Friday, August 26, 2005
PLAN DENYING FUNDS TO CHAMBER FAILS
SUPERVISORS: Though two chambers would have gotten money, one that lost favor would not.
11:06 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 23, 2005
By KIMBERLY TRONE / The Press-Enterprise
Riverside County supervisors Tuesday refused to support colleague Jeff Stone's bid to reward a chamber of commerce he helped start and snub a chamber he opposes.
Stone, who represents southwest Riverside County, had requested $30,000 for the Menifee-Sun City Chamber of Commerce, which is headed by Julie Johnson, his former staff member. The new chamber opened in May.
He also sought $10,000 for the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce, but didn't offer money to the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, which has represented the area for 30 years. Stone abandoned his support for the Menifee Valley chamber in February, when it was considering a regional partnership with the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce. Stone opposed the plan, which has been put on hold.
Stone faced a storm of criticism from several Menifee Valley chamber members at Tuesday's meeting. They said it was unfair for him to funnel public money to a rival chamber he helped create.
"Mr. Stone, you threw us a curveball -- and I voted for you," said Chuck Cena, a member of the Menifee Valley chamber. "This is a very, very poor political move."
Stone's request for the chambers was part of a $141,500 spending package for 15 nonprofit organizations in the southwest Riverside County. The board approved the balance of Stone's funding requests.
The money comes from the county's Community Improvement Designation fund.
By offering support to the new chamber, Stone said he was attempting to bolster an organization that is positioned to bring jobs and economic development to the region. But Supervisor Bob Buster said he was "very sad" to see how Stone's actions had divided the Menifee Valley community.
"I would be using my office to bring these two groups together," Buster said.
Supervisor John Tavaglione said he agreed with Buster, and pointed out the special fund was intended to support communitywide activities, such as youth programs.
"Chambers are meant to get support from the business community," Tavaglione said.
Reach Kimberly Trone at (951) 368-9456 or email@example.com
STONE REBUKED FOR CHOOSING ONE GROUP OVER ANOTHER
By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
AUGUST 24, 2005 - THE CALIFORNIAN
RIVERSIDE ---- County officials Tuesday rejected Supervisor Jeff Stone's plan to give public money to a fledgling Menifee chamber of commerce headed by a former Stone staff member, while giving nothing to a rival chamber that has served the area for three decades. County supervisors said they could not support a proposal that would divide a community.
In proposing to deliver $141,500 in county community improvement funds to 15 organizations, Stone asked the Board of Supervisors to award $30,000 to the Menifee-Sun City Chamber of Commerce, which formed in April.
The business group is led by former Stone staff member Julie Johnson, who left in May to become the chamber's president and chief executive officer. At the same time, Stone's list of suggested recipients left out the established Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, which was Johnson's former employer and has frequently clashed with the supervisor.
Stone contended the older group's decision months ago to explore a merger with the Hemet chamber threatened to hurt Menifee by undermining the community's efforts to build a tax base and form a city. A Menifee Valley member said the merger was no longer on the table. In any event, the county supervisors said Tuesday they could not support a proposal that would give one business group tens of thousands of dollars and zero to another group performing the same service in the same community. "I'm very sad that this took place," Supervisor Bob Buster said. "We're all here to bring communities together, not to split up groups."Supervisor John Tavaglione added that the county funds in question were intended for nonprofit organizations that provide public services to communities, not for chambers of commerce that promote private business development.
After seeing that his proposal was about to be shot down, Stone withdrew the spending request for the Menifee-Sun City chamber, as well as a request to award $10,000 to an Idyllwild chamber.
The supervisors voted 4-0, with member Roy Wilson absent, to approve the remaining requests.Among the recipients are Canyon Lake Lighthouse, $5,000; the Winchester Volunteer Fire Department, $10,000; the county's Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, $5,000; the Commission on Women, $2,500; the county Economic Development Agency, $25,000; and Temecula Noon Rotary, $500.
Six people, most of them members of the older Menifee Valley chamber, strode to the podium to protest Stone's plan. Among them was Joe Daugherty, a Sun City business owner and local school board member. "We don't need to split Menifee any more," Daugherty said. Dawn Prather of Murrieta, a past chairwoman of the Menifee Valley chamber, asked, "Why is only the new chamber getting a share and the old chamber being abandoned?" Michael Foster, president and chief executive officer for Menifee Valley, read a one-page letter from the group's membership.
