Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Montclair Plaza food court all gussied up

Unfortunately, several of the surrounding food court locations are empty.

But the center looks nice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to Empoprises readers

When I started creating vertical, special interest blogs, I didn't know what to expect. In some respects I still don't, but I wanted to thank those of you who have chosen to read these blogs.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Grievance-Less Festivus, or whatever. I hope to share more Inland Empire, NTN Buzztime, and music stuff with you in the future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The best gas price you'll ever see on this blog

Yes, over 17 1/2 gallons for $21.00.

That's $1.199/gallon.

Got it at Vons in Upland, including 50 cents off the regular $1.699 price via a special promotion.

If you're signed up, redeem your savings by 12/31 (when discounts expire).

The malls are deserted!

Of course, this picture was taken before 7:00 am.

Montclair Plaza (JC Penney on the left, Barnes & Noble on the right).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

At Logan's

125 West B in downtown Ontario.

Craft stores are futuristic

Joann's, Ontario Mills.

And they have a ton of Christmas wrapping paper also.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who, the greeter?

America's Next Top Model branded stuff at the Upland, California Wal Mart.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Various views on Pomona's ex-police chief Joe Romero

The Inland Empire blogosphere is chirping away with comments on Joe Romero.

M-M-M-My Pomona wrote on Tuesday December 9 about an emergency Pomona City Council meeting that morning.

Since it takes 4 votes for such an action, and since newly elected councilperson Danielle Soto has not been sworn in yet, it appears that the votes to fire came from Mayor Rothman (who I'm sure is still smarting after being charged, and cleared, of DUI) and the three council persons who have objected to police checkpoints and other issues. As of this point I don't know if councilperson Paula Lantz was even part of that meeting as I earlier noted that she wasn't sworn in until this afternoon.

This prompted an anonymous comment that evening:

Your story is partially correct. Unfortunately the Chief was fired, but the City Manager did the deed, not an emergency meeting of the City Council. No doubt direction was given to the City Mgr. from the City Council. Thinking back..there was a closed session meeting of the City Council last week dealing with the termination of one employee.

By Wednesday, Monica Rodriguez was writing about it...sort of:

Romero said he received the news Tuesday morning when he met with City Manager Linda Lowry during one of their regularly scheduled one-on- one meetings.

Romero, who was an at-will employee, said he was not given a reason for his termination, although "the city manager did mention she wants to see the department go in a different direction."

The city administration declined to comment on Romero's employment status.

"At this time, it's an ongoing personnel matter, and we don't comment on personnel matters," said Mark Gluba, assistant to the city manager.

Mayor Elliott Rothman could not be reached for comment.

Council members Cristina Carrizosa and Steve Atchley said they would not comment on the matter because it was a personnel issue.

David Allen blogged about his intent to write a special column Thursday:

And here I thought Ontario was becoming more vicious and political than Pomona. Well, like I always say, never count Pomona out.

And Allen ended up writing that column. In the absence of anyone talking, he tried to connect the dots.

What reason could the four council members present - Rothman, Steve Atchley, Cristina Carrizosa and Freddie Rodriguez - have for dumping Romero?

Two come to mind: Rothman's DUI arrest and police checkpoints.

Rothman was pulled over Oct. 7 after leaving a bar. Unfortunately for police, while he failed a field sobriety test, he wasn't legally drunk.

Adding to the drama, the arrest came five days after Romero had objected publicly to his unauthorized appearance in a Rothman campaign mailer.

"The truth is that I endorse no one - particularly that I don't endorse Elliott Rothman," Romero memorably declared. At least I'm sure Rothman didn't forget it.

Was the DUI arrest payback for the slight against the chief? Probably, although Romero denied it.

In any event, the cops didn't get their man. And it's no stretch to assume that Romero is losing his job because of it....

[T]he DUI checkpoints...have been a bone of contention for Carrizosa. Some of her constituents driving without a license have had their cars seized.

