Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The FC Blog Responds...and Jumps to New Site

The Foothill Cities Blog has responded formally to the letter from the Pomona City Attorney. Better yet, we’ve moved! And best of all, we’re back to covering the FC, which has been hard to do over the past couple days.

If you’re not automatically redirected, please head on over to our new site to see our response:

Teacher Quality, Free Market Lessons

Education isn't our specialty, but we couldn't help but ruminate on this PSN article from last week. With so many qualified folks competing for teaching jobs, how is it that some critics still complain that we don't have worthy teachers in our classrooms?

One applicant, Jane Yun, 29, said that any teaching job was fine after seeing her expectations lessened after viewing the hundreds of teaching candidates vying for a handful of jobs.

Critics can make what claims they want about teachers' unions or excessive bureaucracy or lack of funding, but it doesn't seem fruitful to argue that we have a fundamental dearth of qualified teachers. Anyone disagree?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Poor Pomona"

So says frequent FC commenter and local character Miss Havisham in many of her comments on our blog.

We will have more on Pomona tomorrow.

Claremont Insider Outsources to India

Pasadena Now may still be waiting for their first stories from India (see below), but the Claremont Insider has already outsourced a hilarious post on Claremont news.

Bogaard's Bike Shorts

The PSN has a photo gallery up from yesterday's ride to kick off Bike Week. Take a look and compare their shots to reader AA's photos, which we posted a mere hour or two after the event (our greatest scoop to date, *wink*).

Reporting City Council Meetings

Well, the first Pasadena City Council meeting since the India brouhaha has come and gone (video here, click on the May 14th meeting). Unfortunately, coverage from the subcontinent will not be forthcoming, not this week anyway, as the AP notes:

[Pasadena Now] was planning to put the work from the reporters online this week -- but the plans have been postponed because of the reaction that has been received.

James Macpherson says he has been so deluged with media requests about the plan he hasn't had time to train the correspondents.

Until they do get trained up, Todd Ruiz will remain without much competition. So, what did he have to say in the PSN about last night's meeting?

With a school board loathe to air its dirty laundry and a City Council that tries to relegate the thornier issues to outside of chambers, Monday's meeting at the Pasadena Conference Center was mostly a recap of successful joint efforts.

Indeed. James Macpherson argued, via email, that such a perspective is something he could have added while editing the piece, a point made by Ed Barrera among others. Of course, we'll have to wait at least another week to see if that's really the case.

Pomona's Recent Press Clippings

So last week the city of Pomona sent us a letter threatening us with legal action on account of some posts we put up regarding their city manager, Doug Dunlap. We took the posts down as a precautionary measure—we didn't want to deal with possible legal action. However, rest assured we are open to the possibility of reposting some of our writings after we get some expert advice. More on this later today.

We appreciate Wendy Leung and Frank C. Girardot (who had or has a few blogs of his own) for their efforts in writing an article Saturday about the stifling threats of the city attorney of Pomona against this blog. See the SGVT (Blog deletes postings regarding city manager) and the DB (Blogger gives in to Pomona). Please note that the city attorney, Arnold M. Alvarez-Glasman, pictured at right, said of Foothill Cities: "The credence that one puts behind this publication is no greater than the National Enquirer."

Thanks, no doubt, in part to a link from Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit, I noticed that the Daily Bulletin article was second on their "Most Viewed" list well into Sunday night. Glenn Reynolds said:

Even assuming Alvarez-Glasman has a legal leg to stand on here -- which is far from clear -- why is the City Attorney making legal threats on behalf of a private interest? Because the city has no interest in not being libeled, and the City Manager's interest is a personal one. Does the City Attorney routinely do personal legal work for city officials?

Kevin Roderick over at LA Observed was, I believe, the first to mention us, devoting a nice post to the issue even though I know his journalistic instincts are (to some extent justifiably) tweaked by "anony-bloggers," as he calls us. Roderick also quotes some of Edward Barrera's comments. Edward is the city editor of the SGVT, who has been friendly to us on his blog even though we've disagreed with each other in the past.

If you are interested in the legal issues at play, you should check out Eugene Volokh's kind post and the comments beneath it. See also Overlawyered.

Mayor Sam says (F-bomb edited):

Foothill Cities - we have your back. Don't let these bastards push you around. And private memo to Arnie and Dougie: We're not going to let you f%#k with FC. You've already made a mistake there. Don't even think about f#$%#@g with us over here - you will look like the biggest clowns to ever inhabit municipal government ever.

