DA Declines to Investigate

District Attorney Greg Totten opted not to investigate the allegations that the Simi Valley Police Department intentionally delayed the investigation of the Takasugi fraud case to shield the campaign of Bob Huber, newly elected Mayor and former partner of Takasugi. This comes as no surprise to me at all. Last weekend, I spoke about what caused the delay to occur in the first place which seemed pretty legitimate from my standpoint. Plus, others who are more well versed in these matters also shared with me that even if the investigation were intentionally delayed, regardless of the reason, that would not represent a crime, ultimately leaving the County District Attorney with little to say about it.

According to the article in the Ventura County Star:

In a letter sent to Simi Valley City Manager Mike Sedell, Totten cited a number of reasons for not pursuing it, including the fact that such conduct would not constitute a crime even if true.

The Ventura County Star indicated at the end of the article that the story is developing. I’ll go ahead and suggest that it isn’t going to go much farther than this. With Bob Huber now sworn in as Mayor, stories like this will stop appearing, or when they do appear they will die quickly. The new City Council has already spoken openly about moving forward. In time, everyone else will follow their lead and will stop chasing stories like these. They’re fantasies dreamed up by people with agendas.

Having said that, let’s move on…

Our New City Council

Tonight, we’ll get to see our new City Council Members sworn in. Regardless of your position throughout the campaigns, this must be exciting for most of us who follow these matters. Well, at least it is for me. Tonight we’ll see how our choices at the polls translate into real life action as the folks we voted in take their seats.

This will be an emotional evening. Mayor Paul Miller is retiring after decades of service to the community. I don’t want to see him go. Two years ago, I produced artwork and posted signs for an underdog candidate for Mayor who ran against him for no other reason than to attempt to break-up what I referred to as the “status quo” and what I perceived to be Mayor Miller’s easy, unchallenged ride back into his seat. Even the candidate who challenged him agreed that Miller was doing it right, agreeing with him on almost every point during the candidate forums. I realized when he was easily re-elected that I had more to learn about Paul Miller before I could comfortably say he wasn’t the choice for Mayor. I will miss Paul Miller.

Michelle Foster will also be stepping down, handing her seat over to newly elected Councilman Mike Judge. Foster’s campaign for re-election was clean and steady. In what has been described as an anti-incumbent atmosphere, this election cycle had to be tough for both Foster and Becerra. But Foster’s passion for the community is such that I predicted she wouldn’t get overly aggressive, attack her opponents or do anything that could be perceived as negative. And she didn’t. One could speculate that she’s stepping down as a result of that, but one can only speculate. The fact is that she is stepping down in the same positive light and with the same stellar reputation with which she joined the Council. Though she won’t be sitting at the dais, her work will almost certainly continue.

Miller and Foster will be saying their good-bye’s this evening at 5:00PM at City Council Chambers. I work out of town, but will be trying my best to get there to see them off. Hopefully some of you can do the same.

City Councilman Mike Judge and Mayor Bob Huber will be sworn in this evening. Both of these new members of the Council have indicated publicly via interviews or through community channels that they intend to put Simi Valley’s best interests first. Both have discussed reuniting the council after what could be described as a heated battle. I believe them and look forward to seeing what they bring to the table and how they serve the community. The swearing in begins tonight at 7:30PM at City Council Chambers.

DA Reviews Takasugi/SVPD Issue

The VC Star is reporting that District Attorney Totten is reviewing the allegation that the Simi Valley Police delayed the Takasugi fraud investigation until after the Mayoral election. Of course, the suggestion here is that Takasugi’s former partner, Mayor-elect Bob Huber, was protected by the SVPD by this move.

As someone who was outspokenly against the Bob Huber campaign in the final months of the campaign cycle, I immediately took notice when these headlines appeared. However, there are two things to consider before rushing to judgment: 1) what is motivating the attorney to make those statements and 2) how normal is a 3 week training period for an investigator (the official cause for the delay of the investigation).

Regarding the attorney who made the allegation in court, Roger Stanard, he’s probably quite effective at his job. If an attorney can identify a situation like the Takasugi and Huber relationship, as well as the heated election for Simi Valley Mayor, it won’t take much time for him to determine that he benefits to make an issue of it. He can comfortably make the accusation and know that the sensitive topic of our election will result in headlines which could easily result in an investigation or review by the DA. This is just cause for a continuance, where the attorney can have more time to prepare, or better yet, leverage all evidence obtained by a police investigation that is suddenly pushed forward due to public pressure. So far, this only tells us that the victims in this case have a very skilled attorney.

