Category Archives: Politics

General Politics Property

Steady Property Value Gains in the High Desert

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

As businesses and residents continue to be priced out of Southern California’s coastal communities, San Bernardino County is experiencing strong eco­nomic growth. There is a slight uptick in commercial construction, residential construction, and new transfers in prop­erty ownership. Housing affordability is a key factor in the large number of people moving to the Inland Empire. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2016-2017 San Bernardino County added 20,000 new residents. More peo­ple are buying homes in San Bernardino County or opening up a small business. With such increases, steady property value gains are being experienced in our region.

State law requires the office of the As­sessor to locate and identify all taxable properties to establish their assessed values. My goal as County Assessor is to ensure that property owners are not being over-assessed. Every year my of­fice works diligently to fairly and accu­rately appraise over 800,000 parcels in San Bernardino County.

2017’s Annual Property Assessment Roll showcased a number of positive attributes, some never before seen in our county. In 2017 the Roll contained 810,304 taxable parcels, valued at $206,576,804,207. The county’s total property valuation grew 6.1% as compared to the 2016 Assessment Roll. Notably, this is the first time in the county’s history that total assessed value of all property surpassed the $200 billion mark.

1978-2017_San_Bernardino_County_Assesment_Roll_Chart

In some portions of the High Desert, there was much higher growth. Accord­ing to the 2017s Annual Property As­sessment Roll:

  • The City of Adelanto’s total property is valued at $1,941,513,249. The val­ue is a 6.4% increase from the 2016 Assessment Roll.
  • The City of Apple Valley’s total property is valued at $5,646,168,002. The value is a 5.3% increase from the 2016 Assessment Roll.
  • The City of Barstow’s total property is valued at $1,286,061,810. The val­ue is a 7.8% increase from the 2016 Assessment Roll.
  • The City of Hesperia’s total property is valued at $5,683,417,520. The val­ue is a 6.5% increase from the 2016 Assessment Roll.
  • The City of Victorville’s total prop­erty is valued at $8,259,259,319. The value is a 4.5% increase from the 2016 Assessment Roll.

Growing property values are a sign of a strong local economy. However, there are still many hurdles that our county faces. According to the Building Indus­try Association of Southern California, issues include a high poverty rate of 19.5%, an estimated housing shortage of 65,000 homes in San Bernardino County by 2019, and government road­blocks at the state and local levels.

Creating acces­sible, good-paying jobs is one step in addressing poverty. State lawmakers, however, continue to overtax Californians and businesses at some of the highest rates in the nation. Removing business tax burdens would help entice more employers to create good, local jobs in the Inland Empire. Another step would be to remove bur­densome local and state regulations and reforming the California Environmental Quality Act to mitigate lengthy envi­ronmental impact studies. Such actions would help boost the building process of new homes and commercial buildings to meet the increasing housing demands in San Bernardino County.

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 encourages economic growth. If you have any questions or wish to see personal assessed values of your property, visit my website at: www.sbcounty.gov/assessor and click on the Online Services, Property Information Management System link. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-877-885-7654.

General Politics

Violent Crime is a Problem Both Nationally and Locally

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By Robert A. Lovingood, 1st District Supervisor, County of San Bernardino

In small towns, suburbs and large cities across the nation, violent crime rate in­creases in 2015 and 2016 represent the largest single-year increases in the na­tional violent-crime rate since 1991. In 2015 the United States saw the largest jump in the murder rate since 1968.

In the High Desert we have also seen sharp increases in crime. So I’d like to share with you what we’re doing.

Since I took office in December 2012, funds have been allocated for the sher­iff’s summertime crime sweeps in part­nership with High Desert cities. Last summer’s “Operation Desert Guard­ian” included 20 separate operations between June and September, resulting in 834 arrests, including 150 felony and 684 misdemeanor arrests. The Sheriff’s Department has also added a fifth Ho­micide Team to investigate and solve murder cases across the county.

Because of the success of “Desert Guardian,” I successfully advocated for $1 million in supplemental funding for a yearlong series of sheriff’s crime sweeps throughout the county.

In the first six months, these additional operations resulted in 660 arrests, in­cluding 466 felony arrests. Sheriff John McMahon’s teams of deputy sheriffs are continuing to focus on gang en­hancements and repeat offenders. These targeted sweeps are ongoing.

Furthermore, because of decriminaliza­tion policies promoted by Sacramento politicians, Sheriff McMahon has re­structured the Narcotics Division by combining both gang and narcotics units under one umbrella. The unit focuses the department’s resources on criminal street gangs, utilizing proactive enforce­ment and intervention measures specifi­cally designed to enhance public safety. It is proving to be an effective strategy.

Another element of our strategy is the “GIT”—the Gang Intelligence Team. It is a task force comprised of Sheriff’s De­partment personnel and personnel from the FBI, Probation, CHP, and San Ber­nardino Police Department who handle complex investigations. The GIT con­ducted three large-scale investigations, resulting in the arrest of 85 gang mem­bers for major felonies (most are facing multiple-year sentences). They also as­sisted homicide with two unsolved mur­ders, resulting in the arrest of five sus­pects for murder. The county has also made progress in reducing recidivism and addressing the issue of mentally ill inmates in county jails.

These strategies are working. Our crime problems were not created overnight and they won’t be resolved overnight; but you can be assured that our deputies are working diligently toward resolution. Thank you for supporting our men and women who put their own safety at risk every day to protect our families.

General Politics

Regional Economic Strength

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

In March-April 2018, the Inland Em­pire Economic Partnership (IEEP) hosted two major events focused on the growing strength of the Inland Empire economy. One was Dr. John Husing’s 2018 State of the Region, where 430 local leaders heard him emphatically state that the inland economy is in the midst of the “strongest period of economic performance in the 53 years he has studied the area.” He underscored this by pointing out that the region had 12.2% more local jobs (160,00) in 2017 than it did at the 2007 pre-recession peak. California was only up 8.8% and the U.S. by 6.7%. Amazingly, he pointed out that the 49,433 new local jobs in 2017 were barely exceeded by Los Angeles County’s huge economy (50,617) and were more than every other CA metropolitan area.

