Mandarin language racing social club with an onsite, first-class Asian restaurant. Inspired by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, one of the world's largest, most influential horse racing organizations whose operations Santa Anita has studied, the management hopes to start the club at the next racing session, December.

Kin Hui, who shipped five of his thoroughbreds to Gulfstream, said since the move, Diamond Oops, one of his horses, has won $133,035. Having larger purses certainly helps recoup the horse maintenance cost, Hui said. Saratoga [in New York] always has a higher rate and that does attract people. Purses in California are very low.

In this context, attracting enough horses is a real challenge for Santa Anita. Last year, the track cancelled some race dates because it lacked enough horses, prompting the track to launch “Ship and Stay.” Targeted at enticing out-of-state trainers and owners to race their horses at Santa Anita, the program provides a bonus for three race starts to each horse that qualifies. To be eligible, horses must not have raced in California within the past twelve months. So far, sixty-one horses have arrived and the track has paid $117, 212 in bonuses.

West Covina gives Singpoli more time on horse training facility, hotel at former BKK landfill (Stephanie K. BaerPasadena Star News link): West Covina officials Tuesday decided to continue discussions with the developer proposing to build horse stables, a training track and other facilities at the site of a former toxic landfill in the city.

The City Council voted 4-1 to enter into a new 180-day exclusive negotiating agreement with Singpoli Group LLC for the purchase and development of about 200 acres at the site of the shuttered BKK landfill. Councilman James Toma voted against the agreement.

This is the second agreement the city has forged with the company, which plans to invest at least $200 million into the project. The first was entered into last December and expired this fall.

Since then, Singpoli has presented their proposed project at a City Council meeting and two community meetings.

The Pasadena-based developer has proposed to build a 270-room luxury hotel with 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, a horse training track with an internal event space and amphitheater, 1,400 horse stalls, more than 200 employee dormitories with a cafeteria and recreation center. The plan also includes a zip line and aerial adventure park, a 5.2-acre virtual reality park, a K-9 training facility and solar greenhouse facilities.

Singpoli wants to house, train horses for Santa Anita Park at former BKK landfill in West Covina (Stephanie K. Baer, Pasadena Star News link): The developer behind a plan to build horse stables, a training track and other facilities at the site of a former toxic landfill in West Covina intends to partner with Santa Anita Park to house and train thoroughbreds that will compete at the historic race track in Arcadia, representatives told residents last week.

“This is going to be a very important partnership to make this track sustainable,” said William Chu, chief financial officer for Singpoli Group LLC, during a community meeting at Shadow Oak Park last Wednesday. “Their horses will be transferred here to the stables and be trained here and then be transferred on racing days back to Santa Anita.”

The Pasadena-based developer is proposing to build the track and 1,400 horse stalls, along with a employee dormitories, a hotel, a K-9 training facility, a zip line and aerial adventure park, greenhouses and other facilities, on about 200 acres of land at the site of the former BKK landfill off of Azusa Avenue.

Why a shuttered West Covina landfill should remain open space (Sierra Club link): Turning trash into treasure.  Sometimes that means recycling, sometimes that’s composing, and sometimes that simply means allowing nature the time and encouragement to reclaim spoiled land.

An area known as the BKK landfill in West Covina is an island of open space between the 10 and 60 freeways, 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. From 1963 through 1996, more than 20 million tons of municipal trash and 3.4 million tons of toxic waste were disposed of there.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the toxic waste includes acids, arsenic, cyanide, lead, mercury, asbestos, chromium, degreasing agents, oil sludge, gasoline, pesticides, vinyl chloride, plating solutions, acetone, heavy metal solutions, pharmaceuticals, hazardous spills cleanups, paint waste, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The landfill has been closed for 22 years. Thousands of cars drive by it everyday on Azusa Avenue, one of West Covina’s most heavily traveled streets. Many are unaware it’s a former landfill; most are unaware of what’s buried there.

