47TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: Gusher of independent expenditures in final days

The Democrat-on-Democrat contest in San Bernardino County’s 47th Assembly District is awash in independent money from charter school supporters, teachers unions and a group of tribes with casinos, among others, spending more than $1.1 million since mid-September.

Rialto Councilman Joe Baca Jr. is running against Cheryl Brown, a Rialto businesswoman and an aide to Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto.

More than $753,000 of the independent expenditures has gone to support Brown or oppose Baca and $403,000 has gone to support Baca or oppose Brown through the weekend.

The main groups pushing Brown’s election are the Sacramento-based California Tribal Business Alliance political action committee ($480,000), the San Rafael-based Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First ($228,000), and the California Black Political Action Committee ($34,000.)

The main organizations behind Baca are the California Teachers Association ($163,000), the Alliance to Get California Working PAC ($119,463) and the Golden State Leadership Fund PAC ($67,000).

The parents and teachers group gets its money from StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based group led by former Washington D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who clashed repeatedly with the DC teachers union. In addition, the tribal business alliance has received $100,000 from the California Charter Schools Association.

In the case of the pro-Baca Jr. IE’s, the Golden Leadership Fund’s biggest donor is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino. The Alliance to Get California Working PAC has a variety of donors, including the private prison company CCA.


By:  Jim Miller

RIALTO: Officials saving ambulances for emergencies

RIALTO: Officials saving ambulances for emergencies

Rialto Fire Department Firefighter/Paramedic Marcus Lynch helps guide in the cities ambulance after finishing up a call on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 in Rialto. Starting Monday the fire department will be reserving its ambulances for true medical emergencies.


Published: 04 November 2012 03:10 PM

Anxious to keep his city’s three paramedic ambulances available for medical emergencies, Rialto’s fire chief no longer is sending them to treat broken fingers and other minor problems.

“I’m still going to send a paramedic to every call,” Chief Mat Fratus emphasized. “But I’m not going to send multiple paramedic units to every call.”

Beginning Monday, Nov. 5, dispatchers will assign only a paramedic fire engine to minor medical calls in Rialto. The aim is to keep the three Fire Department ambulances available for more serious emergencies, including heart attacks, strokes, injury traffic crashes and violent crimes because studies show that saving time reaching those calls tends to save lives.

Other agencies around Inland Southern California will track the new program in Rialto and assess its effectiveness.

The heart of the new system is San Bernardino County’s regional dispatch center, where call-takers have undergone more than 18 months of re-training to enable them to question callers more quickly and thoroughly.

“If you know more accurately what the problem is, you can more accurately assign the proper units,” said Rick Britt, director of the Confire communications center.

And the dispatching happens fast. Based on the new training, dispatchers ask specific questions in a specific order, beginning with the caller’s address and phone number — so if the call gets interrupted, they can still send firefighters or police to the correct location.

Then, the caller is asked the nature of the problem. If it’s a medical situation, the dispatcher immediately sends the nearest available paramedic fire engine.

If the patient’s not breathing, the dispatcher begins offering CPR instructions. Dispatchers also have a list of instructions for callers reporting, for example, suffocations, or attempted suicide-by-hanging.

And for all serious-injury or illness calls, an ambulance or additional fire engines will be dispatched.

“My dispatchers are the true first responders because they stat helping the caller immediately,” said Britt, whose staff serves 12 fire agencies, including San Bernardino County Fire Department and municipal fire departments ranging from Barstow south to Colton and from Redlands west to Rancho Cucamonga.

At least some of those agencies will be studying the results of Rialto’s experiment.

“What I’m picking up from the chiefs is that they’re all interested in it,” Britt said. “They want units available for the serious calls that require them.”

Traditionally, fire departments have sent two paramedic units to each 911 medical-aid call, regardless of how minor the injury or illness. In Rialto, a fire engine and an ambulance were dispatched. In other communities, the mix varies – sometimes two fire engines, or a fire engine and a paramedic squad, for example.

Fratus is confident that the so-called Medical Priority Dispatch System will work. He implemented the same system in San Bernardino, where he previously worked as Deputy Chief. His responsibilities included emergency medical service for that city’s fire department.