"It is with some confusion and frustration that we come to you today concerning Supervisor Stone's request to grant public funds as a means of endorsing a chamber of commerce that he himself has started," Foster said. "We are both frustrated and confused because, never in the history of this board has any supervisor immersed himself or herself into the politics of a local community to the point that we have reached here today. ... He is apparently doing everything in his power to shut down a chamber that has faithfully served its community for more than 30 years."
Stephen Tapley of Temecula, who owns a Sun City shopping center, said he was pressured by members of Stone's staff to provide office space for the new chamber rent free. Stone disputed that point, saying the private business group intended to pay a fee.Stone made no apologies for focusing attention on the new chamber."Frankly, in the last year the old chamber had the wrong board of directors. They were going down the wrong path," Stone said. "They need to focus on building their own tax base, not Hemet's."The established chamber claims more than 300 members. Stone said the new group's membership is approaching 200.Johnson, the new group's president, did not speak at the meeting.
In an interview Monday, she said it was appropriate to fund her chamber and not the other because her group is the one with the local focus."Two chambers can exist and we're proving it right now," Johnson said. "That's just the way it is; it's called the free enterprise system. It's the American way of life. You don't create monopolies, and that benefits the American consumer."Contact staff writer Dave Downey at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MUST BE NICE TO HAVE THE POWER TO SPEND PUBLIC FUNDS ON YOUR FRIENDS AND THEIR PET PROJECTS, OVER THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY!!!!!!!
STONE PLAYING FAVORITES WITH FORMER STAFF MEMBER?
By: The Californian
A raspberry ---- the "Playing Favorites" award ---- to county Supervisor Jeff Stone, for his attempt to funnel $30,000 in taxpayer funds to a new chamber of commerce in Menifee in a politically motivated bid to support it over a more established chamber.
The long-standing Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce stumbled earlier this year with an ill-advised bid to link up with the Hemet-San Jacinto chamber, prompting local business owners to form the new Menifee-Sun City Chamber. Stone's personal support has helped the new chamber gain credibility in the local business community, and while one can question whether a county supervisor should be injecting himself into such a localized dispute, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. But trying to boost the fortunes of one over the other with taxpayer money crosses the line (public support of any chamber of commerce is questionable). When it became clear this week that his fellow supervisors weren't going to allow the gift, Stone withdrew the request. But Stone should step back from this dispute and let the Menifee and Sun City business communities sort their own dirty laundry.
THIS NEW CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WAS STARTED BY A FORMER STAFF MEMBER OF JEFF STONE. SO, HE'S SUPPORTING HIS BUDDY..... SOUNDS WRONG TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SUPERVISOR STONE SUED OVER FEBRUARY ACCIDENT
By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
AUGUST 2005 - THE CALIFORNIAN
RIVERSIDE ---- A lawsuit has been filed against Supervisor Jeff Stone and Riverside County in connection with a traffic accident the former Temecula councilman was involved in while driving his county vehicle to work last winter. The suit, filed by Elena Satalan of Moreno Valley, seeks an unspecified amount of damages from Stone and the county to cover medical expenses and loss of pay she allegedly incurred, according to court documents. The suit states that she was unable to work following the collision.
The accident occurred at 7:28 on the morning of Feb. 22, near the intersection of Alessandro Boulevard and Barton Street in southeastern Riverside. Stone, reached by telephone Friday, said he was driving from his Temecula home to his office at the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside at the time. The suit was filed Aug. 5 in Riverside Superior Court. Satalan was driving a 1999 Toyota; Stone drove a 2005 Chrysler 300 owned by the county. Stone said the accident occurred on a cloudy, rainy morning when roads were slick. "It was one of those unfortunate situations where it was raining profusely," he said. "When the light turned yellow, there was plenty of time for the cars in front of me to go through the yellow light, but someone slammed on the brakes."Stone said he responded by slamming on his brakes, but was unable to stop his vehicle in time to avoid skidding into the rear end of the car in front of him."It was a very minor impact," he said, saying the county car was traveling 5 to 8 mph. "It was a slight tap." He said the damage to the woman's car totaled no more than $200 to $300."I feel bad if she was in fact hurt," Stone said. "Unfortunately, accidents happen. This is why you have insurance. This is the first accident I have had in 10 or 15 years." Satalan filed a claim for damages with the county on May 13, and on July 15 county officials denied it. Neither Satalan nor her attorney could be reached for comment Friday. Elected to a four-year term in 2004, Stone has been a member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors since early January. He represents the county's 3rd District, which stretches from Temecula and Murrieta to Hemet and Idyllwild.Contact staff writer Dave Downey at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or email@example.com.
