Category Archives: General

General Politics

We Have a Real Opportunity to Move a Pro-Growth Agenda Forward Under Trump and a Republican Congress

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Col. Paul Cook (Ret), U.S. Congressman, 8th Congressional District

A lot has changed in a year. Most people assumed we would continue to have divided government in Washington for the foreseeable future. However, the results of the November election left us with a unified Republican Congress and presidency.

Absent the partisan gridlock that characterizes a divided government, we have a real opportunity to move a pro-growth agenda forward. Repub­licans in Congress are committed to working with President Trump on economic issues.

President Trump set the tone in his initial days with his “two-for-one” executive order, which requires that federal agencies eliminate two regu­lations for every new one they at­tempt to implement. Americans, par­ticularly small business owners, are seeing the rising cost of regulations, and they aren’t happy. In fact, ac­cording to the National Association of Manufacturers, more than 90% of small business owners support re­forming the regulatory process. 72% of small businesses reported that regulations were hurting their oper­ating environment.

Since 2008 over 3,300 new regula­tions have been added each year that collectively cost $981 billion. The total cost of all US regulations amounts to an estimated $1.86 tril­lion–or $15,000 per family per year. The Obama Administration set new records for regulations, averaging a new regulation every 15 days during his eight years in office.

One of the first items of business passed by the new Congress was HR 5, the Regulatory Accountabil­ity Act. The legislation takes aim at the problem of overreaching federal regulation by bringing together six separate regulatory reform bills that passed the House in previous years with bipartisan support. It eliminates excessive red tape and regulations, lifting an unnecessary burden on hardworking Americans and promot­ing jobs, innovation, and economic growth.

Specifically, this legislation pro­motes transparency by requiring publication of easy-to-understand online summaries of new proposed rules, as well as proposed costs. It also requires agencies to choose the lowest-cost rulemaking alternative, permitting costlier rules only when cost-justified. It also prohibits new billion-dollar rules from taking ef­fect until the courts and Congress have a say.

This legislation begins to reverse some of the regulatory overreach and will help our lo­cal businesses become more competitive. This legislation is a small step in the right direc­tion, but certainly, there is more to be done.

Congress must also confront Obamacare. For too many Ameri­cans the dream of better healthcare has turned into a nightmare of sky­rocketing premiums, limited choices, and cumbersome regula­tions. One report found that Obamacare ex­changes have networks with 34 % fewer providers than those plans not part of the exchanges. I’ve heard from many of my constituents about the costs of their healthcare in­creasing to the point that it is simply unaffordable and unsustainable.

My constituents deserve a plan to address their healthcare needs. They need a plan that provides more choices and lower costs. In the com­ing months I’ll continue working to­ward this goal.

As always, I encourage and welcome you to contact my office at 760-247-1815 with any concerns you have about our federal government. It’s an honor to serve as your Represen­tative.

General Politics

Focus Should Be on State’s Economy, Not Taxes

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By Senator Mike Morrell, 23rd State Senate District

While in recent years our state gov­ernment has seen record-setting bud­gets, the same cannot be said, unfor­tunately, for working Californians and small businesses. Their hard-earned money does not go as far as it should, meaning that families and entrepreneurs have less to invest in their futures.

High taxes and extensive regulations discourage businesses from opening or investing here. It is the reason that for 12 years straight, California has been named the worst state for busi­ness in CEO surveys taken by Chief Executive Magazine.

However, attempts to increase taxes are well underway. Despite the fact that California drivers already pay some of the highest gas taxes in the country for deteriorating roads, legislative Democrats have started pushing for additional gas taxes and vehicle fees.

Among the tax and fee increases in­cluded in the current proposal:

  • Gasoline excise tax: 12 cents per gallon, phased in over three years
  • Price-based excise tax: 7.5 cents per gallon
  • Diesel excise tax: 20 cents per gal­lon
  • Diesel sales tax: 4% per gallon
  • Vehicle Registration Fee: $38 per vehicle annually

Californians already pay enough for the services and programs they expect. Reforms and efficiencies should first be made with existing resources.

Along with pinching household bud­gets, these proposed increases will also drive up the cost of doing busi­ness here. With the threat of another recession always looming, the fo­cus rather needs to be on effectively growing our economy and fostering a business environment that inspires confidence in job creators.

To this end I have authored legisla­tion aimed at making California more business-friendly. Senate Bill 248 would lower the minimum franchise tax paid by new small businesses from $800 to $400. Senate Bill 555 would require that any regulation ad­opted by a state agency be reviewed five years after implementation.

Both measures are important steps in strengthening our state’s economy.

At the same time, any progress we make on this front can only be sus­tained if we continue paying down the hundreds of billions of dollars the state owes in public pensions and other obligations.

Absent major reforms, the debt situ­ation is only going to get worse. Groups like the American Legisla­tive Exchange Council peg our state­wide unfunded liabilities at almost a trillion dollars.

Consider that for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the California Public Employ­ees Retirement System (CalPERS) planned for a 7.5% rate of return on its investments. However, it only managed to achieve a 0.6% rate of return. 7% of a $400 billion liability means a shortfall of $28 billion.

Weak investment returns are forcing CalPERS to re-evaluate the sound­ness of their assumptions. The de­partment will at some point in the future have to admit that investments alone may not be enough to cover pension costs.

The dual realities of a fragile eco­nomic recovery and a public pension fund that is financially unstable put our state in a perpetually precarious situation.

As budget talks get further underway and the legislative year moves for­ward, the governor and his Democrat colleagues need to recognize that ad­ditional taxes would magnify these challenges facing California.

Senator Morrell represents the 23rd State Senate District, which covers portions of Riverside, San Bernar­dino and Los Angeles counties, in­cluding Phelan and Piñon Hills.

Education General

Meeting the Demands of the 21st Century Workforce for all Students

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By Ted Alejandre, San Bernardino County Superintendent

At San Bernardino County Superinten­dent of Schools, we work collectively with our school districts, inter-agency partners and community to see that all students meet the demands of the 21st century workforce and become pro­ductive citizens who contribute to the quality of life in our communities. As educators we know that work extends far beyond the classroom, which is why we have committed the County­wide Vision goal of partnering with all sectors of the community to support the success of every child from cradle to career. That means reaching out to our business and labor leaders, to govern­ment, to faith-based organizations and community groups, to post-secondary institutions, and of course to our fami­lies to give the more than 408,000 stu­dents who attend public schools in our county the academic and social skills and tools they need to be able to com­pete in a global economy.

As we review recent data and achieve­ments that impact our county and High Desert region, we take note of impor­tant firsts for public education here; we recognize the progress of our students with support from staff, families and community; and we renew our deep commitment to transform lives through education.

With a focus on literacy, we are ad­vocating for a community of readers as part of the Countywide Vision2­Read Initiative. This spring we are launching a countywide literacy proj­ect through the nationally recognized Footsteps2Brilliance program. Using any electronic communication device, young students will be able to access thousands of books, games and pro­grams that will develop literacy in both English and Spanish. The initial pilot for the program targets 1,500 preschool children, but the program will be ex­panded in 2017 to include all county children. The program is free and is available on all mobile devices. We see this as a game-changer for increasing early literacy in our county.

