Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mayor Dale, Ron Rector Inflate Values to Benefit Friends


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Barstow's Mayor & his aide artificially inflate real estate values to benefit pals

In late 2000, Lawrence Dale defeated Barstow's incumbent Mayor Katy Yslas-Yent. Dale had never ran for political office but was a very loyal retiree of BNSF Railroad and a candidate of the local good ol' boys -- the Barstow area's establishment ... businessmen who've controlled things in Barstow for years and who meet every morning in Leonard Purdy's auto garage at Barstow Tire & Break.

In 2001, Dale immediately hired Ron Rector as Economic Development Director for the City of Barstow. Rector was previously executive director of a failed Hi-Desert economic development consortium.

While the turn over at Barstow City Hall has been unusually high since Dale's been Mayor; Ron Rector, despite his failure to make any measureable progress in Barstow's economic development the last seven years, has remained on the payroll.

Since 2001, Dale & Rector have used their positions to manufacture circumstances that articially inflate property values to the advantage of the local land speculators, some of whom are among the contingent of those who meet each morning for coffee and Purdy's garage.

In particular, Dale & Rector have unfairly helped their friends obtain land in tax foreclosure and bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar -- land their friends flipped to wealthy investors from outside the area for thousands more than they paid.

They've promoted public works projects that require state agencies to acquire land at inflated prices owned by their pals.

Frequently involved in their schemes are real estate broker Joseph W. Brady and real estate syndicator Quang Pham (or Pham Quang). Also involved are Santa Clarita-based intimates of Rep. Buck McKeon including Hunt Braly.

Since 2003, Dale & Rector have used the city's PR machine to suggest that Barstow would be home to a casino resort and a large Wal-Mart distribution center, plus large-scale residential real esate developments among other things -- but nothing ever materializes.

These projects have yet to be built, let alone break ground -- and in fact, the casino project has been turned down multiple times in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. There has been no official word from the Wal-Mart corporation on the future of the 1 million square feet distribution center.

But the Mayor's continued promotion of these two projects has grossly inflated land values in and around Barstow to the benefit of the Mayor's friends. And among others, the business partners and family members of Barstow City Councilman Steve Curran have benefited financially from artificially inflated real estate sales prices.

In 2006, an entity known as Barstow Industrial Park LLC acquired land from Overland Lenwood LTD near the proposed Wal-Mart facility and took out a $22.5 million mortgage to do so. The same property had a previous assessed value of just $2.8 million. Property in Barstow generally ranges from $5,000 - $25,000 and acre.

In 2004, Quang Pham (or Pham Quang), with the City's help, obtained land through tax sale for pennies on the dollar and then one year later sold it to Irvine-based National Trails Properties LLC for nearly $7.3 million. The property's assessed value is only $1.2 million.

And Dale has served as lobbyists for BNSF. Dale's made frequent trips to BNSF headquarters in Kansas & Texas but never reported any gifts or travel paid for by BNSF; and Dale's used his official capacity and title as Mayor lobbying on Capitol Hill for BNSF's benefit. It's not clear if the Barstow City Council ever officially gave Dale the authority to lobby on BNSF's behalf.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mitzelfelt must amend campaign forms

Mitzelfelt must amend campaign forms

By Ryan Orr, staff writer
Desert Dispatch
July 7, 2008 - 4:55PM

SACRAMENTO — The California Fair Political Practices Commission has advised San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt that he must amend his campaign statements following a complaint made during his campaign.

A complaint filed in early May alleged that a developer had set up phony corporations to make contributions to Mitzelfelt.

The complaint was filed by Apple Valley citizen Sharon Gilbert, who operates a blog that regularly criticizes county government.

“It appears that Young Homes has set up phony corporations to make campaign contributions so that it does not appear that those contributions are coming from a developer,” Gilbert states in her formal complaint.

The letter from the FPPC does not allege any violations by Mitzelfelt’s campaign.

“Advisory letters inform people of their requirement under the political reform act and how to meet those requirements,” said Roman Porter, spokesman for the FPPC.

According to the advisory letter, the FPPC has closed the matter without further investigation but has advised Mitzelfelt he must amend his campaign statements to include the full name of the major donor for the contributions from Young Homes, Avenal Finance LLC and Neoteric Entertainment, Inc.

That major donor is Reggie King, who said he supports Mitzelfelt through every company out there. King said he is a minority partner in Young Homes, 100 percent owner of Neoteric Entertainment, a Nevada Corporation, and Avenal Finance.

