From the monthly archives: July 2012

By Mario Conde

The County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a Vote by Mail sorting system to count absentee ballots faster on Election Day.

Registrar of voters Sylvia Bermudez said that ever since she took over the responsibilities of the office, she has look for innovative and proven ways in which to improve the efficiency of the office, while continuing to improve the voting experience for the voters of Imperial County. Bermudez said that after evaluating the current procedures for processing mail ballots, she determined that a tremendous amount of staff time was spent sorting, opening and verifying all mail ballots rather than on critical duties during an election.

The Elections Department will purchase Criterion Elevate Vote by Mail (VBM) sorting system has many benefits such as, faster time to completion of ballot processing, minimizing of staff time, detailed logs for all processed ballots, precinct sorting and real time signature verification. In addition, the system has thickness detection, which is capable of detecting double ballots in a single envelope and most importantly the system will result in early identification of exceptions, enabling staff to contact the voters and take action earlier than before.

In researching how to resolve this issue, she asked for the Board to invest in a vote by mail sorting system, which simplifies the vote by mail process.

“These sorting systems have proven to minimize the amount of staff and time, while streamlining the mail ballot process. In addition, such system will enable my department to get to the tabulation process much faster than before.” Bermudez said.

Imperial County has approximately 53,741 registered voters, of which 18,268 are permanent vote by mail voters. In an effort to encourage more people to vote, Bermudez said, they are focusing on the convenience of voting by mail and anticipate a significant increase in the number of permanent mail voters in the coming years.

“It is imperative that we being preparing today for an increase to mail ballots and the processing of these ballots in a timely manner. Doing so will not only benefit the department but more importantly the voters we serve.” She said.


By Candace Nelson
After reviewing stacks of applications, essays, transcripts and letters of recommendation, the Farm Bureau scholarship committee has selected 26 deserving local students to receive scholarships.
In both the number of scholarships given and total amount of money distributed – nearly $25,000 – this is the Farm Bureau’s largest year yet for scholarships, thanks to the many individuals and companies in the Imperial Valley who either supported the Farm Bureau BBQ or offered direct donations toward one of the five scholarship funds the Farm Bureau manages.
Scholarship recipients range from freshmen just embarking on their college careers to graduate students who are already deeply involved with hands-on research projects that will have meaningful effects on the agriculture industry.
Since the program began, Imperial County Farm Bureau has distributed nearly $100,000 in scholarships to local students. As of 2012, Farm Bureau manages five scholarship funds, with a sixth scheduled to be introduced in 2013.
The Imperial County Farm Bureau Scholarship is funded by the annual Farm Bureau Scholarship BBQ, with net proceeds from the April event distributed each summer to local students pursuing college degrees. The Matt LaBrucherie Memorial, Vern Highley Memorial and Raul Rodriguez Memorial Scholarships are funded by individual donations in memory of each of these men. And the Jim Kuhn Memorial Farmer of the Year Scholarship is funded by Farm Credit Services Southwest in honor of the current Farmer of the Year (currently Neal Jack). Each student who applies for a Farm Bureau scholarship is applying to all of the Farm Bureau’s scholarship programs.
In June, the Farm Bureau also established a Jack and Pauline McConnell Memorial Scholarship. The first scholarships from this fund will be distributed in 2013 using donations received in honor of this highly respected couple.
Applicants must complete a questionnaire with details about their academic, community and agricultural activities and experience, financial information, GPA and other statistical details. Then they are required to write a brief essay touching on a few key questions about themselves, including their plans for the future, their proudest achievement, and challenges they expect to face over the course of their education.
Students are selected based on their academic achievements, community involvement, leadership qualities, written expression, and involvement with the agriculture industry. Scholarship amounts this year ranged from $500 to $2,000 based on each student’s achievements and financial need.
Students interested in applying for a Farm Bureau scholarship can watch the Farm Bureau web site at or call the Farm Bureau office at 760-352-3831. Applications are usually distributed in February of each year, with completed applications due in late April or early May.
Anyone who is interested in donating toward one of the Farm Bureau’s scholarship funds can contact Farm Bureau at 760-352-3831. Donations go wholly and directly into scholarships for local students.