Snowline Joint Unified School District has implemented Footsteps2Brilliance in the classroom already this school year, and the results they have seen have been tremendous. First-graders using the program reported a 5%gain in benchmark scoring for reading from the beginning of the year until Decem­ber. One student reported reading more than 94,000 words after just 40 hours using the program.

Research shows that the ability to read by third grade is one of the greatest in­dicators of a child’s future academic performance and success in life. If our students are able to be proficient read­ers, we know that will make them more likely to be high school graduates and prepare them for either entering the workforce or meeting the requirements to attend college. These are fundamen­tals to meeting our Countywide Vision to have an educated populace that will sustain economic vitality for the region and quality of life for our residents.

We know reading proficiency is criti­cal to the long-term success of our stu­dents in the classroom and their ability to be college- and career-ready when they graduate from high school. For the first time, our county graduation rate reached an all-time high and exceeded 80 %, according to the most recent data released by the California Department of Education. Among High Desert com­munities, Silver Valley Unified saw the county’s highest graduation rate for the Class of ‘15 at 97.5%. With a grad rate of 72.6% in 2010-11, the district moved from 21st among the 24 districts in the county with high school grads to No. 1 in five years! The district attributes the results to site strategic planning, a more positive school culture, professional development in English language arts and math, and a “Triple-A” focus on academics, activities and athletics.

Among graduates countywide, the per­centage of students meeting A-G re­quirements has increased 9.5% points over the past five years, growing to 34%. While we celebrate the growth we have seen, we know we must accel­erate this upward course. The demands of the labor markets now seek a more highly skilled and educated workforce.

One key program that is addressing those demands is Advancement Via Individual Determination–or AVID. It has done a phenomenal job to create a pipeline of college-bound students. Last school year a record number of 2,300 students in our county were recognized at the AVID Senior Recognition event. In the High Desert, Victor Valley High School had the largest senior class of AVID graduates with 99 seniors. There are amazing statistics about our AVID graduates, but the two that stand out are that 99% of our AVID students gradu­ated high school, and 96% met A-G re­quirements for acceptance into the UC and CSU systems. It is worth noting that our region has the largest concen­tration of AVID programs anywhere in the world. Because of the success of AVID at the high school level, it is now growing at the middle and elementary school levels, providing students with early development in the skills and tools they need to be successful for col­leges and careers.

Another effort to boost the college-going rate in our county is a new part­nership with the American Council on Education. Along with the AVID Center in San Diego, University of California, California State University, and 23 of our county’s high schools, they are working in concert to create a schoolwide college application day this academic year as part of the Ameri­can College Application and Success Campaign. The campaign is focused on increasing college and financial aid applications and enrollment to post-secondary institutions by all seniors at the participating schools. Another part­nership aimed at seeing that more of our students are prepared for post-sec­ondary options is a pilot program with County Schools, the College Board, Apple Valley, Chaffey, Hesperia, Mo­rongo, Upland and the College Board to support administration of pre-college testing to the entire 10th grade class.

We are seeing more investment com­ing to our region for college and career readiness–with more than $2 million in grants supporting our efforts. One comes to our Linked Learning Re­gional Hub of Excellence–one of four statewide models selected by the James Irvine Foundation. Participating dis­tricts are expanding career pathways that offer rigorous academics coupled with relevant career-technical educa­tion in the region’s most in-demand industry sectors. School districts and ROPs across our county have benefit­ed from California’s Career Technical Education Incentive Grant program, the largest of its kind in the nation. San Bernardino County ROP received $1.5 million, which will support emerging labor market needs in the field of infor­mation and communications technol­ogy, primarily in the emerging cyber­security field.

The newly formed Mountain Desert Regional Career and Occupational Pathways JPA is working regionally with business and industry to prepare students for college, careers and post-secondary training. Formed on the no­tion of collective impact and working together to create better economic and education opportunities for the region, the JPA’s nine desert/mountain school districts have established career path­ways and academies, proving to equip students with the credentials needed to enter the workforce.

Also, the Desert Mountain Economic Partnership, which involves education, city and county government, and pri­vate industry in the High Desert, has taken a collective impact approach to propel education and the economy in the region.

I am encouraged by the growing sup­port and commitment from partners such as Job Corps, Linked Learning, the College Board, our school districts, higher education, city and county gov­ernments, and community stakeholders in these many collaborative efforts.

In the fall of 2016, we launched the first countywide Open Data Platform, primarily focused on improving stu­dent success outcomes from cradle to career. San Bernardino County is the first county office of education across the state to pursue using the data plat­form to provide transparency of and access to education data with the goal of engaging our publics, informing de­cision-making and providing a contin­uum of services to improve conditions for our youth.

On the statewide level, the transition to a new accountability system is in the process of rolling out in the next several months. This winter the State Board of Education finalized adoption of a landmark accountability system for California public schools. The ac­countability system is among the most rigorous and ambitious in the nation, with the goal of ensuring our state’s public schools are preparing students for success in college and 21st century careers. In March the state is scheduled to unveil its California School Dashboard concept to the public that will provide a wealth of new information to help parents, educators and the public assess the performance and progress of their schools.

Rather than using just one number to measure school progress, as was the case with the former Academic Perfor­mance Index, the new system is driven by a rubric of performance indicators such as student test scores, graduation rates, attendance, and college and ca­reer readiness. Multiple measures will give parents, teachers and community members a better idea of what is hap­pening at their schools and how well schools are meeting statewide educa­tional priorities, as well as goals defined in district Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP).

Among county offices of education statewide, ours was the first to develop a model that provides a multi-faceted team of experts to support districts in the cross-development of their budgets and LCAP and to work collaboratively with districts in continuous improve­ment. Of course, the most crucial and important changes are what is happen­ing in classrooms where teachers are teaching to new rigorous state stan­dards, and students are gaining mastery on higher-level thinking skills. It is be­cause of their hard work that we saw improvements across the board in both math and English language arts when the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results were released in 2016.

State testing is one measurement of the progress that’s taking place in our classrooms, but another key priority is the social and emotional development of our students. One initiative that is addressing those needs comes from our countywide Student Advisory Panels.

More than 150 students representing over 40 high schools are participating and meet four times annually to engage with their peers and develop presenta­tions in the areas of economy, educa­tion, safety, and health and wellness – areas identified as priorities in the Community Vital Signs Transforma­tion Plan. The culmination of student efforts is realized in final presentations to a panel of elected officials and policy makers who listen intently to student proposals and opinions. When students see that their voices are being heard and influencing decisions, and they are invited to act as leaders in the process, a collaborative community of learners is formed.

Creating strong and healthy school and community environments for students, staff and families is the goal of County Schools’ first countywide Wellness Strategic Planning Initiative. A growing body of research shows that supporting students and families with emotional wellness early on can help students be successful in school and into their adult lives. Research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows that behavioral health issues during adoles­cence contribute to more than half of all instances of students dropping out at the high school level.

The research-proven program, Posi­tive Behavioral Interventions and Supports—or PBIS—is making ma­jor strides in creating a more positive culture at our schools and supporting student wellness. PBIS is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve so­cial, emotional and academic success. Countywide, we are approaching more than 250 schools in 28 school districts and County Schools alternative edu­cation settings. With more than 100 schools implementing PBIS in the High Desert, the Positive Behavior Interven­tions and Supports Coalition awarded over 40 schools in 2016 with bronze, silver and gold awards for improving campus culture.

