TUESDAY, MARCH 4
Homes are still being evacuated this morning in the aftermath of a train derailment near Mecca, where 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid and a lesser amount of phosphoric acid spilled from 29 overturned rail cars. The train was traveling from Colton, which figures.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5
What the hell is it with Colton, lately, anyway? Last night’s City Council approval of a June 3 recall election against Mayor Kelly Chastain—for the vague accusations of misusing her position and a lack of fiduciary responsibility—is just the latest in a getting-very-long series of local government scandals ranging from bankruptcy to bribery. Four weeks ago, former Councilman Ramon Hernandez pleaded guilty to 24 felony counts of misusing public funds to pay for hotel rooms and calls to sex lines. It makes a fella yearn for the old days, when the most-familiar face in town was Vern Schafer, founder of old Colton Piano. Except, I guess, that he ended up filing for bankruptcy, too.
THURSDAY, MARCH 6
They’re called Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the elders of the Windsong Valley Congregation in Wildomar are refusing to take the stand and tell what they know about a child molestation case. They insist that statements made to them by defendant Gilbert Simental of Murrieta are confidential because of laws protecting the separation of church and state. Riverside County prosecutor Burke Strunsky says confidentiality laws don’t apply because the Jehovah’s Witnesses elders have already told others that Simental admitted to molesting two girls—who were 9 and 11 when they spent an overnight with his daughter two years ago. The Riverside Press-Enterprise runs an excellent exploration of the issue in today’s paper, talking to just about everybody with a relevant opinion. The exception? Jehovah. Whatever happened, presumably he witnessed it, too.
FRIDAY, MARCH 7
The best part about the 100 Tasers that the Ontario City Council just bought for the Police Department is that each of them will be equipped with a Taser Cam—an audio-visual recording device that captures suspects’ actions and comments before they get buzzerinoed. “It’s cutting-edge technology,” says Deputy Police Chief Eric Hopley. “It will be effective for both criminal and civil suits.” Yeah, yeah, yeah—that’s what he has to say. But everybody knows that the true joy of the Taser Cams ultimately will wind up on YouTube, where the “Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” video—last September’s incident in which a University of Florida student was zapped for aggressively questioning Sen. John Kerry—remains among the most-viewed videos. I just watched it again, and it’s just as funny as ever. For pure hilarity, you really can’t beat the semi-electrocution of private citizens by the police. It’s comedy gold!
SATURDAY, MARCH 8
Speaking of life imitating art, how about this early morning’s odd tussle in Riverside, where an argument between two brothers—aged 28 and 30—over the television volume ended with one of them in a hospital with serious stab wounds? I’m sure I saw that on an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.
SUNDAY, MARCH 9
Speaking of déjà vu, Ontario’s local paper, the Inland Valley Bulletin, runs an interesting—if out-of-its-territory—story about the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, which happened exactly 75 years ago tomorrow. It’s a little less interesting when I read it—word-for-freakin’-word—again a few minutes later in San Bernardino’s local paper, the Sun. No surprise, the stories were both written by the same reporter, Kristopher Hanson. What is surprising is that Hanson is listed as a staff writer for both the Sun and the Bulletin—especially since I know Kris Hanson, who is actually a staff writer at the Long Beach Press-Telegram. That explains why Hanson wrote a Long Beach-based story, but it raises the rather disturbing question of why two Inland Empire dailies would deceive their readers by presenting him as their staff writer. The really disturbing answer is that all three newspapers—and many more in Southern California—are owned by MediaNews Group, Inc., a Denver-based operation headed by corporate raider Dean Singleton. The company’s consolidation tactics are eliminating truly local newspapers throughout the Southland by firing reporters and sharing the stories written by the skeletal staffs. And not just reporters. Former Bulletin publisher Dave Kuta, who left the paper a year or so ago to become publisher in Long Beach, just got canned—and replaced by Mark Ficarra, the publisher of the Daily Breeze in Torrance, from where he’ll now call the shots at both papers. Anyway, I’m on to the next story in the Sun—today’s latest account of the Chino beef scandal, which is really shocking—or, at least it was the first time I read it, a few minutes ago in the Bulletin.
MONDAY, MARCH 10
Corona High School seniors took a field trip to the local wetlands a couple weeks ago, escorted by the project manager for Inland Empire Waterkeeper. Her name is Autumn DeWoody. Just thought you ought to know. I know I’d want you to tell me.