Monday, December 29, 2014

Did I shirk my civic duty by leaving my hot water heater on the street?

Many cities, Ontario included, provide recycling services along with trash services.

They do not do this out of the goodness of their hearts.

One benefit to the cities is that stuff that goes into the recycling bin doesn't have to go to the landfill. Another benefit is that the cities can actually sell the stuff that goes into the recycling bins, and get a little bit of revenue in the process.

Most of us, of course, think of ourselves before we think of our cities. When you finish drinking that soft drink, how many of you throw that can or bottle into a city recycling bin? You probably don't; instead, you keep the can or bottle for yourself, turn in the cans yourself, and get the nickels yourself. There are a few people, of course, who do throw their cans or bottles into the city bins, but the city may not get them, since there are people who roam the streets the night before a scheduled trash pickup, go through your recycling bins, and extract anything of value.

But there are other ways in which we cheat the city.

A little over a week ago, I noticed some water in my garage, between my mini-refrigerator and my washing machine. I didn't see any leaks from the washing machine or the refrigerator, so I didn't think much of it...until the next night, when the water was still there, and I noticed another puddle of water outside the small area where our water heater sits. Yes...our water heater was leaking. So we shut off the gas and the water and started figuring out how to replace it. 1 1/2 days (and one very cold shower) later, the new water heater was installed, and the old water heater was ready for disposal.

Last Friday, I took my old water heater out to the curb, but I didn't call the city to arrange for a bulky pickup. The city allows for bulk pickups; it's even part of the municipal code.

It should be noted that by placing this article on the street several days before a scheduled trash pickup, I committed a code violation.

Sec. 6-3.308. Residential receptacles, placement.

(a) Residential refuse, recycling, green waste or other organics receptacles shall be placed for collection by 6:00 a.m. on the scheduled collection day, but not prior to the evening preceding the collection day. Receptacles shall be removed no later than the evening after collection day....

(c) If the provisions of this section are not fully complied with, the solid waste collector shall place a tag indicating a violation on the container.

Well, I did not receive a violation tag - for two reasons. First, I didn't put the item in a container, so there was no container to place the tag. Second, the city didn't have any time to tag it, because within a few hours of my placement of the old water heater on the curb, it was gone.

Perhaps you've seen the trucks that go up and down city streets, especially on weekends or just before trash pickup day. Those trucks are filled with all sorts of metal - old bicycles, old appliances, and the like. The trucks go up and down the streets, looking for additional scrap metal, and then take a truckload of stuff to a recycling center and get some small amount of money for it.

So when I put my old water heater on the curb on Friday afternoon, I figured that the scrap fairies would come by some time over the weekend, and my water heater would magically vanish. And I was right.

Now one could argue that the scrap fairies and I were cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue. And one could also argue that the guys with the shopping carts who dig through your recycle bins are cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue.

But then again, every one of us who saves cans and bottles and turns them in ourselves for the cash is also cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue.

For additional thoughts on this, including the difference (if any) between going through a personal recycling bin or a corporate recycling bin, check this Jeffrey Seglin post.

And in some cases, the police get involved.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Perhaps you may be toking it up at your local casino one day - or perhaps not

We often forget the special status of Indian reservations in this country. Indian tribal land is sovereign land, not necessarily subject to laws of the state(s) in which the land is located.

Another reminder of this came from the U.S. Justice Department, and it concerned the topic of marijuana legalization.

The U.S. Justice Department is giving Native American tribes authority to legalize marijuana on their reservations, telling federal prosecutors the issue needs to be handled on a "government-to-government basis."...

The guidelines are the latest signal from the Obama administration that it respects the sovereign status of Indian tribes, said Stephen Pevar, an instructor on American Indian law at New York University Law School and author of the book "The Rights of Indians and Tribes."

"It's not pro-marijuana or anti-marijuana," Pevar said Thursday. "It's pro-sovereignty."

Why am I writing about this in the Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog? Because, as the Desert Sun notes, there are 12 reservations in Riverside County. Add the ones in San Bernardino County and surrounding counties, and there is a potential change that could affect many marijuana lovers.

For example, if an Indian reservation decided to legalize marijuana - including in the casinos on tribal land - then Californians could simply go to a casino whenever they wanted to toke up, without fear of legal penalties.

But before the tokers who read my blog go "KEWL," remember that sovereignty works the other way also. What if California completely legalizes marijuana (not just medical marijuana), but the Indian reservations ban it? And there's certainly a precedent - until 2013, Pine Ridge Reservation banned alcohol, despite the fact that it was legal in South Dakota.

So don't count on the Morongo Casino to offer tacos, tequila, and toking just yet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jose Ventura, the Bane of Chino

Courthouse News Service reports an item of local interest.

Back in December 2007, Jose Ventura was pulled over for a traffic violation by Chino police officers. The police noticed that there was a 1994 arrest warrant for Jose Ventura. But there was an issue:

The warrant described "Jose Ventura" as a Hispanic male who was 6'1" tall, weighed 200 pounds, and had black hair and brown eyes. Ventura's driver's license had him as 5'6" tall and 180 pounds.

Now there are three possibilities here. One possibility is that there are two Jose Venturas. The second possibility is that the arrest warrant had incorrect information. The third possibility is that the driver's license had incorrect information.

According to Ventura (the driver), the police "coached" him to respond that the driver's license was incorrect, and that he was really 5'11".