Those checkpoints take place in pretty much every Inland Valley city without much complaint, and I don't think Carrizosa's crusade plays well outside her district. But grasping the bigger picture has never been Pomona politicians' strong suit.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We're number one! (and it's not in meth labs!)

What is Housing Kaboom going to do when the economy recovers?

Here's the latest:

First American Core Logic has placed the IE in the top spot for the highest risk market.

Following Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario were Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, and Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall.

So are our local Inland Empire papers financially healthy?

A few days ago, people were noting that the Tribune Company had hired bankruptcy advisors and that they might file for bankruptcy this week. Then they went ahead and filed on Monday.

If the Tribune Company can have difficulties, and if the New York Times can have difficulties, what about our local papers?

As it turns out, three of our local papers - the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the San Bernardino Sun, and the Redlands Daily Facts - are all owned by one company, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

With nine daily newspapers serving over 1.5 million readers a day and the LA.COM Network reaching more than 2.7 million unique visitors a month, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group (LANG) continues to outdistance competitors as one of the most powerful and effective advertising buys in America today....

Print Readership:
1.5 million daily
1.6 million Sunday
1+ million exclusive daily
1+ million exclusive Sunday

Online viewership:
2.7 million monthly unique visitors

Paid Circulation:
Over 500,000 daily
Over 550,000 Sunday

But this isn't just an El-Lay operation:

LANG is powered by MediaNews Group, one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States situated throughout California, the Rocky Mountain region and the Northwest. MediaNews Group is privately owned and operate nearly 60 daily newspapers in 12 states with combined daily and Sunday circulation of approximately 2.6 million and 2.9 million, respectively....MediaNews Group also owns a television station, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, AK and a radio station in Texas.

MediaNews Group used to file financial reports with the SEC, but quit doing so on April 4, 2008 as announced in a Form 8-K:

On April 4, 2008, MediaNews Group, Inc. (the “Company”) entered into amendments of its (i) Indenture dated as of November 25, 2003, between the Company and The Bank of New York, as trustee, regarding the Company’s 6-7/8% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2014, and (ii) Indenture dated as of January 26, 2004 between the Company and The Bank of New York, as trustee, regarding the Company’s 6-3/8% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2014.

The amendments ended MediaNews’ obligation to file reports under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “1934 Act”) on a voluntary basis. Such obligation has been replaced with an obligation to deliver to Note holders quarterly and annual financials.

Accordingly, the Company will no longer be filing reports under the 1934 Act on a voluntary basis.

So we don't know how they're doing financially, but we know what they're doing to cut costs:

It started with an advert on Craigslist India: "We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA." It ended with Pasadena Now, a local news website, firing seven staffers, including five reporters, and outsourcing research, writing and reporting to six people in India.

But for more on that, see the Foothill Cities Blog.

Here's how MediaNews Group has responded:

Dean Singleton, head of MediaNews Group, which owns 54 daily newspapers across the US, said recently that his company was considering outsourcing everything - including one offshore newsdesk for all the papers.

Luckily much of David Allen's reporting depends upon physical presence in the area - although there are ways to get around that:

They even report local council meetings via video streams (although they once missed two city council members walking out in protest because the camera didn't face that way).

I couldn't find any information on MediaNews Group's current debt, or dangers that they might get in a credit squeeze. Basically, it's none of our business - until the company asks for a bailout.

I have neglected one local paper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which is not part of the MediaNews Group conglomerate. The recorded owner of the paper is the Press-Enterprise Company. While I couldn't find any corporate information on the site, I did find some information at BusinessWeek:

Press-Enterprise Company provides news and information for Inland Southern California through newspaper and magazine publishing, printing, Internet, and telephone information services. The company offers Press-Enterprise daily newspaper; six community weekly newspapers in Western Riverside County; The Business Press, which is a weekly Inland Empire business and financial newspaper; PE.net, which is an Internet Service Provider; PE.com, which is a primary online news, sports, information, and entertainment source; NewsLink, which is a 24-hour voice information system; and La Prensa, which is a weekly Spanish-language publication providing information on the Inland Empire’s Hispanic community. Press-Enterprise Company was founded in 1878 and is based in Riverside, California. Press-Enterprise Company operates as a subsidiary of A. H. Belo Corporation.

