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Local News April 9th, 2009

DREAM Act A Tough Road Ahead

Lawmakers in Congress recently introduced the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act ---- DREAM Act for short ----- that would give illegal alien students a chance to legalize their status if they complete two years of college or serve two years in the military.

North County congressional representatives have opposed legislation legalizing people who came into the country illegally. Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, said they oppose the measure. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, said through a spokeswoman that she has not taken a position on the bill. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, said he also opposes the bill. "I do not believe we should spend one dollar of taxpayer funds to support illegal immigration, which is what the Dream Act wants to do," Bilbray said in a written statement.

The bill was introduced late last month in the Senate and House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; and Reps. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

No one knows exactly how many illegal immigrant students there are in North County, or anywhere in the country, because schools don't collect such data. They are required by law to educate students regardless of immigration status. The state Legislative Analysts Office estimates there are about 20,000 immigrant students who receive the lower in-state tuition rates under AB 540. It estimated that most of them, about 18,000, are illegal immigrants. The subsidy costs the state about $117 million, according to the analysis.

Groups on both sides of the immigration debate say the bill is unlikely to be approved this year. Both sides say it will be tough for the bill, which was first introduced in 2001, to clear Congress this year because much of Washington's attention will be on the struggling economy. The bill has repeatedly failed to reach the president's desk as Congress struggles to find an answer to fix what most people agree is a broken immigration system.

Supporters, such as the National Council of La Raza, a Latino organization that supports illegal immigrants, say an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools each year. Most of the students have a hard time finding work or continuing their education because of their immigration status. Opponents say American students should not have to compete for admissions, classrooms and funding with illegal immigrant students at a time when budgets at public colleges are shrinking.

"Universities are in trouble," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that opposes the Dream Act. "How can you have legislation that not only takes seats away from American students, but subsidizes illegal immigrant students education?"

Mehlman said the Dream Act is a wide-ranging amnesty bill because it allows people up to 35 years old to legalize their status as long as they attend a school.

Opponents also argue that children who legalize their immigration status through the bill would be able to sponsor other family members ---- who are either here illegally or in Mexico waiting to come ---- once they become adults.

Illegal immigrant students are hopeful for passage due to the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. They call themselves "AB 540 students" ---- after the Assembly bill signed into law by then-Gov. Gray Davis allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates, instead of the higher out-of-state tuition fees that students from other states pay.

Some activists criticize 'Dream Act' as a draft for illegal immigrants

Palomar Pomerado CEO Denied Bonus

PPH president and CEO, Michael Covert, has been denied any bonus this year because of the district’s failure to meet performance standards. Bruce Krider, Chairman of the PPH Board, said that even though Covert has received heavy bonuses for the past four consecutive years, he won’t be getting one this year. Further, they plan on renegotiating his contract and, under the new deal, there will be no automatic raises. The board previously extended the contract by two years at a time. This time, though, the trustees decided they wanted to negotiate a new employment agreement with Covert.

The board and Covert had come under fire by critics for the high bonuses in prior years that ranged anywhere from $72,000 to last year’s $165,400. Under his current contract, he has a base salary of $554,403 per year and had been eligible for up to 50% bonus each year. Many thought not only the base salary but bonuses were obscene.

The new deal will award bonuses purely on merit and not be automatic. Krider said Covert will get a 5 percent salary increase because his contract requires automatic cost-of-living raises. Critics argue he should be able to adapt quite comfortably with a $554,403 base salary, plus benefits. Krider said he met with the CEO last Thursday to tell him what the board had decided.

"He was fine," Krider said. "I don't think he expected something that nobody else got either."

Palomar Pomerado has seen its profits dwindle over the last three years, and the district reported a $600,000 deficit for the fiscal year that ended in June 2008. A financial report that went to the board Tuesday shows the district is doing better in the fiscal year that started July 1, 2008, with year-to-date net income of nearly $15 million.

However, bond rating company Moody's Investors Services lowered Palomar Pomerado's credit rating earlier this month, citing concerns about the district's future profits. The board's no-bonus decision, which came during a closed-door board meeting, is consistent with its vote earlier this year not to give extra money to other Palomar Pomerado employees.

Carlsbad Homicide Victim Identified - Suspect Arrested, Held With No Bail

Carlsbad police believe that the shooting that left 21 year-old Juan Carlos Balderas, of Encinitas, dead was the result of gang activity. Balderas was shot and killed last Saturday night near Pine Avenue Park, according to the county medical examiner. On Monday, Carlsbad police arrested 19-year-old Javier Lopez who is being held without bail on charges including murder and participating in a criminal street gang, according to county booking logs.

Investigators believe Lopez fatally shot Balderas shortly after 8 p.m. last Saturday in a residential area around Madison Street and Chestnut Avenue. Police believe Lopez is affiliated with an Encinitas gang and that the shooting was gang-related. Evidence and witness statements led to Lopez's arrest Sunday, he said.