In Silver Valley Unified, Newberry Springs Elementary was the only school to receive a gold award. Newberry re­duced the number of suspensions from 15 in 2012-13 to 1 in 2015-16. All to­tal, 11 High Desert school districts had at least one school awarded, with Ad­elanto Elementary and Snowline Joint Unified school districts each having nine total schools to receive bronze and silver awards. The positive outcomes of such programs have made inroads in reducing discipline referrals, plus help­ing achieve declines in suspension and expulsion rates. The number of suspen­sions has dropped 30% from 2011-12 to the most recent released data for the 2014-15 academic year. The expulsion rate has dropped 23% over the past three reporting years.

We have real opportunity to change the trajectory of our county and launch our schools and communities into a future that provides all of our students with opportunities to fulfill their boundless potential. At County Schools, we will continue our work of collaborating with our school districts, inter-agency part­ners and communities to bring about the skills our students need to be col­lege- and career-ready. Their prepara­tion for the demands of the workforce will impact the economic vitality of the High Desert, our county and the state.


High Desert Opportunity Announces 2017 Event Plans

Published by:


By Cari Thomas

Continuing with their mission to pro­mote economic growth by presenting a conference that showcases business opportunities in High Desert, the HDO Board of Directors is pleased to announce this year’s High Desert Op­portunity (HDO) event will once again be held at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center in Rancho Cucamonga on Thurs­day, November 2, 2017

“We are capitalizing on the momentum of the 2016 conference at Victoria Gar­dens, which proved to be an excellent site to reach our target audience of Or­ange, Los Angeles and San Diego Coun­ties, as well as the Inland Empire,” said HDO President Cari Thomas.

Although event details are pending, added this year are an exhibit hall, lunch and keynote speaker. Tickets are $60, with Early Bird pricing at $50. Tickets go on sale soon, along with more event details to come.

For more information about the High Desert Opportunity Conference and volunteer opportunities, call 760-245-7600, email, or visit their website at

About High Desert Opportunity

High Desert Opportunity (HDO) is the premier High Desert event annually showcasing local businesses and de­velopment opportunities for new and expanding businesses. The goal of the event is to support economic growth and stability by attracting businesses and jobs to the High Desert. The region encompasses the cities of Adelanto, Ap­ple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia and Vic­torville, as well as portions of San Ber­nardino County. In its 36th year, High Desert Opportunity continues to grow and evolve, focusing on the benefits of doing business in the High Desert.

General Politics

Update From Jay Obernolte’s First Term as State Assemblyman, 33rd District

Published by:


Assemblyman Jay Obernolte

During my first term representing you in the State Assembly, I have had the honor to serve my constituents not only through the advocacy of my dis­trict office, but also by authoring and passing legislation that benefits our district.

My first piece of legislation that im­pacts the district and our rural areas was AB 1034. AB 1034 amended the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) of 1975 to allow the con­struction and operation of renewable energy projects on already-disturbed mining lands. Too often renewable energy projects that do not benefit our communities are sited in our neighbor­hoods, causing blight. This bill allows renewable energy projects to be sited away from our communities and pro­tects our environment by encouraging them to be located on previously dis­turbed lands and not our pristine des­ert.

Another piece of legislation I authored and passed was AB 1773. This bill expanded the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer (RES-BCT) program to allow qualifying local government entities to participate in the program. This bill had a direct impact on the Victor Valley Waste Water Reclamation Authority and will save their ratepayers $400,000.00 annually.

AB 809, which was sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Associa­tion, requires local ordinances that im­pose or raise taxes to clearly state in the description of the measure the fact that the measure is a new tax or tax increase, the amount of money to be raised annually from the tax, and the rate and duration of the tax to be levied. Previously, when citizens would vote on local ballot measures, that informa­tion was not required to be available to the voters. AB 809 prevents local agencies from disguising tax increases from the voters.

Finally, AB 1775 adjusted California tax return due dates for Limited Lia­bility Companies (LLC) and C corpo­rations to make them consistent with federal law. The federal tax due dates were modified last year for several common federal returns. However, this discrepancy complicated the filing process for many of the state’s taxpay­ers and businesses which were required to comply with multiple tax deadlines for the same returns. AB 1775 creates consistency between state and federal regulations and saves taxpayers from costly penalties.

During the upcoming legislative ses­sion, I plan to continue authoring and advancing legislation that will keep jobs in California and promote trans­parency and government efficiency wherever possible. I believe that all Californians deserve that from their state government.

To that effect I have introduced sev­eral bills that will have a direct impact on our region. Last year the Gover­nor signed into law Senate Bill 1263, which prohibits the permitting of a home or cabin where the source of water supply is hauled water. That bill was retroactive in nature, ultimately rendering many property owner’s land worthless by taking away their abil­ity to build on land located in areas without adequate water infrastructure. I’ve introduced AB 366 in response, which would exempt property owners of existing parcels from this law and allow them to build on their property if legally obtained hauled water is the listed source of water. This bill will protect the rights of rural property owners.

Also, I have introduced AB 195, which expands on the transparency re­quirements enacted by AB 809. AB 195 extends transparency to all local initiatives that levy taxes. I strongly believe this transparency is needed be­cause voters should have access to all relevant information in order to make a responsible, informed decision about a tax increase.

I also recently introduced AB 912, the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act. This bill would give state agen­cies the flexibility to reduce statutory fines and penalties on small businesses in cases where the violation was inad­vertent and the business is cooperating with the agency.

In the coming months I plan on in­troducing more legislation to benefit our region and all Californians. I am a California optimist, and I believe that working together we can make our state once again the crucible of in­novation and entrepreneurship that it used to be.

It is an honor to represent you.


Energy Disclosure in California has a Bumpy Road

Published by:

By Marika Erdely, Founder and CEO of Green EconoME

Energy Disclosure Laws – What are the most recent developments?

Energy and water disclosure laws con­tinue to make a presence nationally. During December 2016, the cities of Denver, CO; Orlando, FL; and Evan­ston, IL and finally, our own City of An­gels signed legislation requiring energy and water disclosure laws. Mayor Gar­cetti signed Ordinance #184674 called the Existing Building Energy and Wa­ter Efficiency Program, affectionately called “EBEWE.”

Mayor Garcetti has mandated there be a reduction of energy usage of 15% by 2020, which was adopted by LA Depart­ment of Water & Power Board. Cur­rently, approximately 50% of LA City’s electricity demand comes from 4% of the existing buildings.

The new ordinance is not tied to any financial transaction and will require annual reporting for all buildings over 20,000 sq. ft. in the City of Los Angeles, including commercial, industrial, and multi-family.

The City of LA’s ordinance comes in two phases.

Phase 1 requires annual disclosures of energy and water use through the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager Software. As many of you readers recall, this was the same software that was used to com­ply with the since-repealed state law, AB 1103. Entering energy and water us­age into this software, along with certain physical and operational characteristics of the building, provides an Energy Star rating. This rating compares the build­ing’s use against similar building types within the software. The analysis also provides an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) rating when it compares against similar building types across the nation.

The City of LA’s ordinance will require benchmarking to be completed annual­ly, and the disclosure will be made public by the City’s Dept. of Building and Safety, which will be managing compliance begins this July, per the schedule below:


Phase 2 requires buildings to be audited and have retro-commissioning complet­ed every five years. This additional step will provide valuable feedback to the building owner as to what is consuming the most energy in their building and how well it is operating compared to how it was designed.


