By Allen David
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Who’s the boss at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department? Not Wendy Thomas, the 911 dispatcher whose name somehow makes people crave fast-food burgers with square-shaped patties. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips makes that clear in her ruling on a lawsuit by the Service Employees International Union. The suit claimed that the Riverside Sheriff’s retaliated against Thomas for being SEIU Local 721’s chief labor negotiator. Thomas contends department managers transferred her multiple times in two years and began tracking her union activities. Judge Phillips basically told Thomas to grow a pair. “Thomas has taken a shotgun approach to making her case: she has set forth a litany of offenses she alleges (the county) committed against her,” Phillips wrote. “Many, however, are petty workplace gripes, and assuming they occurred, do not rise to the level of retaliatory adverse employment actions.” Soon afterward, the judge called a recess and kicked back in chambers.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Bob Pratte, The Press-Enterprise columnist who roams the innermost Inland Empire and reports back to us in a folksy style perhaps best described as Whatever Comes to Mind at the Moment He Happens to Be Writing, contemplates what to do when approached by a panhandler in Hemet. In the old days everybody just said, “Hello, Mr. Mayor!” But a lot more people are asking a lot more other people for spare change in Hemet, and Pratte is concerned about all of them. “Whatever the reason, whether practiced by someone truly in need or others looking for easy cash, panhandling creates an image of neediness in Hemet.” Thanks, Bob! Somebody had to tell those people scrounging for food to wake up and smell the coffee . . . and the steak-and-eggs, with a side of hash browns . . . and while they are at it, an order of wheat toast . . . and a glass of orange juice, too . . . because smelling doesn’t cost anything, meaning they don’t have to panhandle, meaning they won’t look so embarrassingly needy. But Pratte realizes it takes a village, and if the employed, fed and sheltered people of Hemet are going to take back their village, they must consider their responsibility to their fellow man. He writes, “Unquestionably, giving away money in the busy panhandling spots encourages the behavior.” Pratte gets the selfish off the cruel hook of conscience by relaying some tough love from the experts: “Interestingly, people who work with the poor advise against giving money to panhandlers,” Pratte says—and don’t bother wondering who, exactly, are these “people who work with the poor.” Just trust Pratte that they exist and that he really has spoken with them.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Score another one for the bleeding hearts who are turning our jails and prisons into country clubs. Desert Hot Springs Police officer Anthony Sclafani is convicted of federal civil rights violations against two people in custody in 2005. One day, Sclafani fired a Taser at a handcuffed suspect arrested for a parole violation and being high on pot. Next day, when a female suspect pounded on her cell door, Sclafani pepper-sprayed her in the face and eyes, then fired three Taser shots. Each of Sclafani’s two convictions come with 10-year maximum prison sentences, so score one for him! Those places are turning into country clubs.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18
“Big Bear Idol,” a high school talent show with a twist, is coming to the Performing Arts Center tonight, courtesy of the local Rotary Club. My initial reaction is to bemoan the latest belaboring of the worn-out American Idol concept. But then I thought about it—Big Bear Idol . . . hmmmm—and decided that it’s nice that somebody is finally focusing positive attention on kids who are heavy and hirsute.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Turns out, hairy and hirsute has nothing to do with it.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Former Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero dies in a rehabilitation and long-term care facility in Ontario. Romero is only 57 years old, yet none of the 1,143 words that Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reporter Monica Rodriguez devotes to the story mentions the cause of his death—or even why the cause of death isn’t mentioned. All we get is that Romero had been ill since September. That tidbit comes from Vernon Price, a Pomona resident who was a friend of Romero’s—a connection that, somewhat bittersweetly, extended to their membership in a club called the Pomona Breakfast Optimists.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
I awake feeling optimistic, remember Joe Romero and shift straightaway to pessimism.al