San Bernardino, CA – Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) hosted a Veterans Resource Fair at the Frank A. Gonzales Community Center in Colton. The event provided Inland Empire veterans with resources on health care, housing, employment and assistance with VA claims.
“This event was about getting our veterans the help, care and resources they need and deserve,” said Rep. Aguilar. He continued, “I’m glad that our veterans were able to connect with our local veteran service organizations, and I’m grateful that we had so many groups that participated. We can and must do more to help our heroes when they come home, and that responsibility starts right here in the Inland Empire.”
Gary Lemos, a San Bernardino U.S. Marine Corps veteran, thanked the congressman for holding the event saying, “There were a lot of resources that I had no idea existed. I’ve been to a few before but I didn’t see as many resources as I did at this one. It was a really good, positive experience.”
Rep. Aguilar is committed to helping veterans get the assistance and resources they need to live healthy and happy lives. Ahead of his resource fair, Rep. Aguilar invited veterans to share their experiences with the Loma Linda VA to identify ways to improve care, responsiveness and accountability in veteran health care. Additionally, earlier this year, Rep. Aguilar’s bill to help active-duty service members and reservists translate the skills the acquired in the military to jobs at home passed the House of Representatives. The bill provides active-duty members access to the same unique training and testing standards for a commercial driver’s license granted to veterans in the latest surface transportation bill.
Rep. Aguilar’s 2017 Veterans Resource Fair is one of many constituent service events he’s holding this year. Just last month, he held a Senior Fair for over three hundred residents and next week he’ll host his third Jobs Fair. Rep. Aguilar’s office also holds regular Mobile Office Hours to assist community members who need help accessing federal agencies. Directly connecting Inland Empire families with the help and resources they need is one of Rep. Aguilar’s top priorities. In his first term of office, he helped nearly 900 constituents with problems they faced with federal programs like Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits.
You may have seen the commercials during Sunday football games. A little girl doing her homework and being coached through it by a man via video -- her Dad. It seems like a normal sweet commercial about a father who can’t be home to help. Except when you look closer, Daddy is in an orange jumpsuit, incarcerated.
The advertisement, from the dominant player in prison communications, Securus, is for one of the most controversial new developments in profit from prisons – video visitation.
As advocates for the families of the incarcerated have slowly begun to win the battle against prison phone call price gouging, the companies who profited from the high prices have found new ways to provide services to the nation’s prisons. And in nearly every case, those new services have come at a significant cost to inmates and their families.
“Securus, GlobalTel and other firms are moving quietly into a model of “one-stop” prison services, gobbling up smaller companies that provide things such as commissary vending, online learning and email. With consolidation, prisons are finding themselves negotiating multiple contracts, but all with the same companies,” said Steven Matthews, the former chief information officer for the Illinois prison system.
Some advocates, while saluting a general move to more efficient methods of communication, are not happy about some of the new devices. “New technology sounds good but comes with it own problems, Aleks Kajstura of Prison Policy Initiative said. “In many places, for example, email kiosks have replaced snail mail, which sounds like progress. But where a stamp used to cost 40 cents, the cost to an inmate to send an email (using a kiosk) is now $1.25.”
Of all the new services, video visitation is rapidly becoming the next frontier.
Prison administrators, like those at CCA, the nation’s largest private prison operator, suggest that that system aids security and saves money, primarily by cutting down on staff needed to facilitate a sometimes overwhelming numbers of visitors. They claim it also limits the possibility of contraband being passed from visitor to inmate.
But there is a financial incentive as well. At an average cost of $1.25 per minute, video calls add another layer of costs to inmates. Many prisons also receive commissions on revenue from those visits, sometimes as much as 60%.
There is a bizarre twist to the commission structure, however. Prisons are eligible only if those facilities also ban live visits in favor of the calls. It is an incentive apparently hard to pass up. Of the hundreds of prisons that have adopted video visitation, 75% have chosen to ban personal visits.
The profit from those commissions can be high. While some states, such as Ohio, do not accept commissions, in North Carolina, commissions from phone calls and video visits topped $6.8 million in the last public reporting, nearly $100,000 more than the much larger state of Texas.
According to Kajstura, “Prison officials say the money gained from commissions is used for prisoner services, like online learning and rehabilitation, but our research shows that the bulk of the money is more likely to go to staff salaries and contractor payments.”