  • Completing a Level 2 Audit pro­vides an evaluation and documenta­tion of the existing conditions of the building’s systems
  • Provides recommendations for energy and water efficiency retrofits with estimated costs and savings for the building owner
  • Usage is benchmarked against similar buildings

Retro commissioning:

  • Systematic process for improving and optimizing the operation and maintenance of a building
  • Involves detailed study of building system operation
  • Faults in building systems are iden­tified for resolution
  • Recommend changes to increase energy efficiency
  • Focuses on energy- and water-using equipment

Energy 2

The Audit Report is a valuable tool to understanding the potential benefits of implementing Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs). For example, LED lighting retrofits can save up to 25% of the total bill. The benefits to retro commissioning include ensuring that a building operates as it was designed. Many times during the operation of a building, cost-saving efforts are imple­mented to make short-time fixes, and this ultimately effects the energy and water efficiency of the building. Plus, new technologies can provide new en­ergy saving opportunities.

The schedule for Audits and Retro com­missioning is shown in the table be­low. There are a few exemptions to the benchmarking requirements, excluding buildings that have been under demoli­tion and those that have not received any energy or water service in the past year. In addition, buildings that are already Energy Star Certified will not have to comply with Phase 2 of this ordinance. Please contact us for information on ad­ditional exemptions.

Also, please note there are fees for sub­mission of the Benchmarking and Audit Reports, as well as for non-compliance.

What is happening with California’s Energy Disclosure Law?

California has currently set the threshold for compliance for AB 802 (formerly AB 1103) to require all buildings over 50,000 square feet to annually disclose their benchmarking results. This law will no longer be tied to financial transaction as AB 1103 had been. The new law also includes multi-family buildings, which were not previously included. This law is still in draft form.

The anticipated timeline of compliance is as follows:

Energy 3

Final Thoughts

Why care about energy efficiency and why comply with these laws? It has been very clear in our recent LED and HVAC control retrofits that making a building energy efficient is not only going to lower the building’s operating cost and make the cap rate more attractive, it will ultimately effect market valuations. It already does.

Actual results of a building saving 25% in kWh after retrofits in late 2015 and early 2016 shown at bottom of page.

Please contact us with any questions re­garding energy disclosure law require­ments or energy efficiency.

Green EconoME is an Energy Consult­ing and Construction Company located in Pacific Palisades, working all over Southern California.

Energy 4

Marika Erdely, MBA, LEED AP+B, Certified Energy Auditor


License B#1001368


General Water

Upper Narrows Emergency Pipeline Project was Unlike Any Other

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By Logan Olds General Manager, Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority

It’s safe to say that the Upper Narrows Emergency Pipeline project was unlike any other for the Vic­tor Valley Wastewa­ter Reclamation Authority.

When a series of powerful storms in late 2010 broke open a large sewer line, spilling 42 million gallons of sewage into the Mojave River, the stage was set for one of the largest and most important recent FEMA projects in California.

Over the next five years, planners, engineers and construction teams navigated complex technical and en­vironmental obstacles – first in lay­ing nearly 5,000 feet of temporary pipe, then designing and building a permanent solution that included tunneling under the streets of Old Town Victorville and under 270 feet of rock through an earthquake fault.

To serve Apple Valley, two 16-inch pipes were installed using direction­al drilling 40 feet below the Mojave River and under one of the busiest railroad lines in the nation.

The $41 million project was de­signed to keep the new pipe out of the river and away from other envi­ronmentally sensitive areas, but the challenges grew with each passing month. Many of these were impos­sible to anticipate – unusual geologi­cal formations, endangered speciesand archeological remains – but we had to persevere. The immediate and long-term public safety and well-being of the water of our region de­pended on it.

Now it seems we’re being made an example of – in the wrong way.

In recent weeks, stories have sur­faced questioning the project’s costs and accounting. These were based on a draft audit from the Office of Inspector General (OIG), claiming that VVWRA did not properly ac­count for and expend $31.7 million in FEMA grant funds.

To say that we were caught off guard by the report would be a massive un­derstatement. Only six months ear­lier, we were told that the audit was 95% complete and that our expenses and accounting were “generally ac­ceptable.”

While we appreciate the federal gov­ernment’s checks and balances, this particular audit trail leaves us baffled – because of what we were led to be­lieve and the nature of the pipeline project itself.

Even in the best of circumstances – never mind something as complex as Upper Narrows – it is not unusual for a major engineering project to come in more expensive than origi­nally thought because of unforeseen challenges. Tunneling projects often experience cost overruns in excess of 30%. With Upper Narrows the additional costs were less than half that – approximately 15%, or only 5% above the 10% contingency built into the project. It’s the only time, in fact, that a project we’ve managed has exceeded the standard 10% con­tingency, which speaks to both our excellent record of controlling costs and the unusual – and urgent – na­ture of the Upper Narrows project.

The extent of the damage – and the work required to fix it – was some­thing we could not have anticipated. We performed triage first and then maneuvered through unchartered territory to ensure the safety of the community we serve and the protec­tion of our groundwater and envi­ronment. Our teams used every type of boring technology in existence, outside of using explosives, includ­ing the use of a massive 80-inch bor­ing machine, smaller micro tunnel­ing machines, horizontal directional drilling, pipe ramming and open cut construction. In addition, 10 concrete manholes ranging from 48-96 inches in diameter were installed.

These were no small tasks – com­plicated even more by challenges beyond our control, such as the need to ensure that wetlands, critical habi­tat and endangered species such as the Least Bell’s Vireo would not be disrupted. The project required close collaboration with the Native Amer­ican community to ensure that any artifacts or remains were handled with great care with the railroads to ensure that the work being done beneath crossings was properly en­gineered, and that all appropriate special permits were secured. Even with the invaluable support of these groups and other stakeholders such as the Kemper-Campbell Ranch, The Lewis Center and the City of Victor­ville, the project was as daunting as any we’d ever encountered.

Along the way we went to great lengths to ensure that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed when it came to spending and account­ing – and felt confident, based on our communications with auditors last March, that we had taken all ap­propriate steps. Recently, the Daily Press published a report referencing a transcript of that phone call – sug­gesting that any lingering questions the auditors might have had were small in nature.

We provided the auditors detailed answers to those questions and had no reason to believe that anything was wrong.

We still don’t, which is why we find ourselves scratching our heads over the draft audit we received six months later.

Whatever the internal dynamics are within OIG and FEMA, we stand ready to defend how this critically important project was managed and accounted for.

General Transportation

Victor Valley Transit Authority

Published by:


By Fidel Gonzales, Marketing & Civil Rights

Victor Valley Transit Author­ity (VVTA) con­tinues serving the growing High Desert transpor­tation needs. The agency has made great strides in its partnerships that support educa­tion, employment, veterans, and other life services opportunities.