No one disputes that Ventura spent six days in various jails in San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties, and was released after his fingerprints did not match the fingerprints on the arrest warrant.

(DISCLOSURE: I work for a company that provides automated fingerprint identification systems. In 2007, my employer did not provide systems in either of these two counties.)

This has become a civil case that has been winding through the courts. According to Courthouse News Service, a Federal appellate panel has determined that Ventura can press his claims against the city of Chino, under the Bane Act.

The Bane Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 52.1 and Penal Code section 422.6 et seq., prohibits violence or the threat of violence based on grounds such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age disability or position in a labor dispute.

Civil Code section 52.1 protects all people within this state from interference with their free exercise or enjoyment of the rights guaranteed them by the state or the United States. If the interference is by means of speech alone, however, no remedy will be available to you under the Bane Act unless it can be shown that the speech itself threatened violence against you; that you reasonably feared violence would be committed against you or your property because of the speech; and that the person threatening violence had the apparent ability to carry out the threat.

If anyone interferes with your rights under this law by threats, intimidation, or coercion, you may be able to get a court order banning this behavior and be awarded for money lost and emotional distress, as well as a $25,000 civil penalty and attorney's fees.

On, and there's one other thing. Remember how Ventura's driver's license said he was 5'6" and 180 pounds? Well, when he was released six days after his arrest, he was described in a document:

[A]t the time of his release, Ventura's release form stated he was 5'7" and weighed 320 pounds.

They must have some good food at the West Valley Detention Center and the Los Angeles County Jail.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The dreams come out at election time, or, the Empoprises Rule of City Importance

It is time for yet another Empoprises Rule - the Empoprises Rule of City Importance. This follows my previous Empoprises Rule of List Length, from October.

Your city is not as important as you think it is.

I wrote about one example of this rule over a decade ago, in a comment to an Inland Empress blog post.

[W]hen I lived in Upland years and years ago, I'd attend city council meetings on occasion. I happened to attend one at which IHOP's building permit was under consideration. Today the IHOP in Upland seems like it's been there forever, but back in the 1980s it had not yet been built.

Rosalie Kamansky (since deceased) was then on the Council. (If I recall correctly, her day job was in real estate.) As the IHOP rep made his presentation, she had a little teeny question:

Did IHOP really have to put that blue roof on their restaurant?

The IHOP rep had much more patience than I would have had. He simply stated that he could check with IHOP, but that he thought that IHOP sort of liked their blue roofs.

Let's just be thankful that the designers of the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, and Mount Vernon didn't have to get Upland City Council approval.

Think about this. The International House of Pancakes was, and is, a major corporation with a distinctive marketing message. And why was IHOP asked to modify its distinctive marketing message?

To borrow a phrasing structure from this decade, "because Upland."

Certainly IHOP would be willing to bend its silly little rules for the City of Gracious Living, would it not?

(The comment, incidentally, was part of a rant on what the Upland-controlled parts of Upland look like - a long expanse of unending beige roofs, all Council-approved.)

However, thoughts of a town's self-importance and well, even today, as the San Bernardino County Sentinel notes. In preparation for this week's election, the Sentinel has been covering a number of local candidates, including one with a familiar name - Joe Baca. And no, the name isn't familiar because of the son - in this case, it's the father who is running in a local election. Baca, who once represented the region in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, wants to be mayor of Fontana.

And Baca has a vision for Fontana. As part of this vision, he said the following:

I would like to see an opera theater outdoors to attract people from the surrounding communities, Redlands, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and, of course, Fontana. I would like to see a California University in Fontana. In San Bernardino County we have community colleges and a Cal State University and private universities but we don’t have a UC system campus. I was instrumental in helping Merced when they got the University of California to come in there and I believe I could utilize my experience with the state legislature to get Fontana a University of California campus. We have access to the 15 Freeway, the [10] Freeway and the 210. I would love to see downtown Fontana become a cultural center for fashion and the arts. We need an amphitheater.

Why Fontana? Because, according to Baca, Fontana is now the largest city is San Bernardino County, and thus is deserving of an "opera theater," a branch of the University of California (Riverside schmiverside), and culture.

But Baca continued:

With the right retails stores we can make it so we have something like Rodeo Drive and Palm Springs.

Yes, that's right - Baca just compared Fontana with Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. Never mind the fact that Fontana's residential income is slightly lower than those other two cities.

But Baca and Kamansky aren't the only politicians who have overestimated the importance of their cities. All of the politicians - and, frankly, all of us residents - believe that our cities are deserving of stellar retail presences - if not Rodeo Drive, then at least a business that doesn't attract any traffic, but does magically attract outside spending.

In reality, however, we're lucky if we can get a swap meet to locate in our city.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Burger King abdicates...again

Burger King has been in the news lately, because of its forthcoming acquisition of the Canadian company Tim Hortons and its possible move to Canada. This, naturally, has everyone up in arms because an American company is fleeing American taxes. The critics rightly point out that since Burger King will contribute 73% of the revenue (in 2003 terms) to the combined company, the combined firm should be located, whoops, it seems I got my figures wrong. Based upon 2013 revenues, Burger King's US and Canadian operations will contribute a whopping 16% of the combined revenue, with another 11% from Burger King operations in the rest of the world. Yup, Tim Hortons will contribute 73% of the revenues.

A little sobering...but not surprising when you look at things at the local level.

Some time last week, the Burger King in Montclair at the corner of Central and Palo Verde closed its doors, joining closed Burger Kings in east Ontario and other locations.