A: MUST BE NICE TO DRIVE A NICE FANCY CAR ON THE TAXPAYERS MONEY!
B: WHY WOULD SOMEONE DURING A RAIN STORM BE TRYING TO RACE THROUGH AN INTERSECTION, ESPECIALLY A YELLOW LIGHT? I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DRIVE CAREFULLY DURING INCLEMENT WEATHER - NOT DASH THROUGH YELLOW LIGHTS.
C: WHY WAS THE HIT DRIVERS' MS. SATALAN CLAIM REFUSED BY THE COUNTY? OR, WHY DIDN'T STONE TAKE CARE OF THE PAYMENT FOR THE AUTOMOBILE DAMAGE HIMSELF???
STONE'S STYLE RUBS SOME WRONG WAY
By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
AUGUST 18, 2005 THE CALIFORNIAN
Supervisor Jeff Stone's abrasive, confrontational style of pushing initiatives is getting him noticed, not only in Riverside County but in Sacramento.In recent weeks, the former Temecula councilman has locked horns with the county sheriff over inmates who get out of jail early, with the state's top fire official over whether a wildfire air attack base should remain in Hemet and with Sacramento lawmakers over sex-offender legislation. Every step of the way, Stone has grabbed headlines.
"He wants his name in print every day," suggested Bill Breliant, an 82-year-old Beverly Hills man who used to breed race horses in Hemet and owns 138 acres next to Hemet-Ryan Airport, the epicenter of perhaps Stone's hottest issue. "He's making news, but he's causing a lot of problems for himself. He threatens the sheriff. He threatens everybody."Others see a different county supervisor."It's nice to see somebody on the Board of Supervisors who doesn't just fall into line," said Art Cassel, a Lake Mathews-area resident who attends many board meetings. "He is willing to go out on a limb. I don't always agree with what he says, but at least he is thinking outside the box, and that is something we need in Riverside County.""He's not part of the good-old-boy network, and I like that," Cassel said.On the county board, however, one colleague ---- Supervisor Bob Buster ---- suggests that Stone's often-combative approach is unhealthy. The approach not likely to produce the results Stone wants, Buster said, and may well drive a wedge of distrust between the county and other government agencies.A state lawmaker who was targeted by Stone's attempt to censure 10 Democrats earlier this summer suggested the approach could in fact backfire."You know, we're all human beings," said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles. "There might come a moment when I might be able to repay the favor when I'm voting for something."Taking on Sacramento"
On June 21, Stone asked supervisors to issue a "vote of no confidence" for Goldberg and other Democrats on the public safety committees of the Assembly and Senate. He suggested the legislators repeatedly resisted efforts by local Republican lawmakers to keep convicted rapists behind bars for longer periods.Stone withdrew the item when it became clear he did not have the board's support."I didn't agree with him on that one," Supervisor Roy Wilson said. "You don't hit somebody over the head with a two-by-four and turn around and say, 'We need your help with this bill.'"Goldberg said she never heard of a county board censuring the Legislature."You can tell him from me that the only vote of 'no confidence' that I listen to is the one from the people of the district that I represent," Goldberg said. "I think if he wants to have an impact on legislation, he should do what every other organization does, which is to pass a resolution saying that he supports or opposes a certain bill. That's the useful thing to do. This other stuff is probably just for show."It wasn't just for show, Stone said."Yes, it certainly would have gotten some publicity," he said. "But it would have shed some light on the bills that have been killed."While it is true Goldberg and others represent specific districts, Stone said lawmakers should look out for the interests of all Californians.Besides the Legislature, Stone has been clashing with Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle and with Dale Geldert, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.Stone has expressed concern on many occasions about the 3,000 inmates annually being let out of jail before completing their sentences, to make room in Riverside County's crowded correctional system for incoming prisoners. The sheriff has proposed building large new jails and expanding existing ones, costly projects that take years. Stone has stressed cheaper alternatives, such as buying the defunct dormitory-style prison at Eagle Mountain in the eastern Riverside County desert, that he says could deliver relief in months rather than years. Doyle has maintained that Eagle Mountain's dormitory-style housing isn't adequate for holding the county's mostly violent inmate population, and that the remote location would threaten the safety of correctional officers who would be an hour from the nearest hospital.Fighting over public safetyIn July, while Doyle was on vacation, Undersheriff Neil Lingle sparred with Stone at a meeting where the supervisor unveiled his 21-page report on his suggested jail solutions, including Eagle Mountain."The undersheriff's comments ... referring to my study as a farce were improper," Stone asserted later in a three-page letter to Doyle. "The use of words like 'grandstanding' were not appropriate," he added.The letter was widely perceived among county officials as an attempt by Stone to extend an olive branch to Doyle, but the fact that copies were sent to seven newspapers raised eyebrows among the officials. Stone insisted on Friday that he was not seeking still more publicity by distributing the letter, but rather letting the public know what he was doing.Wilson, the supervisor from the Palm Springs area, said, "I wish that he and the sheriff would just sit down and work out their differences rather than fighting back and forth, which has been the M.O. lately on both sides."
