By Emilio, on Apr 2, 2012

1It seems that City Manager Carlos Palacios is reaching out to the firefighters, and other employees regarding his compensation and any other issues and concerns that they may have. He wanting a peace pipe smoke-out type of a sit down may be indicative that there is trouble a-brewing in city hall. And the trouble as in most cases when there is a “family” squabble, it’s usually about Mr. Green or lack thereof.

In a March 26th email to city employees, Palacios referenced the staff as “family” and that, “Recently, a question has been raised about my compensation.  Here are the facts.” He went on to summarize, “In summary, my salary has been reduced by 10%, I contribute an additional 1% towards PERS, and I have voluntarily given up raises of 7% that were included in my contract.”

Granted, Palacios gave up 10% of his pay, but according to his Calendar for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 he rarely worked on Fridays and when he did, it was to attend some type of meetings out of the office. And, almost 5 times per week he blacked out (with a magic marker) time spent on personal or private matters.2

Using the 40 hour work-week formula (52 weeks x 40hrs = 2,080 hrs.), if Palacios earns $200,000.00 (which is about right) per year, his hourly rate is around $96.15. If he doesn’t work on Fridays, which equates to 416 hours annually, he is receiving $39,998.40 for days not worked which is $1.60 shy of $40,000.00. A 10% cut in his pay equates to around $20,000. So, doesn’t it seem he received a $19,998.40 raise instead of a reduction in his salary while working a 4 day work week? How many other members of his staff are working a 4 day work week whose salary was reduced by 10%?

Performance Based Compensation?

Yes, City Manager Palacios also gave up 7% in raises, but does he really expect a raise while the city maintains an unemployment rate hovering at 27% and that we have been leading the county with the highest unemployment rate for most of his tenure? Should a balanced budget alone be the determining factor in his performance evaluation?

What about the creation of jobs? Manabe-Ow? That project isn’t expected to create the promised 2,000 jobs until 20 years from now. We may not even be able to hang anybody in effigy if that plan takes a dump because none of us will be around by then. What about a Wallmart or Costco you ask?

According to the state’s Unemployment Development Department, Watsonville has 6,700 unemployed people in our city which is double the amount of any other municipality in the county. A Costco employs around 200 people per store….do the math…we will need at least 30 type Costcos to get these people employed if the plan is to quickly produce jobs. What about withholding information from your boss or misrepresenting the facts? Is that acceptable performance? When asked about the missing fire truck, the city council was told the truck was being refurbished when in fact the city didn’t even own it.

What about spending over 1.2 million dollars in legal fees alone attempting to build housing near the airport? We not only had to compensate our city attorney and the law firm hired to assist him, but we also had to pay the pilot’s attorneys too after the city lost the appeal.

Is having $18,000 in petty cash floating around for a festival, standard operating, policy, and procedure? How many cities in California do you know that have this much petty cash to pay for the entertainment at their festivals? Ok, you got me there….maybe the city of Bell.

If I wanted a sit down peace pipe smoking session with some irritable adversaries who are questioning my annual compensation, I might consider coming bearing gifts. How about a car or several of them? Palacios and around 8 other city staffers receive car allowances that are costing tax payers around $40,000.00 per year.

I would also consider lifting the Temporary Directive aimed at the firefighters which entails “Member Speech, Expression and Social Networking.” It seems the Ivory Tower does not want the public to know about their (fire fighters) complaints and concerns. This situation may end up in court too.

An open discussion in a Peace, Love, and Macramé type meeting cannot include a muzzle to be used selectively, facts should not be distorted to conceal one’s performance, and transparency should not be treated like a red headed step child; Fire Truck # 4471.


MEADOWS MANOR MYSTERY TOUR or Every Picture Tells a Story?

By Emilio, on Mar 13, 2012


Medows Manor Mobile Home Park residents on Blanca Lane wanted to know one thing, did the owner of the park have the proper permits to add 14 new additional units. The residents have been complaining that their mobile home park was in dire need of road repairs, and that it has poor drainage, sewage backups, poor lighting, and electrical problems. So why was the owner being allowed to add new units without first assuring them that these issues would be first addressed, they were asking.

Assistant City Manager Marcela Tavantiz has been of the opinion since before 2008 that there was little the city could do because the state has jurisdiction over the mobile home park. Her position is partially factual. Both she and the state were of the opinion that a 30-40 year old permit issued by the County of Santa Cruz back in the 70’s was still in effect and that the new owner of the mobile home park, Kenneth Waterhouse, could now add 14 mobile homes.  

