Sunday, March 30, 2008

petitionary politics

Anne raised an interesting question in the comments section of the last post, so I thought I'd spin it off for its own discussion. Namely: Are paid signature collectors a good or bad thing? Is it a nice way of making the underemployed a little less so, or is it a corruption of the democratic process?

I guess you can tell where I fall on that question by the way I phrase it. And I got a ration of shit back in the old homestead when K. read my response to Anne ("I can't believe you didn't even address the issue of paid petition collectors!!!").

Don't get me wrong -- I am all for employing the down-and-out. But if the petition-collector at Target yesterday was wrong about the contents of his petition, as Anne suggests, it is his paid status that made him wrong: A Marsy's Law activist wouldn't have been so mistaken about the gist of the proposal. Heck, that mistake may very well have lost signatures: I might have signed if I had been correctly informed [1].

My larger objection, however, is that paid signature collectors are a corruption of the petition process. Petitions are clearly intended to measure public enthusiasm for a proposal, which strikes me as a useful safeguard on the proposition process (which is itself an end run around representative democracy if you ask me). Without petitions, any crackpot could waste resources (remember, elections cost big buck$) by drafting propositions to make spitwads a vegetable.

With paid signature collectors, however, any crackpot can do just that, as long as s/he's got the money to send out the troops. Instead of measuring how serious people are about the proposed law (serious enough to give up your time and energy to work for its passage?), the petition process now measures the wealth of the crackpot and the gullibility of the chumps when confronted with a minimum-wage worker with a clipboard.

And then there's the spectre of massive numbers of invalid signatures, which has doomed at least a couple of propositions. That, though, seems like an equal temptation for the paid crews and the rabid supporters.

[1] In fact, I would not have signed in any case, particularly now that I have read over the text of the bill (a 19.2M download!). The initiative opens with a lament that we have surrendered our "right" to impose punishment, as individuals, on wrongdoers (vigilante justice by any other name would stink as much), and goes on to undermine our judicial system in a variety of ways. All of this is justified by the fact that Marsy's mother ran into the murderer at the grocery store when he was out on bail and also suffered a heart attack shortly after one of his parole hearings (where he was denied parole). Marsy, btw, was killed by her boyfriend; there was no rape-and-re-rape.

Marsy's father, Steve Ipsen, is apparently running for LA County District Attorney. I intend to vote for the other guy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

cultural critique at the five and dime

I know you think I do nothing but roam city streets and buy stuff, which I categorically deny. But some of the most interesting cultural observations can be made while in contact with the maximum tangle of humanity, which in my case means while shopping, since I don't go to ballgames.


Scene: exiting the LaVerne Target

Grubby older man: Sign a petition to support victims' rights and keep drug users behind bars?

Meg: No, thanks. I'm for letting 'em out.

G.O.M.: YOU belong behind bars, you crazy bitch!

Meg: (extra perky) Have a nice day!

back in the saddle again

Hidey-ho, neighbor! (as Mr. Hanky would say)

I'm back from my sojourn in the Old World, where I had a great couple of months -- but I'm happy to be home. All hail John and Ed, who kept the lights on here at the blog! (And I hope they'll both agree to continue as co-bloggers.)

The first (blog-relevant) thing I did when I got home was to go grocery shopping. K. on his own has a rather different diet than when I'm here, so the larder needed restocking.

Many stops and forays later, I have two grave observations:

1. The vegetables may be a better deal at our Stater Brothers, but the bread sure ain't. The same loaf of mass-market seven-grain bread costs $4.19 on Garey Ave. and $2.99 (NOT on sale) at the Baseline Von's. That's a 40% poverty tax, unless Mnemosyne has robbed me of my arithmetic micropowers. Harrumph.

2. The carniceria on the corner of Indian Hill and Arrow has closed! Now, there's only one thing I ever bought there, but that was an important thing: BEER. They had a pretty excellent selection of non-clear beers, and the prices were decent as well.

