Sunday, February 28, 2010

RMC's 'edifice complex' siphoning millions of public dollars from conservation mission in SG Valley

Remember the movie Contact? Remember when, after the destruction of the first spaceship, billionaire S. R. Hadden reveals to scientist Eleanor Arroway that a second spaceship had been secretly built?
"First rule in government spending," Hadden says. "Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?" But such spendthrift ways don't appear ambitious enough for the RMC.
"First rule in government spending," Hadden says. "Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?"

Well, it appears the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy saw Contact and decided even Hadden's spendthrift ways weren't ambitious enough: within only two or three miles of each other, the RMC wants built not one, not two, but three interpretive centers -- and all, one can assume, to be built with our tax dollars.

The Friends published a press release recently connecting the dots on the RMC's intentions. And although it might sound absurd, it's all true.

The RMC and its partners want the San Gabriel River Discovery Center at the Whittier Narrows Natural Area. They want the "Duck Farm on the San Gabriel River" less than three miles up the river from the natural area. And they want a Whittier Narrows "welcome center" on Rosemead Boulevard, again only a couple of miles from the site of the Discovery Center.

Friends board member Gloria Valladolid called the plan “indefensible and obscene” when placed in the context of the budget cuts that are eviscerating state, county and local services.

Spending $30 million on a "watershed education facility" (the Discovery Center) and who knows how much more on the Duck Farm and Whittier Narrows welcome center seems especially scandalous -- Can it get worse? you ask -- when you learn that the RMC simply gave itself $3 million for the Discovery Center without vetting the grant through its competitive grant process.

The RMC spends tens of thousands of dollars -- maybe into six figures -- developing its grant guidelines and then simply ignores those guidelines, doesn't even bother with a grant application, and writes itself a big, juicy check for what can only be considered a pet project.

It all reminds me of a line from another movie:

"It's good to be the king."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Montebello recall election this Tuesday

The City of Montebello is holding a recall election on Tuesday in which voters will decide whether to oust city council members Robert Urteaga and Kathy Salazar and replace them from a field of seven candidates -- four running for Urteaga's seat and three for Salazar's.

According to a pamphlet printed by the League of Women Voters of Whittier for the candidate forum on Feb. 11, each voter, even if he or she votes not to recall an incumbent, may also vote for candidates in case one or both incumbents are recalled.

You can find information about the recall and the seven candidates at

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the recall "was touched off when the two incumbents were among a majority in 2008 that voted to grant Athens Services a 15-year exclusive contract to haul all the city's garbage.

"'In some surrounding cities where the contract went out to bid, Athens is charging less than half for the same service,' said Mayor Bill Molinari, who was re-elected in November and opposed the Athens contract."

One of the issues that was raised during the candidate forum was each participant's position on the proposed development of the remaining Montebello Hills. The local Sierra Club chapter, which has a task force dedicated to preserving the hills as community open space and wildlife habitat, has endorsed two candidates: Larry Salazar (if Urteaga is recalled) and Alberto Perez (if Kathy Salazar is recalled).

Because this is a city election only, Montebello residents may want to consult their sample ballots before heading out to polling stations--they might be different from the ones you're used to.

It's conventional wisdom that its local elections that have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of people. This vote could have a dramatic impact on community parkland, resident health and property values.

Remember, su voto es su voz.