While the commercials for Securus give the impression that video visitation is just another version of Skype or FaceTime (Securus has a video visitation app), the reality is that families of the incarcerated are disproportionately among the nation’s poorest, and sufficient home computers and hi-speed wi-fi can be rare luxuries.
Many families of inmates, because they lack resources, are still obliged to spend money to travel to prison facilities –where, because of personal visit bans, they must talk to their loved-ones via screen only. And once there, families and advocates complain that the service can be less than efficient, with dropped audio and delayed video streams cited as frequent problems.
Yet some say the real cost of a video visit cannot be measured in dollars.
Lee Petro, the Washington attorney who represented inmate families before the FCC in the fight against prison phone pricing, said “Every study done on prison visitation shows that even a single visit can have a major impact of limiting recidivism. If your job as a prison is to stop people from coming back, why would you ban one of the most effective ways to put people on a better path, then turn around and use the money to pay for new programs that may or may not work? It defies logic.”
SAN BERNARDINO, CA-Ron Buttram, a director whose career spanned more than 25 years of public service in San Bernardino County, has passed away.
Buttram, 58, served as the director of San Bernardino County's Department of Aging and Adult Services since 2013. The department, which includes Adult Protective Services and the Office of the Public Guardian, provides services and resources to the county’s seniors and adults with disabilities and their families.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California Baptist University and a master’s degree in social work from Loma Linda University. His career with San Bernardino County began in1991 as an Eligibility Worker for the Transitional Assistance Department. He joined DAAS in 1999 and quickly rose through the ranks as a Social Worker, Social Service Practitioner, Supervising Social Service Practitioner, and District Manager. He promoted to a Deputy Director in 2010.
Known for his sense of humor, Buttram was well-respected for his knowledge and dedication.
Assistant Executive Officer for Human Services CaSonya Thomas praised Buttram’s life of public service to the residents of San Bernardino County.
“For more than 25 years, Ron was dedicated to helping others. He truly cared about the well-being of those he served,” said Thomas. “We will miss his dedication and the joy that he brought to those of us who had the honor of working with him over the years.”
County leaders echoed Thomas’ praise.
“Ron devoted an admirable career to fighting for our county’s seniors and helping other county residents when they were desperately in need,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman and First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood. “I offer my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Ron will be missed.”
“It is with sadness that we learn of Director Ron Buttram’s passing. I send my most heartfelt condolences to Ron’s family and wish to express how much we appreciated Ron,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman and Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman. “Our county was better as a result of his faithful service, Ron will be missed.”
“Ron was a guardian angel and voice for the elderly in San Bernardino County. Every day Ron worked to improve the quality of life for seniors and individuals with disabilities by giving back to them their independence and ability to make their own decisions,” said Fifth District Supervisor Jose Gonzales. “May the outpouring of love received by our senior community serve as a testament to his passion and dedication to his job. He will be greatly missed.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ron’s family at this difficult time,” said Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford. “His leadership and his compassion for the senior community will be greatly missed in the Department of Aging and Adult Services.”
“I am saddened to hear of Ron’s passing,” said Third District Supervisor James Ramos. “I extend my deepest condolences to his family and coworkers.”
Details of Buttram’s funeral services are pending.
TV One commentator and host Roland Martin challenged African American legislators and other officials to aspire to the goals, dreams, and ideals of civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a speech last week in Sacramento.
Martin, a journalist, and the host of TV One's NewsOne Now, asked attendees at the California Legislative Black Caucus' (CLBC)' annual breakfast " Are We Satisfied? He said he was not satisfied where we are but encouraged attendees to reflect and recognize King's birthday as a way to renew their commitment to what King fought for during his lifetime.
"When it comes to equality. When it comes to freedom. What are you satisfied with?" Martin asked. "Are you advocating for the very policies he stood for? Are you advocating for the very people he stood for?"
King, a champion for racial, social and economic equality organized boycotts, protests and marches, won a Nobel Peace Prize, spoke out against racism in the United States and delivered some of the most influential speeches in American history.
King's 88th birthday was Jan. 15, a day before the national holiday named after him and held each year in remembrance of his legacy. The Atlanta-based Baptist minister, was gunned down by an assassin on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.
The Golden State's eleven-member CLBC's breakfast took place on Jan. 12 at the Sacramento Convention Center. At the event, over 250 people honored King and celebrated individuals that have a commitment to work for the betterment of California's African Americans and more.