In April, IEEP and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce cooperated on the 2018 Southern California E-Com­merce and Logistics Conference spon­sored by UPS. This event focused on the growth and rapid changes occurring in the supply chain that delivers goods to our homes and businesses. It ex­plored the changes occurring in the sup­ply changes in light of new technolo­gies, as well as the explosion in on-line shopping and continued expansion of international trade.

Among others, the speakers included the World Wide Public Relations Director for Amazon.com, who pointed out the huge local labor force now working for the firm; Colliers International’s chief location strategist discussed how the size and shape of buildings is changing to accommodate the advanced technolo­gies being deployed within them; the Executive Director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District led a panel on strategies for deploying new technologies to increase goods move­ment efficiency and lower air quality difficulties.

A thread throughout the conference was that the current trends and future tech­nologies in the movement of goods all point to great potential for the econo­my of Southern California and the In­land Empire. The only hesitancy was the harm that regulators and legislators might do to the supply chain. As Dr. Husing had stated earlier, “The logis­tics sector added 23.3% of all new jobs and indirectly supported another 10% as workers spent their payrolls locally. Had the sector’s growth been stopped, the inland area would still be mired in the recession.”

That danger was underscored by Noel Massie, U.S. Operations Manager for UPS. He was quoted in the Inland Val­ley Bulletin saying, “Legislators are sometimes quick to make decisions that adversely impact the movement of goods … they can become very arrogant about their intentions when it comes to regulations. And it will show up in some way that impacts the economy in a negative way later on after the damage is done. That’s why you need the bod­ies you have, like the chamber and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and Orange County Business Council. The best you can hope to do is educate them.”

That is one mission that IEEP continues to work to try to fulfill through events like the State of the Region and the Southern California E-Commerce and Logistics Summit.

General Politics

Federal Tax Cuts Helps Businesses and Families

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

With most Americans having filed their 2017 tax returns, it’s important to call attention to the historic tax reform legislation that’s benefiting Ameri­cans on their 2018 taxes. Passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is working to provide a fairer, simpler, pro-family tax code, and it’s giving more money back to taxpayers and spurring eco­nomic growth.

Big-government politicians and slant­ed news outlets have sought to mis­characterize the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as an attack on the middle class. Noth­ing could be further from the truth. As a result of lowered tax rates for busi­nesses, already more than four million Americans have received bonuses, with many companies increasing sala­ries and benefits for their employees.

The new tax law nearly doubles the standard deduction – from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples. With the expanded standard deduction alone, over 91% of taxpayers in my district will get a better deal under this new law by taking the standard deduc­tion rather than itemizing. Tax reform also will provide taxpayers with lower individual tax rates, particularly low-and middle-income Americans, and it doubles the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. In total, the average American household will save approximately $2,000 a year.

It’s also important to note that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act preserves the home mortgage interest deduction for exist­ing mortgages and maintains the home mortgage interest deduction for new­ly purchased homes up to $500,000. This will continue providing tax relief to current and aspiring homeowners. Additionally, it allows people to write off the cost of state and local property taxes up to $10,000.

In addition to the benefits the tax law provides directly to individuals and families, it also reduces taxes on both large and small businesses, setting the stage for continued economic growth. At 35%, our corporate tax rate has been among the highest in the world, making it difficult for businesses to be competitive and giving them every reason to move operations overseas. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowers the corporate tax rate to 21% – still higher than average in the industrial­ized world, but low enough to make us competitive. The lowered rate will free up businesses to continue creat­ing American jobs, paying more to their workers, and reinvesting here at home.

Locally, the numbers for our region’s labor force continue to move in a positive direction. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, local unemployment is down to 4.5%. Moreover, the fastest growing job sector is the building trades, with a total of 14,300 new construction jobs added last year. I’m optimistic that the regional economy is primed to continue to experience growth as we continue to see the benefits from tax reform and as Congress and the administration continue to work together to reduce burdensome federal regulations.

General Politics

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

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Jay_Obernolte

It has been my honor to represent you in the State Assembly since 2014. This last legislative session I success­fully got eight bills signed into law that dealt with transparency, govern­ment efficiency and property owner­ship. Despite my legislative success, taxpayers weren’t as fortunate. The Legislature passed several bills that will increase costs on Californians, particularly hurting middle- and low­er-income families.

In 2015 I authored Assembly Bill 809, which requires all tax measures that are placed on a ballot to clearly label the tax, the rate of the tax, and the du­ration of the tax. However, Los An­geles County found an activist judge who allowed them to place a sales tax on the ballot without disclosing to voters that it was a tax. To fight back I authored AB 195 last year, which closes the loophole and requires all taxes to be transparent with voters.

In 2016 the Legislature passed, over my opposition, SB 1263, which pro­hibited any new development on land that relied on hauled water. This bill effectively eliminates large portions of the High Desert from being devel­oped. In response, last year I intro­duced AB 367 to allow homeowners who rely on hauled water to rebuild their homes if they burned down in a fire. I will continue to push for legisla­tion that strengthens property rights.

In 2017, middle-class taxpayers in California were hit with more tax increases than any year since 1935. Taxpayers were burdened with the largest gas tax increase in state his­tory when the Legislature passed SB 1, which took effect last November. It increased gasoline taxes by 12 cents per gallon, increased diesel fuel taxes by 20 cents per gallon, increased ve­hicle registration fees by between $25 and $175 per year, and added a new $100 fee on all electric vehicles. These new taxes represent a $5.2 billion an­nual tax increase on Californians. Unbelievably, 30 percent of the new funding is being diverted to projects that are unrelated to roads. And fewer than five percent of the funds can be used for constructing new highway lane miles, which means this tax does nothing to solve our traffic gridlock.

The Legislature did not stop there. Last September, SB 2 was passed, which imposes a $75 recording “fee” on real estate-related documents such as deeds and notices. These fees and taxes are extremely regressive and will drive up the cost of living in California. Our state already leads the nation in poverty, and these poli­cies clearly hurt middle- and lower-income Californians.