Established as a Joint Powers Author­ity in 1991, VVTA offered Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratran­sit service and fixed-route bus service for Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hespe­ria, Victorville and county areas of Helendale, Lucerne Valley, Piñon Hills and Wrightwood. Since then, following its merger with Barstow Area Transit in 2015, VVTA service area grew from 425 square miles to nearly 1,000 square miles. VVTA’s operational area currently spans from the Los Angeles County, Kern Coun­ty, and Inyo County lines on the west and north to the Colorado River on the east. Communities now include Barstow, Daggett, Hinkley, National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Len­wood, Ludlow, Mountain Pass, New­berry Springs, Trona, Big River, and Yermo.

In addition to its VVTA Direct Access, a curb-to-curb transportation service to individuals who are certified and meet ADA requirements, VVTA pro­vides traditional bus service through its 36 fixed routes. In the last decade, fixed route ridership has grown from 1 million riders in 2006 to 2.7 million riders in 2016.

Recent routes added to the system include the 45X Express in 2015, which delivers non-stop service from Victor Valley College to the Victor­ville Transfer Point at Costco. VVTA Route 24 Oak Hills, added in October 2016, now provides service to Oak Hills High School and San Joaquin Valley College.

VVTA Route 200 Lifeline service to Needles, which operates one day per week, began in June 2016, connect­ing the cities of Needles, Barstow, and Victorville. The route is in response to a request from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chair, Robert Lovingood, who saw the need for Needles residents to have access to the courts and Medi-Cal healthcare not available in that city.

VVTA Needles Car Share program, which was nationally recognized with an innovation award, features hourly car rental-type of service starting at just $5 an hour. While Needles does have transit service within its city limits, many of the nearest supermar­kets and other retail shopping are only found across the Colorado River in Arizona. Public transportation does not meet this need.


The VVTA Route 15 B-V Link connects Barstow to the Victor Valley and provides Monday-through-Saturday service to the Inland Empire, including San Bernardino and Fontana Metrolink. The route began in 2011, offering service just three days a week between Barstow and Victorville. The following year, service was extended to San Bernardino, and in 2013 service was extended to Monday through Friday. Saturday service was added in July 2016 when ridership blossomed to nearly 6,000 monthly riders.

VVTA continues its partnership with Victor Valley College with its Ram Pass program. Funded through a stu­dent transportation fee, students with valid VVC student IDs board fixed-route buses for free. The program be­gan as a pilot program funded through the Mojave Desert Air Quality Man­agement District.

“The Ram Pass program has reduced traffic congestion on Bear Valley Road, reduced stress on VVC’s over­crowded parking lots, and improved air quality through this collaborative Mo­jave Desert Air Quality Management District effort,” said VVTA Mobility Manager Aaron Moore. “Though the greatest impact we have seen emerge from this program is the life opportu­nities that were once more challenging to attain due to the high cost of trans­portation inherent with our sparsely populated region.”

Through the Ram Pass, 288,181 trips were pro­vided to VVC students during the extended pilot that concluded in 2014, accounting for 12% of system-wide rider trips. Students ridership from all High Desert schools remains strong and cur­rently accounts for 48% of rider trips, according to a recent AECOM sur­vey. Approximately 50% of all student ridership use the Ram Pass.

VVTA remains sensitive to its use of local roads. Between 2010 and 2016 VVTA has turned over more than $30 million in unused transit funds to local jurisdictions for street and road main­tenance and improvements.

Realizing the health and environmen­tal benefits of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), VVTA began switching from its all-diesel fleet to an all-CNG fleet in 1998. To reduce costs associated with outsourcing fuel requirements to outside vendors, VVTA now operates two strategically located CNG fuel­ing stations in Hesperia and Barstow. These fueling stations are open to the public. In addition, these new fueling stations shorten refueling times and improve operational efficiencies.

With an eye on the future, the agency continues testing of renewable energy fuel technologies. VVTA began test­ing Zero-Emission Bus (ZEB) hydro­gen fuel and electric-powered tech­nologies in 2016 and deployed its first electric support vehicles in 2017.


Serving the needs of the High Desert’s workforce, VVTA launched its com­muter vanpool program in 2012. The program enables individuals in groups of seven or more to commute for as low as $30 a week. The vanpool fleet has since blossomed to 212 vehicles, serving 1,500 commuters daily and logging over 400,000 miles monthly. By eliminating what would be 1,290 single-occupancy vehicles from High Desert roadways, the shared ride pro­gram dramatically reduces traffic con­gestion. With the environment, the economy, and quality of life in mind, VVTA Vanpool saves the High Desert 1.6 million single-occupancy vehicle miles monthly.


VVTA was designated a Consolidat­ed Transportation Services Agency (CTSA) by the San Bernardino Coun­ty Transportation Authority (SBCTA) in 2015, enabling that division of the agency to operate with fewer restric­tions in its mission to improve mobil­ity options for residents who are most in need and often the most difficult to reach through conventional fixed- route transportation. This designation of the CTSA was made in recognition of efforts VVTA had made through its Mobility Management Department to enhance regional transportation for se­niors, disabled individuals, and High Desert residents who do not otherwise have transportation options.

The agency has also been essential in expanding transit services, providing oversight and financial management to local nonprofits. Residents of Trona in the northwest county and Big Riv­er along the Colorado River are now served through volunteer-driver pro­grams.


For seniors and those with disabili­ties, living in sparsely populated areas proved challenging for those in need of transportation, especially for medical and social services appointments. Pri­or to the CTSA, public transportation was simply not available, and the con­sequences adversely impacted medi­cal conditions and public resources. To meet this need, the CTSA launched the Transportation Reimbursement for Individuals Program (TRIP), which provides an incentive for volunteer drivers (usually friends or neighbors) to assist eligible individuals who are unable to drive or access public trans­portation by providing necessary, es­corted transportation. Participants re­ceive funds to reimburse the volunteer driver and to offset the cost associated with providing transportation.

Realizing the success nonprofits have made in serving the community but also the transportation challenges these organizations face, the CTSA initiated the Mobility Vehicle Dona­tion Program to serve these needs. The program donates retired vehicles to regional nonprofits to help reach their clientele–including the elderly and those with disabilities–who are living in the greater VVTA service area. While VVTA is restricted from providing assisted medical transpor­tation, by working through qualified nonprofits, the CTSA realized that, through such transportation partner­ships, the nonprofits provide medical transportation for a fraction of the cost and without further burdening emer­gency medical response systems. This new approach to transit saved families from skyrocket­ing transportation costs. To ensure the long-term success of these programs, the CTSA developed a Driver Training Program and a Vehicle Mainte­nance Program.

Working with the Veterans Admin­istration Loma Linda Health­care System, the CTSA helped develop the free Vet­erans Express Transportation System (VETS) for those veterans who have medical appointments at the VA Loma Linda. Previously, transportation op­tions were not only costly but were limited to certain times of the day and veterans could not receive the care they needed.

General Politics

Easy to Lead, Hard to Govern

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By Paul C. Granillo, President and CEO, Inland Empire Economic Partnership

Part of the mission of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership is to ensure that the needs and reality of the economic situation of our region are represented in national and state­wide organizations whose decisions or influence might effect the Inland Empire.

One of those organizations that I am pleased to be associated with is California Forward, whose goal is to make the promise of the California Dream attainable for all. Its mission is to inspire better decision-making by governments at all levels in order to: Grow Middle-Class Jobs, Pro­mote Cost-effective Public Services, and Create Accountability for Re­sults. This year California Forward celebrates its 10-year Anniversary as an organization, and I was honored to attend their Gala celebration.