Stone has been at odds with the top brass at CDF for even longer.The state agency, which provides fire protection for Riverside County under a contract, was slowly moving to shift its regional air tankers from their base at Hemet-Ryan Airport to March Air Reserve Base 15 miles to the northwest. It was a decision that was actually initiated by the Riverside County board back in 1997, albeit long before Stone arrived. Earlier this year, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger budgeted more than $8 million for the relocation, which could be completed by 2006.However, in April, three months after taking office, Stone lobbied to halt the project. He maintained the relocation would leave forested areas around Idyllwild, which is in his district, more vulnerable to a fast-moving wildfire because it would take a few extra minutes for planes to reach the mountains from March. Stone's 3rd District stretches from Temecula and Murrieta through the Menifee-French Valley area to Hemet and the San Jacinto Mountains. At the county board's urging, state officials agreed in May to take another look at whether the planes should stay at Hemet-Ryan. As the summer has dragged on, Stone has grown increasingly impatient. Stone insists the state missed a self-imposed Aug. 1 deadline for making a decision. State officials maintain they never made such a promise. A forest of letters The dispute has produced a flurry of letters between him and the state."We've had enough paper generated from the letters through the exchanges over this thing to wipe out an entire forest," quipped Michael Jarvis, a CDF spokesman in Sacramento.In the most recent one, dated Wednesday, Stone and Supervisor John Tavaglione called on area lawmakers to jump into the fray. The supervisors also questioned the CDF director's motives."We believe that the director's decision on this issue may be more politically motivated than public safety motivated," the supervisors wrote.That line brought a sharp retort Friday from Jarvis."This clearly shows a lack of knowledge on what Director Geldert has been doing on this project," Jarvis said. "Questioning his motives is not only unfair, it is irresponsible. You are talking about someone who has committed his whole life to public safety, as has the entire administration at CDF here. ... So that line is offensive."It is one thing to criticize the agency's handling of the study, he said, but quite another to attack the character of the state's stop fire official."This has taken on a nasty tone, which is very unfortunate," Jarvis said.Stone defended his sharp tone."No. 1, he (Geldert) doesn't keep his commitment to me (to deliver a report by Aug. 1)," Stone said. "It leads me to believe that he doesn't have the confidence in his staff to write a report about the efficacy of keeping the air base at Hemet-Ryan."Supervisor Buster suggested Stone should tone down his rhetoric on Hemet-Ryan and other issues, as well."We don't need to get in a fight all the time to get things done. That is self-defeating and ultimately could hurt the reputation of the county," Buster said. "I think you ought to go to great lengths to work cooperatively with your opposition first."Shaking things upStone countered that, while he has "always been a believer in diplomacy," at times one must speak out."One thing I will do, I will rattle the status quo if they are going down the path of a political solution ... and making a decision that is contrary to the best interests of this county," Stone said. "The people who elected me wanted to see someone in there who would shake things up."Still, Buster suggested Stone's confrontational way of shaking things up often does not result in all the facts being put on the table."It generates a lot of heat, but not a lot of light," Buster said.On the other hand, Wilson suggested that, for the most part, the heat radiating from Stone's seat at the county dais stems is no different than the drive and enthusiasm that each of the other supervisors roared into office with upon first being elected to the board."I appreciate Jeff's energy level and his desire to move forward," Wilson said.The veteran supervisor said the fight with CDF is being fanned into flame by sincere concern."Jeff is charging full speed ahead because many constituents in his district feel that fire service would be better served by having the air attack base down at Hemet rather than at March," Wilson said. "He is issue-driven there, not necessarily picking on CDF."Stone said he is not picking on anybody."I'm very frank," he said. "Maybe when I mention the truth people don't like that, but it doesn't mean that it is an attack. I do my best to attack issues."Contact staff writer Dave Downey at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIGHWAY 74 BUDGET DOUBLES IN FIVE YEARS
By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
AUGUST 23, 2005 - THE CALIFORNIAN
RIVERSIDE ---- Widening Highway 74 between Lake Elsinore and Perris will cost $76.4 million, nearly double the original amount set aside for the project five years ago, regional transportation officials learned Monday.The Riverside County Transportation Commission's budget committee voted 6-1 to recommend increasing the budget of $69.8 million by $6.6 million to cover the soaring costs of land and construction materials. Costs also have increased as a result of weather-related delays.