LAist says:

Although we have much love for Pomona, despite the fact that they don't allow booze in the Glass House, they better watch it or government officiating also might get outsourced to India. How hard is it to send a C&D via email?

The strangely named but widely read skippy the bush kangaroo blog gave us a nod as well:

...why would a city government want a blog to stop speculating about what's going on at city hall, unless there's something going on at city hall?

Little Miss Attila notices the way the Pomona city attorney's letter uses the word "blogs" as a noun:

This one features scare quotes and the usual idiot's confusion of a blog with a blog entry—these are, presumably, the same people who confuse 'faxes' with fax machines, and 'CDs' with CD players.

Peter Sean Bradley of Lex Communis says:

This is so typical of local governments . . . The post dared - dared! - to offer a theory about why the Pomona City Manager suddenly retired.

Prettier Than Napoleon takes a shot at Pomona:

The only good thing about Pomona is Juanita's Burritos.

We wouldn't go so far as to say it is the only good thing, but Juanita's is certainly one good thing about Pomona.

Thanks also to the Claremont Insider ("Pomona just may be making martyrs out of Publius and Centinel over at FC"), Sue's Place ("Just imagine if Greensboro-area city employees sought cease-and-desist actions against ‘local’ blogs spreading rumors"), State Sunshine and Open Records, Electric City, and anyone else I'm likely missing.

Now, as you might imagine, we have some more to say about this issue and the reaction to it. We'll have that for you later today, after we get all our ducks in a row. For now though, look at all of the above and consider—was it worth it to the city of Pomona to spend the taxpayer's money on the city attorney to harass us? Couldn't they foresee that they'd generate all this largely negative press? If they didn't realize that we'd post their threats and the above would result, it speaks to the PR incompetence of Pomona—and serves as a lesson to many local governments when it comes to the new media. But if they did realize this might happen but wanted to spend the taxpayer's money anyway, then why is it so worth it to them to silence us?

Arroyo Seco Swept

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous (what is with you guys?) forwarded us an email from the Arroyo Seco Foundation, touting the success of Saturday's cleanup in the Arroyo Seco.

The natural stretch of the Arroyo just above the Colorado Street Bridge was alive with energetic volunteers Saturday as the Arroyo Seco Foundation joined with Friends of the Los Angeles River for the 18th annual Great L.A. River CleanUp 2007, La Gran Limpieza. An eager crew of 116 volunteers waded through the stream and the shoreline to remove more than 900 pound of trash include an abandoned shopping cart, a manhole cover, a smashed tv and plastic, plastic and more plastic from the streamzone.

A manhole cover? How on earth...

Good on the ASF for organizing this.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The India Incident: Macpherson Responds

[NB: Post bumped to the top by reader request. Regular FC coverage continues below.]

By all accounts, James Macpherson got quite a bit more than he bargained for when he made the decision to hire a pair of Indian reporters to cover Pasadena's local news. Jill at Eye Level Pasadena has a massive list of everyone who's talking about the story in the blogosphere and the media. Our own comments got more of a response than we anticipated. To add to the folks we noted last week, LAist had an interesting post on the subject that included our thoughts and a Newsweek article featured some of our comments.

Between emails with these people and the comments, we've been having a great conversation about local journalism generally and Pasadena Now's situation specifically. But now, we can happily add the thoughts of the person at the center of this media firestorm, James Macpherson. While he has come in for some serious criticism in some quarters, perhaps his words will make the most bitter critics reconsider.

James Macpherson says:

I have been struggling for over two years to grow a website which will serve the public good and which will strive to present news and information without bias in a community which I believe is underserved by local media.

I have sold family heirlooms and given this effort my all, because I believe this community will be a better place to live in if we use the internet to connect the community. I have briefed public officials on the use of the internet to connect citizens and government, advocated for the arts, and given of myself to help this community become a better place.

I’ve struggled financially, and if people think I’m rich or greedy they haven’t bothered to check.

The idea of using writers based in India came to me as one of dozens and dozens ideas I’ve had over two years to keep my website growing on a non-existent budget.

Let’s be clear: This isn’t outsourcing in the sense it replaces employees (I’ve never employed writers); with a budget of only $400 a week it’s not like I can afford to hire too many.

My concept was to locate ghostwriters, educated and experienced writers who would follow my instructions, use my research and interview transcripts, and produce contents for me at my direction.

I’ve been asked if I tried to use local college student interns first, before I tied this. Answer: Of course I have. You should see all my correspondence with PCC, USC, Citrus College, Glendale Community College, Azusa Pacific, Cal Poly Pomona, and La Verne? I ended up finding a wonderful young woman from Azusa Pacific, who did well for us, plus four USC interns, of whom only one ever turned in even one article. I got in trouble from the Old Pasadena Merchants Association with that article, who demanded I remove it.

