From the daily archives: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tax Gets the Usual Treatment

HOLTVILLE TOOK ANOTHER STAB AT its Utility Tax last week.
It’s the only one, except Brawley, that is operating. Since the potential for controversy is high, the Holtville council did what most governments of any size do. They agreed to a study of the law and postponed action on it until the end of October.
Postponing something is among the best ways a city can duck an issue. Along with promising an “extensive study” of it.
So the second thing the council did was order an “extensive study.”
By the time they get around to bringing this back, everybody will have forgotten about it and they will be able to do whatever they like with it. Which means it will probably stay in place.
Taxes never disappear the way the people who pass them think they will. Once in place, someone will have to find out how to come up with the money they need without the offensive tax. In the case of the utility tax, it is hardly noticed by most people, since it is tacked onto your bill for electricity, telephone and even cable television. It just blends in with the  rest of the numbers.
Also, like most taxes, its original purpose has been blurred and the money that was specifically set aside to keep Holtville with its own police department, has now gone to other uses including mowing the lawn at Holt Park.
It’s just too tempting for governments to see a big pile of cash and not dig into it for other purposes.
The police department has been turned over to the County Sheriff, but the tax is still here. So where is the money going? a little more explanation should be coming from the council.
It will be interesting to see what this study turns up. Somebody needs to think a little harder on where to get some money other than the people’s pockets.
CIVIC GROUPS AND NONPROFITS are having to find new places to host their major events. The Imperial Valley Joint Chambers of Commerce will be moving its Fall mixer to Brawley this year. The place has yet to be determined.
Without the presence of the centrally located Barbara Worth County Club, the Joint Chambers are sending their mixer on the road. It will be rotated among its members each year.
I ATTENDED THE CALEXICO CHAMBER as a member of that August board this week. They have a very large and diverse membership with somebody aggressively pursuing events to stimulate the economy in that city.
More Chambers would do well to check out what the Border City does and perhaps do something to help its members make it through the recession.
Brawley brought in Congressman Filner to talk with members about the current economic climate
Too bad more Chambers aren’t interested in doing something like this.
That’s something they  could do for free. Most of the time you get that same old song and dance “we don’t have any money” from these people.
WE’RE GEARING UP FOR THE the Fall season and need some writers for sports in the Valley cities of Calexico and Imperial. If there is somebody out there that would like to help out on a free-lance basis, give us a call at 356-2995.
That would include covering football and volleyball as well as other sports throughout the school year.
Payment is based on a per story used basis. Meaning you can make some extra money working part-time and have lots of fun doing it. If you can take pictures, you can earn even more. And you get to stand on the sidelines and watch the action up-close and personal.
TIME FOR OUR ANNUAL MESSAGE  to watch out around schools. Classes will be starting up again next week in several parts of the Valley and will be at full strength by Aug. 30th.
Drive safely and slowly and keep our kids safe too.
IT’S GOOD TO SEE work being done on Dogwood Road at I-8. Anything that improves what has become a major intersection will be a welcome relief from the cars zipping past the on-ramps without any consideration for those trying to turn onto Dogwood.
It’s long overdue.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement after it was announced that California was awarded over $200 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) grants by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration for Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) projects across California:

“The projects awarded to California today stand to create hundreds of jobs for Californians and benefit thousands more. Getting broadband access to those in underserved areas is essential to promoting economic growth and spurring job creation. The grants awarded to California today will supply that foundation.”

The projects receiving funds today are part of a program – administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) – to expand broadband access and adoption across the country. In total, 66 Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant awards, totaling $1.47 billion in federal investments, were announced today.

Earlier this year, Governor Schwarzenegger issued a letter recommending the projects that were awarded to California today. Below is the list of grants awarded to California.

