August 3, 2014

Dangerous Condition on Arrow Highway between Azusa Ave and Cerritos Ave


Unfortunately it has come to this. Over the last 30 years infrastructure in California has crumbled and the pace is accelerating. We have warm weather year round but nonetheless are roads are crumbling. The problem (as pointed out by long time city staffers) is that there is no budget. But this issue is not a recent phenomenon. Its been a long time in coming. Years of "robbing" from city infrastructure budgets to pay for silly "pet" projects or to lure private investment (which should pay its own way) or feed ever hungry public unions and bloated pension plans. The problem has been ignored for years. Assumptions were made that streets would just last forever. Well the problems have now come home to roost. [as an update to this story we feel vindicated by this plight of this poor woman]

And the public "servants" (now referred to by LAAG as the "public aristocracy") is starting to feel the pressure of these problems. But not to fear. City employees are very good at ignoring the public, dismissing them with belittling comments (to their face or behind their back) and basically telling them they know nothing and to go away. This is all done in a very "politically correct" fashion of course. We have even seen elected politicos go so far as to ask LAAG to praise the city employees for doing their job with our tax money (tax money to pay the employee for working and tax money to fix the infrastructure)! How is that for absurd! And all because the PROBLEM is directly attributable to them wasting our tax dollars and at the same time failing miserably to DO their job over the last 30 years! Then the public servants sit there in amazement as to why "these people" complain and why they are so cynical.

Typically voters/taxpayers complain about infrastructure problems via phone call. That's useless. Might as well call your aunt and complain to her. Records of those calls/complaints are gone the minute you hang up. How about emails you ask? Well those are typically "erased" as well or at least they will be if there is ever a lawsuit due to an injury. Cities are loathe to keep them for fear someone might find out that they actually KNEW about a problem and failed or more likely "refused" to fix it even though it involved public safety and could be remedied for very little of OUR tax dollars.

As you can see from the email below we complained (on June 1, 2014) about some very dangerous potholes right in the area where bicycles ride, especially large groups. This condition has slowly gotten worse over the last 6 months with the tiny bit of rain we did get this spring. The city that is responsible (Azusa) really did not come out and say that this southern section of the roadway was their responsibility but the border city (Covina) which claims it had no responsibility over that roadway section put the blame on Azusa! Way to go Covina!

All Azusa had to say in response to our initial reporting email was this:

"Yes that section of the roadway in your email is our responsibility. We are sending a crew out there in the next two days to assess the situation and will make emergency repairs as warranted that same day. Once they are complete we will send you and email indicating they are complete. Once that is done please let us know if we solved the dangerous condition at least temporarily." (they don't even have to thanks us even though unlike the (grossly over compensated) public servants LAAG does this for NO compensation.

But instead we got a bunch of dismissive backtalk (by one of the top Public Works people) about how we are not doing anything that helped the situation, and that the prior problem we alerted them to was also of no help, (even though they did exactly what we told them to do a year later), no thanks for calling it to their attention and basically dismissed us as bothering them. Again public servants transformed into public aristocracy.

We did note that the paving in front of Azusa City Hall is new and pristine!! What a coincidence!!

The thought in government these days is that all the "good ideas" come from government. They know it all. Nothing good  (ideas or observations) can ever come from taxpayers that actually understand the problem better than the city does as taxpayers have to deal with it on a daily basis. Bicycle riders unfortunately know the problems with roads much better than the public "servants" who never ride bikes on their own roads. Bicycle riders see all the potholes and defects right up close at speeds slower than cars. The potholes in these photos wont affect most cars and motorcycles nearly as much as a bicycle. The bicycle wheel in the photo does not do these holes justice. Some of them are 2 inches deep or more. You ride into these holes at 25 mph on a bicycle you are in for a nasty spill and then a car will run you over as you lay there. The failure of our infrastructure is much more dangerous to cyclists than to car drivers. The city people apparently don't get that (or more likely don't care) as they don't ride.