Balderas was found shortly after 8pm lying in a vacant lot with at least one gunshot wound shortly after 8 p.m. Neighbors had called moments earlier to report hearing about four gunshots. Paramedics were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to police, witnesses said the victim appeared to have been chased just before the shooting. There were conflicting statements about what direction the people involved in the incident had been running.

While the area is claimed by Carlsbad's only documented gang, it appears that Lopez was affiliated with an Encinitas gang. It is not yet known if Balderas was also a gang member. The investigation continues.

Cop Killer Wrote an “I’m Sorry” Letter to the Cop He Killed

As the trial continues for Meki Gaono, accused as the gunman in the shooting that killed Oceanside police officer, Dan Bessant, evidence has been presented in the form of a letter written by Gaono, in which he aplogizes for the shooting. According to his testimony, Gaono and several of his pals came home from school and began drinking.

Following a lengthy interrogation that ran all night, Gaono wrote a letter of apology to Bessant in which he said he was under the influence of alcohol and wishes the events of that day had never happened. He asked for forgiveness from Bessant but, unknown to Gaono, Bessant had already been pronounced dead.

Gaono, then 17, but now 20, is on trial for murder in the slaying of Bessant, who was hit by a sniper's bullet during a routine traffic stop in a northeast Oceanside neighborhood. The neighborhood was the known territory of a gang with which Gaono is a documented member.

Prosecutors say Gaono and two buddies, also documented gang members, were drinking beer and playing with guns when they spotted police activity down the street and decided to take aim. Prosecutors say Gaono admitted to the shooting. His attorney says the confession is false. The trial is now in its fifth week. If convicted, Gaono faces life in prison without parole.

Evidence shows Gaono and his gangbanger pals had gone through the better part of a case of beer and had commenced playing with guns. At 6:32 p.m., a rifle bullet hit Bessant. A witness told police he had seen Gaono running from the scene. Around 8:30 p.m., heavily armed police ordered Gaono and his family out of their home, also on Arthur Avenue.

Gaono was a senior at El Camino High School. He acknowledged that he had been in trouble before for fighting and for use of marijuana. Eventually, Gaono acknowledged he was the triggerman. When police asked Gaono if he wished to write a letter of apology they knew what Gaono did not -- that Bessant was already dead.

Three days after the shooting, while in juvenile hall in Kearny Mesa, Gaono gave another statement to police, again confessing ---- but doing so only after insisting, the night before, that police first let him see his mother or an attorney. They brought in his stepmother.

Defense attorney William Stone told the jury his client was not a triggerman. Instead, Gaono had hidden the guns for friends and took the rap when he realized police would find them. He confessed before he learned Bessant had died. And, Stone said, once the unsophisticated Gaono was that far into the lie, there was no turning back.

Cruisin' Grand Back For Its 10th Year

Southern California‘s and Escondido’s love affair with vintage hot rods and muscle cars was in high gear Friday night with the return of Cruisin' Grand for its 10th year downtown. Taking the helm once again was Steve Waldron, the founder of Cruisin’ Grand. By the high turnout of both cars and crowds, it appears that returning to operating the way Waldron designed it was the right move.

You looked around and you’d see a 1935 Ford Cabriolet, perhaps a 1930 Model A Ford Coupe customized with a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker hemi engine with supercharger . . . or maybe a 1942 Ford Coupe, with the original factory installed wrapping paper still surrounding the steering column. No matter what make, model or year the car, you can bet it was polished and shiny, attracting envious eyes of spectators and other car aficionados alike.

Last Friday was the first of 26 nights of Cruisin’ Grand, which runs from 5pm to 9pm each Friday through September. Dozens of cars cruised slowly up and down Grand Avenue while many others were parked curbside on Grand and/or on side streets, often with hoods up to display shiny, sometimes chromed, engines.

Under Waldron’s guidance, Cruisin’ Grand went back to the original format, allowing only pre-1974 rods, classics, vintage, custom and muscle cars to park on Grand Avenue. The Downtown Business Assocation had experimented in 2008 with only post-1973 cars to park on Grand as well as closing off side streets. By most accounts, the experiment was not a favorable experience. Car buffs were not happy, spectators were not happy, and merchants were not happy. Now, it seems, all are quite content to see “the good old days” return. Several business owners commented that it was more like an actual cruise night, now that the owners of cars could cruise up and down Grand Avenue and show off “their babies.”

Fans reacted favorable and spent a fair amount of money with merchants on Grand Avenue, particularly at restaurants, coffee shops and wine bars. Some folks brought lawn chairs, boxes of fried chicken, and took in the show. Music played throughout the evening, bringing many back to the ‘golden oldies” of the 50’s and 60’s.

Cruisin' Grand will feature different contests, music and vintage car clubs each Friday. Visit www.downtownescondido.com.