I had to work like crazy calling and contacting Professors and Job Centers at these Colleges and Universities to find prospective writers and it was – except for USC, which is very well organized – like pulling teeth to get any students to apply or return my telephone calls. I just gave up, I don’t have time for playing games.

Oh, and the lovely young gal who was an intern at Azusa Pacific? She graduated and now will work only for $30,000 a year (for the first 30 days, then a review) plus wants health insurance and vacations. She also stipulated 9am to 5pm, please – Monday through Friday.

In the beginning, this was a simple idea to convert the raw material I gather – photographs, recorded interviews, notes, and background research – into articles that are crafted the way I prefer and reflect my goals of objectivity and accuracy.

It was a simple idea to serve my fellow citizens.

A lot of commenters have been asking "isn't there anyone around here who would do it?" It seems as if, even if there are writers around, they're hard to find.

Frankly, unlike many of the people who have emailed us, we don't have some kind of jingoistic aversion to foreigners covering our local news. In fact, given the James' troubles in keeping a dedicated local journalist, it sounds like there's a niche for writers who will do the serious grunt work (e.g. watching every minute of city council meetings) and write it up. With a good editor, as Ed Barrera has noted, there's no reason to think they couldn't cover a lot of the basic happenings in the city.

To Macpherson's credit, there really isn't anyone covering these kinds of local issues that thoroughly. If a city council meeting runs late, reporters have to make deadlines and people often leave. Having someone sit through every single meeting and looking at other happenings around the city with the same exhaustiveness is a service that isn't really being provided.

That being said, a lot of local news really is tied to an incredibly complex web of people and issues that often can't be or just aren't directly mentioned in the article. Those kinds of connections probably aren't going to be made thousands of miles away.

Enough of us pontificating, let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Planet Glendora: Teenage Girls Attack Councilman

A piece of campaign propaganda by Glendora city council candidate John Harrold
So as Centinel recently pointed out, not only will the two teenage girls arrested for "vandalism" not be charged by the District Attorney: they'll be charging forward with a lawsuit to the tune of $5 million against the city councilman who put them under citizen's arrest after he caught them putting stickers on his illegally placed campaign signs. So saith Alison Hewitt of the SGVT, who may just be the most quoted journalist on the FC blog.

Although I'm not surprised by the suit, I'm not really rooting for it either. However, this story illustrates a lot about our local governments. I have some sympathy for Councilman Clifford, who was caught up in the midst of another acrimonious Glendoran election. But if, as an elected official and a former cop, you can't understand the PR problems you are going to have if you put two teenage girls under citizen's arrest until 4 police cars show up to arrest them for putting stickers on your illegally placed campaign signs . . . well, I don't know what to tell you. Especially when you voted for the ordinance that made the placement of the signs illegal. As I said before, he has an argument for what he did, and I can understand that argument, technically speaking, but the fact that this man couldn't foresee such a lawsuit coming bares the sorry state of many of our FC. Up until recently Clifford and many others were acting as if the girls should be charged with a crime.

It kind of reminds me of the recent moronic public relations strategy of another city we cover. I'll give you a hint: this city's name rhymes with Pomona.

Speaking of Planet Glendora, there's an interesting letter on the strange world's NIMBYism in the SGVT. There's also plenty more on the Glendora "vandalism" case if you scroll down here. A few choice posts:

Planet of the Glendorans, Part I of III: The Media
Planet of the Glendorans, Part II of III: The Law
Planet of the Glendorans III of III: The Future

Murder Suspect Arrested In Claremont

We saw this headline some time back.

The FBI arrested a man in Claremont, California, who is wanted for a murder in Henderson, Nevada.

Derrick L. McKnight, 28, was arrested by members of the FBI's Los Angeles Fugitive Task Force at a bus station in Claremont last Thursday afternoon. McKnight and an accomplice, Timothy R. Burnside, 26, are charged with murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery, in connection with the death of Kenneth Hardwick in Henderson, Nevada.

We thought the relationship to the FC was merely coincidental. After all, the crime was committed in Nevada. However, several readers have sent it in recently and one made an excellent point.

Anonymous said...

This news hit close to home because I take the bus every day to Claremont. Specifically, I take the 187. I'm not sure if this guy was waiting for my line when they picked him up at a bus stop, but if so, he really puts the Murder in Murder Bus.

Very true. At times like these, it makes you wonder who you've sat next to on the bus.