The repairs we are/were asking for would take a city crew 30-45 minutes to patch. Now granted the city may need to check on the patches after a rain but we don't have to worry about that for 5 months and then about 3 x a year. In the meantime a serous injury could easily have been prevented. But instead the condition still exists as of this posting. Sure we understand that it takes months and years to play catchup after "ignoring" road decay problems for years (well ignoring with money, not with lip service especially during campaigns). But we are asking for a temporary fix. Apparently the city does not care enough about public safety to make a 30 minute fix. We are too "busy" go away. Well the people that run this website are too busy as well but we find the time when it comes to issues like this.

So given that calls and votes do nothing, emails are destroyed or never "found" we feel that our website must do the only responsible thing it can...notify the public of the situation and its attempts to get it fixed by city leaders and staffers. We take this stuff very seriously as hitting the pavement with your face at 25 mph hurts a lot. If using this website to call attention to this problem in this way is what we have to do to get it fixed, then so be it. That is what the web is for. We don't want any government agencies to be able to use the very effective "no one ever told us" defense, which unfortunately works very well and the government agencies use it very effectively every day. They have for years. Well that won't work here in this situation that's for sure. Because once someone gets hurt on this street they will google it and guess what a bonanza they will find in this posting. Hopefully it will yield punitive damages as well where the government agency's employees have demonstrated a "conscious disregard" for safety. Only then will government entities (and their employees) learn to to act properly and promptly in the face of dangerous conditions reported to them.

Our emails and their recipients are set forth below. The two responses were mostly meaningless and not to the point (as set forth above) and we don't want to further embarrass the senders at this point in this forum. Again the point is we told them what to do, how to fix it, where it was and why it was dangerous. Nothing else matters after that given the cost to repair is negligible.

From: Lakewood Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Sun, Jun 1, 2014 at 11:34 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Street problems
To: Tito Haes <thaes@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Vera Mendoza <vmendoza@ci.azusa.ca.us>, francesdelach@ci.azusa.ca.us, Candy Toscano <ctoscano@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Fran Delach <fdelach@ci.azusa.ca.us>
Cc: Walter Allen City Council Covina CA <wallen@covinaca.gov>, "John C. King, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Covina" <jking@covinaca.gov>, "Peggy Delach, Mayor, City of Covina" <pdelach@covinaca.gov>, transportation@covinaca.gov

​ Unfortunately once again local cities need to be reminded of their obligation to keep roads in good condition. Every Saturday (for that last 20 years) hundreds of bicycle riders head eastbound on the south side of E. Arrow highway to make a left turn on Northbound Cerritos Ave. Every sat. All year. (and yes thank you Azusa for repaving Cerritos Ave upon our request after 30 years of neglect)  The section of Arrow Hwy from S. Azusa Ave to Cerritos Ave​ has a number of areas where large chunks of asphalt have been broken out of the surface due mainly to the roadway slowly disintegrating. If the city feels that it does not need to spend sizeable portions of its budget every year keeping its roads properly resurfaced (due to years of failure to do this maint.), then it needs to run a monthly or weekly "road patch team" over all its roads to insure potholes and other road defects are fixed rapidly. If a bicycle hits one of these potholes there will very likely be a crash of 10 or more people given the size of the group that takes up most of the entire 2 eastbound lanes of E Arrow Hwy.. Im just making you aware of this now in writing so you cant later deny you did know of the dangerous condition. That way when you get sued this email will show up. It completely baffles me how derelict cities are in their ethical and legal responsibilities instead relying on the "oh we never new about it defense" well thats gone now. No more excuses. I like to call it "municipal malpractice".
It appears that that section of Arrow Hwy is divided between Covina and Azusa. (yet another opportunity cities use to dodge responsibility) I have to assume that Covina has responsibility for the south half of the road but can't be sure from google maps. Thats your problem to figure out between the two of you. However just to be sure I have put both cities on notice.
This is a major east/west thoroughfare and so it deserves some attention. "Properly" fixing the 10 more so problem areas in this road section mentioned above will take a few hours of city worker time. And most have the time apparently. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-street-services-workers-20140523-story.html

​I have to chuckle when I see blatant bicycle promotion like this  http://www.covinaca.gov/images/webuser/PublicWorks/Transportation/Covina_-_Info-post_-_Bikestation_-_04.10.pdf
then a total failure to ensure good roadway conditions to use those very bikes. Remember for those of you that dont ride costly road bikes​..the contact patch of most bicycle road tires is about the side of a quarter or less so think about that when doing roadway repairs/upgrades.  Use this as a handy guide as to the roadway surface quality that bicycles require http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/hdm/pdf/chp1000.pdf