Nature, however, has been reclaiming the land. The 500-acre former landfill site is open space and habitat that directly connects to open space and habitat in the adjacent city of Walnut. That in turn connects to open space and habitat at Mt. San Antonio College, which in turn connects to the same at Cal Poly Pomona. There are even small connection points to Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas.

BKK is part of de facto wildlife preserve spanning thousand of acres in the heart of the eastern San Gabriel Valley, which is more commonly recognized for asphalt, concrete, steel and glass.

Today however, a vanishing point is looming on the horizon. The City of West Covina, desperate for revenue as its financial status deteriorates, is considering a massive commercial development on and adjacent to the landfill. The Singpoli Group LLC has proposed an international destination hotel and resort, 1,400 stalls for racehorses from Santa Anita Race Park, two horse-racing training tracks, employee dormitories and other structures on this land.

An Abandoned Landfill in West Covina Could Become a Virtual Reality Park (Chris NicholsLos Angeles Magazine link): The site of the proposed park has been controversial for generations. BKK landfill opened in 1963 when the neighborhood was mostly dairy farms. For 16 years they accepted toxic materials including vinyl chloride, asbestos, and infectious hospital waste. Owner Ben K. Kazarian was a third generation garbage man, with a history in L.A. dumps dating back to the 1920s. The city of West Covina spent decades trying to shut him down and create a regional park and later a golf course. They finally purchased the land in 2007.

Singpoli, the Arcadia developers that transformed the Hotel Constance in Pasadena from a dreary old folks’ home into futuristic lodging, have an exclusive deal with the city and must submit plans within 90 days for the 200 hilly acres nestled between the 10 and 60 freeways.

“Our idea for this site goes well beyond recreation,” Singpoli president and CEO Kin Hui said in an email. “Our master plan will include a hotel and retail space as well as a performing arts center, a community art center and a K9 training facility.”

“There’s not going to be Disneyland-type rides,” says Singpoli spokesman Frank Girardot. “It’s more virtual reality. Amusement park is a bit overstated.” Singpoli president and CEO Kin Hui told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the park would “Attract tourists from all over the Americas and Asia and other parts of the world. This will give West Covina a prominent place on the world map.”

Mod: So what is the prognosis? Right now things aren't looking positive.

Location of BKK landfill
West Covina residents unhappy with Singpoli plans for luxury hotel, horse training track at former BKK landfill (Stephanie K. BaerSan Gabriel Valley Tribune link): The developer behind the plan to build a hotel, a virtual reality park, a horse training track and other facilities at the site of a former toxic landfill in West Covina presented its project to the public for the first time Tuesday, and in return received a staunchly negative response from residents. More than a dozen people at Tuesday’s city council meeting spoke against Singpoli Group LLC’s proposed development for the former BKK landfill, with several others indicating in written notices they also opposed the project. Only two in the audience spoke in favor.

After Singpoli’s presentation at 11 p.m., residents expressed frustration at the developer for what they said has so far been a lack of information about the project.

“Residents have asked multiple times over the last months to have an inclusive process…but here we are having to react to a specific plan put together by a multinational corporation not residents,” said Heidi Freeman.

The presentation came nearly a year after the company started talks with the city to buy the land from the agency overseeing West Covina’s former redevelopment properties. At the time, Singpoli said it was developing an amusement park on about 200 acres at the site. Up until this week, all discussions between the city and Singpoli took place in closed session, leaving many residents concerned about the future of the former landfill.

Mod: However, Singpoli does seem determined. I hope the horse's are appreciative.

Potential BKK landfill developer attempting to buy more land, worrying some West Covina residents (Stephanie K. Baer, SGVT link): With some residents growing anxious about the future of the former BKK landfill, city officials this week took steps to sell a small parcel at the site to the company in talks with the city to purchase and develop another plot on the shuttered landfill.

