Monday, August 23, 2010

Ms. Lois reports

In case you're not following the comments as eagerly as the posts themselves, I thought I'd repost a public service announcement our own Ms. Lois just posted as a comment:

"The Pomona Public Library is closed today due to excessive heat. Since our air conditioning is out, it was way too hot for people to be inside. Word is that Tuesday and Wednesday we will be open from 8am to noon.

Help spread the word!"

Thanks, Ms. Lois! (And I'd just like to add that it's a sad thing when civic buildings get closed -- albeit temporarily -- rather than repaired.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Willy Wonka @ Fox

A Friends of the Pomona Fox Family Screening of
Willy Wonka & the
Chocolate Factory

Sunday, August 22

Doors open at 1:00 pm
Screening begins at 2:00 pm

"A world of pure imagination . . . " From the imaginative mind of Roald Dahl and music of Leslie Bricusse, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is a classic family film. A morality tale that takes on gluttony, television, and gum chewing, the visually stunning Chocolate Factory is a stark contrast to the "real world" of Charlie Bucket and his grandfather. Starring Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum as Charlie.
Mel Stuart Book
SPECIAL IN-PERSON GUEST: Director Mel Stuart will be answering questions about the making of the film and signing his book, "Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory."

Popcorn, sodas, and candy will be available from the snack bar. Hot food and "adult" beverages will be available from Drink, the adjacent restaurant before, during, and after the screening.


100 Wonka Bars will be on-sale at our concession stand and 5 of them will include "Golden Tickets" which can be redeemed for special prizes.
Prices: Adults $5.00
  Children 12 and under $3.00
ALSO Up-Coming
  The incomparable Jerry Lee Lewis, Mr. Great Balls of Fire himself, will be making a rare appearance at the Pomona Fox Theater on Saturday, September 25, the occasion of his 75th Birthday.

  Joining Jerry Lee will be special guests Nick 13 The Head Cat and we're promised that there will be other surprises.

Ticket are now on-sale from
Good seats are $30 with special seating for $44 and $77.

Don't miss this special Pomona event!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Civilian review for Pomona PD - is it necessary?

At tomorrow night's Charter Review Commission meeting, there is a proposal by a local citizen to create, in the Pomona City Charter, a civilian review commission for police discipline.

In the letter, the author, a member of the local NAACP, argues that this would address the ongoing issues in the relationship between the Pomona Police Department and the community at-large. It cites 50 lawsuits between individuals who have had contact with the PD and the City, yet gives no indication whether that is a large number or not. It argues that there is a lack of diversity in the police, yet I see no statistics to back up that claim.

The most recent big "incident" of the police was related to the checkpoints, and when some officers "infiltrated" (attended out of uniform as private citizens) a community meeting on this issue. Personally, I support the checkpoints. I know others on this blog don't, but the way that Pomona PD conducts checkpoints, with advance signage and not blocking all four directions of traffic (after the Mission/San Antonio incident), they are legal and serve a purpose in catching unsafe drivers while allowing anyone paying attention to the road to divert (and no, the police don't automatically pull people that divert over, as I always divert with no incident). As far as "selective enforcement" and "lack of relationship", I saw a diverse group of people supporting the Pomona PD a couple of months ago - whites, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, and the multi-racial.

All this would be moot if civilian review commissions didn't strain internal relationships in police departments. If it was an advisory commission like Claremont's Police Commission it would just be a forum for obtaining information and expressing concerns. But the model Berkeley Police Review Commission creates a separate bureaucracy of independent investigators to complaints, in parallel with the Internal Affairs section of the department. They have subpoena power and can issue decisions.

Police officers will feel second guessed, when they are already second guessed by superiors, politicians, and through the civil lawsuit process. As appointees of City Councilmembers, they will be perceived as, and may in fact be, puppets of City Councilmembers trying to score points on the back of the police. (When has that ever happened?) Opening up these hearings actually just results in targeted officers to lawyer up and not share "lessons learned" that might occur in an internal disciplinary situation. The District Attorney already reviews situations of officer-involved shootings and many cases of use of force, so this would just duplicate their work. Indeed, there are indications that the work of the commission would either never be public, or there would never be any information shared with the commission, because of the strong protections offered peace officers under State law. Similarly, a review commission is no substitute for a strong internal affairs division, background investigation prior to hire, and a strong grounding in ethics and integrity of the individual officers.

There is no evidence that the City Manager is going to do something stupid like offer an employee of the year award to a cop who kills someone, when the investigation was still ongoing. In my experience, Chiefs Lewis, Romero, and now Keetle have had good to excellent relationships with the community. Former Police Chief Richard Tefank is the chair of the Los Angeles Police Commission, which was created as a result of the Los Angeles Riots. But police agencies have shifted dramatically since 1992, and for the better. Nor I am aware of any cases where there have been issues of complaints being investigated unfairly. If that is happening, the ombudsman model may be more effective than what officers perceive as an anti-cop dog and pony show. But in a small agency (and Pomona PD is small, even compared to Berkeley, with 30% less officers patrolling 50% more population), such an entity shouldn't be necessary.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

big ups

Hello from the Rocky Mountains! K. and I are on our annual while-there's-still-gas road trip, but that doesn't mean I'm not keeping my eye on m-m-m-my Pomona and environs.

I notice that there were 12 homicides in LA County last week, and that none of them were in Pomona. That carried me back to the LAT homicide map, where I note with pleasure that we haven't had a homicide since May. MAY!!! You know what that makes us? Sweetness and light distilled.

