– April 20, 2015

Ca. city's fiscal emergency vote speeds bankruptcy

San Bernardino, with a budget shortfall of $45.8 million, is the third city in California to seek bankruptcy protection since last monthSan Bernardino, with a budget shortfall of $45.8 million, is the third city in California to seek bankruptcy protection since last month(AP) — San Bernardino declared a fiscal emergency Wednesday night, allowing the city to avoid a lengthy mediation process and head straight to federal bankruptcy court.

The declaration comes after the city announced last week that it would seek Chapter 9 protection, making it the third California city in recent weeks to make the rare move.

The City Council voted 5-2 to declare the emergency and file for bankruptcy protection amid a dire cash crunch that has officials worried San Bernardino can't meet payroll in August.

The vote was followed by another authorizing the city attorney to file for bankruptcy, but it was not clear when the planned filing would come.

Councilmen Chas Kelley and John Valdivia dissented on both votes.

Councilman Fred Shorett, who voted against bankruptcy last week, reversed his position Wednesday night and approved both moves.

"The horse is out of the barn — the whole world knows we're insolvent," Shorett said, according to the San Bernardino Sun. "I will be supporting going forward with Chapter 9 and fiscal emergency."

The vote could make the city of 210,000 people the third in California to seek bankruptcy protection since last month, following Stockton and Mammoth Lakes.

The city is facing a $45.8 million budget shortfall this year.

Last week's announcement of the bankruptcy plan has further stressed San Bernardino's finances by prompting a dozen employees to put in for retirement with hopes of cashing out accrued vacation and sick time, and it has spurred vendors to demand cash instead of credit, said Gwendolyn Waters, a spokeswoman for the city manager's office.

The debate over bankruptcy in San Bernardino has also raised questions about the city's financial management. Last week, City Attorney James Penman told the public that 13 of the last 16 budgets presented to the city council had been falsified, masking the city's deficit. The finance director, who is new to the job, said officials had borrowed cash from restricted funds to cover payments, and eventually ran out of money to pay the funds back.

Officials say the housing crisis — which walloped property and sales tax revenues — and the loss of state redevelopment funds took a toll on the city's budget. San Bernardino is located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

What do you think of all the national attention to California's drought?


gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 04/20/2015, 2:59 pm by Business Journal Staff
The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced today that five construction teams with international experience in developing high-speed rail programs...
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:57 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — A gas pipeline that exploded at a sheriff's gun range in CentralCalifornia, injuring 11 people, had been inspected twice in April for gas leaks, and no leaks were found, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Sunday. PG&E said its crews did a ground survey of the pipe on April 1 and an aerial survey on April 16. Authorities say Friday's explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff's gun range occurred while a county employee was using a front-loader to build a dirt berm to confine gunfire to the range. The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the explosion in cooperation with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, but PG&E says it appears a vehicle damaged the 12-inch pipeline. The utility detected a drop in pressure in the line seven minutes before it received a report of the explosion, it said. The blast sent 11 people to the hospital and shut down a nearby highway and rail line, as it created a tower of flames. Six people remained in the burn unit at Community Regional Medical Center on Sunday — four in critical condition and two others in stable condition, said Fresno County sheriff's spokesman Tony Botti. PG&E's natural-gas operations have been under scrutiny since a fiery 2010 PG&E pipeline blast killed eight people in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno. National Transportation Safety Board investigators blamed faulty safety practices by PG&E and lax oversight by state regulators for the blast. PG&E has previously said the pipeline in Friday's incident was surveyed in 2013, and there was about 40 inches of cover between the pipe and the surface in accordance with PG&E standards and federal code. The land, however, had been under constant construction in recent months, Botti said. PG&E also says it was not notified in advance of any work in the area. Such advance notice allows PG&E to map any gas lines. In this case, the line had been marked earlier with two signs that were about 100 feet in each direction from where the county employee was working, PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said. PG&E wasn't notified about the work near the gas line because someone thought the driver would be working in a different area, Fresno County Public Works Director Alan Weaver told the Fresno Bee ( Weaver said he had not had a chance to talk to the driver, who was among the critically injured victims, but all of the department's heavy equipment operators are trained on how to navigate utility lines.
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:55 pm by CALEB JONES, Associated Press
(AP) — The federal government on Monday proposed removing most of the world's humpback whales from the endangered species list, saying the massive mammals have rebounded after 45 years of protections. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries officials want to reclassify humpbacks into 14 distinct populations, and remove 10 of those from the list. The last time the agency delisted a species due to recovery was more than two decades ago. "As we learn more about the species — and realize the populations are largely independent of each other — managing them separately allows us to focus protection on the animals that need it the most," Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, said in a statement. Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, four years after the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling. The whales have rebounded in the North Pacific since the listing, which requires federal approval for federally funded or authorized activities that could harm whales or their habitat. Last year, the state of Alaska filed a petition to remove some North Pacific humpback whales from protection under the Endangered Species Act. That population, estimated at more than 5,800, feeds in Alaska in the summer and breeds in Hawaii in winter. Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that while it's a good sign that the whales are being considered for removal from the list, it might be premature. "On the one hand, it's good news that the whales are recovering. I think this population of whales is doing really well, and that shows that the Endangered Species Act works," she said. However, she said whales continue to be vulnerable to factors including climate change and ocean acidification, which affects the prey stock. "It would really be beneficial to continue to have the protections of the Endangered Species Act as the oceans change," she said. NOAA said in a release announcing its proposal that protection and restoration efforts have led to an increase in humpbacks in many areas. The last time a species' recovery prompted delisting was in 1994, when the agency removed the eastern North Pacific population of gray whales from the list. Under the latest plan, two of the humpback populations would be listed as threatened, in Central America and the Western North Pacific. The agency said these whales at times enter U.S. waters. The other two populations — in the Arabian Sea and off Cape Verde and northwest Africa — would remain listed as endangered. Humpbacks are found around the world. They weigh 25 to 40 tons and can grow up to 60 feet long, according to NOAA's website. The whales are primarily dark gray with some white spots, and their pectoral fins can get as long as 15 feet. If the proposal passes, the humpback populations that are removed from the endangered list would still be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The public has 90 days to comment on the recommended changes.
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:43 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce (FMBCC) will host the 2015 Central Valley Business Diversity Expo on April 22.  The event will be held from 1:30 to 7 p.m. at the Double Tree by Hilton in downtown Fresno. The expo seeks to bring together local and national firms and focus on diversity and inclusion through procurement and human resources.  This is the fourth year of the diversity expo and the FMBCC estimates the economic impact of the Valley’s minority communities is rapidly growing, representing $20 billion of consumer buying power and 30,000 businesses with sales near $7 billion. Communities of color are also estimated to represent 65 to 70 percent of the region’s population.  This year’s expo will offer scheduled business match-making sessions, buyers and business resource fair, procurement opportunity forums and a networking mixer.  Last year, the chamber brought together more than 150 participants, 24 buyers and exhibitors and hosted 67 business match-making sessions between local firms and large private and public sector buyers like PG&E, Wells Fargo and the U.S. Department of Forestry.  Participating exhibitors include Southern California Edison, PG&E, Community Medical Centers, Comcast NBC, City of Fresno, Caltrans and State Center Community College District.  For more information on the event, contact Chasitie Neal at
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:37 pm by SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — A woman filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against Southwest Airlines, claiming crew members mistook her husband's medical emergency for unruly behavior aboard a California flight and didn't assist him. Richard Ilczyszyn, 46, was found unconscious after the flight from Oakland to Orange County landed last year, and he died the next day at a hospital, according to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by his wife, Kelly Ilczyszyn, herself a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. He had suffered a blood clot. Southwest Airlines said in a statement that it was saddened to learn of the death, but its flight attendants handled the incident "appropriately and professionally." Ilczyszyn ran to the bathroom about 10 minutes before the September 2014 flight was set to land, according to the lawsuit, which also names his three kids as plaintiffs. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Crew members heard him crying out in pain, opened the bathroom door, but then closed it again and treated the incident as a passenger disruption, the suit says. "They just misread this, sat on their hands and this family has to suffer as a result of their particular negligence," said the family's attorney, Browne Greene. Orange County sheriff's officials boarded the plane after it landed, but the crew had wrongly told them a passenger had barricaded himself in the bathroom, so they decided to get everyone off before opening the bathroom door, the suit says. The process took about 30 minutes, and Richard Ilczyszyn was found unconscious. Southwest Airlines said the crew tried to reach him to provide assistance and the pilot arranged for first responders to meet the flight when it landed. The lawsuit says the first responders did not include paramedics. Doctors determined Richard Ilczyszyn had been deprived of oxygen to his brain for about 33 minutes while on the plane, according to the suit. Ilczyszyn was a financial trader who appeared on CNBC.