The keynote speaker for the evening was Former Defense Secretary and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta.

Secretary Panetta served as the founding co-chair of California Forward, along with Tom McKiernan, the former CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. One was a democrat and the other a republican. Their goal was to help create a organization that would work in a non-partisan way to find solutions for California problems. Sounds easy but it is hard work. In his keynote address Panetta decried the lack of civility and accountability by elected officials at all levels of government. Put plainly, are we electing people who only care about themselves and have lost or never had the understanding that before winning for themselves or their party they were elected to govern? Whether you are a Republican at the national level or a California Democrat, majority control means nothing if choices to tax, regulate and educate are not made with bipartisan input and the motivation that governing means creating the best solutions for the lives of the governed. Sometimes in the Inland Empire we feel forgotten and unappreciated. We cannot let those feelings stop us from holding our elected officials at all levels accountable, not just for their votes but for their attitude toward how they carried out their role in OUR governance structures. It is easy for people to call themselves leaders; it is much harder to actually be one.

General Politics

A Libertarian Approach to Regulatory Reform in California

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By Brian W. Ryman, Co-Chair, Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance

The Libertarian Party of California af­firms in our platform that, “all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal rights of others to live in whatever manner they choose.” This is antithetical to the regulatory environment in California, which controls every aspect of our lives and our business dealings. It is the purpose of this portion of our program to show how we can reform the current system to rein in regulations and allow for greater individual freedom in the state.

The proposals here are not meant to be seen as the final goal of the Libertarian Party in regards to regulations in the state. Nor are they meant to be the only course of action in bringing about a freer society. These are actions that can be taken now, within the present framework established by the US and California Constitutions, federal and state law, and current regula­tory mechanisms and procedures.

Over-regulation is a problem for Cali­fornians. Before offering solutions, it is necessary to understand where we are and examine how we came to this point.

Current Problem

California’s economy is floundering as businesses–both large and small–are leav­ing the state at an alarming rate. The rea­son for this is clear: California is consis­tently rated the worst, or one of the worst, states in which to do business. According to the Tax Foundation’s 2015 State Busi­ness Tax Climate Index, California ranked 48th for corporate taxes (beating only New York and New Jersey); For 11 years in a row Chief Executive Network has rated California the worst state in which to do business; The California Business Roundtable reports that, “California’s regulatory environment is the most cost­ly, complex and uncertain in the nation.” The threefold burden of taxation, legisla­tive uncertainty, and regulations are mak­ing it next to impossible to run a profitable business in this state.

According to the state constitution,“[t]he legislative power of this State is vested in the California Legislature which consists of the Senate and Assembly” as well as “the powers of initiative and referendum” which are reserved to the people of the state. Ironically, neither the legislature nor the people are the source of most of the regulations. The vast majority are pro­posed by the more than 200 state agencies and commissions given that authority by the Legislature. When they are adopted by the rulemaking agency, approved by the Office of Administrative Law and filed with the Secretary of State, these regula­tions have the force of law.

Unfortunately, regulations adopted by state agents are often inconsistent across different agencies and lack transparency and accountability. These regulators often do not adequately understand the impact of their actions.

The detrimental effects of California’s regulatory climate cannot be over-stated. To frame it based on its economic im­pact, it is helpful to put it in perspective by comparing the cost of regulation to the cost of corporate taxation. While busi­nesses operating in California in 2009 paid ~$9,535,679,000 in Corporate income tax, the regulatory costs for these same businesses were over $467,814,918,000. In other words, the regulatory burden on California businesses is 49 times greater than their tax burden. The combination of excessive taxation and regulation has kept Californians from their potential prosper­ity.

How we got here

Overregulation in California is not a re­cent phenomenon. In 1977 Dow Chemical Corporation abandoned construction plans for a major facility. Dow gave govern­ment regulation and litigation regarding the environmental impact of the plant as the reason. The following year Standard Oil of Ohio abandoned a pipeline project in Long Beach for the same reasons. Both of these projects would have employed thousands of people in a state hit hard by the fiscal malaise of the late 1970s. These events and the subsequent popular revolt that culminated in the passage of the Peo­ple’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxa­tion (Proposition 13) in 1978 had people starting to question the scope and depth of government in their lives. This uprising of the people, and the fact that concerned citizens were alarmed that the California Administrative Code had grown from ~13,500 pages in 1974 to ~ 28,000 pages in 1979, made even government officials take notice.

In response to calls for regulatory reform, California’s legislators from both the Re­publican and Democratic parties proposed a number of bills during the 1978 and 1979 sessions. Most of the bills proposed by the Republicans relied on the legislative veto and the sunset clause for regulations. Democrat Assembly Speaker Leo T. Mc­Carthy, in order to stave off these sweep­ing reforms, put forth Assembly Bill 1111 (Administrative Procedures Act of 1979) on March 22, 1979. This compromise bill passed both the Assembly and Senate al­most unanimously.

Instead of placing regulatory respon­sibility back in the hands of the legisla­ture, AB 1111 established another layer of bureaucracy by creating the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to oversee the regulatory process. AB 1111 required that any new administrative regulations from 122 rule-making agencies within the ex­ecutive branch of state government would have to be submitted to this new Office of Administrative Law.

The OAL was charged with assuring that any new regulation had to show the fol­lowing: Necessity – a proposed regulation must have “substantial evidence” that the regulation is needed to effectuate the purpose of existing legislation. Authority – the agency making or deleting a regula­tion must have authority to do so. Clarity – the meaning of regulations must be eas­ily understood by people directly affected by them. Consistency – regulations must be consistent with other laws and regula­tions. Reference – regulations must make clear reference to laws and/or regulations that they are modifying. Nonduplication – a regulation does not serve the same pur­pose as a state or federal statute or another regulation.

If a filing meets these standards, the OAL publishes the text of the proposed regula­tion in The California Regulatory Notice Register (Notice Register). At this point the public has 45 days to comment in writ­ing on the regulation as proposed. If there are substantive changes made as a result of this review, the comment period is ex­tended another 15 days. The agency may also opt for public hearings related to its proposals.

There is also a provision for “Emergency Regulations.” A state agency may adopt an emergency regulation if it can show that the regulation is necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health and safety, or general welfare. These regulations take effect immediate­ly, without public comment. The public can appeal these regulations directly to the OAL within 5 days. The OAL then has 10 days to substantiate the need for the emergency measure or reject it. Emer­gency regulations remain in effect for 120 days unless renewed.

AB 1111 and subsequent legislation and executive orders also called for a review of the existing regulations to insure that they met the criteria set forth in the new law. So what were the results of these measures?

During the first two years following im­plementation, the growth in new regula­tions averaged a reduction of 49%, and the adoption of emergency regulations was reduced by 63%. As for existing regulations–by the second year, 86 State Agencies had reviewed 23,942 regula­tions, repealed 5,690, and sent back 7,907 for amendment.

Some might see this as promising, but the appearance of meaningful reform was short lived. Many of the new regulations that were disapproved and old regulations that were eliminated were simply dupli­cative of existing statutes or regulations, and most of the regulations sent back for amendment were sent back for lack of clarity. One such rejection for clarity was due to the following language concerning operation of lift equipment on which a person stood on a platform: “Before ele­vating personnel, make sure that the mast is vertical in a sideways direction as well as forward and rearward.” The regulation was later approved with the substitution of the above sentence with the following one: “Before elevating personnel, make sure that the mast is vertical and/or the platform is level.”