Martin expounded with a self-proclaimed "spirit of discomfort" said he was not satisfied with the standing of African-Americans in America today.
"I'm not satisfied if you come asking for Black votes, but can't hire Black companies," said Martin alluding to the relationship between elected officials and African American businesses vying for state contracts. "I'm not satisfied when you come asking for Black votes, but can't fund Black media."
"I'm not satisfied when you say, ‘We'll offer internships, but won't hire full-time for critical positions," the television personality continued. "In this particular state, where are your dollars being spent? Who are you actually supporting? I'm not interested in internships."
Martin said King spoke about education, police brutality, voting rights, and economics; all issues that concern the African-American community today.
Martin said when it comes to educating Black youth he stands for success in the classroom.
"If it's working for a child I'm with it 100 percent," he said. "I would expect the Black Caucus in California – when you have constituents and children in some of the worst schools – to say, ‘I will provide an opportunity for you whatever it looks like.' For some reason we are having a 1950s' dialogue about education, but we are in 2017."
Martin said African-Americans should not be satisfied with the progress in the U.S. as of now. He said King focused on what racial and social and economic challenges lay on the horizon. The renowned media figure challenged Black caucus members to do the same.
If anything, good has come from the public tiff between President-elect Donald Trump and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s that the takedown of Trump has been swift and intense.
As it stands, 50 Democratic members of Congress have announced that they won’t be attending Trump’s inauguration Friday. Some of them announced earlier this month that the president-elect’s ridiculousness would not be celebrated on their watch, but since Trump’s tweet Saturday claiming that Lewis should spend more time fixing his congressional district than worrying about the president-elect, several more have joined the sit-out.
A California appeals court tossed out a law that banned grand juries from determining whether police officers involved in fatal shootings should face criminal charges.
The 2015 law sought more transparency in shooting investigations by shifting charging decisions from closed-door grand juries to prosecutors.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that lawmakers can’t restrict grand juries’ constitutional authority to issue criminal indictments.
“To allow the Legislature to restrict this constitutional role in part would be to concede the power to restrict it in its entirety,” Justice M. Kathleen Butz said in the ruling.
The California Legislature adopted the law after grand juries in New York and Missouri declined to indict officers who fatally shot unarmed black suspects, decisions that led to nationwide protests and unrest.
Supporters of the law said the secret nature of grand jury decisions can create the impression that the process is unfair and erode trust in law enforcement, particularly when the outcome seems to conflict with witnesses or cellphone video.
The law left the decision to file charges in deadly police force cases to prosecutors, who have been accused of using grand juries to avoid political fallout from their charging decisions.
The office of the state senator who wrote the law, Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, did not immediately have comment.
The appeals court said the Legislature could seek a constitutional amendment banning grand juries from investigating deadly police force cases or revise the procedural rules that make those grand jury investigations secret.
Prosecutors who challenged the law said grand juries gave them power to force witnesses to testify and could involve more thorough investigations.
Grand juries are composed of community members who weigh evidence presented by prosecutors behind closed doors.
Instead of banning the use of grand juries in deadly police force cases, transcripts of their investigations should be made public, said Mark Zahner, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, which opposed the law. He said that could make the process even more transparent than an investigation by a prosecutor.
“Our position was always that there’s no backroom, sneaky skullduggery going on in these things,” he said.
The ruling came in the case of a fatal June 2015 shooting by South Lake Tahoe police. El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson challenged the law by seeking a grand jury investigation of the shooting.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is not here for Donald Trump, his racist comments, his sexist comments, all his comments or his inauguration. She doesn’t want any part of this president, and she couldn’t hide her disgust during a recent appearance on MSNBC Live With Tamron Hall. Waters, the representative for California’s 43rd Congressional District, didn’t mince her words, noting: “I don’t honor him. I don’t respect him.”
Sessions, Reject Oppression” and “It’s not the man, it’s the record,” a group of 15 demonstrators gathered outside U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Mobile office Monday to make a last-minute push in an effort to sink the senator’s nomination as the next attorney general.
“This is a very serious time for our country, for this area in particular,” said David Smith, first vice-president of the Mobile County chapter of the NAACP. “We won’t stop.”