You never hear about a McDonalds closing, and although you might have an occasional Arbys close here and there, it seems that a fair share of Burger Kings have closed over the last few years. And 3G Capital has been closing company-owned Burger Kings.

Or am I just hypersensitive to these closings?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Campaign overlap

On Sunday, I saw a Rudy Favila for Mayor sign on San Antonio north of 8th.

For those who don't understand the significance of this, Favila is running for mayor of Ontario.

San Antonio and 8th is in Upland.

Does this mean that the candidates in the contentious Upland election will campaign in Ontario?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If you marry your sister, it keeps the meth lab in the family (this is about ONT, of course)

As you read the title of this post, some of you are saying, "Oh, he's going to talk about THAT." Others are wondering what's going on.

But before I get into the topic in question, I want to lay out several truths.

First, from the perspective of the city of Los Angeles, it is in the city's interest to retain the so-called "LA" Ontario International Airport. The airport, although distant from the city, provides three benefits to Los Angeles: (1) a source of revenue; (2) a source of pride and patronage; and (3) removal of a potential competitor against the city's crown jewel, Los Angeles International Airport.

Second, again from Los Angeles' perspective, if the city does have to sell the airport to Ontario, it makes sense to sell it for a price as high as possible. That's just good custodianship of tax dollars. Los Angeles, as far as it's concerned, legally bought the airport from Ontario years and years ago, and it doesn't want to just give it away without getting anything in return.

(As an aside, former Ontario mayor Howard Snider used to go door to door and sell Kiwanis breakfast tickets. Snider, back in the day, was instrumental in selling the airport to Los Angeles in the first place. One time when he was selling pancake tickets, I mentioned that the airport sale was certainly in the news a lot. The elderly Snider didn't offer any comment, either because he didn't recall the earlier sale, or chose not to do so.)

The third truth is from the perspective of the city of Ontario. Obviously, Ontario wants to buy the airport for a price as low as possible. In fact, the city would be tickled pink to acquire the airport for free. Hence the lawsuit - and the outrage that I'll be talking about in a minute.

The fourth truth concerns Press-Enterprise columnist Cassie MacDuff. MacDuff is most widely known as a columnist. Now she may also do some regular reporting, but her primary claim to fame is as a columnist. And columnists provide opinions.

Which is germane to an email exchange between Warren Adams, an advisor to Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA, the government entity that controls both LAX and Ontario International Airport), and Stephen Martin, Chief Operating Officer of LAWA. You see, Adams had seen a Cassie MacDuff piece on the Ontario Airport fight, and Adams decided to share it with Martin, along with this comment.

I thought reporters were supposed to be objective? She has been relentless in her views.

Return to my fourth truth - MacDuff was writing as a columnist, not a reporter.

LAWA's Martin chose to provide an email response, which included the following.

Not in the inbred Inland Empire.

Return to my third truth. There are some who are focusing on that "inbred" comment and using it to try to pry Ontario International Airport away from LAWA. Both Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner and Congressman Ken Calvert - both of whom are up for re-election - issued strong statements.

“I was appalled by the statements that were made, and I think, frankly, it shows their ignorance of the Inland Empire economic market and what goes on out here,” Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner said Tuesday. “I don’t think most of these people have even been to the Inland Empire, and it’s reflected in their statements. It shows their ignorance.”...

On Monday, Congressman Ken Calvert, R-Corona, called for Martin’s immediate termination. He called Martin’s statement “offensive and highly unprofessional.”

Others, however, are taking clearer heads over the whole "inbred" brouhaha. One of those people is Cassie MacDuff herself:

They just don’t like my opinions. As a columnist, I’m fine with that. They are entitled to their views. I’m entitled to mine.

MacDuff then goes on to say that the issue isn't what LAWA has said, but what LAWA has (or hasn't) done.

But all of this should not obscure what was revealed by Ontario’s court filings in its lawsuit to get the airport back: Los Angeles World Airports slashed ONT’s marketing budget to focus its attention on growing LAX.

No wonder the airport has lost 45 percent of its passengers and scores of flights.

According to witnesses whose statement became public last week, LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey and then-Deputy Executive Director Michael Molina directed underlings to pull back from marketing ONT and instead put efforts into LAX, where the international terminal was being rebuilt.

Now perhaps I should follow the lead of Cassie MacDuff, and of others such as San Bernardino County Supervisors Janice Rutherford and Gary Ovitt, who argue that the future of Ontario International Airport should be decided on the issues, and should be considered in a calm, fair manner.

But that's too much work, so I'll go into the gutter instead. (And I'm not even running for re-election.)

While he may claim otherwise, Stephen Martin is pretty much talking about incestuous behavior. However, incestuous behavior can also occur in business relationships, as this 2010 Daily Breeze article noted. In this case, a losing bidder on a LAWA proposal was complaining that "two other companies vying for the contract have conflict-of-interest issues that likely would not withstand a legal challenge." In the process of discussing the various conflict of interest issues, this tidbit came out:

Chad Molnar, the LAX field deputy for Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose area includes the airport, pointed out that the global airport community is so tiny it's virtually impossible to find people who haven't worked in or have connections with both the public and private sectors within the industry.

For example, the LAX website notes that Stephen Martin, chief operating officer for Los Angeles World Airports, also worked for a decade as a consultant to LeighFisher, one of the consulting companies Host complained about.