By cutting down the number of paramedic units sent to minor incidents in San Bernardino, response times to the most critical medical emergencies improved by roughly 30 percent, he said.

Britt’s dispatchers took the process one step farther, becoming the 169th emergency communications center to obtain full accreditation by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatchers.

“My chiefs wanted us to be accredited before they take the risk in liability and modify the response,” Britt acknowledged. “There is some risk to it.”

By cutting back on the number of units assigned to a call, the door is open to criticism and legal liability, he said. But he believes the risk is minimal to patients and taxpayers. Under the new system, dispatchers have been trained to triage calls, in much the same way newly arrived patients are triaged at a hospital emergency room, he said.

“You only have so many (paramedic) units to put out there,” said Britt, who emphasized that officials simply want to avoid dispatching multiple fire engines to calls where they’re not needed. “In days of shrinking budgets, you can’t afford to do that anymore.”

Merged SWAT teams cull expertise from Fontana, Colton, Rialto police officers

LYTLE CREEK – There’s a man on the ground cradling a long rifle with a fat barrel topped with a hulking telescopic sight.

When the trigger is pulled, the mild crack doesn’t hurt the ears – even without ear protection shooters customarily wear.

And the gun didn’t even quiver slightly from recoil.

Both these characteristics don’t seem right for the powerful .30-caliber round just fired.

But this isn’t Lytle Creek’s public gun range, Lytle Creek Firing Line, at the top of the road. Nor is it the private West End Gun Club down below.

Well hidden from the public – with no signs announcing its existence – is the Fontana Police Department’s firing range.

This day is a training day for the recently

SWAT teams practice the correct way to enter a hallway during their training. ((Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer))

formed Inland Regional SWAT team, which combines the Special Weapons and Tactics forces of three area police departments: Fontana, Colton and Rialto.

The rifle, fired by a SWAT officer, has a $1,300 suppressor – illegal for civilians to own – which muffles sound and helps to tame recoil.

That huge telescopic sight can magnify a target 14 times and has grooves to attach a night vision device.

In an era of ever-tightening budgets, the consolidation of the three specialized units forms a single group with big numbers, diverse skills and great equipment, officers assigned to Inland Regional SWAT say.

“It’s half the money and twice the protection,” Fontana Lt. Obie Rodriguez, who heads Inland SWAT team, said in-between bursts of distant machine gun fire.

“We have been able to reduce staffing each department contributes to SWAT, yet increased the team,” Rodriguez said.

The effort has created unity.

“The team has come together so easily because members have a similar mindset and dedication,” said Sgt. Jim Jolliff, assistant tactical supervisor with Inland SWAT and a 21-year veteran of Colton’s SWAT team.

For Fontana, the merger has meant that 30 officers assigned to SWAT has become 16 – yet the combined force is 39.

Training demands are another burden SWAT programs place on their department, Rodriguez said.

The state of California mandates that SWAT teams practice core skills 20 hours per month.

During those periods, officers are pulled from their routine functions, be they patrol, traffic, detective, narcotics or some other area of police service.

Since the merger in July, Rodriguez and other officers say they have been pleased with the merger and what it’s brought – a chance to learn from other’s expertise.

In one scenario, a team of officers practices building entry techniques in the “live fire shoot house” which was built several years ago by Fontana SWAT officers in their off-duty time.

Entering the shoot house, holding a pistol – not a short-barreled machine gun like the other officers, is Dr. Michael Neeki, an emergency room physician at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

Neeki has been a member of the Rialto SWAT team for several years and with the merger, became the team doctor for Inland SWAT.

“The team benefits and so does the public,” Rodriguez said – because Neeki brings the most current lifesaving technologies to every call.

And he’s upgrading the skills of the team’s medics.

Each department in Inland SWAT had their own armored vehicle.

But in a worst-case situation, one vehicle could only accommodate a few team members from their respective department.

Being able to muster three vehicles to a scene gives protection to just about everybody, Rodriguez said.

“Many times, seeing a force like that show up is about all we need to do,” said Sgt. Jim Burton, an 11-year veteran of Fontana SWAT.

Since its formation, the team has been called up for 11 barricade situations, two high-risk arrest warrants and its negotiations have been summoned for one suicide attempt, Rodriguez said.