Where are we gonna buy our beer now? The stuff at Trader Joe's is skunked half the time, and at BevMo it's skunked even more often than that (plus BevMo has pissed me off with their wine bait-and-switches a few too many times). Sure, you can get a twelver of Full Sail or Sierra Nevada at the supermarkets, but that's pretty much your choice unless you yearn for yellow.

Where does Lincoln Park buy its beer?

At this point it will be obvious that K. and I -- economic refugees from NorCal -- do not subscribe to the philosophy behind the LA Beer Curse found in local restaurants: twenty lagers and a Guinness.

For the frontispiece, I wanted a photo of someone kneeling in the dirt with a desperate look on his/her face, shaking a fist at the skies, but when an image search for "damn you" returned a fridge full of beer, I took at as a sign from above.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Conditional Use Permit Please!

Sorry to bump the Torres story from the top of the heap, but the Planning Commission meets yet again.

Here's what awaits the resident volunteers on the Planning Commission: (1) more church buildings on San Antonio, (2) a request to sell wine and beer at a restaurant on Holt, and (3) a new multi-retail development on south Garey. The gurus at the Planning Department are recommending a thumbs up for #1, but thumbs down for #2 and #3. Good luck to the applicants.

My unscientific analysis of the three buildings most likely to be found in Pomona: churches, auto supply stores, and pharmacies.

Here's the map for the 3/26/08 Planning Commission agenda.

Photo from Harrison Hot Springs sand sculpture competition in beautiful British Columbia.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Torres LA Times Puff Piece

There is a story in today's Los Angeles Times about Norma Torres and how important she is as a hero to Guatemalan imigrants. As noted by Edward Barrera, Metro Editor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in the Editor's Corner blog, this article reads like a campaign ad. An obvious PR piece in the news business is usually called a "puff" piece and this certainly qualifies. How anyone can spin the mayor's "feud" with chief Romero as a positive, really doesn't understand the outrage of the community.

While noting that she supported the candidacy of Councilman Rodriguez, they failed to mention her support for Xavier Alvarez, which put him on the 3-Valleys Water Board, where he continues to collect and collect and collect for attending meetings, even while facing federal charges for claiming to have a Congressional Medal of Honor when he never even served in the military.

Somehow they made it appear as if her editorials blasting the chief made her a strong leader. Of course the Times also made it appear not to be a campaign piece as they stated that she was "considering" a run for the Assembly, even though she's now a confirmed candidate. I agree with Mr. Barrera in wondering when the Times will include nicestories about the other candidates.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Newspaper! Newspaper! My kingdom for a newspaper!

Meg hasn't posted for awhile so I took liberties with a literary reference.

Anyone catch the DB's regurgitation of a recent Chief Romero news release. The reporter happily let us know that shots were fired on three separate occasions near the intersection of Gibbs and Holt. She even tossed in the 'gang' word for good measure. (Yippee for all of those realtors or landlords trying to sell/rent houses in that neighborhood!) What she failed to mention and what could actually be a wonderful story is that the rental property near Gibbs and Holt where the shooting occurred is owned by a resident from Claremont. Don't we all feel better knowing that residents in other cities are providing affordable housing in Pomona for gang members. Here's a fun idea, maybe the city of Pomona should redirect some of their Section 8 dollars into the purchase of an apartment building in Claremont.

How about that in depth coverage of the recent murder in Covina hills? The location, just off Grand Ave, is minutes from Pomona, but I didn't see a story in the online version of the DB. The story was worthy of the LA Times, CBS2 news, and after a quick google search........the Sun-Sentinel in Florida. Yes, I said a newspaper in Florida, the state of the hanging chad, is more likely to cover a horrific murder minutes from our city than our "local" paper.

And just when I fear Pomona may be forgotten and slip into oblivion, I'm reassured to find that the Pomona PD has conducted a prostitution sting. Although not newsworthy enough to reach Florida, the tidbit did appear in the online versions of the SGVTribune, the Whittier Daily News, and the Pasadena Star News. Could it be that the Los Angeles Newspaper Group is giving a heads up to all the "johns" on the other side of the hill that they should look elsewhere for their quick fix. What a thoughtful public service!!