To paraphrase another person named Martin, airport management is not pretty.

Oh, and one more thing: LAWA's headquarters is at 1 World Way, which happens to be where LAX is located. If LAWA truly wants to encourage LAX use, then perhaps they should free up their headquarters for use by the airport, and relocate their headquarters to an underused LAWA facility in a much lower-cost area.

Yes, I'm proposing that LAWA move its headquarters to Terminal 4 of Ontario International Airport, where several of the gates have been closed due to the traffic downturn.

Imagine if Stephen Martin, other LAWA personnel, and consultants like Warren Adams had to come to Ontario every day for work. Rather than the noise and the glut of traffic on Century Boulevard, they'd be driving by the wide open fields near Archibald Avenue. Instead of heading to the Lakers practice facility after work, they'd be taking in Ontario Reign games. And, if we in the IE do our best to live up to our stereotypes, there'd be more methamphetamine available to the LAWA executives than they'd ever be able to score near LAX.

Heck, there might even be a preacher who would let Stephen Martin marry his sister. (I don't think the pastor of this church would perform the ceremony, however.)

Oh yeah, there's a mayor election in Ontario

I wrote about Ontario's last election for mayor, so I guess it's time that I write about the upcoming election. But I'm going to do so in the context of Route 66, which isn't even in Ontario.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was there for the last day of Ontario's version of a Route 66 festival. (San Bernardino's version is coming up later.) Even on the last day of the event, there were still a lot of people there, and when you have a lot of people at a single location, the crowds attract something.

No, I'm not talking about flies or pickpockets.

I'm talking about politicians.

It makes sense, since politicians want to make contact with the people, and especially in a local election, personal contact will go a lot farther than expensive, brief television ads.

So as I was walking down Euclid Avenue, I spotted a booth on the sidewalk for Rudy Favila. I figured that I'd pick up some campaign literature, and the volunteer who handed me the campaign literature was - Rudy Favila.

I told him that I was considering Favila, but not Avila. In addition to general concerns about Avila's antics, Favila has a personal issue with Avila, since Avila endorsed Favila for mayor at one point, and then decided to run himself. (Avila is free with his endorsements; he endorsed Paul Leon for State Senate in 2013.)

Anyway, Favila with an F had a live voter in front of him, and he did not want to waste the opportunity, so he told me about his idea to solicit a number of brief proposal papers from potential business owners, select the best of those ideas, and temporarily waive the business registration fees while the business were just starting. Frankly, this reminded me of some of Favila's initiatives when he was on the Ontario City Council several years ago, when he just liked to get a couple of people together and get something done.

After listening to Favila's pitch, I walked on down the street and ran into the Paul Leon booth. Leon was not present, but he had been at the Route 66 festival previously. The Leon volunteer did not provide me with a speech - but did provide me with a bottle of water on that hot day. I don't THINK that counts as bribery...

Friday, August 8, 2014

When Adriana's Insurance nickels and dimes you

Living in the Inland Empire, I have certainly seen my share of advertisements for Rancho Cucamonga-based Adriana's Insurance. Based upon these advertisements, I've always gotten the impression that this insurance company is 100% staffed by hot Latina women.

Well, if this is true, at least one of these women is apparently very muscular, according to Veronica Rocha of the Los Angeles Times.

[Andres] Carrasco alleged that an employee at the company assaulted him when he tried to purchase insurance....

Hint to aspiring salespeople - assaulting your customers is not a good sales tactic.

The case went to court, and Carrasco (assisted by lawyer Antonio Gallo) won a judgment from Adriana's Insurance that required the company to pay Carrasco $21,000. In compliance with the decision, Adriana's Insurance paid all $21,000.

Eight representatives with the insurance company delivered 16 to 18 paint buckets filled with quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies to Carrasco's attorney's office....

I'm not sure what the company would do if a customer paid his or her insurance premiums that way.

And the method of payment was especially insensitive for another reason. According to attorney Gallo, his client had just had a hernia operation.

Of course, $21,000 is a relatively small amount. According to Aequitas Law Group, Adriana's Insurance spent $1.2 million to resolve the case Preciado vs. Adriana's Insurance Services, Inc. Aequitas does not say how Adriana's paid that claim. I found an Aequitas-authored PDF online, and its summary of the case is fascinating:

In Preciado v. Adriana’s Insurance Services (L.A.S.C. BC 400171), Judge Kenneth R. Freeman in Dept. 64 granted our motion and certified a class of customer service representatives and sales agents, for the following subclasses: (1) Unpaid Wage Subclass (“off the clock” claims); (2) Meal Period Subclass; (3) Rest Period Subclass; (5) Expense Reimbursement Subclass; (6) Late Pay Subclass; (7) Wage Statement Subclass.

While I could find no additional information on the case, it sounds like employment with Adriana's may not always be optimum. However, Glassdoor rates the company relatively highly.