The A. H. Belo Corporation (not to be confused with the television station owner with a similar name owns four papers (the other three are in Dallas, Denton, and Providence) and is publicly traded on the NYSE. It announced its third quarter results on October 31:

A. H. Belo Corporation (NYSE: AHC) reported third quarter revenues of $153.8 million and a net loss of $17.3 million or $0.84 per share for the third quarter. The results include charges totaling $11.1 million related to a voluntary severance program and $4.5 million related to the impairment of a printing press....

Robert W. Decherd, chairman, president and Chief Executive Officer, said, "These are challenging times for A. H. Belo, the industry and the country. In light of a weak ad environment and ad trends that may not stabilize in the short term, we remain steadfast in delivering highly-valued audiences and marketing solutions to advertisers while maximizing our existing infrastructure and reducing expenses Company-wide."

AHC continues its transformation in streamlining operations and targeting sustainable incremental revenue streams.

One of the streamlining items:

The Press-Enterprise re-evaluated its circulation footprint and eliminated its distribution to Palm Springs, which will improve EBITDA performance by approximately $600,000 for 2009.

And when your numbers are declining, you look for any window of hope you can find:

For the third consecutive quarter, the year-over-year percent decline in The Press-Enterprise's advertising revenues, including print and Internet, improved. The percent decline in The Press-Enterprise's advertising revenues improved 300 basis points from the second quarter to the third quarter.

I don't know enough about the newspaper business to know whether either group is healthy - especially since MediaNews Group isn't talking - but we'll have to see what happens in the coming years - or months - with respect to our local Inland Empire newspapers.

In praise of Caltrans

On Monday afternoon I wrote about Caltrans and SR142 in my personal blog, so it's fitting that I provide this note, courtesy Carbon Canyon Chronicle.

[W]hen it comes to the San Bernardino County side of Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142), the folks at District 8 tend to be pretty responsive.
Just a couple of days ago, I stopped to photograph three sites along the Chino Hills portion of the highway in which cars had veered off the road and crashed into two state-owned signs and an old private barbed wire fence.

Today, however, the signs were repaired and back into operation. Let's give credit where it is due--District 8 came through fast on this one!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Richard Branson raked the lawn

I don't make it out to the eastern shopping extravaganzas as much as I'd like to, but perhaps it's just as well, since Victoria Gardens apparently has a theft problem, and Ontario Mills - well, we'll just let Matt Munson tell the story:

Tower Records is gone, the record store around the corner is gone and now Virgin Megastore is another casualty of recorded media sales. I remember going to the Virgin Megastore at the Ontario Mills to buy the latest releases in music and video ever since the mall was opened in 1996.

I valued Virgin also, especially after Tower Records closed its Brea store not too long ago (that's where I got my Solomon Poss CD, by the way).

The Daily Bulletin published additional details:

THE VIRGIN Megastore at Ontario Mills is closing in January, with a storewide clearance sale of CDs, DVDs and other items starting [on the] Friday [after Thanksgiving].

Monday, December 1, 2008

State Route 142 is finally open

I often use State Route 142 (through Carbon Canyon) to get from Orange County to the Inland Empire in the evenings. However, I haven't been able to do so for a few weeks because of the southern California fires.

I haven't had to make this commute since last Tuesday due to the Thanksgiving holiday and other issues, but today it's Monday and I have to get home. I was therefore pleased to read this:

Fire Related State Highway Closures



I don't know exactly when State Route 142 was opened, but it's open now.

And if you want more information about Carbon Canyon (including fire information), check the Carbon Canyon Chronicle blog.