Keep in mind, the attorney was armed with the details of this case since June, but waited until 2 weeks before the election to file the crime report. It’s a fair bet that he knew what he was doing..

On to the other point, there are plenty who believe the Simi PD’s explanation that the investigator was in the middle of 3 weeks of training is just an excuse. It’s actually quite believable that training is something that causes unwanted delays from time to time, and it’s very believable that this is something that can continue to happen in the future. To better understand, you need to consider the basis of the Simi Valley POA contract dispute. Although I don’t know the finer details, I do have some insight at a high level that I’ve put together from input from both sides of the dispute.

Our City believes that the Police Department should implement mandatory rotation of job specialties. For example, a homicide detective might rotate into a position as a fraud investigator after a set period of time. This would give the detective multiple skills and provide redundancy and backup in the department. However, the department looks at this unfavorably. For them, it prevents them from sharpening their skills to the finest because they are effectively switching jobs. They require training on every rotation. Some detectives look for careers outside of the SVPD because of this.

Here’s the inside story on the delays in the Takasugi case. A seasoned homicide detective recently retired because he didn’t want to rotate. Another homicide detective was recently promoted. This opens two homicide positions. There are two “white collar crime” detectives, one of whom recently left, also due to the unfavorable position on rotations. The other took one of the open homicide detective positions. This new homicide detective is important here, so remember him as I continue.

With homicide partially covered, a new detective was needed to cover the now open white collar crimes investigations. The new “white collar crime” detective is a newly promoted patrol officer. This case goes to him. As a new detective, he needs to lean on someone with the expertise in cases like these. The new detective’s mentor? That would be the new homicide detective mentioned above, recently moved from his previous “white collar crime” position. Unfortunately, he was in training, in two different schools in fact. One of them was for investigating homicides.

The training situation is true… not an excuse. And it’s reflective of a serious problem in our department. Blaming either the City or the PD for the problem seems much less relevant to me than fixing the problem.

Regarding the Takasugi case, regardless of when the investigation starts, should have started, or if it has already started, everyone agrees that there appears to be a crime that has been committed. Since a criminal report has been filed and an investigation is about to happen, it’s almost a sure thing that justice will be served and he will be arrested. As to whether or not Takasugi will be indicted, that will be up to the District Attorney. And as far as whether or not Takasugi will suffer civil damages, my suspicion is that Attorney Roger Stanard will be very effective at making that happen.

Waste Management Under Fire

Waste Management took some heat from citizens last night at the City Council meeting. Most notably was Louis Pandolfi, Landfill Expansion Task Force member and outspoken opponent of the expansion. He took on the issue of the recent press release from WM regarding their choice to longer participate in City discussions resulting from the lawsuit filed by the Task Force.

Mayor-elect Bob Huber spoke as well, identifying WM as a large Texas billion dollar corporation that produced a press release that he found offensive, standing up for Councilwoman Williamson’s right to free speech. Additional speakers suggested alternatives to the large landfill regarding waste disposal, like new state of the art facilities for disposal as well as rail transport to ship waste to landfills outside of Simi Valley.

The number of folks there to speak out in favor of Waste Management: ZERO!

During Council Comments, Barbra Williamson took a few minutes to recite a prepared presentation on her thoughts regarding Waste Management’s recent position. It was a strong, moving statement that I would like to share with you hear. I’m hoping to have a transcript of the presentation later this afternoon.

It’s a terrible position that we’re in as the approval deadline approaches for this landfill. From my observations, the landfill expansion has been surrounded by a mix-up of fear inducing statements and confusing, sometimes conflicting figures. Most people have taken either a firm pro or anti position against the landfill, but for those who want to study the facts and make an educated decision, it’s difficult. Every seemingly credible source is easily followed up by another just as credible source with conflicting data. With one side suing the other, and the other side now refusing to participate, clarity does not seem likely any time soon.

As an added note, Councilwoman Foster’s remarks regarding annexation seemed dead-on to me. Annexation cannot occur without willing participation from the land owner — Waste Management. With that said, as a City we should be laying the pressure on the County Board of Supervisors to ensure that we are represented.