It took me, an elected official, around 7 months and around 150 pages of emails, mostly between me and Assistant City Manager Tavantiz, to determine that the city allowed the mobile home property owner to hook up to our city’s sewer system without a Permit and without paying the $156,283.98 in permit fees.  And that the city did not and still has not issued a Stop Work Order to the construction crew even after determining these facts.

Although, after my continual experience with the lack of transparency in our city government, I did not anticipate a 7 month journey which included countless of hours writing and answering emails, making numerous long distance telephone calls to the State of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, and conducting research, all while Assistant City Manager Marcel Travantiz withheld some documents and provided me with misleading information.  

It was Déjà vu all over again-the nightmare of the missing 1999 KME fire truck fiasco.

Being a trained investigator, what caught my attention was a blatant red flag: that being that Assistant City Manager Tavantiz first attempted to mislead me that a “Stop Work Order” (a city used document) was issued when she supposedly determined that the work crew hired to build the pad for the mobile homes at Meadows Manor had hooked up to our sewer line without a permit. After several emails asking Ms. Tavantiz for a copy of the “Stop Work Order” that the city supposedly issued, Ms. Tavantiz finally admitted that a “verbal” Work Stop Order was issued. A “verbal” Work Stop Order is both non applicable and/or non-existent. And, why would Ms. Tavantiz attempt to mislead me? I mean, we are dealing with around $157,000.00 here, right?

So, I began asking questions, you know, Due Diligence, and found out that a lawsuit was filed in 2001 at the Santa Cruz Superior Court (and resolved in 2008) by Meadows Manor Mobile Home Park owner Kenneth Waterhouse against the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.  It seems that Waterhouse sued the state to obtain a permit to install the 14 mobile homes. Apparently the 30-40 year old permit issued to the original owner may not have been transferable so Waterhouse sued the state to obtain a permit. This contradicted Assistant City Manager Tavantiz’s opinion that the 30 plus year permit was still valid.  

It seems that an Agreement was reached between Waterhouse and the State before a trial was held which included requirements by both parties.

Would you believe that Assistant City Manager Marcela Tavantiz was not aware of the lawsuit? She gets paid over $165,000 per year and I get paid not even 5% of her wages and she can’t find this document which I Googled? 


Would you also believe that Assistant City Manager Marcela Tavantiz was not aware of the Agreement made between the state’s HCD and Waterhouse? Yet, she claimed to have a relationship with both Kenneth Waterhouse and his attorney David Spangengerg? Well how about this letter from the state’s attorney to Spangenberg outlining the Agreement? After sending her a copy of this document, Assistant City Manager Tavantiz wrote me an email stating that she was also not aware this document existed.  






You see that last name on this page? “Dan Fitzgerald”, the “NAO Manager”? He was an employee of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development at the time this Agreement was written on August 1, 2008. Today, Mr. Fitzgerald works for Kenneth Waterhouse, the Meadows Manor Mobile Home Park owner, as a “Consultant”. Imagine that. Fitzgerald, who may have a conflict of interest, is in charge of constructing the pad for the 14 units at Meadows Manor.  According to an email from Tavantiz, Fitzgerald does not have a Contractor’s License. Then why didn’t the city take exception to Fitzgerald being in charge of hooking up to our city’s sewer line?  

Then, after my continual dog style sniffing, the state’s HCD Field Inspector, Chris Anderson, seemed to throw Assistant City Manager Tavantiz under the bus. He wrote the following email:


By netboots, on Mar 9, 2012

A Fictitious Business Name Statement was recorded in the Register-Pajaronian on March 8th for Tres Lounge and Casino. And, it seems that it will soon be operating at 184 Main St.

Now, why didn’t they open the casino at the Gottschalks building downtown? They could have had a restaurant upstairs and gambling downstairs and it could be like the Garden City Casino in San Jose.


A city employee speaking with the condition of anonymity said that after the 1999 KME aerial ladder fire truck was attempted to be put into service last week (once again) that the ladder got stuck after it was raised and would not come down, and that upon either headlights turning off or on, the power steering quit operating at the rear section of the aerial where the second driver is located.

