By Miriam RAftery
Photos by Richard Campbell and Billy Ortiz
August 23, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--A tropical storm system has moved into our area, bringing thundershowers, humid weather and dramatic lightning displays across East County’s mountain areas .The storm system is expected to weaken Saturday, but more thunderstorms and lightning are forecast Sunday through Tuesday across East County’s mountain and desert areas. (View video of lightning over Descanso on the Brush Fire Partyline’s Facebook Page)
In addition, a blowing dust warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for desert areas in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
STUCK TRUCK REMOVED TWO WEEKS AFTER BREAKDOWN IN DULZURA, BUT RESIDENTS DEMAND ANSWERS TO SERIOUS PUBLIC SAFETY THREATS POSED
By Miriam Raftery; photo by Donnie Durfee
Rural residents are demanding answers and improved communications after a truck with an oversized load broke down and blocked traffic on State Route 94 for over 50 hours. Even after the road was cleared, the big rig remained on the shoulder at Marron Valley Road in Dulzura for two weeks before it was finally removed.
Media was not warned and no Sig Alert was issued to alert residents prior to the oversized load taking to the highway, even though the slow-moving, extra-wide load obstructed traffic in both directions along the main evacuation route for residents in areas including Jamul, Deerhorn Valley, Potrero, Barrett Junction and Tecate.
During the blockage, residents were forced to detour up to 90 miles, causing delays of many hours. Yet a SigAlert was not issued until seven hours after the road was completely blocked by the mechanical breakdown. Even before the breakdown, the oversized, slow-moving load obstructed traffic in both directions. The load was about 231 feet long – yet posted signs indicate the maximum truck length allowed is 75 feet. So why was this rig allowed to take this narrow route with many hairpin curves when straighter, wider routes to its destination were available?
August 21, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A tiny wasp from the other side of the world has been drafted into a big role in San Diego: protecting the multimillion-dollar citrus industry from a potentially devastating threat.
Tamarixia radiata is being enlisted throughout southern California because it literally sucks the life out of the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads a disease fatal to all types of citrus trees.
August 18, 2013 (El Cajon) – At 11:51 p.m. Saturday night, Heartland Fire & Rescue crews in El Cajon, with assistance from Cal Fire, responded to reports of a fire in the 3-hundred block of Wisconsin Avenue. As fire crews arrived on scene, smoke was seen coming from apartment #3, at 314 Wisconsin Avenue.
August 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County ) -- Monsoonal moisture will create a slight chance of thunderstorms over San Diego County mountains and deserts Sunday afternoon and evening, the National Weather Service reports. Any thunderstorms that occur will be capable of producing dry lightning, gusty winds, and locally heavy downpours.
By Miriam Raftery
August 17, 2013 (Santee) – An environmental group has lodged a formal complaint over a proposed electronic billboard in Santee, contending that the sign violates city laws and further, should require an environmental review.
The LEC-powered video billboard proposed by a Toyota dealership would stand 70 feet tall and be 321 square feet in size. It would tower above the junction of highways 125 and 52.
By Miriam Raftery
August 16, 2013 (Ramona) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating ""sextortion" threats allegedly made against 19 people including Cassidy Wolf, a former Ramona contestant who won the title Miss Teen USA on Saturday.
According to NBC Today Show’s website, Wolf said she received an anonymous e-mail several months ago from a blackmailer who claimed to have stolen images from the webcam on her home computer. The hacker reportedly threatened to publish the images unless Wolf would provide nude photos.
August 15, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- Husqvarna this week announced a recall of its closed-course/competition off-road motorcycles due to crash hazard. The motorcycle's throttle cable can malfunction so the rider loses speed control, posing a crash hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
August 15, 2013 (Santee) – State Senator Joel Anderson and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will hold an East county Public Safety Town Hall on August 22, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the West Hills High School Theatre at 8756 Mast Blvd. in Santee. The top priority for parents is protecting their kids from danger. With new dangers arising daily, it can be difficult to get the information needed to keep children safe.
Prosecutor contends Bittner more concerned with economic gain than well-being of raptors;
Bittner data used to justify wind and other energy projects in San Diego/Imperial Counties, Mexico & elsewhere
By Nadin Abbott and Miriam Raftery
August 13, 2013 (San Diego)—U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick sentenced John David Bittner of Julian, president of the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, to three years probation and a $7500 fine. Bittner pled guilty to unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded. The government could have imposed up to a $100,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence, but instead hope to induce Bittner to turn over years of missing data as a condition of probation.