In addition to some customer issues and employee issues, it may not be good to be an unrelated towing company either. Adriana's is not only the target of lawsuits; it also files them on its own, as can be seen by this summary of a trademark infringement suit that it filed against Adrianas Towing Services. This was decided in September 2013, in favor of the towing company:

JUDGMENT by Judge Virginia A. Phillips: Pursuant to the Joint Motion to Dismiss filed by Plaintiff on August 30, 2013 20 , IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiffs Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Court orders that such judgment be entered.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Villa Roma Sausage Company Recipe Contest 2014

The Ontario-based Villa Roma Sausage Company is holding a recipe contest. Entrants must submit a recipe which feeds four for less than $10 (assuming that one pound of Villa Roma sausage costs $3.99). And if you win the grand prize, you get:

One Year Supply of Villa Roma Sausages!*
Your recipe will be featured on the Villa Roma website.
Your recipe may appear on future Villa Roma Sausage packages.
Plus: Master Chef Apron – Villa Roma Sausage Fresh & Natural Recipe Contest Winner

No, I will not be entering the contest. Entries due September 30 (submit online).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Catch-22 of mass transit (Metrolink, SanBAG, and San Bernardino line service)

When I moved from Portland, Oregon to Upland, California in 1983, one thing that I clearly lost was an excellent mass transportation system.

When I lived in Portland, I was able to use Tri-Met's bus service (this was when Tri-Met only had buses) to get from my apartment (and previously my college) to downtown, and from there to anywhere in Portland that I needed to go. The buses ran frequently, people used them, and the Portland metropolitan area was (relatively) compact enough to support a unified mass transit service.

By the time I arrived in Upland, I found myself on the fringes of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Omnitrans bus service covered southwestern San Bernardino County, but in car-loving El-Lay it wasn't used all that frequently, and you had to figure out a maze of other services if you wanted to get to downtown Los Angeles.

Metrolink has emerged as a way to get from the outer suburbs to downtown, but it covers six counties and is governed by five of them. (I had thought that Metrolink was governed by six counties, but David Allen is not one to get his facts wrong; it turns out that San Diego County is an ex-officio member - see PDF.)

Regardless of how many counties govern the system, Metrolink serves a lot of counties, as the aforementioned Allen notes:

Metrolink sent bills for the fiscal year that began this month to those five counties’ transportation agencies. Four counties agreed to their share, paying 7.3 to 14 percent more than last year, but San Bernardino refused.

SanBAG, the San Bernardino County agency in charge of mass transit, rejected the 8.8 percent increase and provided a 3 percent increase instead. As a result, Metrolink has removed from trains from the San Bernardino line (the one I talked about recently), including midday and late evening weekday trains. (Late evening weekend trains are unaffected.)

While some may wish that mass transit agencies were solely driven by market conditions, the truth is that money spent on mass transit is money that does not have to be spent on other things, such as road repair. Therefore, there is some incentive for local governments to subsidize mass transit.

But by how much? Allen discussed this with Larry McCallon, Highland councilman, SanBAG board member, and Metrolink board member.

“I do believe we’ve reached a tipping point on fares,” McCallon said, “and we should look at reducing them.” He added with a chuckle: “But that would take a greater subsidy from member agencies. It’s a Catch-22.”

Now perhaps we'll have a complete and total world war in the Middle East AND South America, driving oil prices sky high. Then I KNOW that Metrolink will be able to get funding.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Forbes, Crumbs...and My Delight Cupcakery?

Yesterday, Forbes ran a piece discussing the demise of a cupcake chain known as Crumbs - and the claim that Crumbs' problem was that it had an expensive product of limited interest.

In 2013, when we wrote of the cupcake’s imminent death, Crumbs’ stock had sunk to $1.27 from a 2011 peak of $13. The day the company gave notice of its delisting, shares closed at 23 cents.

At the time, Wedbush Securities restaurant analyst Nick Setyan notes that that Crumbs’ $3.50-plus-per-cupcake price tag made it an unappetizing prospect versus some of its cheaper regional counterparts — not to mention Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts.

So, does that mean that all stores that sell gourmet cupcakes will shutter their doors?

Or, more specifically for me, does it mean that Ontario's My Delight Cupcakery may disappear one day?

Well, My Delight has one thing going for it that Crumbs doesn't have. Let's return to Nick Setyan's analysis.

On Tuesday, Setyan said he wasn’t surprised to see Crumbs close up shop. “They expanded too quickly with a product that simply was not differentiated or compelling enough,” he said. “When the returns are not there, it’s impossible to continue to operate.”

According to Forbes, Crumbs had expanded to 50 locations. My Delight has obviously not expanded that much.

In addition, My Delight aggressively maintains a local presence in their market.

Now perhaps My Delight may choose to expand its product offerings at some point, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee success. I used to work for Motorola, and during my time at the company, it sold everything from automated fingerprint identification systems to police radios to cellular telephones to cable set-top boxes. Motorola was not especially helped by this diversification.

So, rather than the demise of an industry, Forbes may instead be looking at a shakeout of the bad companies in the industry, leaving the good ones to prosper.

Or so I hope.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The taxis in Ontario are more expensive than I thought

I tend to use shuttles when I travel to and from airports, but after some less-than-stellar experiences with shuttle companies, I'm starting to think about using taxis instead.

So I asked myself the question - how much would it cost to take a taxi from my Ontario home to Ontario International Airport?

To answer this question, I consulted a website called For Ontario, the site helpfully provided a list of popular destinations. I selected "Ontario International Airport" as my starting destination, entered an address in my neighborhood as my ending address, and waited for the estimated taxi fare.

The estimate? $5,986.50.

This seems kind of high, but if you've lived in Ontario for a while, the results are not surprising. Here's what happened.

Yup, it's another example (here's a previous one) of a web search engine using the wrong Ontario as a starting point. (When I input the actual address for Terminal 4, the fare was around $20.)