California Broadband Cooperative, Inc. ($81,148,788) – This approximately $81.1 million award will allow the California Broadband Cooperative to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in California and Nevada. The project plans to directly connect 230 community institutions to broadband. As many as 62,400 people stand to benefit as do 2,500 businesses. In addition to the more than 400 jobs the California Broadband Cooperative estimates the project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

CVIN ($46,619,757) – This approximately $46.6 million award, with nearly $20 million in matching contributions, will allow Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN) to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in the Central Valley region of California. The project plans to directly connect up to 63 community institutions to broadband. As many as 3.6 million people stand to benefit as do 160,000 businesses. In addition to the over 280 jobs CVIN estimates the project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Motorola, Inc. ($50,593,551) – This approximately $50.6 million award, with nearly $21.9 million in matching contributions, will allow public safety entities in the San Francisco area to deploy an interoperable wireless public safety broadband network. The project plans to serve 200 existing public safety sites and up to 50,000 public safety users in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. As many as 6 million people stand to benefit from this project.

Plumas Sierra Telecommunications ($13,770,240) – This approximately $13.8 million award will allow Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative to offer affordable middle mile broadband service in California, foster economic development, and improve education, and healthcare in rural areas of the state. The project plans to directly connect 18 community institutions to broadband. As many as 33,000 people stand to benefit as do 2,100 businesses. In addition to the more than 180 jobs Plumas Sierra estimates the project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Foundation For California Community Colleges ($10,944,843) – This approximately $10.9 million award will allow the Foundation for California Community Colleges to provide outreach, training, and educational support to increase digital literacy skills and broadband adoption as well as encourage broadband usage among students and their families, especially among low-income Hispanic residents in the Central Valley region. In addition to the jobs this project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Zerodivide ($686,157) – This approximately $686,000 award, with nearly $300,000 in matching contributions, will allow ZeroDivide to increase broadband usage among the 15 Native American tribes in rural San Diego County, California as part of its Tribal Digital Village project, which will provide 8,900 tribal residents and 2,000 residents living in adjacent communities with broadband training, awareness, and adoption programs. In addition to the jobs this project will create, it will provide a foundation for
economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Zerodivide CA, HI, NM, OR, UT, WA ($1,384,242) – This $1.4 million award, with $605,000 in matching contributions, will allow ZeroDivide to expand broadband access to low-income youth in communities across California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The project plans to provide training and support services to encourage sustainable adoption and technology awareness with a focus on disadvantaged communities. In addition to the jobs this project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Governor Schwarzenegger created the California Recovery Task Force to track the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding coming into the state; work with President Barack Obama’s administration; help cities, counties, non-profits, and others access the available funding; ensure that the funding funneled through the state is spent efficiently and effectively; and maintain a Web site ( that is frequently and thoroughly updated for Californians to be able to track the stimulus dollars.


Accused Westside Rapist John Floyd Thomas, Jr., who is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom today, was apprehended in pursuit of DNA evidence in the Grim Sleeper serial murder case.

Thomas is accused of murdering seven women in Los Angeles and is a suspect in as many as two dozen other murders.

“DNA analysis by the state lab provided the key that unlocked the mystery of the Westside Rapist’s murders of women over two decades,” Brown said. “A suspect is in custody today because our forensic scientists were able to link his DNA to multiple crime scenes.”

Starting in 1972, a killer preyed late at night on older women in the mid-Wilshire area on the west side of Los Angeles. He also struck in Inglewood and Lennox. After raping and strangling his victims to death, he left their faces covered with a blanket or pillow. Most of them were in their 60s, 70s or 80s.

A decade later, a similar skein of rape-murders occurred in Claremont, east of Los Angeles.

The killings stopped in 1989. For years, police were unable to solve any of the cases.

Twenty years later, frustrated by their inability to catch the Grim Sleeper, who was believed to have killed as many as 10 people in south Los Angeles, LAPD officers tried a new tack. In the fall of 2008, they fanned out across the city to collect DNA from 92 registered L.A. sex offenders whose DNA was not already in the state databank.

Thomas was one of them. He had been convicted of a sexual assault in 1978 in which he snapped a 78-year-old woman’s ankle during an attack in Pasadena. She survived, a neighbor identified a license plate, and Thomas served five years in prison.