"We support the Justice Dept’s vigilance in prosecuting Bittner for his serious transgressions and unlawful behavior,” said Donna Tisdale with the Protect Our Communities organization. ““When unethical and basically corrupt experts like Bittner side with industry over avian protection—our beautiful birds literally get clobbered with the blunt end of the turbine blade.”
But she suggested that the fine amounted to a slap on the wrist in light of the more than $600,000 that Bittner’s Wildlife Research Institute raked in through consulting fees for corporations. Iberdrola and Pattern Energy hired him to write reports justifying their wind projects, Tule Wind in McCain Valley and the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. Sempra Energy also hired Bittner as its eagle consultant for its massive Energia Sierra Juarez Wind in Baja California.
By Nadin Abbott
August 14, 2013 (San Diego) — This weekend, getting to South Bay might prove a little tricky.
The I-805 will be closed in both directions from 3 p.m. on August 18, to 5 a.m. on August 19 between Route 54 and Route 905.
This is to allow for construction and expansion of the 805, including access to a future Transit Center.
Drivers are advised to use I-5 or Toll Road 125, which will be free for the duration.
STUCK BIG RIG BLOCKS HIGHWAY 94 FOR 54 HOURS; RESIDENTS ASK WHY OVERSIZED TRUCK WAS ALLOWED ON AREA’S ONLY EVACUATION ROUTE
Update August 14, 2013 -- This truck remains stuck at the side of the road a week later, with still no answers from authorities on who if anyone authorized this severely oversized load to travel this highway. Reportedly it was bound for Tecate and residents wantt o know why it didn't take the Otay crossing and avoid these mountainous roads.
By Miriam Raftery
Photos by Donnie Durfee
August 8, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)—A truck carrying an over-sized load has repeatedly become stuck on curves along Highway 94 between Dulzura and Tecata, causing a SIG ALERT that extended more than 20 hours. Residents reported seeing the slow-moving rig the past two nights, however, and Deerhorn Valley Antler Kim Hamilton reports the ordeal has been ongoing for 54 hours as of late tonight, forcing residents to take a detour of 70 to 80 minutes. As of 9:30 p.m. the highway remained shut down in both directions.
“Closure of our major evacuation route without notice would create a very dangerous situation in the event of evacuation. Fires happen at all hours and we ARE in the middle of a very dicey season,” Deerhorn Valley antler editor Kim Hamilton wrote. ECM shares her concern and has sent a request for information to the California Highway Patrol.
Equally disturbing, the CHP website quit updating its log at noon and dropped the incident off its incident page entirely this evening.
Facebook page for suspect James DiMaggio has cryptic final messages
By Nadin Abbott
August 8, 2013 (Lakeside) The Amber Alert for Hannah Anderson, 16, and her brother, Ethan, 8, has now extended to Mexico. According to El Diario, a Mexican newspaper, “The FBI is working with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and Mexican authorities since Monday.”http://diario.mx/Estados_Unidos/2013-08-08_1b800648/emiten-alerta-amber-en-san-diego-buscan-al-sospechoso-en-mexico
Other developments have led to the extension of the Amber Alert to Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Canada.
"We are hoping. We're keeping the faith; our little girl is coming home." -- Sara Britt, grandmother
By Nadin Abbott
August 6, 2013 (Lakeside) A very emotional gathering of friends, classmates and residents of Hannah and Ethan Anderson met at El Capitan High School tonight in Lakeside to hold a vigil for the missing children. Those present lit candles and at the end of the ceremony let balloons lose to signify hope.
The children were declared missing and a statewide Amber Alert was issued by the authorities for Hannah, 16, and her 8-year-old brother, Ethan, Monday. On Sunday night, the body of their mother, Christina Anderson, and an unidentified child’s body were found in a burned home in Boulevard.
Authorities have stated that Christina Anderson was murdered. They have not identified the child’s body found. Police believe that one or both children have been abducted by James Lee DiMaggio, a friend of their mother.