There's nothing like reports of gangs and prostitutes to stimulate the housing market.

I feel sooooo much better getting that off my chest.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You 3/12

Nothing really earth-shattering at tonight's Planning Commission meeting. There are a couple of higher density projects (small scale) and two "please let me sell alcohol" projects. The Mission 71 Business Park modification could be interesting, but the online information is insufficient to render much opinion. If any of these interest or affect you, the meeting in the Council Chambers starts at 7PM tonight (3/12).

Here's the map.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Famous Barmaid, I hear you singing -- pour me another song

I don't usually copy over material from Claremont Insider, since I reckon all of y'all read it, but my inner fangirl insisted that I bring your attention to this.

Exene! Coming to Claremont! X in Pomona, sure, but Exene in Claremont? Honey, fetch mama the moonshine before she swoons.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Half-full or Half-empty

This post is just a continuation of the "Students shine Pomona?"

Anonymous offered a view of my post that I hadn't fully expected, so I wanted to elaborate on my intent behind that type of a post. The critique if I understand it correctly was that students are succeeding at Pomona schools without a puff piece, so is there really any value to that type of a story. I guess I always see someone's accomplishments as a story. Whether that story rises above dinner conversation to reach the level of a Pomona schools news release is the school district's choice, but I fundamentally don't think PUSD is wrong in their effort at self-promotion. My rationale for the post reflects my view that the biggest hurdle facing this city is misperception: whether it's an overexaggerated concern about crime or a fear about the public schools.

The "feel good" stories, however annoying, are key to changing perception of PUSD. We live in a world of marketing and with a crop of parents who no longer feel an obligation to use their neighborhood schools, school districts need to "sell" their schools. Do I like it? No, but I'm not blind either. Successful schools actively cultivate their image by plastering these "feel good" stories into our psyche so we accept them as the norm. Would Anonymous have said "Look honey, those gangbangers and teenage mothers at Claremont really can do something!" if the post was about Claremont schools? Or would we just roll our eyes and say what do you expect, it's Claremont schools. I'm guessing these types of stories show up all the time in the Claremont Courier, so why not give these Pomona students and Pomona schools some credit.

If I could convince at least one of the "some of us" that aren't attending Pomona schools to take the chance, then maybe a school has a new classroom parent volunteer or a new student who can work independently. Perhaps the entire classroom will benefit if we can steal back these students that are fleeing to Claremont. Just in financial terms, how much revenue is PUSD losing because of the "perceived" superiority of the Claremont schools?

I don't know if others have noticed the couple of "feel good" stories that have trickled out of the Daily Bulletin in the last month or two. Is that an effort on PUSD's part to shape its image? I hope so. PUSD's negative image has taken years to evolve, so I doubt a handful of puff pieces will suddenly alter people's perceptions, but at least it's a start. I see the same hurdles facing the city. How do we convince residents both in this city and in adjacent cities to shop in Pomona? to spend time in metro Pomona? to dine in Pomona? I'm suggesting we need to control the message and focus on the PUSD is doing with these bits of news. We need to pummel the doubters with the reality that Pomona schools are succeeding through innovation, committed parents and students, and excellent teachers. We need the city employees and elected officials to show more restraint when playing the crime card and restrict their depictions to a city that is a safe place to live, shop, and eat.

Was there a story? Hell, yes and expect me to relentlessly applaud any students' accomplishments when they come to my attention.

If Anon wants to share their experience in PUSD and how it prepared them for college, feel free.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Homicide map for January-February 2008.

I read about crime being Pomona's number one problem, but then I take a quick look at this map and wonder who really has blinders on. Crime prevention sure looks like a regional problem, along with affordable housing, homelessness and services for the needy. Come on, are the police in Claremont really better than Pomona's finest? Should San Bernardino hire the Sheriff Department, since Rancho has far less homicides? Did all the police in San Gabriel Valley suddenly go on vacation? Anyone think the problem may lie elsewhere? Here's an idea: how about a per resident minimum that each city must provide for affordable housing/homeless assistance? How about a minimum number of parolees for each city? Let's spread the wealth, so to speak.

photo is from Hang'em High not really from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Students Pomona?