The Legislature also passed several bills that make our communities less safe. Take for example AB 1448, which allows prisoners who are 60 years of age or older and have served 25 years of continuous incarceration to be eligible for parole, regardless of how much time is left on their sen­tence. Perhaps even worse is SB 394, which allows a person sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a juvenile to become eligible for parole after serving 25 years in pris­on. Both of these bills will result in more criminals being released into our communities. Crime rates are al­ready spiking across California — re­ducing punishments on criminals will only exacerbate the problem.

Although the Legislature did lasting damage to the middle-class in California in 2017, I am optimistic for California’s future. I have helped gather hundreds of signatures to put a repeal of the gas tax on the 2018 November ballot. I am also supporting an initiative that would address some of the unintended consequences of the recent criminal justice reforms that have resulted in an increase in the violent crime rate. I will continue to advocate for government transparency, government efficiency and expanded property rights. It is an honor to represent you.

General Politics Transportation

VVTA Adapts to the Speed of Life

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VVTA_LOGO

By Fidel Gonzales, Marketing & Civil Rights

Travel plans change at the speed of life. Public transit must be quick to identify and adapt to the emerging needs of its community. Victor Valley Transit Au­thority (VVTA) continues its quest to serve the burgeoning transportation needs of its High Desert community.

A challenging task — considering its op­erational footprint nearly spans a whop­ping 1,000 square miles and claims many niche communities — VVTA is amid a series of systemwide improvements to take a focused aim at overcoming those challenges. From strategic new facility buildouts and transit fleet additions, to the deployment of advanced technolo­gies, bus routing, and bus stop signage, VVTA is on the move.

Just like transit agencies throughout the country, VVTA has experienced a re­cent mild decline in fixed route (big bus) ridership. Overall though, VVTA’s total ridership demonstrates its long-standing growth trajectory. Total ridership jumped from 1.7 million in 2013, to 1.9 million in 2015, and up again to 2.5 million in 2017. VVTA’s operational strength is still embraced by a fixed route transit system that spans 11,873 miles.

Big on the bucket list of connecting ser­vice to the Inland Empire are plans to in­troduce a CSU San Bernardino bus stop in time for the fall 2018 semester start. There is also the possibility for addition­al trips between Victorville and the San Bernardino valley.

Comprehensive Operational Analysis

VVTA commissioned the renowned consulting firm, AECOM, to perform a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) of its entire system. Completed in February 2017, the study reviewed service performance in relation to com­munity developments within VVTA’s operational area. The effort sought to determine how effective the existing services were and identify what modi­fications were needed to best serve the community in the coming years.

The recommendations were based on 18 months of analysis, consisting of community outreach, public comments, and collaboration with key stakehold­ers within the VVTA service area. The COA addressed the needs for system growth and enhancements required to improve on-time performance and create continuity between Barstow Area Tran­sit (BAT) and VVTA, as these two bus systems merged in September 2015.

Since VVTA is fiscally conservative, the changes outlined within the COA were based on a financially-constrained environment. Growth recommenda­tions were phased and designed with the flexibility of meeting future funding re­alities.

COA Implementation

The VVTA Board approved the find­ings of the COA, and in October 2017 VVTA implemented many of the find­ings. VVTA expanded service hours, worked toward a reduction of wait times, and adjusted routes to match population growth trends and movement throughout the High Desert. The long-awaited fare alignment standardized fares between the Victor Valley and Barstow service areas, simplifying passenger travel. The adjustment reduced fare on some ser­vices and increased others, while many remained the same.

“Although many transit agencies in­crease their fares for riders every two years, VVTA has not raised fares in 10 years, even though the level of service has improved and our population has grown,” said VVTA Executive Director Kevin Kane with regard to the service changes. “VVTA remains a best value for its level of service, featuring some of the lowest fares in Southern Califor­nia.”

Route numbers were relabeled based on the type of service they provide and where they operate. Routes numbers 1-9 primarily now serve Barstow. Route numbers 10-19 and 200-299 are del­egated for inter-city routes. Route num­bers 20-29 are reserved for county areas. Route numbers 30-39 primarily serve Adelanto. Route numbers 40-49 primar­ily serve Apple Valley. Route numbers 50-59 primarily serve Victorville. And route numbers 60-69 primarily serve Hesperia. Commuter routes continued with numbers 100-199.

“Anytime the transit agency makes changes in their system, it is going to benefit the majority of its riders but will still negatively impact some; however, I believe this system upgrade is cer­tainly more intuitive,” said VVTA Ex­ecutive Director Kevin Kane prior to the changes. “Operationally, we will be able to better direct our resources, thereby eliminating redundancies inherent with overlapping route services. By provid­ing more direct connections, we look to improve reliability and on-time perfor­mance, which will benefit our riders.”

Route Changes

VVTA touted 36 routes prior to and fol­lowing the COA, despite the addition of new routes. This was due in part the con­solidation of several routes.

In Barstow, weekday service started an hour earlier in the morning and ended an hour later in the evening. On the week­ends, service hours were also extended. Barstow Routes 1, 2, and 3 were rede­signed to eliminate redundant routing, which revealed on-time performance improvements and a reduction of trav­el times between key locations in the months following the COA implemen­tation.

The new Route 6 now provides service between Walmart and Barstow Community College. Route 4 was renum­bered to county service designation as Route 28, providing service between Barstow, Hinkley, and Helendale every three hours. Route 5 was renumbered to county service designation to Route 29, providing scheduled service between Barstow, Yermo, Daggett, and Newber­ry Springs.

For inter-city routes, Route 15 B-V Link routing was streamlined to improve on-time performance. The route, which serves Barstow, Apple Valley, Vic­torville, San Bernardino, and Fontana, added service to the Victorville Civic Center and Victorville Courthouse and adjusted two Barstow trips to depart two hours earlier, according to passen­ger demand. No changes were made to Route 200 Needles Link, which serves Needles, Barstow, and Victorville.

For Victor Valley routes, the agency’s first express route, the 45X, was renum­bered to 50X. This route was also the first bus in the agency’s history to fea­ture a full vinyl wrap.

Route 33 was rerouted, extending service to Molina Medical Center in Adelanto. Route 21P (Pinon Hills) was rerouted to operate between the Mall of Victor Valley and Pinon Hills every two hours. Route 21W (Wrightwood) was rerouted to operate between Mall of Victor Val­ley and Wrightwood every two hours. Combined, both segments now operate hourly between Mall of Victor Valley and Phelan.