​From: Lakewood Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Street problems
To: Alex Gonzalez <AGonzalez@covinaca.gov>
Cc: Tito Haes <thaes@ci.azusa.ca.us>, James Makshanoff <jmakshanoff@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Monica Vargas <MVargas@covinaca.gov>, Mayor Pro Tem John King <JKing@covinaca.gov>, Peggy Delach <PDelach@covinaca.gov>, City of Covina Transportation Division <transportation@covinaca.gov>, Walter Allen <wallen@covinaca.gov>, Kalieh Honish <khonish@covinaca.gov>, Daryl Parrish <dparrish@covinaca.gov>

​ We totally support bicycle infrastructure "creation". But over the years we have noticed there there seems to be more enthusiasm for "new" projects (maybe as a way to get votes, who knows) and less enthusiasm for "maintaining" what is already in place as that again is "boring" and not viewed as much by voters as a reason to vote for a candidate. Also when a new project is created there never seems to be a set aside to maintain that project over the next hundred years​. I keep telling cities. Take the money from the feds. (11% chance of passing)  https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr3978?utm_campaign=govtrack_email_update&utm_source=govtrack/email_update&utm_medium=email  But the feds are guilty of the same problem. Only money for new stuff not fixing and maintaining old. Unfortunately with local govt we voters have found that using the stick approach works better than the carrot. We also find out only after prodding that much of this work re maint going on behind the scenes and is never posted on the website. It also crawls at a snails pace compared to most things. Post a chart with all the sections of all major streets and when they are due for resurfacing or when last resurfaced. I know that usually exists. just hidden from view? why? The internet is a (mostly) free resource. Use it for REAL info dissemination.

--
Sincerely,
on behalf of
LAAG's Active Voting Constituents

​From: Lakewood Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 6:46 PM
Subject: Re: Street pothole problems [emergency maint needed]
To: Tito Haes <thaes@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Vera Mendoza <vmendoza@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Candy Toscano <ctoscano@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Joseph R. Rocha, Mayor city of Azusa" <jrocha@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Juana Hernandez, city of Azusa" <jhernandez@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Jeff Ferre, City attorney City of Azusa" <Jeff.Ferre@bbklaw.com>
Cc: Walter Allen City Council Covina CA <wallen@covinaca.gov>, "John C. King, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Covina" <jking@covinaca.gov>, "Peggy Delach, Mayor, City of Covina" <pdelach@covinaca.gov>, transportation Dept City of covina <transportation@covinaca.gov>, citymanager@covinaca.gov, mwalczak@covinaca.gov, mayor@covinaca.gov, pw@covinaca.gov, "William.Priest, city atty City of Covina" <William.Priest@bbklaw.com>

All:
Just rode this section of roadway again today. Problems start at the Lowes sign on E. Arrow Hwy and go east in the #2 lane to Cerritos Ave. (see below for more detail)
I really don't know why this is not fixed yet (after 18 days written notice which was acknowledged). this an item that does not need budgeting (so I don't want to hear that excuse) and takes 30-60 minutes of employee time. this is routine repair that needs to be expedited as it involves public safety.

Failure to get this fixed is a "conscious disregard of bicycle rider safety" and should someone get hurt I would tell them to sue the city for punitive damages. Thats right. look it up. Ask the city attorney how that works

​From: Lakewood Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Subject: Re: Street pothole problems [emergency maint needed]
To: Tito Haes <thaes@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Vera Mendoza <vmendoza@ci.azusa.ca.us>, Candy Toscano <ctoscano@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Joseph R. Rocha, Mayor city of Azusa" <jrocha@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Juana Hernandez, city of Azusa" <jhernandez@ci.azusa.ca.us>, "Jeff Ferre, City attorney City of Azusa" <Jeff.Ferre@bbklaw.com>
Cc: Walter Allen City Council Covina CA <wallen@covinaca.gov>, "John C. King, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Covina" <jking@covinaca.gov>, "Peggy Delach, Mayor, City of Covina" <pdelach@covinaca.gov>, transportation Dept City of covina <transportation@covinaca.gov>, citymanager@covinaca.gov, mwalczak@covinaca.gov, mayor@covinaca.gov, pw@covinaca.gov, "William.Priest, city atty City of Covina" <William.Priest@bbklaw.com>