The City Council Tuesday voted 5-0 to authorize the sale of the 2-acre parcel to Singpoli Group LLC. The small piece of empty land, known as the AAA pad, is located at the corner of Azusa Avenue and Giambi Lane next to Big League Dreams.

Singpoli offered $900,000 to buy the property from the agency overseeing the city’s former redevelopment agency. Under requirements for the dissolved redevelopment agencies in California, the proceeds would be split among the various taxing agencies; the city would get about $144,000.

The potential sale comes as Singpoli and the city negotiate the development of an outdoor recreational park on another part of the landfill. In December, Singpoli and the city entered an exclusive negotiating agreement for the sale of three parcels and the lease of a fourth totaling about 200 acres for the project.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pasadena's Race Problems Make World Headlines Again

The Westin Pasadena is proud of its pool and view
First I would like to congratulate Pasadena Mayor Terry "One Term" Tornek for maintaining his usual respectful silence throughout this incident. It is this kind of leadership that has helped bring needed publicity to a town that sees itself as occupying a very special place in this world.

As usual One Term Terry has been nowhere to be found on this kind of an issue, and I am sure that a man with as busy a schedule as his spent talking to McCondo developers, real estate professionals, corporate executives looking for tax breaks and Rose Parade passes, along with other concerned stakeholders, finds this approach to be both comfortable and convenient.

However, around the world today Pasadena is once again a topic of heated discussion for being a city having some rather unfortunate problems with race. The Pasadena Star News has an article all about that today called "Activists protest outside Westin Pasadena after video of allegedly racist encounter goes viral." I am not certain what is alleged about it, though. Link to the Star News here.

The part about the travails of the Westin Pasadena's hotel manager, a guy with the unfortunate name of Carl Sprayberry, is particularly enlightening. Talk about your corporate personality type having a really bad day at work. Well deserved, I might add.

But since there are so many articles out there to choose from, I've decided to cite Isle of Wight Radio's reporting today. It is a little more visceral and down to earth, plus it gives you an idea of just how badly the Rotten Rose is once again being perceived by those from beyond the smoggy confines of the San Gabriel Valley.

Racism row after black family asked by white man if they showered before swim (Isle of Wight Radio link): Carle Wheeler said she and her five-year-old daughter were accosted by the man as they swam at the Pasadena Westin Hotel in California, while several white people nearby were left alone.

She alleged that he warned them that people carry diseases into the pool before approaching the pair a second time, claiming to work for the health department.

After hotel staff arrived at the scene, Ms Wheeler said she confronted the man on what appeared to be blatant racism. A video of the row that was posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 3.5 million times.

Ms Wheeler said: It’s sad that I had to explain to my beautiful little five-year-old brown-skinned girl why in 2018 a white man would think it’s OK to ask a little girl and her mom if we showered our presumably dirty black skin before entering a swimming pool.

She added that the man continued to taunt my little girl as she was being escorted away from the mayhem.

Ms Wheeler claimed the group of white people at the pool corroborated her claims, but the hotel manager allowed the man to walk away.

She said: It’s just sad that in 2018 we are still dealing with these issues and still having to teach our children things that people had to teach their children in the 50s and 60s. Nothing has changed. It’s one thing when it happens and you see it on the news, you see it happen to somebody else. When it knocks at your door, it’s a hurtful thing.

Ms Wheeler describes herself as divorced single mother who works as a software developer. I am not trash, she said. I am not dirty. I’m black, educated and proud.

In a statement to the Pasadena Star News, the hotel said: The Westin Pasadena strives to provide a welcoming environment to all individuals. Harassment on any basis is not tolerated. We are continuing to investigate this serious matter and deeply regret that one of our guests experienced this type of behaviour.

The man, who has not been named, has not commented publicly on the incident.

Here is some of the video footage mentioned in Isle if Wight Radio's reporting.