Portions of Routes 44 and 48 were com­bined to create new Route 68. This new route now serves key locations in Hes­peria and Victorville, including the Hes­peria Civic Center, Lime Street Park, Hesperia Library, and the Mall of Victor Valley.

In order to accommodate the needs of VVC students for the fall semester, Route 42 began service August 2017. The route connects VVTA’s major transfer point at Victor Valley College (VVC) to previously unserved locations throughout northern Apple Valley. Fea­tured bus stops include VVC Regional Public Safety Training Center, Walmart Distribution Center, Los Ranchos Mo­bile Home Park, and the High Desert Ju­venile Detention Center, which is avail­able by request only.

New Design For Bus Stop Signs

In concert with the COA changes, VVTA developed a newly designed sign for its bus stops. These more recogniz­able signs began gracing the curbside of the High Desert landscape in late 2017. All 1,018 bus stops signs have been standardized and are being replaced throughout the system. The signs display the hallmark agency colors and provide several passenger-friendly benefits, in­cluding visibility from both sides, route identification, and a unique bus stop ID number which is used in GIS tracking.

Interactive Voice Response

VVTA is slated to debut its on-demand Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone System by Summer 2018. The automated phone system delivers real-time bus routing and scheduling information to those in need of answers fast. The automated call flow is engineered to quickly identify rider needs and deliver that information instantaneously.

This will put an end to the annoying el­evator hold music that some customers may experience during peak call hours. The automated call flow is fluid and pro­vides a dynamic travel planning experi­ence that is quick, efficient, and accessi­ble from any landline or mobile phone.

Using the unique bus stop ID numbers, passengers will be able to access real-time bus arrival times for an individual stop via the IVR system.

The systems will automate routine cus­tomer inquiries and enable customer service agents to focus on the customers who really need their help.

WiFi Connectivity and Mobile Apps

Following the launch of the 2017 COA changes, VVTA unveiled its new op­erations and passenger information in­frastructure. Developed by Syncromat­ics, this innovative transit dispatch and tracking solution combines innovative hardware and software to deliver real-time monitoring of key transit systems.

Operationally, supervisors and analysts can now monitor most vehicle systems and performance in real-time. This monitoring includes key data points such as on-time performance, automated passenger counting, vehicle health monitoring, and a myriad of other crucial metrics.

For passengers, both the web-based and dedicated mobile app delivers routing and scheduling assistance, including predicative bus arrival times based on algorithms. Furthermore, the system in­troduces free WiFi connectivity to pas­sengers. The system also interfaces with digital signage, providing passengers with real-time display and annuncia­tion of arrival times right on their smart phones.

The platform integrates with the new bus stop numbering system, allowing passengers to look up stops and request predictive bus arrival time information via text messaging. A passenger sim­ply texts “VVTA” followed by the stop number to 41411 to receive instant bus arrival information.

Fueling Stations

VVTA currently owns and operates two strategically located alternative fuel stations in Barstow and Hesperia. These stations meet the fueling needs of the general public, private trucking companies, government agencies, and VVTA. Because alternative fueling stations are not as abundant as unleaded fueling sta­tions, the two locations provide a significant service to the High Desert alternative fuel consumers, as well as those consumers traveling from out of state. Its list of local clients include Matheson, Burrtec, Advanced Disposal, City of Barstow, and San Bernardino County.

In a move to streamline fleet fueling operations and reduce fuel costs, the VVTA Hesperia Fuel Station was con­structed and began operation in 2009 and now dispenses Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and unleaded gasoline. The loca­tion eventually became home to VVTA Administration and the VVTA Hesperia Yard in 2011.

Following the merger of VVTA with Barstow Area Transit in September 2015, VVTA purchased the City of Bar­stow Fuel Station in July 2016. The site provides quick access to Interstate 15, and will also serve as the future loca­tion of the VVTA Barstow Maintenance Yard.

In 2017 the Hesperia station dispensed approximately 32,000 Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) of CNG to the public. The Barstow station dispensed approxi­mately 60,000 GGE of CNG and 1,037 GGE of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the public.

VVT alone consumed 975,049 gallons of CNG and 152,104 gallons of unlead­ed gasoline in 2017. VVTA dispensed in excess of 1 million gallons of CNG in 2017.

In addition to the operational and cost saving advantages of the owned fuel stations, VVTA has valuable access to additional real-time reporting metrics. These include instantaneous monitoring of fleet, as well as vehicle-specific fuel data, mileage, and engine oil consump­tion. This monitoring capability deliv­ers VVTA a proactive posture in ongo­ing preventive maintenance activities through trending analysis.

Maintenance Advancements

VVTA continues refinement of one of the transit industry’s first paperless Preventive Maintenance Inspection (PMI) programs, which launched in 2015 and is incorporated into the existing fleet management system. Using tablets, the program provides technicians with one-touch access to vehicle- and component-specific shop manuals and historical maintenance data during inspections. The program auto-generates work orders on individual line item inspection failures to ensure that all items are addressed, repaired, and not overlooked due to human error.

Switching to a paperless system has provided mechanics and analysts quick and easy access to real-time data of fleet information, current vehicle repairs, and vehicle history. Such features are saving hundreds of personnel hours, minimiz­ing the time required to review work or­ders, PMI information, parts inventory, and repair history.

Collaborating with its operations contrac­tor, Transdev, VVTA continues making strides in streamlining preventive main­tenance fleet operations by introducing operating procedures commonly seen at consumer car dealerships.

New Barstow Division Facility

VVTA recently began plans to replace its leased and outdated Barstow maintenance yard with a modern facility to be located adjacent to its Barstow Fuel Station.

The future maintenance yard will stand on a spacious 5.5-acre parcel. The build­ing will span approximately 8,500 square feet and feature three maintenance bays, a parts department, convenient stor­age rooms for tools and tires, and 2,400 square feet of office space for transit op­erations. The facility will be constructed with a cost-saving metal structure and will boast an appealing façade and in­ternal walls necessary for office- and maintenance-related space.

