Tuesday, September 22, 2015

High speed rail to Vegas, this month's edition

So I saw the headline via a Facebook share - high speed rail from Los Angeles to Las Vegas!

What prompted the excitement? This announcement that "XpressWest, a private venture proposal backed by Las Vegas-based hotel and casino developer Marnell Companies," had secured a partner in China Railway International USA.

Let's review.

Who's proposing this latest version of a high speed railway to Las Vegas? The casino interests of Las Vegas.

Why? Because the casinos are in Las Vegas, and the people are in Los Angeles. So the casinos need a way to get the people to the casinos.

Who's going to pay for this?

That's the sticking point. While the casinos are extremely willing to suggest the idea of a rail system to Vegas, they can't actually pay to put it in.

XpressWest had been unable to secure a federal loan or investment from within the United States for the project.

I vaguely remember one of these proposals from a decade or two ago, in which the argument was made that since most of the rail line would go through California, and only a little itty bit of the line would go through Nevada, therefore California should pay for the bulk of the project. Never mind that the intent of the project was to suck money out of California.

One other comment: this version of the high speed rail project not only bypasses the Ontario area, but also bypasses the entertainment complex in Orange County. That airport that's coming under local control, and that brand spanking new rail station in Anaheim? Forget it.

Frankly, I can't quibble with the routing of the line (which, for the record, is Las Vegas to Victorville to Palmdale to Los Angeles). If we in the IE really really wanted a high speed rail line to come here, we'd pay for it - and frankly, we weren't even willing to pay for our own airport, trying to get it for free.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ONT to ONT - now we need a head hONTcho

So now that we're on the road to a locally-controlled Ontario International Airport, we have to do the nuts-and-bolts work to actually RUN an airport. No, Alan Wapner cannot do this by himself, although he's part of the group that will select someone to run the airport. Wapner is one of several people who constitute the Ontario International Airport Authority, a group that doesn't even have its own named website yet. However, the Set Ontario Free website includes a description of the OIAA.

About the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA)

The OIAA was formed in August 2012 by a Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Ontario and the County of San Bernardino to provide overall direction for the management, operations, development and marketing of ONT for the benefit of the Southern California economy and the residents of the airport's four-county catchment area. OIAA Commissioners are Ontario Mayor pro Tem Alan D. Wapner (President), Ontario Council Member Jim W. Bowman, San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman, Retired Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge (Vice President) and Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn (Secretary).

Note that although Los Angeles County is one of the four counties in the "catchment area," it is not represented on the OIAA. Perhaps the good citizens of Claremont and Pomona fear us inbred folks just as the people from Westchester do.

Anyway, Wapner, Bowman, Hagman, Loveridge, and Dunn themselves can't run an airport either. For that you need a professional. And, according to the San Bernardino County Sentinel, they're seeking one.

The Ontario International Airport Authority...has earmarked $95,000 which it will pay to Boyden Global Executive Search, a headhunting firm based in Washington, D.C., to find a full-time executive director to oversee the transfer of authority over the airport from Los Angeles World Airports to an executive team overseen by the authority and the city of Ontario.

And no, I don't think LAWA's Stephen Martin will be applying for the job. But who will?

It's an interesting challenge of a job. For most airport head jobs, the new airport head will have a staff of people and an airport to run. There are other cases in which the new head may have a skeleton staff, but needs to actually build the airport. In this case, the airport already exists, but the staffing for the airport is uncertain. Remember, the OIAA itself doesn't even have a website, much less office space. And presumably some people who currently work for LAWA will end up working for OIAA, but those details must still be worked out.

So the candidates are going to show up in Ontario for job interviews. Unless they're local, they'll presumably have the smarts to actually fly in to the airport that they'll be running. If they land in Terminal 4, they'll notice that a significant section of the terminal is empty. Depending upon the time of day, the retail shops may or may not be open. At least they'll see a nice American flag when they go to baggage claim.

However, if they want to make any inquiries about the existing airport, OIAA can't really help them. They'll have to meet with LAWA people. In the ideal situation, LAWA folks will not only be willing to meet with the candidates, but may actually come out to Ontario to do so (rather than making the candidate go to LAX). If there are any LAWA-OIAA disagreements at the time of the candidate visits, however, things might not go so smoothly.

However, regardless of what happens with the candidate interviews, there's one thing that will have an extremely positive impact on the candidates. As they exit Terminal 2 or Terminal 4, they will be facing north and will see our local mountains - the same mountain range that enchanted me when I came to California for a job interview in October 1983.

Well, they may not see it if the job interviews drag on into next summer and the mountains are enclosed by fog.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(empo-jooryst) My 2015 jury service wasn't as long as my 2013 service

For reasons previously explained, I have waited until now to talk about my 2015 jury service.

Although frankly, there's not much to tell, because I didn't even make it on the jury as an alternate.

In late May, I reported to the Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court for jury duty. Eventually I was placed on a panel and ushered upstairs to a courtroom, where I found out that this jury trial was going to be a little different that other jury trials.

This trial was a mental competency hearing to determine whether a defendant was competent to stand trial. Because it was a mental competency hearing, there were two things of significance. First, the burden of proof was on the defense; the defendant was presumed to be competent unless the defense proved that the defendant was incompetent. Second, there was a lower burden of proof; rather than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden that is usually encountered in a criminal courtroom, the defense merely had to prove incompetence via a "preponderance of the evidence" - in other words, the same burden of proof that you find in a civil trial.

Potential jurors were not told what the defendant was charged with, because in essence that didn't matter anyway. The jurors' only duty was to determine competence by listening to some expert witnesses (from both sides) and applying the law. Needless to say, I was curious about this, but knew that I couldn't research the case until I was released from jury service.

Since I wasn't picked for the jury, I could research any time after that, including during the competency trial itself. However, I knew from previous experience that it takes a while for the transcripts to show up, and I also knew that the competency trial itself wouldn't start until early June.

In early June, I peeked at the records and found out that the defendant was charged with burglary last year. (Speedy justice and all that.) Oh, and I did find out something else - a close relative of the defendant has had numerous brushes with the law, going back over ten years; but that's all that I'll say about that.

Regarding the competency trial itself, this entry was placed in the online records on June 2.


Finally, at the end of June, the defendant was sentenced to time served and released under supervised probation. The 27th and final condition of the defendant's probation?


Does that prohibition extend to Safeway's Vons stores?