Incidentally, that $5,986.50 doesn't include the tip, which brings the total above $6,800. But it beats walking, which would take about 952 hours, 31 minutes and cost around 238131 calories. While walking is healthy, that might be a little too much health.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Businesses who have outlived their names - 3 Day Suit Broker

You've probably heard of 3 Day Suit Broker, the southern California suit chain that advertises low prices.

How do they keep their prices so low? According to the company web page, this is achieved via a non-standard business model.

Because we're open only 3 days a week, our overhead stays very low. This allows us to sell quality suits from top brands for about half of what others charge. It's why for over 15 years Southern Californians have counted on us for great values, not cheap suits.

Sounds like a great concept, although you obviously have to time the visit just right.

Last week I was talking to someone who was looking for an inexpensive suit, and I was wondering if the 3 Day Suit Broker in Ontario was open on that particular day. So I checked its hours:

Store Hours








Huh? Does this mean that 3 Day Suit Broker has been forced to double its prices?

Of course, 3 Day Suit Broker isn't the only Inland Empire company with an outdated name. Back in 1946, a chain of convenience stores in Texas called Tote'm changed its name to 7-Eleven. Why?

[T]o reflect the stores' new, extended hours - 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Less than 20 years later, in 1963, the 7-Eleven near the University of Texas in Austin began to stay open 24 hours a day on weekends to cater to the football crowd. But the store name has been preserved to the present day.

Monday, April 21, 2014

OK, I feel old now.

I was thinking about writing about Liset Marquez's adventures at Coachella, so I was doing some background reading on Alexa's Wish. No, Alexa's Wish didn't play Coachella - they broke up years ago.

So I was surprised to find a 2010 YouTube video with an Alexa's Wish song. Then I read what uploader Ryan Smith said:

An old band my Dad used to be in.

I feel old now.

Incidentally, one former member of Alexa's Wish (Eggers???) subsequently joined Rebel Death Squad. And Ralph played in Gorilla Cookies and the Griffins, but I'm not sure what he's doing musically now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When the waitress complements the restaurant's technology (another Chili's Montclair Ziosk post)

Last week, I posted something in my Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime blog that had a local connection, so I figured that I'd go into more detail about it here.

The original post described a Thursday night visit to Chili's Montclair, on the southwest corner of Montclair Plaza. This particular restaurant is one of over 1,000 restaurants that has installed a Ziosk tablet on every table.

In case you haven't figured it out, the purpose of the Ziosk device is to provide more revenue to the Montclair Chili's. The device makes it really easy to order appetizers (high profit margin), and it makes it really easy to order desserts (really high profit margin). In fact, it even lets you play games on the device - if you pay 99 cents for the privilege.

However, we didn't really exercise the features of the Ziosk, for two reasons. One, some of the options weren't of much interest to us that evening - we skipped the dessert, we didn't want to play games, and since we paid for our meal in cash there was no reason to use the credit card reading feature (note that I didn't say the secure credit card reading feature).

The other reason that we didn't use the Ziosk all that much is because our waitress, Maggie, took care of our needs before we could program the Ziosk to do so. Order appetizers from the Ziosk? Maggie took our order quickly. Order free drink refills from the Ziosk? Maggie got my drink order just before I was ready to request a refill.

As an aside, it doesn't appear that this particular technology is geared toward labor displacement. Rather than doing away with the waiter/waitress, the Ziosk served as an electronic assistant to our waitress. When it was time for our bill, she just displayed it on the device - and as I noted, we could have used a card to pay our bill, and saved her the trouble of running back and forth to another machine.

Of course, a lot of restaurants are installing various electronic devices - I know that Coco's has gone back and forth with the tablets that it gives to its wait staff. Perhaps in a few years there will be a lot of buzz about a retro restaurant in which waitresses take orders with pen and paper.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Inland Empress on the secrets to a happy marriage

Remember Inland Empress? (Here's a previous mention in this very blog.) Well, she left her empire several years ago and is, across the border in Arizona. Disguising her imperial character under the name Anne Boles Levy, she was recently quoted in a piece in Raising Arizona Kids entitled Voices from the Village: Domestic responsibilities. Alexandra Muller Arboleda introduces the article with the following:

Should you let your spouse do the laundry even if your favorite yoga pants might be ruined?

Sometimes the key to balancing domestic and childcare responsibilities is as much about giving up control over how you want things done as it is about equality. Perhaps balance falls somewhere in between holding on and letting go. Six local couples share what works for them.

Levy's portion begins as follows:

Ever since Henry Ford powered up the first assembly line, Americans have embraced the idea of dividing labor into bite-sized pieces. Sadly, anyone who lives in a house of any size—particularly one with children—quickly realizes the unlikelihood of keeping it functioning in any systematic way.

My husband and I have worked out a plan for keeping the house somewhat habitable. He does the dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, dusting, mopping and general repair. My job in all this is to apologize profusely.

Read the rest here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The EPA welcomes American Lifan to California

According to a press release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Lifan Industry is a former Texas company that has relocated to California.

Now since most of the talk is of companies (and people) moving the other way - from California to Texas - one would expect that this company would come in for a bit of culture shock. I mean, going from a place where the government kills people for sport to a place where you can get life imprisonment for looking at a snail darter the wrong way can be a shock for a company. But in this case, the California state government didn't make life miserable for American Lifan - it was a Federal agency, the EPA, that did so.