VVTA will soon proceed with issuing a request for proposals for two design-build companies. Assuming VVTA Board approval and that the project proceeds as planned, VVTA anticipates breaking ground on the project in late 2018. Completion of construction is an­ticipated in the summer of 2019.

Getting Roomier In Barstow

VVTA recently took delivery of five new 40-foot “Clean Air” CNG transit coaches. These coaches will be deployed in Barstow and are the first full-size buses ever to operate in Barstow and the surrounding service areas.

The coaches feature the advanced, near-zero emissions Cummins L9N engines, which are acclaimed as the lowest cer­tified Ultra Low NOx emission engines in North America, boasting a 90-percent lower emission than the current North American EPA standards.

These buses offer improved comfort and a smoother ride than the current chassis-on-frame cutaway vehicles. The new buses will offer free WiFi connections, real-time vehicle tracking, and farebox­es that align with VVTA’s goal of intro­ducing mobile ticketing to its system in 2018.

Mobile Ticketing

With the planned launch of TouchPass mobile ticketing in summer 2018, the new fare system will deliver improved passenger convenience and on-time performance. No longer will passengers have to fumble around for exact change at the farebox or wait for a driver to view their boarding pass. They simply flash the fare card or mobile app at the fare­box reader while boarding the bus. It’s that simple. This new boarding method has proven to significantly reduce dwell times at stops, helping passengers get to their next destination on time.

The new system offers passengers the ability to pay fares on their phone or any internet-connected device. Such fare products are protected from loss if the passenger registers their TouchPass ac­count through the web portal or mobile app.

Moving Forward

As VVTA continues its quest to “Con­nect Community to Opportunity,” great consideration into passenger-centric service improvements and fiscal-minded efficiency remains at the forefront. Its community partnerships are instrumental in achieving continued success in public transportation.

From the challenges of fielding an all-battery electric fleet, to moving students toward higher education and the communicability, to employment opportunities, it’s not only about dollars and cents. It’s about people. VVTA remains committed to moving its community wisely into the future.

General Politics

Hope for California

Published by:

Mike_Morrell

By Senator Mike Morrell

In meeting with various groups throughout the state, I am often asked if there is still hope for California. I have had my doubts with all of the challenges and problems we face, but I am confident that the answer is “yes.”

It is said that “as California goes, so goes the nation.” With almost 40 mil­lion people and as the world’s sixth largest economy, our state is too impor­tant to lose.

As citizens committed to limiting gov­ernment’s power, we are drawing a line in the sand and setting a course to take it back.

I have four reasons to believe that there is hope for California.

First, 40 years of one-party rule in Sac­ramento has reached a tipping point. They have overstepped their bounds, and voters are becoming more aware of the negative effects. The majority party has recklessly pursued an agenda of pro­gressive/socialistic policies that expand the bureaucratic state and affect us eco­nomically, politically, and spiritually.

On their watch, education rankings have dropped to 44th in the country. Califor­nia has at least 34 percent of the entire nation’s welfare caseload.

We have the highest state sales tax and now among the highest gas and car tax­es. These hikes hit areas like the High Desert and the Inland Empire hardest, where driving is the primary means of transportation.

For over a decade, surveys of 500 CEOs around America have rated California the worst place to do business. During the same period, we have seen a net loss of one million residents.

Perhaps the most egregious is what is happening to public safety. Laws cre­ated by the governor and Democratic legislators to release at least 40,000 con­victed felons into our neighborhoods have put our loved ones in harm’s way. Recently, a judge has ruled that another 10,000 sex offenders should be eligible for early parole.

These policies have failed, and Cali­fornians are increasingly seeing these facts.

Secondly, while many of my friends across the aisle refuse to acknowledge this reality, others notice the writing on the wall. That is why their default is to argue through politically correct speech. They know they have lost the debate, so their go-to plan is to blame and accuse, demonstrating their weakness.

In contrast, Republicans have practical and substantive answers. We believe in limiting government’s power and let­ting Americans keep more of their mon­ey to invest in their families, churches, and charities. We recognize that citizens rank above the state and that politicians and bureaucrats work for us. They are public servants, not masters.

Third, and more importantly, we have seen throughout history that America’s morality and religion are indispensable supports for our nation’s peace and prosperity, a point made by Alexis de Tocqueville, nineteenth-century author of Democracy in America.

For me, his observation has rung true in recent months as I have spoken to near­ly 600 pastors, whose influence reaches over two million people. They are seri­ous about taking back our state – I have not seen this kind of engagement before now and it is encouraging.

It is a revival of the rich spiritual heritage of our state, which is my fourth reason to believe there is hope for California. Consider the planting of 21 missions, a ministry begun by Father Junipero Serra. Furthermore, World Vision, Fo­cus on the Family, Cru, and the Azusa Street Revival were all started here, and in our very own San Bernardino Moun­tains, a young Billy Graham made a world-changing decision to preach the Gospel.

For these and other reasons, though we live in difficult times, I do not believe Providence has written California off.

However, as the Declaration of Inde­pendence reminds us, we are governed by consent – a government of, by, and for the people. It is our responsibility to plant the flag and reclaim our state.

We will only make headway in this cause when those who have a vested interest in preserving our religious, po­litical, and economic freedom, such as people of faith and business owners, take a stand.

In 1941 the University of Rochester awarded Winston Churchill with an honorary degree. He delivered accep­tance remarks broadcast from London and spoke on the realities facing the world in the lead up to the entrance of the United States into World War II:

“We are sure that the character of hu­man society will be shaped by the re­solves we take and the deeds we do. We need not bewail the fact that we have been called upon to face such solemn responsibilities. We may be proud, and even rejoice amid our tribulations, that we have been born at this cardinal time for so great an age and so splendid an opportunity of service here below.”

Though the circumstances are different, Churchill’s words are a fitting descrip­tion of our time and age. With your help – and the resolve of millions of other Californians – I have faith that we will overcome the challenges we confront.

State Senator Mike Morrell represents the 23rd Senate District in the Califor­nia State Legislature, which includes portions of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.