See also:
MTA, the Murder Bus, and Racist Subsidies
Murder Bus Correspondence
The Murder Bus and Subsidized Transportation

Arcadia Public Library Rocks MySpace

The APL: unhip no more. Blog + MySpace = promising career. Check them out on MySpace to have The Killers serenade you.

Bill Bogaard Leads Bike Bonanza

To celebrate Pasadena Bike to Work Week, Mayor Bill Bogaard donned his biking gear and pedaled from One Colorado to City Hall this morning followed by a caravan of cycling enthusiasts. Reader AA sent us pictures from the event with the note, "Photos of this morning. No, I'm not emailing from Bangalore."

You're the soul of wit, AA (don't worry, he's a friend). Enjoy the photos.

Mayor Bogaard addresses the gather cyclists at One Colorado.

The Bicycling Buccaneer arrives, just before the cavalcade set off.

Bipedal and bi-pedaling officers of the law accompanied the group.

Even though speakers had emphasized how safe it was to ride to work, the cyclists had a car leading them, flashing lights, and stopping traffic, including our reader AA who followed in the car.

Good News from Glendora

Fred Sandoval's a hometown hero if there ever was one:

Firefighter/paramedic Fred Sandoval estimates he took three minutes to save Bryce Lyons' life.

He also insists any one of his fire crew members could have rescued the Glendora man - who was certain to die from smoke inhalation - inside of a smoke- and fire-filled apartment building.

Check out the story by Wes Woods II in the SGVT.

Russell Rustles Up Errors

Kelly L.C. Russell at WCGB had some criticism for a recent Pasadena Weekly article.

I am a fan of the Pasadena Weekly. But someone was asleep at the wheel when this article about CHAP (Community Health Alliance of Pasadena) was written.

The first three paragraphs are incorrect. Dr. Preedar Oreggio did not leave CHAP to work at Union Station. For the past couple of years, CHAP has employed Dr. Oreggio to work at Union Station twice a week, and pays him to do it.

I find it ironic that with all the hubbub about local news reporting (Look Ma! We’re on NPR!), even a simple item like this one got completely botched. I’ve no kind words for the writing style either.

No kind words indeed. But Russell caught a small host of mistakes, so it sounds like they are merited. Even more interesting is the response from the PW. Kevin Urich says...

For us I think it’s more of a problem with in-sourcing; pulling in real-life kids from the comforts of places like USC and PCC and La Verne and giving them a chance to do things that are sometimes a little above their present capabilities.

Woof, between Macpherson and Urich, local aspiring journalists have taken a real beating. Is it true? Are the kids not alright? And what about the editing/fact-checking? Who's responsible there? Read the rest of the post for more interesting comments.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pomona City Attorney Threatens Foothill Cities

[NB: Our regular coverage of the FC, including the latest on outsourcing Pasadena news to India, continues below this post, but we thought it sufficiently important to keep this at the top of the page.]

[Also, if you click on the images, they link to a higher-resolution version of the letter, which should be legible.]

A while ago we floated some rumors circulating via email concerning certain goings on in Pomona's city hall. We figured the accusations were so far out there that they wouldn't cause any harm, and we figured we'd learn more about what was going on by asking our readers about them. We also sent emails to all the parties concerned. We eventually decided that posting the name of one of the parties in question would be unfair, so we removed the name of that city employee from our little blog. Although we were able to maintain private email correspondence with that person, the City of Pomona made sure that all our emails to city officials were sent back to us as spam.

Some time passed, and (it seems) the City Manager did comment on our blog, although he made an unintentionally amusing spelling error in the process. What became clear from some of our comments and emails was simply that there were people out there who really didn't like the City Manager, and they were either telling bald-faced lies or something close to the truth. Other than that comment, we got nothing even close to official from anyone in the city. Until yesterday.

We've decided to remove almost all the posts concerning this incident from our "web-site publication," as the city attorney called Foothill Cities in his uncharitable letter-in-a-pdf file to us yesterday. He sent it, he says, "on behalf of the city and the parties named in your recent 'blogs.'"

I don't think we've done anything wrong, and I think we would likely be fine facing the threatened "legal consequences." But, of course, such a process would be time consuming and costly—assuming the city actually carried through with it—and, frankly, considering this is a very part-time gig, and we don't exactly have the resources the city of Pomona does, we're going to let Goliath win this one. If you want to know what this whole matter stemmed from, we've kept our original post online, which you can see here.

Feel free to discuss this matter with us further via our "web-site publication." You can name us all you want in your "blogs." And keep your tips coming via email. I'll be out of town this weekend, but I'll have more to say on this matter and the recent Pasadena Now outsourcing of local news to India first thing Monday.

