From the daily archives: Monday, January 25, 2010

Amber Alert expands for girl whose mother’s body was found Sunday

GERONIMO — Authorities issued an Amber Alert for the daughter of a woman whose body was found Sunday in Comanche County, and police are looking for the woman’s estranged husband who could be with the girl.

Lester Hobbs
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Amber Alert issued for Aja Johnson thumbnail

Amber Alert issued for Aja Johnson

Jan 25An Amber Alert has been issued for Aja Johnson, the 7-year-old…

Aja Johnson's father speaks thumbnail

Aja Johnson’s father speaks

Jan 25J.J. Johnson, Aja Johnson’s father, speaks about the Amber Alert…

Police found the body of Tonya Hobbs, 37, inside her recreational vehicle parked at 203 Minnesota in Geronimo about 9 p.m. Sunday, officials said.

Her daughter, Aja Johnson, who has a condition that requires medication, was not in the RV when the body was found.

Aja may be with Lester William Hobbs, 46, who is wanted for questioning in the woman’s death, according to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Lester Hobbs and the girl may have left in a white 1992 Toyota Paseo coupe with Oklahoma tag 577-BPW, according to OSBI. They could be headed toward Davenport, where the couple lived before they separated. Hobbs is not Aja’s biological father.

The two-door car has no hubcaps and plastic covers the missing rear passenger window. Anyone who spots the car, the missing girl or Lester Hobbs should call 911 immediately.

“Our main concern at this time is to find the little girl,” Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley said during a news conference this afternoon in Geronimo. “We already have a tragedy on our hands. We don’t want two.”

OSBI agent in charge Richard Goss also answered questions during the news conference, said Jessica Brown, OSBI spokeswoman.

Brown said OSBI has asked California, Oregon and Texas to also issue Amber Alerts, because Lester Hobbs has relatives in those states.

Aja is 4 feet tall and weighs about 59 pounds. She has brown eyes and brown shoulder-length hair with recently-dyed black tips on her hair, Brown said.

Lester Hobbs no longer has a goatee as shown in the photo provided by the OSBI, but he did have a mustache recently. He is about 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs about 190 pounds. He has hazel eyes and brown hair.

Brown said Lester Hobbs has many tattoos, including several on his hands. He has the word “love” tattooed on his left fingers and left wrist, and the word “rose” on his right fingers, Brown said.

The relative on whose property the RV was parked became concerned about 8:30 p.m. Sunday and broke into the camper, officials said. The Amber Alert was issued about midnight.

Hobbs is a convicted felon and should be considered armed and dangerous, authorities said. He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2001 in Cleveland County and served three months in prison, state Corrections Department records show.

Lester Hobbs was supposed to show up in Lincoln County District Court this morning on a driving under the influence charge but failed to appear and an arrest warrant was issued, Brown said.

Geronimo police have a telephone line dedicated for calls on the case. That number is (580) 355-1115.

Contributing: The Associated Press


By Betty Predmore

Andy Horne reports on the progress of the Energy Committee

“A Decade of Growth….A Plan for Prosperity” was the theme of the annual Dinner and Meeting of the IVEDC which was held at the Barcelona Event Center on Friday, January 22, 2010.  Guests enjoyed a reception complete with live music, and a delicious dinner followed by the program/meeting.   President Timothy Kelley gave a warm welcome to all and a brief report on current projects in development.  A special welcome was given to visitors from Shanghai, China, who were in the Imperial Valley looking at prospective business and investment opportunities.

Chairperson Marlene Best called the meeting to order and Rick Gonzales followed with a financial report.  As a non-profit corporation, IVEDC generates revenue through membership, sponsorship, and event attendance.  IVEDC currently has over 100 private and public entities in its membership.

Don Barioni, Jr. gave a report on behalf of the Agribusiness Committee.  The mission of the Agribusiness Committee is to showcase agriculture business opportunities for the Imperial Valley.  This is done through attracting food manufacturers to the valley.  The committee stages events such as the “Taste of the Valley” which showcases Imperial Valley crops to out-of-town visitors, they arrange tours for potential business owners, and they participate in agricultural trade shows throughout the state and beyond.  The Leader Award was presented to Ayron Moiola of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association for her role on the Agribusiness Committee.