General Politics

High Desert Isn’t Your Dumping Ground, California; Time for Change on Inmate Placement

Published by:

Scott_Wilk

By Senator Scott Wilk

Over 40 innocent, unsuspecting wom­en fell victim to a brutal rapist. They spanned California as an evil menace remained on the hunt for over two de­cades.

It’s a tragic tale for the women involved, their families and our entire society, but luckily, it ended as it was supposed to, with a violent predator behind bars, nev­er again to threaten our mothers, daugh­ters, wives and communities. Or so we thought.

And for people in the areas down the hill and in Northern California where he previously stalked, it was true; he never returned. But for us in the High Desert, their nightmare became our reality as ,upon his release, still deemed by prison officials as a violent predator, a judge in Silicon Valley, where he had served time for a string of rapes, ruled that the Pillowcase Rapist was to be placed in the High Desert; out of sight and mind for most but front and center for those of us who call the desert our home.

This isn’t how it should be. We’re a hard-working bunch in the High Desert, and we have plenty of our own chal­lenges to deal with in our communities. There is no excuse for the rest of Cali­fornia making us their dumping ground for violent, dangerous undesirables; and yet that’s what they’ve done.

In the Los Angeles County areas of the High Desert alone, there are nearly 500 sex offenders currently living in our communities. In San Bernardino and Kern, hundreds more. But it isn’t just sexual predators. Recently released in­mates of all kinds, from serial robbers to violent gang members; you name it, are being bussed out to places like Lan­caster, Victorville, Adelanto, and other High Desert communities, communi­ties to which they have no previous ties whatsoever.

That’s why this year I’ve introduced a pair of bills to address this problem and keep our High Desert communities safe. Senate Bill 1199 will require that prison inmates, including sex offenders, will be released to a community to which they have previous familial or other ties. It takes a village to raise a child, the old adage goes. And it’s true. But when that village fails, they shouldn’t be off the hook. Another village shouldn’t have to take on responsibility for their short­comings. No, these recently released criminals should be returned to their home communities to continue their re­habilitation, not shipped off to the High Desert. Senate Bill 1199 will make sure that is the case going forward.

Crime is on the rise in our communities. Violent crime is up five percent in some High Desert communities, retail theft is up 25 percent in others, the trend is not good for our region, even as crime na­tionwide continues to decline. In an era of California public safety policies like Assembly Bill 109, Prop. 47 and Prop 57, that basically amount to “release prisoners now, ask questions later,” it is more important now than ever to appro­priately place and monitor these newly released offenders to ensure ongoing safety for our communities.

That’s why I’ve introduced another bill – Senate Bill 1198 – aimed at manag­ing our released sexual predators. The Sex Offender Management Board is the state’s body responsible for assess­ing the fitness of a sex offender to be released and, if they are fit for release, the appropriate amount of supervision. A great concept and they serve in many ways as our last line of defense against frivolous release of potentially violent sexual predators. Unfortunately, the state has not provided them with ad­equate information to make the assess­ments needed to determine these things, so the Board is forced to make judgment calls on life-and-death decisions. This cannot stand, and Senate Bill 1198 will bring us within reach of sensible man­agement for soon-to-be and recently re­leased criminals in our communities.

Senate Bill 1198 will force the State and all its departments, including the De­partment of Justice and the Department of Corrections, to provide any and all in­formation the Board may need or want to utilize in the process of their reviews on potential releases. Currently, there is no such requirement, and information sharing is spotty at best. With SB 1198 we will have a more informed board that will make more informed decisions that will lead to more accurate and appro­priate management of released sexual predators so that they may not continue to hunt for prey upon release.

Crime is a very serious issue for us in the High Desert. It’s time the whole state starts to realize we are not their dumping ground, and this pair of bills will be a huge step in that direction.

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

General Politics

Enrique Arcilla Receives $1,000 Scholarship

Published by:

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By Brian Ryman, Vice Chair
Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance

On Tuesday, May 15th, the Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance held its inaugural Brushfire of Freedom Award dinner for best essay on a liberty-based theme. In addition to the dinner, the award recipient received a medallion created especially for this event and a cashier’s check for $1000. The VVLA plans to make this an annual event to promote and encourage scholarship among high school students in the High Desert region of Southern California.

This year’s contest winner is Enrique Arcilla of Granite Hills High School for his essay, “Overreach, the Constitution, and Theft of Legislative Power: Tyran­ny Sprouts Anew.“ The essay question was “Has the U.S. Constitution been successful in restraining federal govern­ment overreach?” Enrique’s essay was judged to be the best of 26 excellent submissions.

Enrique Arcilla is no stranger to essay competitions. Two years ago, at the age of 15, he won a contest sponsored by the Mojave Water Agency and has participated in several others since. He says that competing in essay contests has caused him to delve into topics and gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding them. He plans to continue this inquisitive approach as he embarks upon studies in international development and economics at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, next year. His winning essay is posted on the Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance Fa­cebook page.

Enrique_Arcilla_Receives_Scholarship

The Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance is an activist group who seeks to better the lives of people with a combination of political education and positive community action. It has taken as its mission the advancement of personal liberty through voluntary individual action as well as political means. In addition to the annual essay contest, they will be hosting desert cleanup activities where volunteers get together to pick up trash left in our desert community.

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Because it seeks to increase and broaden the scope of its activities – as well as expand its scholarship to more students, the Victor Valley Libertarian Alliance is exploring the idea of shared corporate sponsorship for future events and drives. Please contact them at: VVLib­ertarianAlliance.com or SBCLP.org if you would like to support these endeavors in your community.

The VVLA encourages you to become a part of positive change. They meet the third Tuesday of every month for dinner and business. The meeting location and meeting topics are posted on their Fa­cebook group. Anyone wanting to participate in a group seeking to advance individual liberty in a civil society or who simply wants to learn more about the libertarian movement is welcome to attend.

General Politics Transportation

“flyOntario” – Under Local Control and Looking to Grow

Published by:

Ontario_International_Airport_Authority

By Daniel Adamus, MBA Chief Marketing Officer

Ontario, CA – On November 1, 2016, ownership of the Ontario International Airport (ONT) was transferred to the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) from Los Angeles World Air­ports (LAWA, which is also the parent company of LAX). When the transfer of airport was officially commemorated in a formal ceremony the following day, FAA Administrator (and Riverside, CA, native) Michael Huerta challenged the new owners to seize this unique oppor­tunity.

