Whether or not he got jobbed on election day, Rick Avila’s third-place finish in the November 6 race for a seat on the San Bernardino City Council sounds about right. The guy clearly doesn’t appreciate the value of San Berdoo’s particular brand of democracy. Avila’s not only seeking a recount, but also a state attorney general investigation into the $8,100-a-day that San Bernardino County charges to do a ballot-by-ballot, hand-crafted double check of every vote cast. Avila points out that if he had come in third in a race for a seat on the Riverside City Council, a recount by Riverside County would have cost him only $400 a day. “I want to know why it costs 2,025 percent more than Riverside,” Avila says. “Is that a deterrent?” Perhaps, but maybe it’s a good one, weeding out the cheapskates from San Bernardino politics and channeling them toward Riverside. The market has spoken, Mr. Avila, and it seems to be saying that candidates in San Bernardino elections—and recounts—get what they pay for. Wait. Did that come out right?
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28
Rodney King is blasted with buckshot—while riding his bike, he says—and news crews swarm his Rialto home to overreact to the latest sad chapter in the troubled life of the black guy who is famous for being beaten to a pulp by four white Los Angeles police officers, who were found not guilty, which ignited days of enraged rioting that ultimately prompted King to cry out in anguished confusion: “Can’t we all just get along?” It’s impossible to say if King’s life is progressing much differently than it might have if he’d never been brutalized by the cops on that night in 1991—you know, except for the part where every misstep he makes becomes national news that gives everybody an opportunity to moralize about him for a few days. But things weren’t going so great for him before he became a reluctant public figure, either. Even harder to calculate, however, is how his guttural call for peace—his simple question: “Can’t we all just get along?”—was so quickly reduced to a cheap catch phrase, often a punch line, typically to a cynical joke, as if it were impossible to imagine anybody being so naïve. King’s question should be a rallying call, maybe a mantra, or the chorus to a new kind of holiday song. Instead, it’s a cryptic commentary on the sad chapters we keep writing in our own troubled lives.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29
While eating a plate of chicken teriyaki at King’s Teriyaki in Pomona, I discover that the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has a columnist named David Allen—and that his restaurant of the week was . . . King’s Teriyaki in Pomona.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30
I work up the nerve, dial Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen’s phone number—and my cell shows I have a call waiting.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1
Only one Santa Claus shows up for Hemet’s big annual Christmas Parade, thanks to an edict we assumed came from Ebeneezer Scrooge—but turns out to have been handed down by the City Manager’s office. “No entry may contain a Santa Claus of any type, living or otherwise,” read the instructions to parade participants. “This is done so there is no confusion with the Official Hemet Parade Santa—at the end of the parade. Santa hats are acceptable.” The ruling was pointed straight at the hearts of Hemet’s little children. “We don’t want to confuse kids if there is more than one Santa,” said Gerri Engelhart, who works in the city manager’s office. Of course, fewer Santas means fewer presents, and if the shattered children lining the parade route are any indication, I’m sure the City Manager’s message got through loud and clear—it’s going to be a crappy Christmas in Hemet.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2
The Riverside Press-Enterprise exposes the lucrative financial connections between three Temecula city council members—a majority—and wealthy developer Daniel Stephenson. Reporter David Danelski meticulously lays out how Stephenson’s various relationships with councilmembers Jeff Comerchero, Mike Naggar and Chuck Washington may have benefited his housing development business. “We all have to earn a living, we are entitled to that,” says Comerchero near the end of the piece, and is it coincidence that Comerchero uses the words “earn” and “entitled” so close together? Danelski points out that Comerchero wasn’t so good at earning a living—he faced home-foreclosure proceedings in 1998—until he got the title of Temecula City Councilman and began working for Stephenson. Now he makes more than $100,000 annually.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 3
Superior Court Judge Dallas Holmes retires, although it sounds a bit more like he is escaping the huge volume of criminal trials overwhelm the civil courts that he had been supervising. “I realized that our civil courts in Riverside County had virtually been destroyed,” Holmes says. “I didn’t want to be the last one out to turn off the lights.”