OK, OK, here I'll go, and admit that I am a parent of PUSD students. I know what you might be thinking...........Are you a lunatic, naive, or just an irresponsible parent? I forgot economically-challenged (PC for being too poor to pay for private schools). Since apparently, participants in blogosphere shouldn't disclose too much personal information, let's just say I might be all four, or I might not. **And please don't go asking my kids!**

But enough about me. Really I just wanted to pass along a couple of "news" stories I read on the PUSD website.

Garey High: Jesus Cueva, Arlene Cortes, Claudia Serrano, Marlen Mendoza, and Alexis Armendariz volunteered their time and artistic ability to paint a ballwall at Mendoza Elementary. And to you pundits out there, no, they didn't get arrested for graffiti. Who would guess such civic-minded young people call Garey High School.....their high school.

Garey High and Ganesha High: For you soccer fans, Garey High School boys soccer team won the Baseline League title, while Ganesha High School won the Valle Vista title. All three, Pomona, Ganesha, and Garey made it to the postseason play in boys soccer.

Ganesha and Diamond Ranch: Not to be outdone, almost 30 students from these two high schools volunteered their time at "Storybook night" which was put on by the Ranch Hills Elementary PTA. My hats off to the individual(s) that came up with this idea and to the teenagers that participated.

Diamond Ranch and Village Academy: US News and World Report has selected these two high schools in its list of outstanding schools. Can you imagine that?

Emerson Middle School: This one might be my personal favorite. A group of students from Michael Konick's class "edged 300 other California middle schools to reach the regional finals of the Future Cities Project competition with a positive -- and positively exciting! -- vision of Pomona's future." You can find an article on these students in the Daily Bulletin. And just think, this accomplishment from students a local realtor recently described to me as looking "rowdy".

Marshall Middle School: 47 students recently moved from the category "English Learners" to "Fluent English Proficient". Wow, I wish could brag about being fluent in two languages. Now I almost feel like contacting my old Spanish teachers just to apologize.

I guess you can't always tell what's on the inside when you're only looking from the outside.

Monday, March 3, 2008

City Clerk Updates Web Site

For those of you who might regularly try and navigate the city's web site, I'm sure you're as frustrated as I am at times. As someone whose been writing HTML code since the late 1980s and has been webmaster for over a dozen sites and helped to create, I have a pretty good understanding of what it take to do a web site. And Pomona's has been just plain bad.

However, I saw a notice today on the Foothill Cities blog that the city had joined the ranks of those who posted council minutes. I immediately had to check it out for myself. What I found was that the City Clerk page has been completely reworked and will be including a lot of great additions. Among those are: Minutes, Agendas, Legal notices (no longer have to pour over them in the classified section of the DB to find the few regarding Pomona), winners of bids, election information, city codes (which have been there but hidden), public records, campaign statements, statement of economic interest filings, city claims forms, and information on the city's commissions, along with the form for applying for a commission seat.

I immediately contacted Maria Macias, our very professional city clerk (I had wanted to let her know what a great idea I thought it was that she had to have high school students working at the polls on election day) and let her know that I thought the changes to the web site were terrific and hoped that it might have an effect on other departments web offerings. She indicated that in addition to the agendas, that it is her intent to also post complete meeting packets as well (this will be a boon to those of us who try and read them 15 minutes before the meeting in the lobby).

She also apologized that the agenda for tonight's meeting didn't get posted, but it is a victim of the migration to her new page. She then forwarded the agenda to me via email (Thank you!).

This is a great start. I had been asked by Publius of The Foothill Cities blog to write up a critique of Pomona's web site which I'm still planning to do (don't worry Publius, it's coming). Again, kudos to Marie Macias for making communication with our city a little easier.


Just wanted to take the briefest of moments to wish Pomona's very own John Clifford a HAPPY Birthday. Rather than say which birthday this might be, let's just say, in true Pomona Heritage fashion, that he's at least younger than his house.

Or aren't you?