C. Robert Allen Dies Longtime Owner of Allen Brothers Mortuary

C. Robert “Bob” Allen, age 75, passed away this past Saturday. Mr. Allen headed up the mortuary serving North San Diego County since 1964. Allen Brothers Mortuary has locations in both San Marcos and Vista. At press time, funeral arrangements were incomplete. A complete obituary will be carried in next week’s edition of The Paper.

Said Lyle Davis, editor and publisher of The Paper: “Bob was a long time advertiser and good friend of The Paper and his community. He was just a top-notch guy. We certainly extend our condolences to his family."

Escondido Police Arrest Four at Checkpoint

Escondido police checked 1,189 vehicles last weekend according to Sergeant Dana Ray. Of those vehicles, 46 were impounded, 21 drivers were cited for not having a driver’s license, 21 drivers with no insurance, 12 with suspended driver’s licenses and 35 without any license at all. Three people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and one person was arrested for an unspecified misdemeanor.

The checkpoint was specifically designed to target unlicensed and intoxicated drivers and was staged in the 700 block of West Grand Avenue between 6pm Friday and 12:15am, Saturday.

Top Graffiti Vandal Nabbed by Escondido Police

He was only 16 years old but he had become the most prolific graffiti artist in the city according to Escondido police. He was responsible for over 100 acts of graffiti, according to police. An alert police officer spotted the youth near Ivy and Grand last Thursday. Graffiti detectives were familiar with his work and quickly connected him to over 100 graffiti episodes that amounted to well over $40,000.

Six other juveniles had been arrested earlier; their damages amounted to $60,000. Typically, under the law, the parents are held responsible for repayment of these damages. The city has indicated it will seek restitution for the damages. Combined, the damages approach, if not exceed, $100,000.

To report and remove graffiti in Escondido, call the graffiti hot line at 760.839.4633. The graffiti investigations unit can be reached at 760.839.4738. The city offers rewards of up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrests of graffiti vandals in Escondido.

Tea Parties Abound In North San Diego County

In a growing grass-roots movement, tea parties are scheduled for next Wednesday, April 15th, as a nationwide protest against taxes takes form in both Escondido and Oceanside. Concerned cities from a claimed 1000-1500 communities will gather together on the same day, Tax Day, to give voice to their protest over high taxes.

In Escondido, the Tea Party will take place in front of the Escondido Post Office, at 403 N. Escondido at 5pm. In Oceanside the event say they expect more than 1,000 people to participate. The rally will start at Oceanside City Hall, 300 N. Coast Hwy, and is slated to run from 6-7pm with a march to the pier for a mock Tea Party at 6:25pm.

Protesters say they are fed up with a Congress and a President who, among other things:
- voted for a $500 billion tax bill without even reading it.
- are spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt.
- consistently give special interest groups billions of dollars in earmarks to help get themselves re-elected.
- refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country.

Carlsbad’s Police Chief Returns from Leave of Absence

Carlsbad city officials and police pesonnel were tight lipped about the return of Chief Tom Zoll, who had been placed on leave from March 18 to April 2 by the city manager. Officials would not comment on what happened during Zoll’s leave, why he was placed on leave, or if there had been any resolution to whatever caused his leave. Zoll said he preferred not to comment. City officials citied state laws that limit the release of information on a police officer's performance.

Councilman Keith Blackburn, a former police officer, said an investigation had been initiated, but no details had been released to the council. He said Monday he wasn't sure if the investigation was finished. Mayor Bud Lewis expressed support for Zoll.

Criminal History and Mental Health Issues Reflected in Accused Oceanside Killer

Oceanside police say the man they have in custody, who stands accused of stabbing a vacationing stranger to death and then waiting around for police, is well known to them. He has a history of crime as well as mental illness, including a 2004 commitment to a state mental hospital.

Eric Russell Andreasen, 37, was arraigned Tuesday for the daylight attack on a Northern California woman in the parking lot of a busy Oceanside shopping center along the Highway 78 corridor. The woman, 54 year-old Katherine H. Parker, of Lincoln, California, was stabbed for no apparent reason as she walked to her car. Police say “a large kitchen knife,” was used in the attack. The suspect then lay on the ground, waiting for police to arrive, as the woman expired. Police could not explain the bizarre action. There appeared to be no motive, no confrontation, just an at-random attack for no reason.

In the past, doctors have found Andreason not mentally competent and unable to assist his attorneys. He was committed to Patton State Hospital, which treats mentally ill patients. He was released after a 76 day stay, went to trial and received a 16-month prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to attempted grand theft. According to police he had been released about two weeks prior to the attack. His other criminal history shows violence, attacking a police officer in Orange County; he was also arrested for robbery, burglary, and theft. Police state that Parker was slashed across the stomach, face and mouth. Parker was transported to a local hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Andreasen was arrested without incident, and is being held without bail at the Vista Detention Center.

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