More Good in Azusa

We almost missed the comment (it's been hectic around here as of late), but there is good news from Azusa and it's taking place today.

Another good thing in Azusa is the 1st Annual Mariachi Festival being put on by the Azusa Unified School District at Azusa High School on Friday, May 11, 2007 at 6:00 P.M. The groups playing will all be AUSD students. It should be a blast. Come out and support the kids!

No scandals or existential questions about journalism involved. Just a good time with the kids. Remember, people, if you let us know in advance, we're happy to help spread the word on upcoming events (we wish we'd mentioned this one earlier).

Planet Glendora: A $5 Million Mistake?

That's what it could cost Councilman Gary Clifford, who, once upon a time, performed a citizen's arrest on a pair of protesting teen females.

Publius has followed this story from the beginning and will be back on Monday to break it down in great detail. Briefly, the civil lawsuit alleges the girls "great emotional distress and physical pain and suffering, insomnia, fear, neurosis, loss of wages and anxiety," and "emotional and physical injuries," according to Alison Hewitt's account for the SGVT.

I've no doubt the ordeal pained the poor girls, but did it pain them $5 million worth? I guess that's for the judge and jury to decide. What I do know is that there's a lot more to this story. Check back Monday for Publius' in-depth take on the latest perturbations in the orbit of Planet Glendora.

Arroyo Seco Sweep on Saturday

For those interested in getting their feet wet and hands dirty, this Saturday, from 9AM to noon, the Arroyo Seco will be getting a spring cleaning, courtesy of the broader effort to clean up the LA River. Folks who want to take part in the Gran Limpieza of the Arroyo Seco (which is being headed up by the Arroyo Seco Foundation), should pop into the Lower Arroyo lot or Lot 1 at the Rose Bowl.

Unfortunately, we can't confirm whether any reporters from Pasadena Now will be there.

Caruso Nailed With Another Lawsuit

Wow, we hadn't realized just how litigious those folks in Arcadia can be. They've now served Caruso, or at least his company, with not one but two lawsuits in the effort to stop The Shops at Santa Anita. Patricia Jiayi Ho has the story for the Star-News:

Anti-development group Arcadia First! said it will sue on the grounds that the environmental impacts of the project have not been fully addressed. Group leaders say the suit will negate the need to gather signatures for a ballot initiative.

"We think that's the cleanest way to go about it," said Sung Tse, the group's spokeswoman. "We don't want the mud-slinging that is going to happen. We'll just let a third party rule."

No mud-slinging, eh? I think it's a little too late for that, Tse.

More on the Pasadena-India Connection UPDATED

We've gotten a huge response to the news that Pasadena Now is outsourcing its news coverage to India, and we've tallied up the latest on the web (and in the comments).

The LAT Business section wrote up the case, noting of the two reporters that "one lives in Mumbai and will be paid $12,000 a year. The other will work in Bangalore for $7,200." More importantly, Macpherson isn't content with just two: "Macpherson plans to hire half a dozen more Indian reporters." Half a dozen? He's hiring a veritable army.

Many thanks to Larry Wilson of the PSN for making this good point:

thanks for the excellent reporting and commentary. for more (can't speak to the excellent part), you might see my column in today's star-news, and alex pham's story in today's times business section. one small point: the ap did not get this story by beating the bushes (or even getting a tip) locally. one of its new delhi correspondents saw it on the craigslist for india, not a site i find myself perusing much for pasadena news. larry wilson, editor, pasadena star-news

We were speculating ourselves as to how on earth anyone would find this story. As we noted yesterday, the contributor from the story is indeed in New Dehli. In this case, it seems he just got lucky, though one can imagine a fair number of journalists looking to change jobs might poke around on Craigslist. For Larry's take (which, oddly enough, makes no mention of our post), click here. He also was quoted in the previously mentioned LAT article as saying, "To pretend you can get the feel and the culture of a town as complicated and interesting as Pasadena by e-mailing and doing things over the Internet is nutty." You can't blame him for being unclear.

Reason Magazine's Hit & Run also picked up our comments, and their post elicited a great discussion in the comments. Check it out here.

Also, lots of other thoughtful folks have left interesting comments. Check out Ed Barrera, Jill, and all the other great comments.

Finally, to the list of "blogs with curious names that have linked us," we can now add Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20 Year Club (who also had some good things to say in our comments), Fancy Store-Bought Dirt and skippy the bush kangaroo.

UPDATE: Added LAT article info.