Video Evidence: Sign Thefts

I’m glad the election is over. While it may not have been as heated as other elections in other areas, it was bad enough for Simi Valley. One of the most memorable moments for me will always be the theatrics surrounding sign thefts. The accusations from supporters on all sides, the letters to the editor, and the blog and forum comments on the topic were heated, to say the least. The editorial in the Acorn regarding the stakeout of the Huber for Mayor sign yielded an even number of people both agreeing and disagreeing with what happened with that incident.

I think its a fair assumption that considering the obvious support Bob Huber’s campaign had from the Simi Valley Police Officers Association, his signs were considered a bit more sacred to those on the POA. That’s something that has been hotly disputed, but the videos I found recently I believe are further evidence of that. I’d bet comfortably that the POA doesn’t have any video evidence of sign thefts of any other candidate. Admittedly, I have no details on how these videos were obtained.

A YouTube user named svpdpoa401 uploaded the following three videos. The quality is somewhat poor because it appears to be video shot of a video monitor playing the actual videos. The producer of the videos included amusing title cards and upbeat rock music. The origin and background of the video is unknown because the metadata on the uploads contains no detailed descriptions. However, you’ll clearly see hooligans swiping Huber signs and running away.

Waste Management Requests Lawsuit Dismissal

Waste Management is requesting a dismissal of the lawsuit filed against them by the Landfill Task Force according to a statement released by Waste Management. WM is confused by the move and objects to the Task Force’s position. Here are a few of their remarks:

We continue to believe what we’ve always believed since the beginning of this project: that all Ventura County groups, residents and business people, and especially all Simi Valley residents, should expect us to be open and transparent about the project. And we have lived up to that.

Those comments, attributed to Mike Smith, Director of Operations for WM in Ventura County, were followed by these regarding the Task Force’s position on the legality of the expansion project:

The actions of Councilmember Williamson and her Task Force are confusing. We have been meeting with Councilmember Williamson and her Task Force since 2007 under the assumption that they were interested in making this a good project that would work for Simi Valley. Then, they file a lawsuit against the County and WM.
Then, they ask us to debate them while the lawsuit is awaiting a decision by the courts. Now, Councilmember Williamson tells the media that the Task Force isn’t suing us, even though they obviously are.

John Newell, Waste Management Corporate Counsel, concluded the statement with this to say about their plans for this case and the legality of the expansion:

WM, in our filing, is asking that the Court dismiss the lawsuit completely. This request is based on the undisputed facts that the proposed project is subject to a reimbursment agreement between the County and WM (i.e., the County is not spending taxpayer dollars) and that an independent body, CalRecycle has already determined that the project is properly described within the County Siting Element.

Simply put, the Task Force’s lawsuit fails on the facts and the law.

No word yet on how the Landfill Task Force intends to respond.

The statement can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Landfill Debate Challenge

The election may be over, but the fight between the Landfill Taskforce and the Simi Valley Landfill continues to rage on. The Taskforce recently submitted a letter to the General Manager of Waste Management’s Simi Valley Landfill to debate the issue of the expansion in a public forum. The letter reads as follows:

November 4, 2010

Mike Smith
General Manager
Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center
2801 Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 93065

Dear Mr. Smith:

The Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce invites Waste Management to participate in an open forum/debate on the issues surrounding the expansion of Simi Valley Landfill. We believe the community would benefit from an opportunity to hear all sides of the proposed expansion in a forum that ensures the debate does not become a battle of competing sound bites, half-truths and unanswered questions.

A community forum/debate with mutually agreed upon rules would prove beyond a doubt WM’s commitment to the principles outlined in your April ll, 2007 press release announcing Waste Management’s application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. You stressed that WM is “committed to meeting the long-term waste disposal and recycling needs of Ventura County in an environmentally sensitive, cost-effective and community-focused manner.”

We would like to schedule this for early to mid December and have already spoken with California Lutheran University Professor Herbert Gooch, PhD. and he has agreed to serve as the moderator. I am hopeful you will accept our invitation at which time we can finalize the remaining pertinent details.

You can contact me at your convenience at 805.231.2497.

Barbra Williamson
Councilwoman, City of Simi Valley
Chair, Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce

So far, all we know at this point is that Waste Management is in receipt of this letter. No official word yet on whether or not they will accept the challenge and participate in the debate.