Andy Horne reported on the progress of the Energy Committee.  He reported encouraging developments of Renewable Energy Projects in Imperial Valley.  There are currently 16 geothermal plants in the County, which is the 2nd largest county in the nation for producing geothermal energy.   There are nearly two dozen renewable energy projects proposed or in development at this time.  Prospects for these projects are attracted through the annual Renewable Energy Summit.  This year’s summit will be held March 16-18 at the Quechan Casino Resort.  The focus of the summit will be on project financing, workforce development, and education.  They will be exploring local opportunities for alternative fuels, including ethanol and algae.  Laura McDonald of
Sempra Energy Utilities/San Diego Gas & Electric was presented with the Outstanding Service Award for her work with the Energy Committee.

The International Committee Report was presented by Thomas Topuzes who stated that there is an average of a1-2 visitors per week from other countries such as China, Mexico, Europe, Spain, Germany, South America, and India, who are looking to create investments in the Imperial Valley.  Of course, this leads to new jobs for Imperial County residents.  The Calexico Port of Entry project is one such project that is a mutual projects between Imperial Valley and another country, in this case Mexico, which will create jobs for valley residents.  Daniel Fitzgerald received recognition from the International Committee for his dedication to the Baja Project.

Jennifer Donatt, Chair of the Marketing Committee, stated to the audience that the greatest marketing tool IVEDC has is the positive words of its members.  Several events are held annually to promote marketing of IVEDC and the Imperial Valley.  One such great event this year was the Aviation Day held at the Imperial County Airport.  Other marketing tools used are video and radio commercials.  Rosa Maria Gonzalez of the Imperial Irrigation District was presented with recognition for the Marketing Committee for her promotion of the Renewable Energy Summit.

Keynote speaker Mary Ingersoll of Team California gave an energetic talk about what is on the horizon for the Imperial Valley and the State of California.  Team California is made of members of area economic development corporations throughout the state who represent the State of California in its efforts to bring commerce to the state.  According to Mary, Green Technology is the current focus of the California government.  Green Sector industry will infiltrate the valley and create jobs through solar and renewable energy projects.  President Timothy Kelley presented Mary with the Partnership Award for her diligence and dedication to Team California.  The evening ended with the presentation of the Annual Chairman’s Award which was given to Thomas Topuzes.

Economic Outlook for the Imperial Valley

The Imperial Valley has been rich in the production of Agriculture over the last decades, producing crops that feed millions around the world. Now there is another aspect of the Valley that is generating interest around the world. Then Imperial Valley has been slated as having the potential of becoming the renewable energy capital of the world with solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. Along with the renewable energy, the Imperial Valley resides along the Mexican Border with the third busiest port coming into America being Calexico.

With the NAFTA trade agreement there now is a Los Angeles firm fronting for Chinese and Korean concerns that are lobbying for the Mexican government to be granted permission to build a $1 billion dollar port in the agricultural area of Punta Colonet, 150 miles south of Tijuana. The port project would be one of the largest Mexican public works projects ever. Roads, rail lines, port facilities and even a small city will have to be constructed to accommodate the project. The consortium believes it is necessary to accommodate the growing demand for Asian goods; imports from China grew at the astounding rate of 15% last year.

The project would improve Baja’s current port facilities and bring an international rail port to Southern California that will cut up to 500 miles off the overland shipping to Mexico, which in the past was only available halfway across the country in Texas. In the process, 500 much-needed jobs will be created in the Imperial Valley. There are talks of the rail coming up to the Calexico east port, creating needs for warehouses and distribution services.  Connecting Hwy 7 to Hwy 115, and talk about a cargo airport on the outskirts of Holtville.

The Imperial Valley Economic Development has been doing a lot of promoting of the valley over the last ten years and their hard work is being seen around the valley. We have seen a lot of growth in Imperial and Calexico with enterprise zones. We have seen the coming of the Imperial Valley Mall, three super Wal-Marts and signs of much to come.