Imperial County Farm Bureau Scholarship
Preston Hutchinson
Brawley Union High School
2nd year Arizona Western College
Taylor Ortiz
Brawley Union High School
4th year University of Idaho, Moscow
Kayanna Gilbert
Imperial High School
3rd year Northern Arizona University
Robert Phillips
Holtville High School 2
nd year Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Julia Whittle
Brawley Union High School
1st year
Brigham Young University, Idaho
Leilani Solomon
Brawley Union High School
1st year Imperial Valley College

Vern Highley Memorial Scholarship
Lindsey Stiff
Holtville High School
4th year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Maureen Croak
Holtville High School
3rd year Imperial Valley College
Amanda van Leeuwen
Imperial High School
1st year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Brea Haller
Imperial High School
2nd year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Kylee Singh Brawley Union High School Master’s program, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Matt LaBrucherie Memorial Scholarship
Cory Hanks
Brawley Union High School Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine
Kassandra Buzo
Brawley Union High School
1st year Cal Poly Pomona
Allison Cameron
Southwest  High School
3rd year Texas Tech University
Christina Dammarell
Valley Academy home school
2nd year Bethel College, Indiana
Courtney Miller
Brawley Union High School
3rd year Oklahoma State University
Wesley Deen
Imperial High School
2nd year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
David Theuret
Brawley Union High School
3rd year University of California, Riverside
John “Steven” McFaddin
Southwest High School
Imperial Valley College
Katlyn Locher
Locher Academy home school
1st year Imperial Valley College

Raul Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship
Brooke Bradshaw
Holtville High School
2nd year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Lucio Zepeda
Calexico High School
3rd year Cal Poly Pomona
Joshua Klockmann
Brawley Union High School
1st year Cal Poly Pomona
Lesly Larios
Holtville High School
1st year Cal Poly Pomona

Jim Kuhn Memorial Farmer of the Year Scholarship
in honor of Neal Jack
Cheyenne Ayala
Brawley Union High School
4th year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Deborah de la Riva
Southwest High School
Ph.D. / Masters program, University of California, RIverside


Dennis Avery, an international philanthropist and heir to the Avery Dennison fortune, has died. He was 71.

His wife, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, tells U-T San Diego ( ) that Avery’s health began to deteriorate about a week ago and he died Monday at a San Diego hospital.

Avery, whose family owned the Avery Dennison label and packaging empire, bought 3,000 acres in the San Diego County town of Borrego Springs to prevent its development and opened it to the public. He filled the land with open-air sculptures, including metal works of prehistoric animals.

Avery also provided Borrego Springs with a Little League park, football lights and other amenities and gave millions to causes around the world, including AIDS clinics in China and a library in Honduras.


A protective mask was among the gear on display during a three-day training workshop in New Orleans that focused on how well local, state, federal, and even international emergency responders would coordinate and communicate in the fog of an unfolding terror plot.On May 18, a carrier ship bound for the Port of New Orleans left a Caribbean nation weighted with 12,000 tons of ammonium nitrate. Intelligence later revealed that two of the ship’s crew members were on terrorist watch lists. Meanwhile, a few miles outside New Orleans, police received a report of someone suspiciously circling a chemical plant in a car while taking pictures.

What may have appeared at first to be isolated incidents were actually parts of an elaborate drill held during a three-day workshop to test how well local, state, federal, and even international emergency responders would coordinate and communicate in the fog of an unfolding terror plot.

The workshop is a prime illustration of our Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate’s mission, which is to prevent a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)—chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive—while at the same time preparing to respond to one.

“You play how you practice,” said Stephanie Viegas, a special agent and WMD coordinator in our Miami Field Office, who attended the workshop. “The time to get to know each other is not when something’s happening. It’s having meetings together, going over each other’s operational plans, getting together, and training together so we have the opportunity to recognize and address any gaps.”

“What keeps me up at night is not what I know—it’s what I don’t know,” said Assistant Director John Perren of the WMD Directorate. “And that’s why we do these things; to establish trip wires to find out what we don’t know.”

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