Chula Vista nonprofit destroyed by arson fire

Chula Vista nonprofit destroyed by arson fire
Chula Vista High School grads help Camp Fire survivors, alumni
In the early days of the citys smart water meter program, the city seems to have rushed out to buy equipment from a company that has since revealed problems with its meters.

In 2012, the City Council gave water department officials approval to buy $2.1 million worth of new meters over three years from that company, Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products.

In the first year of the contract, the water department spent $3 million. Over the next two years it spent another $1 million. Thats $1.8 million it wasnt authorized to spend.

The spending may also be just another sign of long-standing water department problems that Voice of San Diego and NBC 7 Responds have been investigating over the past year.

Ironically, despite aggressive spending, the smart meter program is still years behind schedule. The city is now considering a $25 million contract to get it back on track.

From Andrew Keatts: Investigators from the Chula Vista Police Department suspect an arsonist broke into the offices of the liberal organizing group that led the local campaign on two rent control measures and set it on fire.

The group, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, held a press conference Monday to say they would continue the work of organizing low-income and minority communities for political causes.

Were devastated in some ways by the hate against our movement and against the work that weve been fighting for, said Paola Martinez-Montes, the director for ACCEs San Diego chapter. But if this was an act of intimidation, we will not be stopped.

Just before midnight Friday, someone broke into the office and sprayed an accelerant under a desk where the group stored its signs supporting rent control measures, the group said.

Martinez-Montes said the group had received harsh political messages over the course of the campaign, but nothing that made them suspect they could be the target of a violent attack.

It was an act of cowardice and it will not be tolerated in the city of Chula Vista, said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas. I know that our police department is fully engaged in investigating this crime, and that perpetrator, whoever that is, whatever persons they are, they will be brought to justice.

City spokeswoman Anne Steinberger said she expects the city to have more information on the investigation soon.

That we know – it was intentional arson, Salas said. Its unequivocal that thats what it was.

In 2010, ACCE broke away from its parent organization, ACORN, when it was facing national scandal after conservative activists released undercover videos that appeared to show employees advising activists to break the law.

ACCE has locally advocated for and organized around minimum wage increases, voter registration and affordable housing initiatives, before focusing this year on rent control.

Though much of the migrant caravan making its way through Mexico is still about 1,500 miles from the U.S. border, one small group of LGBTQ migrants that split off from the main caravan has already arrived in Tijuana, Maya Srikrishnan reports in this weeks Border Report.

A video from a press conference gone awry drives home how tensions surrounding the caravan transcend borders. Residents of the upscale Playas de Tijuana neighborhood crash the migrants press conference to shout their concerns about the groups presence, but insist theyre not being discriminatory when asked by reporters.

Another point that really drives home how the concerns echo some of those we see on this side of the border: The migrants, of course, are staying in an Airbnb.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed is now leading by just 20 — two-zero! — votes over Mac McNamara in the latest batch of results released Monday.

Another election contest that remains too close to call is the very bizarre race for the District 4 Board of Equalization seat. Republican Sen. Joel Anderson has a 2,138-vote (0.2 percentage point) lead over Democrat Mike Schaefer, a perennial candidate with … quite a resume. Heres how Jesse Marx described has his history:

Democratic leaders want nothing to do with Mike Schaefer, a former San Diego city councilman who was indicted – and later acquitted – as part of a Yellow Cab bribery scandal in 1970. The following decade, the Los Angeles Times called him one of Californias most notorious slumlords. More recently, he was disbarred in Nevada and hit with a restraining order by the brother from Everybody Loves Raymond.

Anderson had his own troubles more recently, after an incident in which he threatened a female lobbyist in a Sacramento bar. The Senate Rules Committee sent Anderson a letter of reprimand in which it called his behavior completely unreasonable.

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Above: Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, walks through the wreckage of a fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista police are investigating an arson fire at the office of a nonprofit that campaigned for rent control. Theres no word yet on a suspect or motive, but community organizers in the county believe it was politically motivated.

Around 11:40 p.m. Friday, someone broke into the Chula Vista office of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said Christina Livingston, the organizations statewide director. The person then sprayed an accelerant throughout the office and beneath a table holding pro-Proposition 10 signs, in particular, she said.

The space was full of melted computers, twisted metal and soot Monday as South Bay elected officials and colleagues from groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union gathered to offer condolences.

We are devastated in some ways by the hate against our movement and against the work that weve been fighting for, said ACCE San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes. But if this was an act of intimidation, we will not be stopped.

Livingston said the statewide umbrella organization for social and racial justice groups often receives threatening messages on social media during campaigns but says they were more aggressive this election.

The group helped tenants mobilize around the statewide proposition to lift restrictions on rent control and a National City measure to establish rent control. Both measures failed.

The timing of the arson — immediately after a contentious ballot measure that ACCE supported, Prop. 10 and Measure W — is very concerning, said National City Mayor-elect Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. Acts of violence like this must be condemned and I call on all our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and find those responsible for this heinous act.

Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, recovers a postcard and a tchotchke from his desk, Nov. 12, 2018.

It is an act of cowardice and it will not be tolerated in the city of Chula Vista, she said. I know that our police department is fully engaged in investigating this crime and that perpetrator will be brought to justice.

A man at the press conference told an ACCE employee a man purchased lighter fluid Friday night at a nearby liquor store. Police were not on hand to detail any other leads.

The incident comes on the heels of a contentious election cycle in which a man was indicted for allegedly mailing pipe bombs to leading Democratic figures and another shot and killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both alleged assailants espoused white nationalist ideologies.

Some believe Fridays fire is was similarly motivated and immediately set up web pages to collect donations. ACCE is asking that people contribute directly via its website.

A declaration from the California Assembly honoring Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes survived the fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista police are calling a fire that destroyed the San Diego offices of a statewide social justice nonprofit arson.


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