In May of 2009, San Diego Gas and Electric opened a renewable energy office in El Centro. With the Sunrise Power link project slated to start construction in June 2010, a $2 billion transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego will be created. In August 2009, IBEW local 549 opened the Electrical Workers Training Center in the city of Imperial. Now in January 2010 Imperial Valley College just opened their new $32 million Science Building with many courses focusing on the renewable energy industry.

The Imperial Valley has a lot to offer, it’s hot in the summer and mild in the winter just like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. We are one hour away from the recreation of the Colorado River and the Sand Dunes, two hours away from San Diego and Three hours from Los Angeles.  We have a major shopping mall with franchises like Macy’s, J.C. Penny, and Dillards

There are still some environmental issues being worked on and it is our hope that they will be resolved soon so that the Imperial Valley can become the power house of America. We have the resources. We have the people. We are ready.


By:  Kudratdeep Kaur Dhaliwal

All were winners in the ICOE Migrant Program Speech Tournament held Saturday at Southwest High School.

Students throughout the Imperial Valley were awarded for spending their entire Saturday honing their rhetoric and public speaking skills with trophies, plaques and medals.

The event kicked off with a message from the Keynote Speaker ICOE Board Member Alicia Armenta who motivated the students to fulfill their dreams.

The theme of the program was as long as one participated one was a winner no matter what.

“We are excited to have all the students here,” said Migrant Education Program Director Sandra Kofford.  “All students are winners just because they are here participating.”

Students learned to differentiate between fact and opinion, which Kofford says would help them become better citizens and play a fundamental role in civic life in decision making.

The tournament is a non-traditional way to strengthen their second language since the program already puts emphasis on math and English.

“This will help students with their self-esteem when speaking in public,” she explained.

A retired teacher from Blanche Charles Elementary School, Alejandra Zertuche, one of the judges at the event, says this is an eye-opening experience where various members of the community have come together to help the students.

“I’ve been a teacher for a long time and it’s giving students a chance to do something new,” she said.  “Usually they speak in front of other students they already know and this time it is in front of total strangers.”

Zertuche was among other judges at the event who volunteered her Saturday to offer constructive criticism on the speeches.

Honorable Superior Court Judge Poli Flores also volunteered his time judging the tournament.

“I commend the organizers of this event because public speaking is an effective skill that is applied throughout life in all areas such college and work,” said Flores.  “It is good for the students to learn these skills now.”

He said he was also proud to see so many people in the community involved.

Former students also came and served as judges to give back to the community.

Among these were CRLA Lawyer and former CUHS student Beatriz Garcia and former SHS student Ralph Monroy who say they were impressed with the student’s motivation and preparation.

“I’m Hispanic and I used to be a kid once and I know it’s harder for them to volunteer and do this than me,” said Monroy.  “Kids have things they like to do on Saturday.”

Local businesses also donated prizes for the raffles.

“This is truly exemplary of what a community can do by coming together to help our students,” says Kofford.

This year’s winner in the High School Debate Division was Southwest High School.

First-place in Middle School Debate went to William Moreno Middle School of Calexico.

Jacklyn Mejia came in first in the 4th grade speech competition while Pricilla Leyva came in first in the 5th grade speech competition.

Denise Solorzano won first-place in the 6th grade Speech Competition while Alberto Arroyo won first in the 7th grade Speech Competition.

First-place in the High School division of the Speech Competition when to Elina Olmedo.