The city issued a $225,000 check for the fire truck back in April 2008 after receiving a federal grant, but did not purchase the fire truck until December 2010 after I initiated an investigation seeking its whereabouts. This April will be 4 years since the city issued the check to Fire Trucks Plus but the truck has yet to be put into service without concern that it can operate within its expected performance.

The source reported that a heated exchange between some fire fighters and Fire Chief Marc Bisbee erupted after Bisbee demanded that they drive the fire truck. A few weeks ago fire fighter and union representative Corey Shafer wrote a memo to Bisbee asking for assurances that the 1999 KME was safe to operate. He requested an independent inspection of the fire truck. As of today it does not seem that Bisbee responded to Shafer’s request.

I wrote several emails to both City Manager Carlos Palacios and City Attorney Alan Smith. I asked about the city’s liability exposure if the aerial ladder truck failed during a response and a member of the public was seriously injured especially now that it is apparent that the aerial has experienced a multitude of mechanical problems. Also, compounding the issue is that a city mechanic has been doing some of the work on the aerial. I am surprised, well maybe not, that City Attorney Alan Smith has not rendered an opinion and/or responded.

I also asked how much this fire truck has cost the city after all the repairs…..you guessed right…no answer from our city manager. 

Former Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina Wants To Enhance The Bar Experience in Watsonville?

By Emilio, on Jan 24, 2012

I was almost shocked to read in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 17th) that former Chief of Police Terry Medina had been hired as a consultant by the owners of Cilantros to assist them with continual problems that have included fights in the bar area of the restaurant. Cilantros, which was cited by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) for furnishing alcohol to a minor (possibly back around October) was fined and their liquor license suspended for 10 days. The enforced suspension was to begin in early January 2012 which was about the time that Cilantros claimed they were closed for “remodeling”. Wonder if the “remodeling” idea was Medina’s to cover up the ABC’s decision.   

I was almost shocked because as a police chief Medina seemed to go out of his way to assure businesses selling alcohol that violated the rules of the road were dealt with suspensions and/or revocation of their Use Permits issued by the city. Well, not Jalisco’s which claimed they had an abundant amount of breakage as an excuse after a garage full of their beer and liquor was found in a home and it was being sold to minors.

I recall while as a Planning Commissioner back around 5 years ago when Medina demanded that Popo’s Use Permit be suspended for one year  after alleged gang members got into a fight in the restaurant, along with numerous other problems. The planning commission was led to believe by then Development Director John Doughty, without Medina’s objection, that Popo’s was selling distilled spirits (tequila) at the restaurant which only had a beer and wine license. The Planning Commission instead voted to suspend the license for 6 months to the chagrin of Medina after the owners pleaded that their business could not survive without serving beer.  It didn’t.   

Later, unfortunately, I found out that the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) had conducted an investigation and determined that the lone bottle of tequila found at Popo’s was a gift to the cook. The ABC reported that the bottle was found closed and sealed in the cooler of the restaurant after the cook put it there upon receiving it. I also found out that this information was public and available to the city before the planning commission meeting. You can still drive by that vacant restaurant today, another possible testament to selective code enforcement.   

Most recently, the Villager, the last standing bar in Watsonville, was targeted by our city because of stabbings and other unbecoming conduct in the bar. The proprietors of the Villager were served with a notice that the Planning Commission would be holding a public hearing whereupon they were going to consider suspension and/or revocation of their Use Permits or reduction of their business hours.

The Villager’s owners were concerned that this action could be financially detrimental and end up with the closure of their business. In preparation for the Planning Commission meeting of December 12, 2011 the Villager owners made a public records request from City Clerk Beatriz Flores on December 6th for Calls for Service from 4 other establishments that sell alcohol to substantiate their argument that they were being selectively targeted. One of them was for Cilantros. Guess whose records were not provided to the Planning Commission at the meeting? Why did you guess Cilantros? Do you think former Chief of Police Terry Medina had anything to do with it?

According to the Sentinel’s article, which seemed more of a promotion for Medina’s new business, Medina wants to “enhance the bar experience” at Cilantros. Cilantros gets to keep their hours of operation with a new bar experience with the assistance from the former booze fighting chief of police while the Villager is sanctioned by the Planning Commission which rendered their decision knowing full well they were lacking Calls for Service records for Cilantros? Why didn’t the Planning Commission demand the records before they made their decision?

We have a struggling business in a still struggling economy and the end result could be that the Villager closes its doors leaving more people unemployed, and we do it with underhanded tactics?