WASHINGTON -- American Lifan Industry, Inc., an Ontario, California-based vehicle and engine importer, has agreed to ensure that future imports meet federal emission standards after illegally importing and selling nearly 28,000 highway motorcycles, recreational vehicles, and engines manufactured in China that did not comply with Clean Air Act standards to limit harmful pollution.

The company will pay $630,000 in civil penalties and will also post a $300,000-$500,000 bond to satisfy any future potential penalties related to importation of model year 2014, 2015, and 2016 vehicles manufactured by China Lifan Industry (Group) Co., Ltd or affiliated companies. This is the first time that the EPA has secured such a bond in a Clean Air Act settlement.

More here. H/T the Highland Community News.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Another view of the agricultural district

As time passes, the agricultural district between Ontario and Corona is slowly disappearing. But I recently read a different perspective on it. The story was written by Imranulhaq Khan, a devout Muslim, and concerns events that occurred before and after the death of his father.

One week before his father's death, they went on a drive.

Only a week ago I had taken my father on a drive to purchase birds from the Sunday market near the junction of Highway 15 and highway 60. I could see his eyes sinking. This particular sign was never taught to me as a doctor. Somehow I knew this was his last drive. So instead of the freeway I drove thought the farms and fields. My fathers eyes were fixed on farms and cows in pastures such a magnetic way that is hard to describe. I started to drive the car even slower unusual for me to drive slowly.

I encourage you to read the entire post, including the account of what happend when Imran and his uncle drove to a Riverside mortuary.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Yelp review of Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX

And yes, this review is relevant to the Inland Empire, as you will see. I only awarded two stars. The original review is at

DISCLOSURE: I live near Ontario, California, and its airport that is also managed by LAWA, so read into that what you will. Ontario's Terminals 2 and 4 were designed before 9/11, and all of the restaurants and services were placed on the second floor...which meant that after 9/11 took place, they were all behind the security line. Therefore if you're dropping off or picking up someone at Ontario Airport, there is literally nothing to do.

Why is this relevant? Because I wouldn't think that someone would do this intentionally - but that's just what they've done at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The last time that I visited the terminal a few years ago, they were starting the renovation process. When I was there yesterday evening, the departure level renovations were nearly completed. Unfortunately, these renovations wiped out all of the restaurants that were on the departure level, so when we wanted to spend some time with our friend before her flight left, we ended up at a dinky place at the arrival leve, eating pre-packaged muffins and bagels.

Perhaps this is a security measure, designed to keep as many people away from LAX as possible and to only have actual passengers at the airport. But it's supremely disappointing. (And for what it's worth, it reinforces my resolve that my local airport should be removed from LAWA control.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Positive Train Control

Orange County and the Inland Empire share a regional train system, Metrolink. So although I initially learned about this from the Orange County Transportation Authority, it is equally applicable here in the Inland Empire.

Positive Train Control is an innovation that is being implemented on Metrolink trains, as detailed here.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is GPS-based safety technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position*. PTC monitors and, if necessary, controls train movement in the event of human error. PTC may also bring trains to a safe stop in the event of a natural disaster.

The actual implementation is just beginning.

[I]n February 2014, Metrolink received authorization from the Federal Railroad Administration that it could begin operating PTC in Revenue Demonstration Service (RSD) under the authority of the BNSF Railway. On February 17, Metrolink ran the first successful RSD on the 91 Line, and on February 20, the PTC RSD was publically unveiled, with multiple VIPs and news media in attendance.

It is currently anticipated that Metrolink will conduct RSD on the San Bernardino Line in the fall of 2014, and that the entire system will be PTC operational by early to mid-2015, well before the current federal deadline of December 31, 2015.

Sadly, there is a reason why Metrolink has an incentive to implement this before the national deadline.

On Sept. 12, 2008, a Connex engineer operating a Metrolink train failed to stop at a red signal, causing a collision with a Union Pacific freight train. In this tragic incident, 25 lives were lost and another 135 people were injured. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein led Congress in adopting the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandated the installation of PTC by the end of 2015. The Metrolink Board of Directors committed to implementing PTC in advance of the federal deadline to ensure Southern Californians are among the first in the nation to benefit from this life-saving technology.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stay classy, Joe

When Gloria Negrete McLeod announced that she would not run for a second term in the U.S. Congress, Joe Baca - a fellow Democrat who was defeated by McLeod in a 2012 "top two" runoff - had some choice words.

Look at what we wound up with: Some bimbo who decided not to run again.

Baca subsequently apologized, but I wouldn't count on a speaking invitation to the 2016 Democratic National Convention if I were him.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekday gambling at San Manuel, with an assist from Metrolink

With the exception of every 7-Eleven in my area, there are no gambling destinations within walking distance of my home. If I want to lose money, I have to get in the car and drive for a while.

Well, actually I don't, as Metrolink notes.

Before I watched the video, I was a little leery of the whole thing. I've been to the San Bernardino Metrolink Station. And perhaps I'm in danger of sounding like Joe Biden here, but this is not a place that you want to hang around at for an extended period. Plus, I knew that only one Omnitrans bus serviced the station, and that only got you as far as downtown San Bernardino - meaning that you'd have to wait and transfer.

But when I watched the video, I discovered that during weekdays, San Manuel Casino provides shuttles five minutes after the scheduled arrivals of selected trains. Train 302 Arrives 9:30am

Shuttle Pick up 9:35am

Train 304 Arrives 10:35am

Shuttle Pick up 10:50am

The shuttles leave the casino at 1:30 and 3:30, allowing you to board the 2:00 and 4:00 trains from San Bernardino and head back to Union Station, or Upland, or whatever your destination is.