19th Annual Holtville Athletic Club Rib Cook-Off, Saturday January 30, 2010

Holtville, California – The nineteenth Annual Rib Cook-Off Extravaganza hosted by the Holtville Athletic Club will take place in Holtville, California. This year’s event is scheduled one weekend prior to the Super Bowl. This Rib Cook-Off promises be the biggest in History. Organizers are preparing for a crowd that will approach 16,000 by reserving 16,000 pounds of fresh pork ribs, and making preparations to serve 250 gallons of Old Fashion homemade ice cream for the single day event.
This year’s marquee event will have prizes and awards that will top $ 10,000.00. The top prize of $ 1,000.00 will go to the judge’s choice for best BBQ Ribs. Additional categories include best side dish, ice cream making, homemade pie, and best booth contest.
With all net proceeds of the event earmarked to benefit area youth activity education and athletic groups, the majority of the 600 event volunteers are comprised of area athletic, youth organization, and educational groups and their leaders.
Three bands will be performing live at the Rib Cook-Off: Charly & Calico Ridge, BigJoyWow and Tercer Elemento on the main stage during the event.
The non-profit organization The Holtville Athletic Club has become a major benefactor to Imperial County organizations and causes. The 28 member group is primarily known by the Rib Cook-Off and it’s ambassador Old Fashion Ice Cream machine capable of turning out in excess of 40 Gallons an hour of delicious old fashioned ice cream. Since inception the Holtville Athletic Club’s mission has been to financially assist regional youth groups and athletic activities through non-profit fund raising efforts. The efforts include member’s personal commitments to the organization as well as seeking corporate assistance. The Holtville Athletic Club’s future will be guaranteed by the continued dedication of volunteers and the future presence of deserving sports associations, students, and local children. Today’s beneficiaries will become tomorrow’s volunteers just as today’s volunteers were yesterday’s beneficiaries. Evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of dollars and in like kind work put into the local communities by the organization.
Major event sponsors include:

KXO Radio, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Fox 9, LaBrucherie Irrigation Supply, ABC 5, TownePlace Suites, KYMA News Channel 11, ClearTalk,  KGBA Radio, All Mighty Sound and Telemundo.


Oakland -Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined sixteen state attorneys general and the United States Department of Justice in approving the Ticketmaster and LiveNation merger after requiring the two companies to agree to several changes that would create “a more competitive market” for concert tickets by allowing two new primary ticketing competitors.

In the settlement, concert-promoter AEG will be able to “self-ticket”and offer ticketing services at other venues, and Ticketmaster will divest its Paciolan ticketing system unit, a proprietary computer system used for ticketing events and contracts.

“Ticketmaster and LiveNation together dominate the market for concert tickets,” Brown said. “Without serious competition, concert-goers will inevitably pay more for concert tickets. With this merger agreement, we’re taking an important step to ensure a more competitive market for concert-ticket sales.”

Ticketmaster Entertainment, based in West Hollywood, provides ticket sales, ticket resale services, and marketing and distribution services. It operates approximately 7,100 retail outlets and 17 worldwide call centers. In 2008, the company sold more than 141 million tickets valued at more than $8.9 billion.

LiveNation, based in Beverly Hills, promotes, markets and sells live concerts. The company operates 140 venues in the United States. Starting in January 2009, LiveNation entered into the ticketing business, putting it in direct competition with Ticketmaster for the first time. After the launch of LiveNation’s ticket system, Ticketmaster lost approximately 17% of its revenue.

In February 2009, Ticketmaster and LiveNation announced that the two companies would merge, creating a dominant force in ticketing and concert-promotion in the United States. The combined entity would control aspects of booking, promotion, “primary ticket sales” (tickets sold at their printed face value), “secondary ticket sales” (ticket sales that occur after the initial sale or “scalped tickets”), merchandising, direct marketing and other artist and venue relationships.

Due to the large number of California venues affected by the merger, Brown’s office began an investigation into the impact of the merger on the concert-ticket market and found that LiveNation was the company best positioned to compete with Ticketmaster. The investigation found that the two companies together would hold a virtual monopoly position in the ticket distribution market, with little to no competition in primary ticketing for live music concerts.

The settlement seeks to allow for competition in the market by giving concert-promoter AEG the ability to ticket its own concert venues, as well as offer ticketing services at other venues. The agreement also spins off Paciolan, the ticketing unit controlled by Ticketmaster, into an independent ticketing company able to compete in the concert-ticket market.

Other states participating in the merger agreement include Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

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