“He compared us to the dog that actu­ally caught the car,” said OIAA CEO Kelly Fredericks. “Lots of dogs chase cars, but I don’t think any actually catch them. What Administrator Huerta was telling us was that the region wanted the airport under local control and now you have it. More importantly, he was ask­ing ‘now, what are you now going to do with it?’” Fredericks said.

Local Control

One of the key elements necessary for the transfer of ownership was to create an organization which could own and operate the airport in the best possible manner. To that end, the Ontario Inter­national Airport Authority was created on August 21, 2012, via a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement between the City of Ontario and the County of San Ber­nardino. Alan Wapner, President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners, was actively involved in the effort to return the airport to local control and believed an independent Authority would offer the best possible operational structure.

“We created the Ontario International Airport Authority to be an autonomous public entity, separate, apart and inde­pendent from the City of Ontario and the County of San Bernardino. The OIAA was designed to own and operate all ONT assets when the airport was re­turned to local control,” Wapner said.

“In the development of its mission, the OIAA was tasked to operate and grow the Ontario International Airport as one of the most competitive, efficient, inno­vative and customer-friendly passenger, cargo and business airports in the Unit­ed States,” Wapner said. “We believed this to be the case then, and I believe it to be more true now than ever before – the Ontario International Airport is a key economic asset serving and sup­porting not only the Inland Empire but the entire Southern California region,” he said.

The OIAA Board of Commissioners is comprised of five members. Four are appointed by Ontario City Council to include two sitting Ontario City Council Members (Alan Wapner and Jim Bow­man) and two commissioners selected as members of the business community within the airport’s market service area (Lucy Dunn and Ron Loveridge). The fifth commissioner is Curt Hagman, the sitting San Bernardino County Supervi­sor representing the District in which the airport is located.

Wapner said the board of commission­ers is tasked with developing policy, and they hired Fredericks, a seasoned and nationally acclaimed airport ex­ecutive, to serve as the Authority’s first CEO. “We as a board were very im­pressed with Kelly, his background and his achievements in the industry. We brought him in to lead the Authority in March of last year, and he has already made great strides to build his senior staff and to complete the airport transfer process with LAWA,in compliance with all regulatory requirements and with the approval of the FAA,” he said.

“Some may say that was the easy part,” Wapner added. “Now that we have the airport under local control, we must make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Kelly and his staff under­stand the responsibility before them. They also know they have not only the support of the OIAA Board of Commis­sioners but also the support and well wishes of every municipality and busi­ness entity in the entire region,” he said.

The Work Now Begins

With just over three months under their belts, Fredericks and his team have be­gun the process of assessing the massive 1,861-acre property which comprises the Ontario International Airport foot­print. The goal in these still early days is to understand “the good, the bad and the ugly,” Fredericks noted.

“We know we bought a ‘fixer-upper,’” he said. “We have to look at safety first and ensure that all of our operating sys­tems are in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations. We must take inventory, we must modify or re­write all official processes, procedures and documentation to reflect ownership by the OIAA, and we must prioritize all critical and preventive maintenance in an manner which ensures that we do not disrupt any day-to-day operations,” Fredericks said.

As part of the transfer and for the fore­seeable future, the relatively small OIAA staff is supplemented by nearly 200 former LAWA employees who will serve as a contracted labor force dur­ing the next 18-24 months identified as a “transition period.” During this time, the OIAA will have a chance to see how the airport was previously operated and to begin making changes.

Airplane

Fredericks said the OIAA is evaluating all functional areas aboard the airport, and he said that employees of the for­mer airport owner may have an opportu­nity to join the OIAA in future months. “These are the folks who operated the airport before November 1st and who will continue to do so in the weeks and months following the transfer. They are our front line with our customers, pro­viding their first ‘touch-points’ with the airport and with the OIAA. We are still getting to know each other, but we have a shared focus on providing our custom­ers with the best possible travel experi­ence while they are with us at ONT,” he said. Fredericks noted that as part of the negotiated transfer of the airport, should any LAWA employee not wish to remain at ONT, they are guaranteed a position at LAX or a number of places/departments within the City of Los An­geles.

With all that said, Fredericks and his team believe they have just embarked on an incredible journey. “Ontario In­ternational is truly an amazing airport. We have two of the longest runways on the west coast; one is just shy of 2.5 miles and the other is nearly 2 miles long. With those assets and our capa­bility to operate ‘24/7’ with no restric­tions, we can handle any aircraft flying today,” he said.

ONT currently operates 62 daily flights with seven commercial airlines, private and charter flights managed by two, general aviation fixed-base operators (FBOs) as well as a number of cargo flights by a variety of international car­riers, to include UPS and FedEx. All that activity represents less than half the potential associated with the existing airport infrastructure.

“At its peak (2007-2008), Ontario han­dled more than 7.2 million passengers per year. Today we are handling just over 4.2 million passen­gers per year. Our fa­cility, as it stands, can handle nearly 10 mil­lion passengers, along with sustained cargo growth. Beyond our current two terminals (2 and 4) ,and con­sidering the potential of long-term growth, there are already existing plans for Ter­minals 3 and 5, as well as a strategy to connect all present and future terminals into a single complex,” Fredericks said.

“As we work closely with air carriers from around the world, we have no de­lusions of grandeur,” Fredericks said. We know we must work extremely hard to earn their business by striving to re­duce their operating costs at ONT while creating the best environment possible for passengers,” he said.

Fredericks said he and his staff are work­ing on a plan to “de-stealth” the airport and to re-introduce the airport as a valu­able asset to all of Southern California. “As we work to grow international air service through our development ef­forts, we must also re-introduce ONT to the region,” he said. “According to the 2015 U.S. Census, the Ontario-Riverside-San Bernardino Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranks 15th in the United States and is in the nation’s 2nd largest Combined Statistical Area (Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim). We have tremendous numbers in our pri­mary and secondary catchment area, but we have to get the word out about what we are trying to do so people will con­sciously think about flying from Ontario first,” he said.