In the 2008 dragnet, Police doggedly pursued Thomas and the other offenders. Finally, Thomas agreed to come in for testing. Dressed for work as an insurance adjuster in slacks and a long-sleeved red dress shirt, Thomas reported to the LAPD Southwest Community station, where a DNA sample was taken from the inside of his cheek.

In March 2009, officials at the Department of Justice forensics lab that maintains the state DNA database notified Los Angeles detectives there was a DNA match between Thomas and unsolved murders – but not the Grim Sleeper cases police had set out to solve.

Thomas’ DNA matched genetic evidence found at the scene of a 1972 homicide of a 68-year-old woman in the mid-Wilshire area, one of the first of the Westside Rapist cases. His DNA was also linked to DNA collected at other Westside Rapist slayings.

Thomas, 74, is currently being held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail on seven counts of murder. He is scheduled to appear today in Department 30 on the fifth floor of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles to set a date for his preliminary hearing.

Ultimately, the state DNA lab also played a critical role in the Grim Sleeper case. At the behest of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008 and 2010, the lab searched its DNA databank for family members of the suspect. One convicted felon’s genetic blueprint showed he was almost certainly the suspect’s son. After further investigation, police on July 7 of this year arrested Lonnie David Franklin Jr. and charged him with multiple counts of murder in that case.

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Calexico, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Calexico downtown port of entry discovered 30 pounds of cocaine hidden inside a red 1995 Toyota Camry over the weekend.

The incident occurred at about 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 15, when a CBP officer referred a 32-year-old male Mexican citizen to the secondary examination area after the driver displayed signs of nervousness as he waited in line for inspection.

An intensive inspection that included a detector dog led officers to the discovery of 12 wrapped packages of cocaine concealed inside a non-factory compartment in the vehicle’s undercarriage. The narcotic has a street value of approximately $240,000.

The driver, a resident of Mexicali, was arrested for the alleged narcotic smuggling attempt and released to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He is currently being held at the Imperial County Jail pending arraignment.

CBP placed an immigration hold on the male to initiate removal from the United States at the conclusion of his criminal proceedings.

CBP seized both vehicle and narcotics.


By Mario Conde

After consideration at their close session meeting the County Board of Supervisors approved the pursuit of challenge to EPA disapproval of Dust Rules.

The Board, in its capacity as Imperial County Air Pollution Control District met in closed session in the middle of their meeting Tuesday and voted 4-1 to approve action to pursue all legal remedies, including litigation if necessary, to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s limited disapproval of the ICAPCD’s regulation VIII fugitive dust rules. Chairman Louis Fuentes was the only member who voted against this action.

Brad Poiriez, Air Pollution Control Officer said that the Regulation VIII rules are critical part of the ICAPCD’s Strategy to implement best available control measures for dust and other particulate matter in the County. “We feel EPA’s decision not to approve the rues was unjustified, and it is vitally important for the County to challenge the disapproval and ultimately achieve to move forward with these rules under State Implementation Plan.” Poiriez said.

The ICAPD adopted the Regulation VIII rules over 3 years before there was a specific legal requirement to do so and was created with participation and workshops involving members of the community, California Air Resources Board, agriculture community people, and other organizations. The rules for this regulation mirror stringent dust requirements used in other “serious” PM10 nonattainment areas such as the San Joaquin Valley, the South Coast Air Basin and Maricopa County, Arizona, yet EPA disapproved the rules when submitted on behalf of Imperial County, said County Counsel in a press release.

In other items, the Board of Supervisors approved the Tiger II application for Cesar Chavez Blvd. The named Blvd. is the principal arterial that will connect to the reconfigured West Port of Entry, The Current configuration is unsafe for travelers and Calexico residents due to the infrastructure deficiencies such as reducing traffic congestion, improving pedestrian safety, allowing pedestrian vehicles to enter faster and reduce green gases that affect air quality in the Imperial County. Cesar Chavez Blvd will change into a 4-lane major arterial. The board also approved a similar project for Imperial Ave. in El Centro.

The County Board also approved and awarded a contract to TC Construction Inc. for the construction of the Imperial Center Infrastructure Project Phase II in the amount of $2,677,986. The development will consist of a recreation and convention center located in Heber, California.

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