August 6, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Bureau of Land Management Desert Advisory Committee (DAC) will meet Saturday, Aug. 17 to consider a fee proposal for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. The Council will meet from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Riverside Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market St., Riverside, CA 92501. The meeting is open to the public. However, discussion is limited to BLM staff and committee members.
August 5, 2013 (El Cajon) – Tyler J. Farmer, 34, of El Cajon has been identified by theMedical Examiner’s office as the driver killed in a motorcycle accident that occurred July 29. Farmer was traveling westbound on West Main Street when he struck a curb and lost control.
Responding paramedics transported him to a hospital, where despite medical intervention he died. Cause of death was cardiac arrest during an exploratory laparotomy surgical procedure for treatment of lung and liver lacerations due to blunt force injury of his torso.
By Miriam Raftery
August 4, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert warning U.S. citizens about the potential for terrorist attacks in the region during August in the Middle East and North Africa. The alert comes on the heels of prisoner break-outs in several countries believed to be tied to Al Qaida.
In addition, Interpol has issued a global traveler’s alert due to terrorism concerns.
HOUSE VOTES TO ELIMINATE ALL FOOD STAMP BENEFITS; SENATE SEEKS COMPROMISE AS FARM BILL HANGS IN THE BALANCE
By Miriam Raftery
August 4, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – By a bare majority, the Republican-controlled House of representatives passed the Farm Bill after stripping out all funding for food stamps to feed the poor, but approved lavish subsidies for agribusiness. After the Senate passed a less extreme version, a conference committee is now seeking a compromise. But thus far, the Republican leadership has shown no concern for the potential to leave millions of Americans facing starvation.
Among San Diego’s five Congressional representatives, only Republican Darrell Issa voted for the measure. Republican Duncan Hunter did not vote, but previously voted for earlier deep cuts in Food Stamps and against restoring benefits. Democrats Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas voted against stripping Food Stamps from the Farm Bill.
Issa’s 49th district includes 7,691 households receiving food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). Of those, 44.2% have incomes below the poverty level and 79.5% have children; 20.2% have at least one senior citizen.
An ECM special report finds Bob Filner had good cause to know the seriousness of sexual harassment claims—long before he was the target of complaints
By Nadin and Tom Abbott
August 2, 2013 (San Diego)— Amid mounting sexual harassment accusations against Mayor Bob Filner, including a civil lawsuit, on Wednesday Filner’s lawyer tried to place all the blame on the City. In a letter to the city Harvey C. Berger writes “The City has a legal obligation to provide sexual harassment training to all management level employees within six months of hire.”
He also claimed in the letter that the “trainer for the City unilaterally cancelled and never rescheduled such training for the Mayor.” http://media.10news.com/image/Harvey_Berger_letter.pdf
But later, Voice of San Diego revealed, “Former city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said Filner’s office canceled several training sessions, which would have covered payroll, benefits and other employee and management roles and responsibilities, because the mayor’s office said it didn’t have time for them.” http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/07/31/sources-mayors-office-canceled-harassment-related-training-sessions/
So we decided to look a little deeper, and what we found was highly problematic.
August 3, 2013 (San Diego) – KNSJ 89.1 FM , the Network for Social Justice, will present its first-ever People’s Microphone Awards at the new public radio station’s launch party on Saturday, August 3 from 6-9 p.m. at Mission Trails Regional Parks. Tickets are available at www.knsj.org.
The awards are presented to individuals and organizations who have demonstrated leadership and commitment to social justice causes on behalf of people in their communities or our environment. The winners, a majority of whom will be present to accept their honors, are: Bonnie La Chappa, Elizabeth Lou, Dave Patterson, Estela de los Rios, Lori Saldana, Lisa Kove, Martha Sullivan and Ray Lutz with Decommission San Onofre,Donna Tisdale with Protect Our Communities Foundation, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, San Diego Dream Team, and Save Mission Trails.
By Miriam Raftery
August 1, 2013 (Alpine)--Sitarra, a Bengal tiger raised from a cub at Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine, has died of a ruptured disk. The big cat rescue center is a no breeding facility, however Sitarra was one of two cubs born to Natasha, a pregnant tiger rescued over a decade ago.
Bobbi Brink, founder of the facility, called the tragedy “very sad news” and has said that the tiger was like a child to her.