Fredericks said the “de-stealthing” cam­paign will be about building attention and awareness for the airport and willbe conducted through a comprehensive, targeted marketing and promotional campaign to get the message out to the business and consumer population of the region. He said he and his team will be working to connect with business and municipal leaders, as well as civic and social groups,S to encourage travel­ers to think about flying in and out of Ontario for their next business or leisure trip.

“If we can continue to do our best to improve the customer experience, and if we can be successful with the airlines to bring new and better service to ONT, ev­eryone will win,” Fredericks said. “Pas­sengers will have an easy and stress-free experience, with increased amenities, food and shopping opportunities, just minutes from home. They will reward the investment airlines make in Ontario by filling its flights to new destinations without having to battle hours of traffic to and from other airports in the region,” he added.

Room for Future Development

One of the other amazing statistics Fred­ericks shared was the fact that of those 1,861 acres, 700 are able and available for development on or adjacent to air­side operations. “You could not build an airport of this size, with the resources and capabilities of ONT today, in this, the 2nd largest metropolitan market in the United States,” he said.

Fredericks said the OIAA is now in the final stages of a selection process to hire a firm to develop a master plan for the airport, something never done before for ONT. “The successful can­didate will assist us in creating a map to guide us through the many pathways and options related to future operations and development to ensure we have the information necessary to make the best decisions possible,” Fredericks said. “The master plan process utilizes a variety of certified professionals in a number of disciplines to assist us in determining which structures are valu­able and which should be demolished. It helps us understand where a former industrial complex aboard the airport may require environmental remediation prior to development. Major companies like GE and Lockheed operated facto­ries and facilities at ONT for decades. We must evaluate each legacy property and identify any environmental issues before any development may be consid­ered,” he said.

While Fredericks stresses the impor­tance of the master plan process, he does not see it as any type of hindrance should the right opportunity present it­self. “If the right opportunity is identi­fied with any of our existing airport ten­ants, any new airline or other potential business partner, we are not restricted in any way from taking advantage of it,” he said. Fredericks said he and his team have been fielding inquiries in a number of areas, and they are working diligently to investigate the possibilities associated with each in order to determine the next best steps for the airport.

What Can You Do to Help?

Fredericks said he wishes everyone in the region to be an extension of the OIAA Marketing Team. “I ask that ev­eryone get to know the airport, to see the things we are doing to improve the ex­perience for our customers and to make it easy to fly Ontario,” he said.

When asked how else people interested in supporting the airport can help the ef­forts of the OIAA, Kelly Fredericks of­fered the following:

  • Please use ONT – Even if you may be paying a few dollars more, demon­strating loyalty to the airport is the best way for the OIAA to recruit (and to keep) new routes from existing carriers and to encourage new airlines to begin operations at ONT.
  • Please advertise at ONT – The OIAA will soon have a new media operator to manage new, expanded advertising and merchan­dising opportunities at the airport. If you can’t adver­tise, please support those companies advertising at the airport
  • Please share your travel data–An e-mail address has been estab­lished–iflyont@flyon­tario.com–where you can send your itinerary when you do fly Ontario and as a place where you can share the flight data when you just can’t find the right connection from ONT. This informa­tion is extremely helpful for the air ser­vice development team in preparation for meetings they conduct with the vari­ous airlines.
  • Share insights and advice – If you see something of interest in your travels, share it with the authority. If you have a problem or a bad experience, you are especially asked to share those as well. Fredericks said his staff are continuous­ly working to improve the traveler expe­rience, and they want to know when any situation does not meet the customer’s expectations. He said they take com­plaints seriously and will work with all involved airport personnel, concession­aires and tenants to solve problems as soon as they are identified, so that no customer ever has that same problem again.

For more information and to learn what is happening at the Ontario International Airport, please visit the ONT website at www.flyOntario.com. The site is opti­mized for mobile devices, and Freder­icks said it will be a “work-in-progress” for several months as volumes of data and information are transferred from the old airport site and until such a time as the planned 18-24 transition process is complete.

General Politics

Looking Forward as We Set Priorities For the Future

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By Robert A. Lovingood, 1st District Supervisor, County of San Bernardino

As we start a new year, it’s a good time to look back at the year past and look forward as we set priorities for the fu­ture.

In 2016 we saw new business investment in the High Desert. Stirling Capital Investments announced the completion of a fully leased 447,740-square-foot industrial facility in Victorville. Arden Companies relocated to a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Victorville, creating 100 jobs. Plans are underway for a 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center, which is expected to create 400 to 500 long-term jobs in the North Apple Valley Industrial Specific Plan area. And in December, Clark Pacific broke ground on its new precast concrete manufacturing plant in Adelanto.

Last year, for the third year, we allo­cated county funds for “Operation Des­ert Guardian,” a three-month series of crime sweeps that ended with 376 arrests in Hesperia, Apple Valley, Adelanto, Victorville and unincorporated Victor Valley areas. We also implemented re­forms to welfare fraud policies and sup­ported a series of ongoing welfare fraud sweeps around the county. The Board of Supervisors added two additional inves­tigators to strengthen the District Attor­ney’s Cold Case Prosecution Unit. And Sheriff’s Academy Class 205 marked the very first time ever the Department had three academy classes going at the same time.

In the past year, my initiative to use in­mate work crews kicked into high gear. Inmate crews cleared more than 578 tons of trash and 7,922 tires in the First District, plus an additional 68 tons of ce­ment and nine boats at an illegal dump site near Interstate 15 and Dale Evans Parkway. The cement was recycled and the tires were used as fuel at local ce­ment plants.

As we look ahead to 2017, we will work on streamlining County Land Use Ser­vices processes to better serve the de­velopment community. Specifically, we will look to streamline the entitlement and permitting for commercial, residen­tial and industrial developments. These projects create well-paying jobs and have an astonishing economic multi­plier effect:

Each new home built creates seven well-paying jobs. Here in San Bernardino County, we are facing a housing short­age that is expected to grow to 65,000 homes within two years. A significant number of San Bernardino County rent­ers spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. So we have an op­portunity to grow jobs and expand our regional economy.

Robert Lovingood is chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Super­visors representing the First District.

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.