Video Link Here

If anybody knows this pathetic dude, let me know who he is, would you? So far he remains unidentified, and I would love to be the newser to drop the dime on him.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Surprise: San Marino McMansion Developers with Arcadia Connections Also Play the Race Card

A San Marino McManny still in its wrapper (link)
Mod: Here is an interesting article from the San Marino Tribune that should sound familiar to anyone who has been following recent events in Arcadia. Apparently the same race based slander assault on Arcadia's city councilmembers favoring historic preservation over mansionization is now being employed in San Marino, with the result being yet another city is now being torn in half just so some of the usual dirtbags can make themselves a quick buck.

Special City Council Meeting Erupts with Verbal Fireworks - Appeal to Planning Commission’s Approval of Project at 1400 Circle Drive Raises Emotions (San Marino Tribune link): A special meeting Monday night of the San Marino City Council that otherwise is usually a benign exercise in the bureaucratic process erupted into a momentary outburst from the audience, prompting a call for police to maintain order.

The City Council was meeting to consider the appeal by a neighbor to the approved project at 1400 Circle Drive. The project has been winding through the approval process for 18 months and has gone through modifications before it was finally approved by the Planning Commission earlier this year. Council chambers were filled with more than fifty residents who came to show their support for the project, many of whom wore similar white shirts.

The project calls for the demolition of the existing home and a new two-story residence with six bedrooms, a four-car garage, and basement be constructed in its place.

The article goes on to detail the debate over the historic significance of this particular home, and whether replacing it with a vanity castle is really the way San Marino should be going these days. Then an individual named Cole Harris popped up to inject a bit of venom into the process.

“They both are inept,” Harris said in a statement to The Tribune. “The city attorney had to walk them through everything. Our Mayor and Vice Mayor simply do not have the ability and decision-making aptitude to run our city. When it came to making the exact statement on the matter, Mayor Talt’s exact words were ‘it’s a troubling decision for me. However, I’m going to have to go to my base and my base is to protect homes like this.’ That said, his entire contemplation of this decision was not based on facts presented by experts or his own city staff recommendations for approval of the project, but his decision-making process was ‘base to protect homes like this.’ What a disgrace and a smack in the face to his own city staff and to individual freedoms and to the American Dream.

And then this all too familiar and unfortunate charge.

Harris, who said he is a friend of Wu Xiubo, the owner of 1400 Circle Drive, also claimed that he heard Talt say “there are a lot of Asians here” when Talt entered council chambers for Monday’s meeting. Talt denied making the statement.

Mr. Harris is entitled to his opinion about my job performance, as wrong as he is; however, to label me a racist is beyond disgusting,” Talt said on Wednesday. “I did not say what Mr. Harris claims was said. I understand that he is upset at me for voting against allowing who he described to me as his partner to tear down a historical structure and build a new one, but to make such a vicious and untrue attack on me is very sad and unwarranted. I will let my record and relationships in this town speak for themselves on the issue.”

Yes, the politics of mansionization are getting ugly just about everywhere these days. Money really does make people say the darnedest things, and you do have to wonder about the source. Well, OK, maybe not really.

So who is this charmer, Cole Harris? His connections are surprising. He ran for the Republican nomination for California Lt. Governor in the recent state primaries, and so disgusted one of his GOP opponents, David Fennell, that he made the following explosive campaign video attacking the spiky haired, ketchup stain gavone shirted dude.

link here

Nice gang sign, G. Or is it Cole Doggy Dogg? Are real estate investors really going that gangsta on us? Both Harris and Fennell went on to lose their races as Republicans so often do in California (link), but an interesting expose' on this character none the less.

On Ballotpedia the now failed political candidate Cole Harris made this all too familiar sounding pitch on the need to use state muscle and money to force LULU development on cities that don't want it (link).

Jobs and the Economy: The current regulatory environment creates too much red tape and stifles greater prosperity and economic opportunity for Californians. I also believe it is important for the California's government to work with the private sector to develop well paying and sustainable jobs. Housing: Lack of quality and affordable housing is a huge issue in California, and nobody in Sacramento is taking steps to credibly solve the problem, and local governments are not stepping up to do their part. I want to promote the creation of incentives for local governments and accelerate the land use approval process to boost construction productivity and job creation.