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:15 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks bounced back as U.S. companies turn in healthy earnings reports. Hasbro was among the biggest gainers Monday after the toy maker reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. The stock jumped 13 percent. Oilfield services company Halliburton also rose after beating analysts' estimates. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 208 points, or 1.2 percent, to 18,034. The Dow recovered most of the 279 points it lost Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 19 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,100. The Nasdaq composite climbed 62 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,994. The price of oil increased 64 cents to close at $56.38 a barrel in New York. Government bond prices edged lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.88 percent.
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:47 pm by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press
(AP) — Country music star Willie Nelson announced plans Monday to roll out his own brand of marijuana, capitalizing on his association with pot and the unofficial stoner holiday, 4/20. The move makes the 81-year-old "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" singer the latest celebrity to jump into the marijuana marketplace. "Willie's Reserve" will be grown and sold in Colorado and Washington, where recreational pot is legal. Nelson said in a statement that he's "looking forward to working with the best growers in Colorado and Washington to make sure our product is the best on the market." Nelson joins other famous pot personalities, including rapper Snoop Dogg, who endorses vaporizing products; singer Melissa Etheridge, developing marijuana-infused wine; and reality TV star and self-help guru Bethenny Frankel, who is working on a strain of Skinnygirl weed that wouldn't leave users with the munchies. "Like other industries, branding and creative marketing is a big part of supporting legal cannabis products," said Vicki Christophersen, director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association. Christophersen said these connections continue a long tradition of celebrities endorsing the use of marijuana — even decades before it became legal for adult use. Nelson, who was not available for comment Monday, is among those with well-established connections to cannabis. He's been a decriminalization advocate and has been busted for pot possession several times. He also appeared in the stoner comedy "Half Baked." Washington and Colorado made pot legal for adult use in 2012. Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia also have removed legal restrictions, and more states are expected to vote on legalization next year. The moves have created marketing opportunities, but links to celebrity smokers aren't always considered a positive. This year, the National Cannabis Industry Association decided to drop actor Tommy Chong — co-star of the "Cheech and Chong" comedy team — as it prepared to lobby Congress for pot-friendly regulations. The group wanted to move past the stoner stereotypes they say Chong represents in favor of positioning pot as similar to fine wine. Others see it differently, however. Chong has an endorsement deal with Marisol Therapeutics, a pot shop in Pueblo, Colorado, that sells a strain in his name. Store owner Mike Stetler called Chong marijuana's equivalent of the Marlboro Man, and when it comes to pot pitchmen, he asked, "Who better?"
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:39 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — One of the worst serial killers in California's Orange County's history has been denied parole and will remain in custody for at least seven more years. Fifty-six-year-old Brett Matthew Paul Thomas was denied parole Friday after family members of his victims traveled to San Diego to attend the hearing. In 1977, Thomas and Mark Titch went on a nine-day killing spree that claimed four lives. The killings all happened during robbery or burglary attempts. Thomas, who was 18, and Titch were convicted of murder and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. Titch died behind bars last year. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas had asked for a 15-year parole denial.
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:37 pm by Associated Press
 (AP) — This is the last year that the original version of Kraft Mac & Cheese sold in the U.S. will contain artificial preservatives or synthetic colors. In January, Kraft says its macaroni and cheese will be colored using paprika, annatto and turmeric. There has been a huge shift away from processed foods in the U.S. and larger food producers are trying to follow their customers in that direction. A petition begun in March 2013 by food activist Vani Hari, who blogs as the "Food Babe," asked Kraft to remove dyes from its macaroni and cheese. The petition garnered more than 365,000 signatures. Already the company is selling a version in the U.S., called Kraft Mac & Cheese Boxed Shapes, which has no artificial flavors, preservatives or synthetic colors. Kraft said that its other macaroni and cheese varieties sold in the U.S., such as Shapes Cups, Original Cups, Premium Flavors and Easy Mac will have no artificial flavors, preservatives or synthetic colors later next year. The Canadian macaroni and cheese version, called Kraft Dinner Original, will also eliminate synthetic colors by 2016's end. The company said that it has worked for some time to make the changes to the product, but had to ensure that customers would not notice a change in taste. "We weren't ready to change the product until we were confident that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese tastes like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese," the company said. Kraft Foods Group Inc. is based in Northfield, Illinois.
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:35 pm by AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Hundreds of people gathered Monday at a memorial service for televangelist Rev. Robert H. Schuller outside the glimmering cathedral he built in Southern California. Schuller died on April 2 after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 88. The memorial was held on a plaza at what was formerly Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in the heart of Orange County and is now a Roman Catholic cathedral. Among those listening to family members and religious leaders was Theresa Boyd, 54. She said Schuller inspired her with his uplifting message and by inviting speakers including political leaders and an Olympic athlete. "He brought in successful people (as speakers) and said, 'you can do it too if you believe in God,'" Boyd said. A private burial was to follow the service. Schuller started preaching from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in movie theater in California in 1955. He began the televised "Hour of Power" in 1970 to spread his upbeat messages on faith and redemption — that "possibility thinking" and love of God overcome hardships — to millions. At its peak in the 1990s, the program had 20 million viewers in about 180 countries. In recent years, Schuller faded from view after watching his church collapse amid a disastrous leadership transition and declines in viewership and donations that forced the ministry to file for bankruptcy in 2010. The glass-paned, 2,800-seat sanctuary where Schuller once preached was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Schuller, who wrote more than 30 books, including several best-sellers, lost a legal battle in 2012 to collect more than $5 million from his former ministry over claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract. Robert Harold Schuller was born in Alton, Iowa, in 1926 and ordained in 1950. He was pastor of Ivanhoe Reformed Church in Chicago from 1950 to 1955 before moving to California. Besides his son, Schuller and his wife had four daughters: Sheila, Jeanne, Carol and Gretchen. Wife Arvella Schuller died Feb. 11, 2014, after a brief illness.

Latest State News

Written on 04/20/2015, 1:57 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — A gas pipeline that exploded at...
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:37 pm by SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — A woman filed a wrongful-death...
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:39 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — One of the worst serial killers...
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:35 pm by AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Hundreds of people gathered...

Latest National News

Written on 04/20/2015, 1:55 pm by CALEB JONES, Associated Press
(AP) — The federal government on Monday...
Written on 04/20/2015, 1:15 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks bounced back as U.S....
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:47 pm by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press
(AP) — Country music star Willie Nelson...
Written on 04/20/2015, 12:37 pm by Associated Press
 (AP) — This is the last year that the...