Brink was near the tiger’s enclosure when Sitarra collapsed while running, unable to move her back legs. An MRI showed a ruptured disc and the animal underwent immediate surgery at an emergency animal hospital. But Brink disclosed, “. It was discovered that her spinal cord had been severed by pieces of the ruptured disc and there was no choice but to let her go.”
July 31, 2013 (Grantville) – A Grantville resident was struck by a car while crossing the street at the corner of Mission Gorge Road and Twain Avenue on Monday, July 8. Witness testimony is contradictory and eye-witnesses are being sought to help clarify the incident.
The pedestrian, a 42-year old woman and girlfriend of ECM reporter/photographer Ron Logan, was struck shortly before noon.
July 30, 2013 (San Diego) --For the second year in a row, deaths due to suicide and prescription drug overdoses were at record highs in San Diego County in 2012, and the number of homicides rose for the second year in a row.
The trends are detailed in the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s 2012 Annual Report released last week.
July 29, 2013 (El Cajon) – El Cajon City Manager Douglas Williford announced today that he has appointed Majed Al-Ghafry as the new Assistant City Manager. Al-Ghafry currently serves as the Director of Public Works for the City of San Antonio, Texas, the nation’s 7th largest city. Prior to that, Al-Ghafry served as the Director of Public Works for the City of North Las Vegas, Nevada.
July 29, 2013 (El Cajon) – At 12:43 a.m. on July 25, Heartland Fire & Rescue crews in the City of El Cajon responded to reports of a structure fire in the 1-thousand block of Broadway in El Cajon. Upon arrival firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the Classic Tattoo business located at 1024 Broadway. Quick action by fire crews had the fire knocked down in less than 25 minutes. Two adjoining businesses of the one story structure sustained smoke and water damage. Heartland crews were assisted by fire units from Cal Fire and Santee fire departments.
July 28, 2013 (El Cajon) – Today, El Cajon Police announced the arrest of Israel Soto and Jessica Quezada for the death of their four-month-old baby. The couple’s other three children, ages 3, 2, and 1, have been taken into protective custody by Child Protective Services.
By Nadin Abbott
July 27, 2013 (San Diego) This has been a busy few weeks of news gathering for East County Magazine. We were at the scene shortly after the Chariot Fire started. We made multiple trips to Mount Laguna reporting on the fire’s path and damage behind fire lines, also visiting the evacuation center. We remained long after other news media left, if they came at all. We were at the fire scenes in Ranchita, the Old Fire, the Shockey Fire and more – sometimes in the middle of the night.
We regularly cover local boards and commissions that the San Diego media ignores. We drove to Julian to cover fire board meetings and report on citizens’ concerns when the fire department was at risk of dissolving and being taken over by the county. We went downtown to cover hearings on the controversial County wind ordinance, the Quail Brush power plant, and other hot land-use issues impacting East County.
July 26, 2013 (Ramona) – Two months after the County Department of Animal Services (DAS) impounded ten horses in Ramona, another 22 were seized from the same owner Monday.
DAS had been monitoring the herd belonging to Lori Patton since the original seizure May 23 to make sure the animals were getting the proper level of care.
Friday: Listen to the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM at 5 p.m. to hear our interview with Stephen Bartholow, editor of Santee Patch, who has been tracking this story.
July 25, 2013 (Santee) – By a unanimous vote, Santee City Council ignored pleas from residents and authorized the city to seize and force sale of four properties, as well as obtain easements for nearly a hundred more. The declaration of eminent domain was done to allow the Prospect Avenue street widening project, which impacts properties on nine streets.
“We don’t want to leave,” Gloria Duff testified, Santee Patch reported. Duff, whose family has lived in their home for 50 years, said the family took out a second mortgage for remodeling recently and fears they won’t get enough money.
“We aren’t trying to avoid anything,” said Chairman Jack Phillips (photo, left). “We haven’t had anything to put on the agenda.”
By Jake Christie
For possibly the first time ever in its 30- year history, the Valle de Oro Community Planning Group has cancelled two and a half months of meetings, from May 21 to July 16. The planning group members are elected, unpaid volunteers serving on the advisory group overseeing land use issues in a 19 square mile unincorporated area which covers Casa de Oro, Mt. Helix, Rancho San Diego, and Vista Grande Hills.
The group normally meets twice a month in the training room of the Otay Water District Headquarters on Sweetwater Springs Boulevard at 7 p.m.