Job development. Of course. And nothing says affordable housing for hard working residentially challenged Californians quite like a four garage six bedroom McMansion in San Marino. Hopefully with a circular driveway and a water fountain nymph.

The charges on a deliciously inflammatory political website also called "Who is Cole Harris" (link) are not especially attractive, either. Who knew a Republican Lt. Governor primary race could get this exciting? One where no GOP Lt. Governor candidate even made this November's ballot? Here is a large and spectacular sampling of the blunt charges that have been leveled against the Colester.

Is Cole Harris a self made business genius or did he marry Mainland Chinese money? Are illegal funds from Mainland China being used to influence the California Lieutenant Governor election? Why does Cole Harris only do interviews with Foreign Asian based media but refuses to meet reporters from AmericanDoes he get California government taxpayer contracts for overseas investors?  

Cole Harris said he could put $10 Million more into the Lt. Gov race. Who is following the money? None of what California Lieutenant Governor candidate Cole Harris states on his website seem to be true. 

He describes himself as a "self-made businessman and entrepreneur" but none of the finances that he filed with the California Secretary of State or on his website seem believable. 

The campaign for David Fennell for California Lieutenant Governor reviewed his government campaign filings and with seasoned business leaders it became obvious that none of what these seasoned business leaders saw in Cole Harris's finances or business story looked credible. Our video producer put our "Who is Cole Harris?" video on the website early while we were still gathering facts. We were quickly contacted by multiple unsolicited sources who grew up with Cole Harris and indicated he was a financial fraud. 

California residents who grew up with Harris reported to us that Cole Harris was an uneducated petty thug known for his sexual abuse of women which lead to his multiple arrests. He struggled in high school, did not go to college, left the area after the rape charges and later ended up in China

These sources indicated that Cole then married the daughter of a billionaire in mainland China. His marriage allowed some mainland China family members to get visas to the USA. One source said that the father-in-law made his money in Chinese noodles. Since Cole Harris refuses to do a debate or take interviews from the media, no one can be sure what is true and what is rumor.



Normally candidates try to take as many interviews as possible to get as much attention to their campaign as they can. Cole Harris, however, has refused to debate his opponent David Fennell, participate in any candidate forums, or take interviews from American journalists. This is not normal behavior for a candidate who is not hiding something.

The information we have indicated that Cole Harris has received the majority of his original financing from Mainland Chinese sources but seems to now be getting California government contracts on behalf of foreign investors. While it is fine to have foreign investors if these investors are benefiting from government contracts and influencing a political campaign, those sources and deals need to be open for the public to review. 

Damn, son. How crazy is that wack? This is not Ronald Reagan's GOP. You know, the one where Republicans never say bad things about Republicans? Even if they are alleged sexual molesters?

There is the local stuff as well, of course. Cole Harris is a Foundation Board Member of Arcadia Methodist Hospital and an active Board Member of the International Leadership Foundation, which helps high school and college students with internships and government positions nationwide.

Apparently Cole Harris is also a board member of the Arcadia Methodist Foundation (link), which is also connected to Richard Sun, Eugene Sun, Kin Hui (Singpoli), the ubiquitous Richard McDonald, annoying water weeny Tom Love, plus Christine and Mike Antonovich. Mike being the recently termed out Los Angeles Board of Supervisors mooch that named so many parks and horse trails after himself.

The only name missing here is Bob "The PegasusHuff.

It seems that the Arcadia Methodist Foundation is a "must belong" organization for local mansionization advocates having some of that special sauce. If you know what I mean. Remind me not to go there should I somehow fall ill, or have an accident.

We'll have more on this unfortunate and disconcerting tale of extreme bizarreness soon.