Unfortunately, the Regulatory Reforms of 1979, the last major set of reforms at­tempted in the state, had little or no effect in curtailing the promulgation of regula­tions. In fact, the volume of regulations has more than tripled since their enact­ment. During the same period, the num­ber of agencies and commissions that can write regulations has increased by more than 100.

While there is no precise number of state regulations governing Californians to­day, the California Code of Regulations (CCR) consists of 28 Titles and occu­pies 44 bound volumes averaging ~2068 nominal pages (the term nominal is used here because while the pagination may in­dicate 2068 pages, some pages have other divisions- for example page 28 might be continued into 28.1, 28.2, 28.3, etc…). Based on random volume sampling, the estimated total number of pages of cur­rent regulations is between 90,992 and 118,289. Each of these pages may contain several regulations.

It may be that true reform was never in­tended. In 1996 in a series of interviews conducted with Leo T. McCarthy, the au­thor of AB 1111, he made it clear that he did not want to put “some kind of limit on freedom to act through regulations.” He acknowledged that, “One motive that prompted the law was that Democrats were being strongly criticized by Repub­licans for passing new laws that made government bigger and more costly.” This idea is further reinforced by his statement, “My motivation was to put the Democrat­ic Party in a more responsible position as far as the growth of the size of govern­ment is concerned.”

So if the Democrats and McCarthy were acting out of political motivations, why didn’t the Republicans call them on it and work for real reform? McCarthy had the answer to this: “For all the talk about big government, I find Republican legislators spending very little time on analyzing statutes and regu­lations adopted in the past. Their objec­tive to reduce government spending is not undertaken in any specific or analytical way.”

It is time to rectify the shortsightedness of the two establishment parties and enact legislation that will have a real and sub­stantive effect on regulations in Califor­nia. The Libertarian Party is poised to do this, and some of our proposed solutions are in the following section.


The principles on which the Libertarian Party was founded call for a maximum of personal liberty and a minimum of gov­ernmental force. Therefore, any approach to Regulatory Reform must be geared to­ward the minimization of artificial gov­ernment regulations. Because of this, the following section offers means within our current system by which regulations can be curtailed and eliminated.

Past proposals have fallen far short. The two main Republican proposals of 1979, even if enacted, were flawed. The Legisla­tive Veto was found to be unconstitutional in 1983, and sunset laws, on their own, have proven ineffective where they have been enacted. Vern McKinley, in his re­search for the Resolution Trust Corpora­tion found that, “In practice, sunset pro­visions have not been very effective, and likely will do little to slow the growth of statutes, agencies, and regulations.”

Sunset clauses for regulations – clauses in a regulation that require periodic review of the rationale for the continued existence of the particular regulation–rarely lead to the end of a regulation. Among the states that use sunset provisions on a regular ba­sis, less than 21% of laws or regulations subject to sunset are allowed to end.

It is clear that more sweeping reforms are needed. These reforms should include a reworking of the Administrative Proce­dures Act to bring the legislative author­ity, now residing in the Regulatory Agen­cies within the Executive branch, back to the Legislature, as called for in the State Constitution.

While many may question the wisdom of vesting regulatory authority in the Cali­fornia Legislature, recent events show that the authority placed there would be less detrimental than leaving it with the Executive. Governor Jerry Brown has stated that he will use every authority at his disposal to push through petroleum- reduction provisions that the legislature properly removed from Senate Bill 350. He pledged to use the full force of his reg­ulatory authority to “change the very ba­sis of our industrial economy, and I think we’re making tremendous progress.”

The Administrative Procedures Act should be modified to redefine the Office of Ad­ministrative Law as an agent of the Legis­lature and not as an office within the Ex­ecutive Branch. The OAL should continue its current vetting process for regulations (including the public review process), but having met their mandated requirements, proposed regulations should be submitted to the legislature for approval. The regula­tion would then be signed into law by the governor as any other law. This procedure would avoid the Constitutional issues that invalidate the legislative veto and would slow the onslaught of regulations.

To further increase freedom and prosperi­ty in California, we should expand our use of sunset provisions to all regulatory laws and agencies. Every regulation should come up for review every three to seven years and every regulatory agency should come up for review every five years (with 1/5th of the total number of agencies be­ing reviewed each year). If a regulation is not reaffirmed at the end of the review, then it is stricken from the books. If an agency fails to have its charter extended upon review, then it will be eliminated.

These reforms address most regulations in California. The only others that need to be dealt with are those passed by public initiative or proposition. To curtail regu­latory expansionism through the initiative process, we call for an amendment to the California Constitution to place sunset provisions on all regulatory or tax propo­sitions allowed on the ballot.

General Politics

Over-Regulation Slows Growth in High Desert

Published by:

By Bob Dutton, San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk

In the last few years, our county has seen an increase in population size as families from neighboring communi­ties seek the many attributes that make our county worth living in. Since 2000, San Bernardino County’s population has grown by approximately 22%. This is good news, as it is a sign that our local economy will continue to become more robust, affording more opportunities for people to become home-owners for and small business owners to invest in our communities.

The 2016 annual property assessment roll showcases that San Bernardino County is heading in the right direc­tion. However, it also highlights a need for community stakeholders to really dive into the issue of what’s hindering further growth in our communities, particularly, in the High Desert: over-regulation.

The 2016 San Bernardino County assessment roll contained 817,383 taxable parcels and is valued at $194,671,781,504. This is a 4.2% net increase as compared to the 2015 as­sessment roll. Primary reasons for the increase countywide are attributed to the sustained recovery of real estate values, increased sales activity, Prop 13 inflationary adjustments and the restoration of assessed values previ­ously reduced under Prop 8 decline in market value provisions.

The High Desert communities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia, and Victorville had a total count of 133,146 parcels, valued at $21,413,577,745 collectively, for the year 2016.

Countywide, the average increase in real estate values was 4.45%. An area of concern is the unsecured valuations, mainly of business personal property, which was 4.9% lower than 2015. This decrease was due partly to com­panies divesting of property, leaving the county to do business elsewhere or closing down.

As was clear in the 2016 assessment roll, our community gets hit hard when businesses choose to leave the county, do business elsewhere, or never even set foot in the county. Yet our com­munity continues to see an increase in population size and a demand for housing, which means businesses and real estate developers should be flock­ing to our community to invest.

According to Dr. John Husing’s lat­est quarterly report, one of the main vulnerabilities for the Inland Empire is over-regulation of construction projects, which delays industrial, in­frastructure and residential projects for years, even if funding sources are already secured. I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Husing. With demand being so high for affordable housing, there just isn’t enough development, be­cause environmental regulations slow down the process. According to the High Desert Association of Realtors, 980 homes are currently available in the High Desert, which is 1,000 homes short of having a balanced market.

In order to experience further eco­nomic growth, San Bernardino Coun­ty will have to attract development by working with state leaders to remove burdensome governmental regula­tions that are hindering investments in housing and industrial buildings. We need to do more to attract people from other counties to live, shop, invest, and grow here. I have always main­tained a strong commitment to work­ing with community stakeholders and the business community, with a goal of economic growth in the High Des­ert region, as well as throughout all of San Bernardino County. The connec­tion between the accessibility of good paying jobs and housing is an indica­tor of the health of the local economy.