And it sure beats driving.

View Larger Map

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cybersecurity? Not here.

I got excited when I read a Homeland Security News Wire item that began as follows:

Cal Poly, with a grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, has established a Cybersecurity Center, opened a new cyber lab, and is developing a cybersecurity curriculum with an ambitious set of goals in mind: educating thousands of students in cybersecurity awareness and readiness; producing experts in cyber technologies and systems, including many professionals who will serve the military and defense industry; and graduating cyber innovators who are prepared for advanced study and applied research in emerging cyber issues.

Finally, I thought to myself, the Inland Empire (well, the surrounding area) is going to become known as an important tech location, and people will think of Pomona as a cybersecurity center.

So then I clicked through to the source press release...

...and discovered that it was issued by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

This is kinda like arranging for Clinton to speak at your event and then finding out that you didn't get Bill, or Hillary, but Roger.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Goes Around Comes Around, the January 2014 edition

Before I launch into my unintentional follow-up to my J.C. Penney store closure post, I want to make one thing clear.

The supermarket business was having trouble long before Walmart set foot in southern California.

Remember Lucky, Alpha Beta, Hughes, the original Safeways, and other long-departed supermarkets in southern California? Most of those chains no longer exist, having merged with other supermarket chains or having closed entirely.

But the attrition, partially caused by increased competition from stores as varied as Walmart and Trader Joe's (we'll get to Trader Joe's later), has resulted in a slow attrition of the remaining supermarkets in southern California.

Not too long ago, I had to get something at Ralph's. Since the Ralph's in Upland at Foothill and San Antonio closed long ago, I figured I'd go to the Ralph's at 4th and Vineyard - only to discover that there was no longer a Ralph's there. I ended up at Haven and Baseline.

When the Albertsons at Foothill and Mountain in Upland closed, it wasn't that big a concern to me. I rarely shop at Albertsons anyway, and when I do, I usually shop at the one in northwest Ontario.

Ah, Albertsons.

Back in 2008, Albertsons was part of SuperValu. In a March 2008 post, I quoted from a second-generation owner of a SuperValu. While he wasn't necessarily happy about the small markets that had closed when the SuperValu opened, he chalked it all up to business.

"I'm a small-town person at heart, and I hate to see that, but it's a matter of economics. The fact is you need volume to survive."

Little did he know.

By November 2013, when the Walmart opened, I noted that SuperValu had sold the Albertsons chain, and that some stores had been closed. Well, those store closures continued with the Foothill and Mountain closure.

And now, Gregory J. Wilcox of the Los Angeles Daily News has announced that the Albertsons in northwest Ontario - just down the street from Walmart - is closing next month, as part of a closure of 11 stores ranging from Santa Clarita to San Diego.

Of course, there's the Walmart down the street, Stater Brothers all over the place, and various specialty stores such as Trader Joe's...whoops, strike that. The Trader Joe's in Upland is closing also.

Change is constant.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Only one J C Penney store in California is being closed. Guess where it is?

As part of J.C. Penney's latest cost-cutting initiatives, the company has announced the closure of 33 stores. The Huffington Post has printed the list of stores, and one is in California:

Rancho Cucamonga - Arrow Plaza

This is the outlet store at Arrow and Haven, not the store at Victoria Gardens.

The location of that store has a checkered history. Before J.C. Penney moved in, this was a K Mart that was closed.

I'm not sure that I'd want to be the next retailer to move into that building...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes - steeped in tradition?

I still think of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes as a relatively new team, but as Paul Caputo notes, the team has not undergone the changes that happen at other minor league teams:

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes have had the same team name and, conceptually, the same logo since their inception in 1993. In minor league baseball terms, this puts the team’s identity roughly on par with prehistoric cave paintings and Betty White—attractive, but really old. In a logo landscape littered with increasingly bizarre (and, I have to admit, awesome) new nicknames, it’s refreshing to see a team that has stood by its identity and been embraced by the community.

For more of Caputo's thoughts on the Quakes, including quotations from Mike Lindskog and a disucussion of Tremor (but what about Aftershock?), read the rest of his post.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The distrustful woman at a crowded pharmacy

Because a prescription wasn't available at my regular pharmacy, I found myself at the pharmacy for the CVS at Euclid and Foothill in Upland. I've been to this CVS many times, but have never used its pharmacy. It turns out that a lot of people use that pharmacy - and that you therefore have to wait.

So I waited - not as long as various Yelp reviewers, but I did have to wait for a half hour.

While waiting, I was sitting near a man who was trying to pick up a prescription for his wife, who had recently been released from the hospital.

A few minutes later, the wife appeared. She was tired of waiting in the car, and wanted to leave.

Her husband told her that she had to get a prescription.

She asked how long it would take to get the prescription - as I previously noted, this appears to be a common question at this CVS pharmacy.

The husband told the wife to ask the (male) pharmacist - but the pharmacist was running around filling all of our prescriptions.

The wife turned to someone else who was waiting for a prescription. "Don't trust men," the wife told the person.

Personally, it's risky enough to say bad things to a waiter or a waitress, since a bad restaurant worker may choose to spit in your food. Imagine what a bad pharmacist could do. (Luckily, this pharmacist appears to be a good one, if an overworked one.)