This is not about a bar or a restaurant, but rather how our city has been conducting business and its obvious not well considering our high unemployment rates for the past 15 years, questionable loans to selected people in the community that have resulted in little if any jobs, and the disappearance of a fire truck for almost 3 years.

The allegation that Watsonville’s economic problems are the result of deep rooted cronyism and corruption is crumbling because it’s beginning to seem that the allegation is factual.

RDA-Redevelopment Dead on Arrival?

By Emilio, on Jan 12, 2012

This past Tuesday’s city council meeting (Dec. 10th) seemed more like a variety TV show with melodramatic slides and sounds to expound on the success of our Redevelopment Agency (RDA) which is on the endangered species list of taxpayer’s dollars funded programs.

 I had to bite my lip when interim Housing and Economic Redevelopment Director Jan Davidson (a double dipper earning both a salary and pension from the city) said she was not going to list accomplishments by our RDA in her presentation, and then did just that, well sort of. 

 Some accomplishments Ms. Davidson noted which did not include dates when these projects were completed were Cabrillo College (1997), the Mello Center (1992), Soccer Central (1997), and the Civic Plaza Building (2003) which was the last major project completed with RDA money almost 9 years ago.

 What was not included in the presentation as RDA accomplishment at the city council meeting was that we gave Romo Properties (Ms. Stella Romo) a $400,000.00 low interest loan in 2010 for “tenant improvements” for her new building on Second St. across the street from the Civic Plaza. The city sold her the lot for that structure for $25,000 four years earlier on October 2006. And, according to public records, a few months ago this past September, the City of Watsonville may have provided Ms. Romo another loan for this property in the amount of $3,200.00 from federal funds. The reason given to the city council for the $400,000.00 loan was that upon completion of the interior of the building Whole Foods would move in, and with it, 40-50 new jobs would be created. I called Whole Foods corporate headquarters in Texas and a representative said maybe a few jobs were added but it was mostly a lateral move of existing employees. Additionally, $35,165.00 of RDA funds was used for “Jalisco’s Parking Lot”. Jalisco’s is a Romo owned restaurant.

 Another RDA accomplishment not mentioned is the million dollar loan given to a large corporation to purchase some property in Watsonville in 2009. The property in question belonged to the City of Watsonville which owned the land underneath the Evergreen Apartments. The buyers could not afford to purchase the city owned land, or at least that is what the city council was led to believe, so they were given a million dollar loan by our Redevelopment Agency to buy it. The buyers then paid the city the million dollars for the property with the Redevelopment Agency million dollar loan. Basically, what seems to have happened is that one million dollars from our Redevelopment Agency was transferred to the city’s General Fund account in the process of the “sale” of the city owned property so the city could balance its budget which was around a million short at the time.

California Can Eliminate Redevelopment Agencies

By Emilio, on Dec 29, 2011

The California Supreme Court ruled today that redevelopment agencies can be eliminated. How will that affect Watsonville? It may be too early to determine the full outcome, but the Manabe-Ow project may be put into further jeopardy.

 Already S. Martinelli & Co. is considering a business park for the Bird’s Eye plant which it purchased earlier this year. Unlike the Manabe-Ow business park which promises 2,000 jobs in 20 years, Martinelli’s property can produce light industrial jobs this coming year. And, unlike Manabe-Ow, Martinelli will not require 10 million dollars of redevelopment agency money for construction and/or development.  

 Some of you may recall that City Manager Carlos Palacios, with the assistance of Assembly Member Luis Alejo, made a strong effort to classify the George Ow owned farmland as “blight” so the city could use redevelopment agency dollars for the project. If that action alone doesn’t qualify The Manabe-Ow project for the poster child of the year as to why redevelopment agencies were eliminated, I don’t know what will.

 But, what is additionally concerning is the amount of redevelopment agency money already spent on city staff, consultants, and formulation of plans in the past 15 years on the Manabe-Ow project. We can rightfully assume it’s in the millions of dollars considering that just a few months ago the city allowed $750,000.00 of redevelopment agency money to be used to compensate city employees working on the Manabe-Ow project.