November 4, 2010
Mike Smith
General Manager
Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center
2801Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Dear _.””~ ..I.•..,…”••..•. ”
The Simi V ey Landfill Expansion Taskforce invites Waste Management to participate in an open
forum/debate on the issues surrounding the expansion of Simi Valley Landfill. We believe the
community would benefit from an opportunity to hear all sides of the proposed expansion in a forum
that ensures the debate does not become a battle of competing sound bites, half-truths and unanswered
questions.
A community forum/debate with mutually agreed upon rules would prove beyond a doubt WM’s
commitment to the principles outlined in your April ll, 2007 press release announcing Waste
Management’s application for expansion of the Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. You stressed
that WM is “committed to meeting the long-term waste disposal and recycling needs of Ventura County
in an environmentally sensitive, cost-effective and community-focused manner.”
We would like to schedule this for early to mid December and have already spoken with California
Lutheran University Professor Herbert Gooch, PhD. and he has agreed to serve as the moderator. I am
hopeful you will accept our invitation at which time we can finalize the remaining pertinent details.
You can contact me at your convenience at 805.231.2497.
Barbra Williamson
Councilwoman, City of Simi Valley
Chair, Simi Valley Landfill Expansion Taskforce

Simi Valley Election Results

In a very close race for Simi Valley Mayor, Bob Huber took the election by about 1100 votes in a 51.4% to 47.8% victory. Our next Mayor of Simi Valley is Bob Huber.

On the City Council, Glen Becerra was re-elected with 28.18% of the vote. Mike Judge was also elected to the Council with 21.15%, making his campaign one of the most effective grassroots efforts in Simi Valley!

I owe my sincere gratitude to the candidates for sharing the experience with me along the way. I’ve never seen a harder working group of people digging in to fight for what the believe.

I wish Mayor Paul Miller the very best in his upcoming retirement. He served our City well. The few opportunities I’ve had to speak to him face to face have been a pleasure. I will always look up to him and feel honored to have gotten to know him.

The last several months have been difficult ones as we got closer to this moment. Hate mail and vandalism became common experiences for me, a showing of how passionate the debate had become. Despite that, I will cherish the friendships I’ve developed with so many of you leading up to this day, including the new ones I made last night. I will also mourn the friendships I’ve lost and pray for reconciliation. I’m still inspired by businessman Peter Carrube.

Congratulations to the victors. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get it done!

Peter Carrube – The Smartest Man in Simi Valley

Peter Carrube is a local businessman, martial artist and self defense instructor in the City of Simi Valley. He’s been vocal throughout the course of the many local campaigns. His reason is always clear: he cares about Simi Valley. What follows is an exact quote that I read from him on Facebook. He posted it days ago, but I just read it today.

I just wanted to point something out that I’ve witnessed during these past few months of this campaign season… First of all, I concider myself to be friends with both the candidates for Mayor, Mr. Bob Huber & Mr. Steve Sojka. I like both …men. I agree & disagree with both men and I find each to be true to their convictions and to the love for our fair city. I’ve shown up at both their events, shake both their hands, speak highly of both and am honored to call each of them my friend. What I have not done is tell anyone which of the two I will be voting for. In return, it is true I have not openly shown support for either man but well, my reasoning will explain why. I have watched as friends of mine, who were friends of each other, just turn bitter to each other, after showing their support for the opposite candidate. I have seen this to be true in many cases. This campaign has changed a lot of relationships and I find it sad and a little silly. Just because we support one over the other, it should not change the way we feel toward each other. My secretive political decisions have saved me from such an ordeal and well, I do not regret my tactics. I will vote next week, for the man I feel will do our city best but I was not willing to sacrifice my friendships, simply to let everyone know of my decision ahead of time. With or without my open support, the outcome would be the same. When this election is over, I only hope bygons will be bygons and my mutual friends of these two friends, will find a way to get back to being friends.

Peter’s statements are dead on. From business leaders to bloggers, this election has been divisive and nasty, causing many, including myself, to lose their way. I believe its true community leaders like Peter Carrube who will inspire everyone to focus on the future so the healing can begin. Thanks Peter.

Good luck, candidates.

Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum

The Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce puts on a candidates forum every election. Last election, there were fewer of these to choose from and the one put on by the Chamber of Commerce meant a great deal to me. It came with a cost which was disappointing, but it’s understandable. The venue is the Grand Vista Hotel and lunch is served to all in attendance… of course, that comes with a cost, but at $25 per person and the opportunity to learn more about our local candidates, it’s not a bad deal.

What follows is an uncut video of the Candidates Forum put on by the Simi Valley Chamber. It’s about two hours long and since it’s completely unedited, it’s a sizable download. Put up your feet and make sure your broadband connection is as speedy as possible before you hit the play button!

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