Your funding problems solved. see attached



Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

July 11, 2014

The last day to submit FCC comment on network neutrality is July 15 2014


The last day to submit FCC comment on network neutrality is July 15 2014. This is it folks. If you want blogs and small non corporate websites to have a chance to make a difference in the world this is it. Tell the FCC's Tom Wheeler than corporate greed is not ok and that he should look out for us, the ones he is sworn to protect, not his country club buddies from the cable industry that spewed him forth (We are aghast at the fact Obama appointed him). Yes Mr Wheeler you are a Dingo watching our baby. Wheeler disagrees

You can make a comment here.  Email address not required. This is your last chance to tell the FCC what you think. This is more effective than writing to Congress. After this they have to finalize the rules to deal with this defeat (thanks again to the Supremes) you can also send an e-mail to make your opinion known at openinternet@fcc.govr or direct a tweet to Wheeler @TomWheelerFCC

These are all the comments so far (205,000)   This is the FCC press release as of may 15 calling for comment.

Other good background info: PBS on the future

Kickstarter

Businessweek: Wheeler Backtracks

Vox: Beyond Net Neutrality

Vox: Pressure on FCC

Vox: What is neutrality

And Last but not least, Susan Crawford's Book on the issue


Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

State Water Resources Control Board Prohibition of Activities and Mandatory Actions During Drought Emergency

The State Water Resources Control Board is putting teeth into its drought restrictions. This will affect Lakewood. Read the regulations or go to the homepage for the State Water Board Drought Year Water Action. Vote to take place July 15, 2014

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

July 7, 2014

Lakewood is correct in opposing a California Assembly resolution which seeks to eliminate the ability of cities to outsource services

The City of Lakewood is opposing this California Assembly resolution (also reprinted below as of this posting; House Resolution No. 29) which seeks to eliminate the ability of cities to outsource services, including law enforcement and fire. The problem of course is that those two services are just provided for other government bureaucracies (LASheriffs Dept.; LACoFire) so there is no threat to government unions. Don't fret Assembly Democrats. Now as for trash services and street sweeping etc, as the recent price increase in Lakewood suggests, we need to make sure there is full transparency at the city level for all services provided. Transparency heads off problems (like this Assembly resolution) but people at the city of Lakewood try their hardest to keep things "hidden" in plain view. ["oh you can always come into the clerk's office and ask to see a document"...yeah like voters have the time, energy and know how to do that...they can't even find time to vote!] All documents regarding outside contracting need to be posted on the city's website. How many times have we brought this up? What are you afraid of [Lakewood City Council] if someone sees an outside services contract? All those contracts should have a clause in them that says they are to be web posted as well as all documents that relate to the contract. Don't like that Mr. Contractor then don't contract with the city. Can you imagine how much Lakewood services would cost (i.e. taxes) if we had to pay government union level benefits and wages to all service providers? We are already paying outrageous sums to "grass cutters" for parks and center medians vs what private contractors would likely cost. This resolution is opposed by cities and of course supported by bloated over priced public unions who are bankrupting the state. This Assembly resolution needs to be stopped...now. And they way to do it is with more transparency.

Amended IN Assembly April 03, 2014 Amended IN Assembly March 13, 2014 CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION House Resolution No. 29

 Introduced by Assembly Member Gomez (Coauthors: Assembly Members Alejo, Ammiano, Atkins, Bloom, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Buchanan, Campos, Chau, Chesbro, Dababneh, Dickinson, Fong, Frazier, Gatto, Gonzalez, Hall, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Lowenthal, Nazarian, Pan, John A. Pérez, Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Weber, Wieckowski, Williams, and Yamada)

 February 04, 2014 Relative to outsourcing public services.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST HR 29, as amended, Gomez.