“There’s never been any attempt by me to hide what we give to whom,” King said at the time the complaint was filed.

Furthermore, King said that Young Homes has never done a project in the 1st District.

He said that he signed his name on all the checks and tends to consolidate contributions.

On the California Secretary of State’s Web site the contributions made are listed under Young Homes and affiliated entities, which include Neoteric Entertainment and Avenal Finance.

In all, since 2007 the consolidated companies have given $110,000 to Mitzelfelt’s campaign.

Court orders county to re-examine proposed Hinkley composting facility

Court orders county to re-examine proposed Hinkley composting facility

July 6, 2008 - 10:16AM

BARSTOW — A Barstow judge finalized his order to San Bernardino County to revisit its approval of a proposed composting facility near Hinkley. The order means that the county will begin work on a new study of the environmental impacts of the facility, which has been the subject of a court battle for more than a year.

Judge John Vander Feer of the San Bernardino County Superior Court in Barstow issued a judgment on June 23, which made official the ruling he had issued on April 11. The order stated that the county must prepare a new environmental impact report on the Hawes Composting Facility slated to be built by Nursery Products LLC about eight miles west of Hinkley. The open-air facility approved by the county would mix semi-solid waste products, including human waste, with green materials to create compost. Community members in Hinkley have opposed the facility based on concerns about air and water contamination.

Vander Feer ruled that there were two issues with the environmental impact report prepared by Nursery Products that need to be addressed — it did not identify the water source to be used for the composting facility, and it did not examine the possibility of enclosing the composting operation in a building rather than constructing an open-air facility.

He ordered the county to suspend all physical work on the facility and set aside its existing environmental impact report and its approval of the project until those two issues can be resolved to the court’s satisfaction.

Now that the final judgment has been issued, opponents of the composting facility say that the county will be forced to start over in evaluating the proposal. Ingrid Brostrom, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, which represents the Hinkley residents, said the judge’s final order means that the county will have to start over from scratch in its evaluation, rather than simply updating the existing environmental impact report and conditional use permit.

“The Board of Supervisors is basically going to have to reapprove the project, if that’s what they’re going to do,” she said. “... Basically, it’s going to give our clients and the county another chance to consider the costs of approving such a project.”

Chris Seney, director of operations with Nursery Products, said he does not anticipate much difficulty in fixing the two issues identified by the judge. The water for the facility will come from a well, he said. As for enclosing the composting facility, Seney said it would not only cost more but would produce more emissions, since an enclosed facility would need to run on electric power rather than solar power, which was expected to power the open-air facility.

Norm Diaz, an organizer with, said that enclosing the facility would alleviate concerns about air and groundwater contamination from the composting operation.

“If you build a state-of-the-art enclosed facility that captures the gasses and the dust, I think we’d take it,” he said.

Nursery Products will pay for the additional work to be done on the environmental impact report, but contractors hired by the county will perform the work, said Nursery Products president Jeff Meberg. The initial environmental impact report cost about $280,000, Meberg said. He did not have an estimate of the cost of reworking the report but said the work will likely go quickly now that the judge has issued his final order.

Bart Brizzee, deputy county counsel with San Bernardino County, said the county still has to determine whether it will need to complete an entirely new environmental impact report or simply update the existing report.

Contact the writer:

(760) 256-4123 or

Air board extends deadline to comment on composting rules
BARSTOW — The Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District extended the deadline for public comment on preliminary draft rules that would govern composting facilities until Aug. 8.

The proposed rules, which were mailed out for public comment June 5, would require composting facilities that accept more than 100,000 wet tons of compostable material to be enclosed if the levels of very fine particulate matter in the air of the district rise above a federally-defined level. Under that rule, the Hawes Composting Facility would not currently be required to enclose its facilities, but could be required to in the future, if air contamination levels in the district rise, said supervising air quality engineer Alan De Salvio. members spoke at several air-board meetings and asked the board to enact a strict rule that would force Nursery Products to enclose the facility.

After the public comment period, the air board will likely hold a public workshop on the rule and will write another draft of the rule, which will be opened up to public comment again before it goes to the board for approval, De Salvio said.

Make public comments in writing by mailing them to MDAQMD at 14306 Park Avenue, Victorville, CA 92392.

To get a copy of the preliminary draft rule, call De Salvio at 760-245-1661 ext. 6726.