I'm probably jinxing it by pointing it out, but civic boosterism should never succumb to the quirky demands of superstition.

Get out there and continue to be peaceful law-abiding non-homicidal maniacs, people!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The disconnect between voters and schools

Second in an occasional series

From the poll posted yesterday, almost half of all voters have never sent their children or grandchildren to schools in the Pomona Unified School District. Therefore, out of the 68% of voters who are age 35 and up, about a third of them, and probably more, have no experience whatsoever with the school district, other than as a student.

Attendance is declining. Average daily attendance, the measurement used for State funding of schools, has dropped from a high of 33,976 in the 2002-2003 school year to 26,538 in 2010-11, a 22% decrease over the span of just eight years. PUSD's ambitious bond program opened many schools in the last couple of decades, and as attendance has dropped, year round schooling has been eliminated, portables have been disassembled, and programs that consume additional space beyond the classroom have been implemented.

But does that mean that the population of school age children are dropping, or that parents are consciously deciding not to use the services of PUSD? Surprisingly, despite the anecdotes that people hear, there is not a wholesale shift of the student population to non-PUSD schools. The Census data shows that in 2008, there were 34,332 children enrolled in school. Average daily attendance was 30,150 in the 2007-08 school year, for a "shrinkage" rate of 12%. Some of that 11% went to private schools, some were home schooled, others went to schools in other districts, and a few are simply dropouts. The difference is greatest in the high school ages, with 11,832 high school age students and about 7,521 high school students in PUSD, with a shrinkage rate of 37%. Even so, this is better that at, say, Pasadena, where there are 28,268 school age students and an average daily attendance of 18,765 - a shrinkage rate of 34%. In Upland, the shrinkage rate from school age population to actual enrollment is 31%, so Pomona (and Diamond Bar residents) are keeping their kids in local schools.

The difference is really individuals without school aged children at all, rather than families with kids who consciously decided to not send their kids to PUSD schools. Here's the challenge. With only 36% of voters having children or grandchildren in the district, that means that advocates for the parcel tax will have to reach the 64% that don't. Voters, especially those registered Republican or Decline to State, will be literally swamped with information from Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina as they attempt to buy their way into office. Other traditional forms of local communication, such as ads on local cable television, are in decline as viewers switch to satellite and FIOS, which do not have local insert commercials in their programming. Door to door communication has become less and less effective as voters lead busier lives and refuse to answer the door to solicitors. How will the pro-tax forces overcome this disadvantage?

Incidentally, one of the side effects of this disconnect is that there is no organized opposition either. Will an organized opposition form, and take out a statement in the ballot pamphlet? Without an opposition, the pro-tax side can easily buy all the slate mailers in the area - Republican, Democratic, and decline to state. Although most voters seem to know that slate mailers are just paid advertising, they are surprisingly effective. As a veteran election worker, there is a large percentage of voters that take slates into the ballot box with them. They are especially effective on low-information elections and nonpartisan elections.

In the next installment, I'll look at where the voters come from, and past support for school district bonds - will Diamond Bar residents step up to the plate again?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

School district votes to place parcel tax on ballot

Tonight, the Pomona Unified School District placed a $96 parcel tax increase on the November ballot. I live tweeted the meeting as it happened.

Some background: In May, the PUSD board requested in closed session to gather information pertaining to a possible parcel tax for schools. It showed up on the July PUSD board agenda but was pulled due to a legal noticing snafu, and rescheduled for tonight's meeting.

The tax will appear on the ballot in substantially the same form as it does below. An amendment was made to add that no consultants, except those that directly serve students, would be paid for through the tax (although, of course, money from other sources could be shifted to pay for consultants).

PUSD Parcel Tax

I do appreciate the school district's transparency in this matter. The school district was the first one to respond to my public records requests on the salaries of top employees and the contract of the Superintendent of Education, within 3 business days of their receipt. The City of Pomona just hit the ten day mark to provide a response, without any documents. Neither has the City of Los Angeles or the County Sheriff's Department responded to my requests.

However, the school district attorney denied my request for the poll, which was cited in an article by Monica Rodriguez in the Daily Bulletin. Ultimately, at the meeting where the parcel tax was placed on the ballot, the attorney was told by the Board of Education to release the poll to the public, and I received a copy that evening. The attorney explained that he was directed to hire the pollster, and since he was the conduit for the information, the poll was protected by attorney-client privilege until it was waived. Monica Rodriguez of the newspaper got results fed to her verbally by the school board president and the superintendent, but the attorney said that she did not receive a copy of the poll. They did not play the games that some school districts do of having a private campaign committee do the poll and feed board members the data, so they deserve credit in that regard.

Pomona Unified School District Parcel Tax Survey

With exactly 66% of voters supporting or leaning yes, and a two-thirds vote required for this measure to climb, the PUSD has a high hurdle to climb. It's even more daunting with the unexpected no votes of Andrew Wong and Jason Rothman to the parcel tax. Neither chose to make their cases against putting the measure on the ballot from the dais, although I saw Wong being interviewed by Monica Rodriguez. I would have expected a unified front on the issue, but without that, opponents have even more ammunition to kill the tax, with or without Wong and Rothman's active help.

In the coming days I'll discuss some of the challenges the school district has in facing the poll, and some possible arguments that supporters might use in order to convince voters to vote for this tax increase. If no one else will write a ballot argument against the measure, I will, if only to ask some hard questions of the PUSD that have gone long unanswered. The deadline for ballot arguments is August 16, at the Registrar-Recorder's office in Norwalk.