Down for the Count

By Emilio, on Dec 23, 2011

I am still down for the count with this ferocious flu. No, I didn’t get a flu shot and I don’t recall ever getting one. This is the first time I got the flu in a long time and it was because I let my guard down which included not washing my hands consistently. The worst part of it is that it has affected my sense of smell which in turn affects my taste buds. I’m the cook in the family and with Christmas fast approaching I’m starting to smell disaster because if I don’t cook we are in serious trouble.

My wife, God bless her, has trouble operating a stove. It would be like me, and most of us, trying to operate our new fire truck, “a complicated piece of equipment” except our stove works. If our dogs see her in the kitchen we can’t find them for weeks. And, when we do find them we have to drag them out of the SPCA, where they slept on the front door step until they were “rescued”. I have to promise Macy our golden retriever and Charley Bear our poodle mix all the way home mom won’t be allowed to cook again or they won’t get out of the truck.

The flu does have some advantages. For the first time in a long time our TV remote control is earning its keep. If not for the Antique Road Show (K’s favorite) the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdaine and Guy Fieri, and the NFL Channel our TV would rarely be used. We normally read for entertainment, like I am sure many of you do.

I hear some of you read the Fishing Report over and over again. But, after lying on the couch watching television for the past 10 eternal days while coughing and wheezing I have come to the conclusion that finally they have succeeded in dumbing down our country. Who is “they”? “They” is those who depend on our dumbness to enrich themselves.

Where has that fire truck been all these years?

By Emilio, on Nov 19, 2011

Published in The Register-Pajaronian

The Register-Pajaronian’s Nov. 12 story regarding the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury’s 2011 final report being online touched on the surface of what actually occurred.

Almost four years ago, on April 20, 2008, the city issued a $225,000 check to Fire Tucks Plus (a fire truck dealer in Rancho Cucamonga) for a fire truck described as in “excellent condition” to our City Council at the time. 

On Nov. 30, 2010, almost three years after the city issued the check, I wrote an email to City Manager Carlos Palacios asking where the truck was located and when we could anticipate delivery. You know, thinking, “Wow, almost three years now and no fire truck?”

On Dec. 1 Chief Bisbee responded with an email. He wrote: “1. Fire Trucks Plus, Rancho Cucamonga. 2. No hard delivery date yet, but refurbishment is well under way.”

I don’t know what compelled me to call Fire Trucks Plus, other than maybe investigative instinct, but whatever the reason, I did. I spoke with owner Paul Batista. I asked Mr. Batista how long before the refurbishments were completed. Mr. Batista said the fire truck was in Pasadena and not at his facility. What? Refurbishments are not “well under way” as Bisbee stated? Nope, but Mr. Batista explained, the Pasadena Fire Department was doing a lot of work to the truck and Watsonville was going to get a great deal.

“Did you cash our $225,000 check?” I asked. Yes, he did, a few weeks after receiving it. “But, how could you sell something you didn’t own?” I asked. Basically, he said, it involved a three-way deal and gave me the cell number to the city of Pasadena Fire Battalion Chief Scott Dandridge for further explanation.


By Emilio, on Oct 31, 2011

During this past Tuesday’s city council meeting, two Watsonville High students got the giggles and so did I when Council Member Lowell Hurst in his loud “give me attention” type ex-school teacher’s voice said something like “Trees Breath”. When they started to laugh and repeated “trees breath?” I started to laugh too and now we couldn’t stop laughing unless we didn’t stare at each other. Continually Mr. Hurst hits comical “homeruns” with some of his statements and quotes.


By Emilio, on Oct 20, 2011

The bids to fluoridate Watsonville are in and they are over approximately 1.5 million dollars more than anticipated when last submitted back in 2002. Imagine that: a 9 year-old handwritten estimate not holding up? Thus, it seems that unless the California Dental Association (CDA) is willing to fork out the additional million plus big bucks, fluoridation may be a no-go!


The bids submitted, according to our city manager, are as follows:

Mountain Cascade          $2,797,000.00

Preston Pipelines             $2,945,996.00

Anderson Pacific              $2,998,602.00

Don Chapin                      $3,124,500.00

Block Construction                  $3,474,300.00


Karma? To no avail, I have been asking Mayor Daniel Dodge to place the fluoridation matter back on the Agenda considering the continual questions of fluoride’s possible detrimental effects to the poor by by Andrew Young and most recently LULAC (League of United Latino American Citizens).


But, maybe, Mayor Dodge is just following the instructions of his crony Assembly Member Luis Alejo who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from affiliates of the CDA.

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