Construction workers lost time during last winter's downpours. They also were sidelined for months afterward because the near-record rains saturated soil so much that groundwater rising to the surface prevented digging, agency officials said. As a result, the contractor, Riverside Construction Co., is not expected to complete the 8.5 miles of new four-lane highway under construction between Interstates 15 and 215 until about a year from now, said Hideo Sugita, deputy executive director of the transportation commission."It could slip further if there are significant rains this winter and if the rains impact construction," Sugita said. "The prior schedule for completion was April of '06. We're now looking into the summer of '06 and it could be further out if we have more rain." The first three miles is open between I-15 and Wasson Canyon Road, and construction is continuing on the remaining section to the east. When completed, Highway 74 will be a shiny, four-lane ribbon of asphalt, with a continuous left-turn lane and 8-foot-wide shoulders, through an area that has been dubbed "Blood Alley" because of its frequent fatal accidents.
Monday's no vote was cast by committee member Jeff Stone, the county supervisor from Temecula. Stone said he voted against the revised budget to protest the escalating costs and the transportation agency's apparent helplessness to prevent the increases.He termed the series of increases "embarrassing."
The panel's vote will serve as a recommendation to the full 29-member commission, which is scheduled to take up the matter Sept. 13. Bob Magee, chairman of the budget committee and Lake Elsinore mayor, wanted to know whether the committee had a choice on whether to go along with the latest spike, short of stopping the project in its tracks."We've gone in five years from a $40 million project to a $76 million project," Magee said. "Do we have any alternative but to approve this budget adjustment?""No, sir," Sugita responded.The commission initially established a project budget of $40.5 million in January 2000. In July of that year, the commission revised the figure upward to $51.3 million, reflecting efforts to accelerate land purchases and make amends for chewing up the coastal sage-scrub habitat of the threatened California gnatcatcher bird. A second increase to $69.8 million was approved in May 2002, reflecting the skyrocketing cost of buying land in one of the nation's hottest real estate markets."This is the third time staff is coming back to the well for a budget adjustment," Sugita said. He said the latest change is being driven by yet more increases in land costs, both to provide room for the new highway lanes and to add territory to gnatcatcher reserves in the area.
Sugita said the biggest single increase ---- $3.2 million ---- is being driven by soaring costs for construction materials such as asphalt and gravel, which are in short supply because of the booming construction going on throughout Southern California.
It hasn't helped, said Eric Haley, executive director, that landowners have been pushing to get higher prices for their property. "People at the end of the line are looking for a strategic benefit in this process," Haley said. The agency is in the process of buying 525 parcels for Highway 74, a record for a Riverside County road-widening project. Sugita said most have been obtained, but about 50 more properties are needed. He said negotiations for a few properties are deadlocked and likely will wind up in court. Contact staff writer Dave Downey at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or email@example.com.
WHY WOULD JEFF STONE VOTE AGAINST THE REVISED BUDGET? I DIDN'T KNOW WE COULD CONTROL MOTHER NATURE AND ONE OF THE WETTEST WINTERS ON RECORD, THE HIGHER COSTS FOR BUILDING MATERIALS, OR THE COSTS OF REAL ESTATE TO PURCHASE ADDITIONAL NEEDED PROPERTY?!?!? ALSO, WHAT'S WRONG WITH PROTECTING THE NATCATCHER BIRD???
I FIND HIS COMMENTS "EMBARRASSING"!