Added Lizzetta McConnell, the president of the local NAACP chapter: “Jeff Sessions had made statements that reveal his true heart, and we’re concerned about it and we’ve seen his track record. I don’t doubt he’s a good man. But the values and things of importance to us as African-Americans, we don’t think he’s the man for the job.”
Smith said the demonstration’s aim was to make a final request of Sessions to drop out of consideration for the position of attorney general. Smith said he planned on delivering a letter to the senator’s Mobile office, which spelled out reasons why the NAACP doesn’t believe Sessions is the qualified for the job.
Despite the NAACP’s efforts, Sessions has not hinted at dropping out of consideration for the high-ranking cabinet post in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
“As Attorney General-designate, Jeff Sessions has been endorsed by African American and civil rights leaders who know him and know that he has dedicated his career to upholding the law and ensuring public safety,” said Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Flores. “Those groups that want to score cheap political points by smearing his name do not have the facts on their side.”
‘Hope springs eternal’
Multiple demonstrations were held Monday outside of Sessions’ Alabama offices, each organized by the NAACP.
In Mobile, the 15 people in attendance represented groups from coastal Alabama. Those included the Mobile Bay Socialist Collector and the South Baldwin Democrats.
The Mobile demonstration also came less than one week after McConnell and five others, including CEO Cornell Williams Brooks, were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing for participating in a sit-in inside Sessions’ office. Brooks will be one of four opposition voices to speak during Sessions’ confirmation hearings, which begin Tuesday morning.
Bernard Simelton, NAACP Alabama conference president, said he felt the arrest — which he described Wednesday as “scary” — was warranted because of the message the NAACP was attempting to convey in opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination as U.S. Attorney General.
But this time, neither the NAACP nor the media was allowed near the senator’s Mobile office. The building’s owner, Philip Burton, instructed demonstrators and the media to stay off the property, including the parking lot area.
Instead, the demonstration was held on a sidewalk adjacent to a bank parking lot that is also inside the building that houses the senator’s office.
National and state NAACP leaders have made a push in the past week to derail Sessions’ nomination. On Friday, during a conference call with the national media, civil rights leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton said that Sessions was not qualified to lead an agency that is charged with overseeing the Justice Department and FBI.
“He has a track record of making racial slurs and is concerned more about stalling the advances we’ve made in terms of voting rights,” said the NAACP’s Smith.
Asked if the last-minute effort was fleeting, Smith replied: “Hope springs eternal.”
‘Last minute straws’
William Stewart, a professor emeritus of political sciences at the University of Alabama, said he believes the NAACP - while an organization he respects in its efforts to achieve racial equality for years - was “grasping at last minute straws” through its anti-Sessions blitz.
NAACP rally in Mobile, Ala.
He, and others, noted that Sessions has received support from unlikely sources. Among them: former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cob, a Democrat, who endorsed Sessions’ nomination on Monday.
“If I were Sessions, I don’t think I could wish for a better back home ally than her,” said Stewart, a longtime political observer in Alabama.
Quin Hillyer, a conservative columnist based in Mobile, said the time has come for groups to “stop smearing” Sessions.
“If people disagree with Sen. Sessions on policy, that’s fine,” said Hillyer. “But to add the element of race to the mix is, in his case, utterly illegitimate.”
Civil rights groups, in recent days, have honed in on the 1986 Judiciary Committee hearings. Some of the testimony during that confirmation hearing alleged that Sessions made racist comments while he was a U.S. attorney based in Mobile. He was accused of calling a black staffer “a boy,” of saying he considered the NAACP “un-American” and of using criminal prosecutions to thwart voting rights for blacks in Perry County.
Sessions’ nomination as a federal judge was torpedoed during the racially charged hearings. It would be Sessions’ last political defeat. He’s since won election as Alabama attorney general, in 1994, and went on to win election to the U.S. Senate four consecutive times.
Hillyer said that past allegations are “old, tired, discredited and/or absurd.” He also said that “Sessions’ 20 years in the Senate shows not a trace of racial aminus” and credited the senator for leading efforts in reducing sentencing disparities that unfairly victimized black people.
Opponents to his nomination say more days and witnesses need to be added to the proceedings.
But to the demonstrators on Monday, Sessions’ conservative ideology represents a threat to civil rights in America.