As San Bernardino County’s Asses­sor-Recorder-Clerk, and a member of the California Assessors’ Association Legislative Committee, I am commit­ted to working with colleagues to de­velop and support legislation which encourage growth and streamline gov­ernmental regulations. It is imperative that our county has the ability to grow jobs and have access to affordable housing, as these are the foundation of creating prosperity in our region.

Here are the assessed values for the High Desert region:


General Politics Transportation

It’s Time for Action on Failing Roadways

Published by:

Scott Wilk

By Senator Scott Wilk

Responding to a call on Cajon Pass last month, a San Bernardino County Fire crew watched as their beloved Engine plummeted about 20 feet to its demise as Interstate 15 collapsed underneath it.

Thankfully, the firefighters remained on what solid ground was left on the dilapi­dated thoroughfare. But this incident highlighted, in dramatic fashion, the ramshackle shape of our region’s net­work of roads.

We once led the world in transportation ingenuity in this state. During the mid­dle part of the last century, California — under the direction of Jerry Brown’s father, Governor Pat Brown — built a system of highways unrivaled by any other in the nation.

They built long roads over tough terrain and huge bridges up and down our rug­ged coastline. And they found new and innovative ways to fund and complete these massive undertakings, partnering with the federal government to raise funds for the unprecedented projects.

In the years since, though, we’ve let those advancements that made Califor­nia a beacon of progress fall by the way­side. Our roads and highways, once the model for transportation excellence, are now a paragon of dilapidation and mis­management. The highway system, one of the most ambitious projects our state took on back then, is now in shambles.

The collapse of Interstate 15 a was shocking display of our incompetence in the area of road maintenance. Just last year another instance was on prime display in the Victor Valley when High­way 18, a major commuter route be­tween the Victor and Antelope Valleys, remained closed for a year and a half as mismanagement of the repair project led to delay after delay, increasing cost and detouring over 5,000 commuters headed to work.

Unfortunately, these are not rare ex­amples; they only a few in a long line of troublesome extremes we’ve experi­enced after decades of neglectful trans­portation policies.

This winter Highway 50 in Northern California was almost completely inop­erable due to half of its lanes falling off the hillside in the Sierra Nevada moun­tains. Likewise, Interstate 80 and high­ways 49, 101, 20, 1 and 299 have all left Californians stranded in remote areas of the state as one after another they’ve seen massive failures over the past few months.

Not only have we let our roads fall into horrible disrepair, but we long ago stopped pursuing new projects as well. Our transportation network was a mas­sive undertaking for our predecessors. They saw the need to connect our state and the driving economic force that convenient transportation could be; and they took action.

Our highways made trade and travel throughout the state easy and accessible for all Californians. But our transporta­tion infrastructure hasn’t been upgraded in nearly 60 years, and it wasn’t built for today’s California. Interstate 5, and most of our state’s highways, were built in the 1950s when our population was just over 10 million; by the end of this decade it will hit 40 million.

California leaders way back then, includ­ing the first Governor Brown, couldn’t have anticipated the massive population growth we’ve experienced or that their successors, and children, would give up entirely on maintaining and expanding our transportation network. Unfortu­nately, the old adage about apples and the tree apparently doesn’t hold true when it comes to prioritizing our trans­portation needs.

Our governor and the legislature have not prioritized these needs in the least. We have over $57 billion in deferred maintenance for our roads. That means $57 billion worth of things they could and should have taken care of but didn’t. That means $57 billion worth of repairs just to keep the roads we already have in working order, much less expand or build new ones.

While political elites in Sacramento will tell you there’s no money for these ser­vices and that raising taxes, again and again, is the only answer, this is simply not the case. Californians already pay the highest transportation taxes in the nation. In fact, Californians are already taxed enough each year to cover every squareinch of every highway in the state with dollar bills.

But our politicians, in their infinite wis­dom, have “redirected” those funds to cover their reckless spending in other areas. So while we’re already being taxed to pay for highway repair, and taxed again for highway maintenance, and taxed again for highway construc­tion, we continue to see the deferred maintenance figures rise and road driv­ability fall.

Adding more taxes is not going to solve the problems we face.

California Republicans have introduced a plan to address those maintenance needs without raising taxes. Instead, we’ve proposed spending tax revenue meant for infrastructure repairs on – in­frastructure repairs.

The legislature knows the money is there. To fix our roads, to build free­ways and expand those we have. To build a highway system suited to handle the huge number of people traversing this state each day. To end traffic con­gestion. To reduce deadly accidents. To solve our state’s infrastructure problems once and for all. But they’d rather not.

They’d rather “redirect,” “repurpose” and “redistribute” our money to pork-barrel projects and gubernatorial pipedreams. They’d rather do any and everything but take action to fix one of the most glaring problems impacting Californians today.

So, as we drive on the nation’s most di­lapidated roads and highways, we do it as our government spends $64 billion on a bullet train to nowhere rather than directing that money to the $57 billion in maintenance our roads desperately need.

It is time for action on our failing road­ways. We can no longer afford to stand by as the asphalt crumbles beneath us. The fire engine that fell off a collapsing Interstate 15 last month was empty; no one was hurt.

But next time it could be a school bus full of our children, or a family headed to Sunday service or any other night­mare scenario where our government’s negligence on fixing our roads leads to the loss of human lives.

Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita, and Victor valleys.

Economy Education General

Launch of First Entrepreneurship Center-Barstow Resource Center

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By Paul A. Courtney Area Center for Entrepreneurs, 1041 West Main St., opened in January 2017 with a mission to help unlock economic and education­al potential, which are powerful tools to drive economic growth and prosperity. Barstow area Entrepreneurs are integral to the stable and thriving local formal economy but often face disproportion­ate barriers, including travel distances, financial, and professional educational support services, states Paul A. Court­ney, Entrepreneur and formal Educator. is centrally located where students, parents, individuals and business people will have access to essential resources (public computer access, administrative/office support services, education referral, financial planning, business planning, signature training, OSHA training, etc. Service Support: scheduling, billing, collec­tions, employee training, HR, and safety training. All designed to facilitate and develop entrepreneurial and educational enhancement capacities. “The center will provide an entrepreneurial/edu­cational ‘hub’ that will create a robust exchange of communication and ideas that will stimulate growth and benefit the community.”–Paul Anthony Courtney,, Ex­ecutive Director.


The Center seeks to augment the educa­tional offerings of the local schools and col­leges by coordinating and offering paid and non-paid internships that require entrepre­neurial training in the areas of customer service, human resources, marketing, sales, employment acquisition, leader­ship, employment re-entry and business planning. The center supports economic diversification and seeks to serve as a catalyst for innovation that will stimu­late Barstow’s business growth and, when fully functioning, will be led, managed and operated by subject matter experts, K-12 grade students and col­lege students. will serve as an example of how private industry can cohesively work with education and community leaders to successfully promote entre­preneurial activity!. J. Adaberto Quijada, Director/SBA, U.S. Small Business Ad­ministration, has agreed to incorporate SBA resources into the center, creating history (in Barstow) and the surround­ing communities that the resource cen­ter will serve. Additional details will be released as they come available.

For further information, please contact Paul A. Courtney / / 760-559-8347