WHEREAS, Public services and assets are the fabric that binds our communities together. They are also a ladder to the middle class; and WHEREAS, Faced with severe budget problems in the wake of the Great Recession, state and local governments across America are handing over control of public services and assets to corporations that promise to operate them better, faster, and cheaper; and WHEREAS, Outsourcing these services and assets often fails to keep these promises, and too often it undermines transparency, accountability, and shared prosperity and competition - the underpinnings of democracy itself; and WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers have less say over how future tax dollars are spent and have no ability to vote out executives who make decisions that could harm the public interest; and WHEREAS, Outsourcing means taxpayers are often contractually limited to a single for-profit corporation; and WHEREAS, Outsourcing frequently means that wages and benefits for public service workers fall and the local economy suffers while corporate profits rise. The Center for American Progress Action Fund has found that of the 5.4 million people working for federal service contractors in 2008, an estimated 80 percent earned below the living wage for their city or region. For-profit corporations are three times more likely than the public sector to employ workers at poverty-threshold wages; and two million private sector employees working for federal contractors earn less than $12 an hour - too little to support a family. That is more low wage workers than are employed by McDonald’s and WalMart combined; and WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers often no longer know how their tax dollars are being spent. Meetings and records that used to be open to the public can become proprietary information when corporations take over; and WHEREAS, The Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda is one model that may help ensure transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition in the operation of public services and assets; and WHEREAS, Planks in the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda would require governments to post information about their contracts online and require contractors to open their books to the public, ensure that governments have the capacity to adequately oversee contracts, to cancel contracts that fail to deliver on their promises, prohibit law breaking companies from getting government contracts, require contractors to pay their employees living wages and benefits, require competitive bidding on contracts that guarantee company profits at the expense of taxpayers; and WHEREAS, Recent polling shows that taxpayers oppose the outsourcing of public services and assets to for-profit companies and support these common sense controls to ensure that their interests are protected; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly opposes outsourcing of public services and assets, which harms transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition, and supports processes that give public service workers the opportunity to develop their own plan on how to deliver cost-effective, high-quality services; and be it further Resolved, That the Assembly urges local officials to become familiar with the provisions of the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda; and be it further Resolved, That the Assembly intends to introduce and advocate for responsible outsourcing legislation; and be it further Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ click here to receive LAAG posts by email

July 2, 2014

Using private email for official government business may finally be ended in California


Interestingly its only taken 4 years for this issue to finally come to a head after we first raised the issue in 2011. The problem is simply that of public officials elected and otherwise using private non government email addresses for official government business and communications (with residents..or worse) as a way to "coyly" avoid Public Records requests laws. Its an old Karl Rove trick from 2007 (which may have been where local politicos learned it). But the law looks like it may finally be catching up with the politicos who like to play fast and loose on this. This article (by Chriss Street no less) notes that the California Supremes are going to be taking up the issue and given California's penchant for "Sunshine", city and local government politicos hiding their emails in private email accounts better start cleaning up their email accounts now (time to purge!). You will note that unlike most small cities, the Lakewood city council members do NOT have their own email addresses @lakewoodcity.org. Hmmm how interesting. Even if they did have emails @lakewoodcity.org they are not published anywhere to be found.

Our simple solution to the problem posed by the League of California Cities faux dilemma (in its opposition letter to the California Supremes) is not to allow elected officials and employees of government entities use non government email accounts to send and receive email messages (and attachments!) that pertain to government or taxpayer related business or issues. If the official errors on the side of inclusion and there is something personal on the government e mail server we let the government public records code sort that out. Its more than capable of doing that. We agree its too hard to police and store and get access to private email. That's one of the reasons the government officials want to use it and why we don't want them to. But that is no excuse to just allow officials to keep bypassing the open government problem Karl Rove style. If a government official receives a government related email on his private email account he/she just forwards that to his/her government email account and then responds (if necessary) with the government account. This can also be set up to take place automatically. All smartphones allow multiple domain emails on one phone. If you cant handle that then you have no business using email. Gmail allows you on the fly to select which domain and which email you want to reply from. This is simple people. Pay attention old fogies on the Calif Supreme court! Time for the email shuffle to end and evading public records requests.  This is not a technological problem. Its just a "problem" that local government officials don't want fixed.


Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ click here to receive LAAG posts by email