“Calling a lawyer a ‘a boy’ ... this ain’t the 60s anymore,” said Terrell Simmons of the Mobile Bay Socialist Collector. “It’s 2017. We all believe we deserve equality and freedom and peace.”
Said Keith Burroughs of Gulf Shores: “We need a representative in Washington who will represent all of the people and Senator Sessions’ record does not show representation of all the people.”
Cleanup Project to Help Private Well Owners with Contaminated Groundwater
VICTORVILLE, Calif. – The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Lahontan Water Board) announced it has received a $2.67 million grant to clean up a perchlorate plume near Barstow that has affected several private well owners’ drinking water supplies.
Funds from the grant award, issued by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Site Cleanup Subaccount Program (SCAP), will be used for a feasibility study and pilot project in an area northeast of Barstow in San Bernardino County. The pilot project will treat contaminated dirt by installing a soil-flushing unit over the area where perchlorate salts were illegally dumped. In addition, groundwater extraction wells will be installed to capture perchlorate flushed from the soil. The extracted perchlorate-contaminated water will be treated to remove the perchlorate and the finished water will be re-injected into the aquifer. Monitoring wells will be installed to track the groundwater plume and determine the effectiveness of the treatment system.
Several private wells in the area are contaminated with perchlorate, a chemical used for making fireworks and solid-fuel rockets. Some wells have levels of perchlorate as high as 2,400 parts per billion (ppb). The drinking water standard for the contaminant is 6 ppb. Several other wells in the area are threatened by the perchlorate plume and could be contaminated if the pollutant is not cleaned up. The Lahontan Water Board is currently providing bottled water to those whose wells are contaminated with perchlorate.
“Cleanup will begin soon to fix a long-standing pollution problem that affects the heart of the Barstow community,” said Patty Kouyoumdjian, executive officer for the Lahontan Water Board. “We are pleased to lead this effort to ensure safe drinking water for residents.”
The Lahontan Water Board received the grant money from SCAP, a new program established by Senate Bill 445 (Hill, 2014) authorizing grants for projects to remediate the harm to human health, safety, or the environment caused by existing or threatened surface or groundwater contamination. Senate Bill 445 allows the regional water boards to apply for grant money to clean up “orphaned sites” where there is no viable responsible party to pay for the cleanup costs. The perchlorate-contaminated site near Barstow – once a local business owner’s private residence where the pollutant was stored -- is considered an orphan site because no viable responsible party can be identified as the owner is no longer living. The Lahontan Water Board will oversee implementation of the grant-funded work, which is expected to occur in early summer 2017.
For more information about the perchlorate-contaminated site near Barstow, see the Lahontan Water Board website: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/lahontan/water_issues/programs/perchlorlate/index.shtml
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is a California state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of the quality of California’s water resources in eastern California. For more information about the Lahontan Water Board visit its website.
(San Bernardino, Calif.) The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) holds its 21st Annual SATERN Disaster Preparation Seminar on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The event is cosponsored by San Bernardino Corps. The location is: 2626 Pacific Street in San Bernardino. Free parking is available on site.
The SATERN Seminar is an annual conference focused on amateur radio and emergency disaster preparation services for Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The seminar begins at 9:00 a.m. registration starts at 8:30 a.m. continues until 3:00 p.m.
“The SATERN seminar is open to all with an interest in amateur radio or an interest in emergency disaster services,” said Paul Hager Interim Coordinator for the riverside and San Bernardino Counties Section of SATERN. “The seminar includes: presentations on emergency disaster services, responder safety and digital modes radio. More information on the SATERN seminar can be found at www.satern.net.”
SATERN is the official emergency communications service of The Salvation Army. SATERN is dedicated to assisting The Salvation Army during times of emergency. To provide all possible forms of communications when normal communications are impossible, and through cross training, and assist The Salvation Army in any way possible.
“During a major disaster, such as an earthquake, flood or large, fire; there is a good chance that phone lines, cell towers and cable telephone systems will not be working,” said Major Daniel Henderson, Corps Officer. “HAM radios will be one of the few ways to communicate disaster needs to the outside world.”
SATERN is a group of amateur radio operators willing to provide emergency communications support for The Salvation Army operations in local, regional, and international disaster and emergency situations. SATERN has provided emergency communications support to The Salvation Army emergency disaster response since 1988.
Donations may always be made online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling 1-(800)-SAL-ARMY. Our local number is (909) 888-1336.