Longtime Inland Empire journalist and KVCR contributor, Cassie MacDuff and KVCR's Benjamin Purper review some of the big Inland Empire news stories from the past week, including:
- Riverside and San Bernardino counties have the lowest wages among the 50 largest counties in the U.S.
- Redlands has settled a federal discrimination claim by the city's former human relations officer.
- The state Attorney General has approved the bankruptcy sale of the former Air Force Village West in Riverside.
Purper: "You’re listening to Empire KVCR news, I’m Benjamin Purper. On most Fridays we talk with former Press Enterprise columnist and longtime KVCR News contributor, Cassie MacDuff, and review some of the big Inland Empire news stories from the past week. Good morning, Cassie!"
MacDuff: "Good morning, Ben!"
Purper: "First off, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have the lowest wages among the 50 largest counties in the U.S."
MacDuff: "Right, you know, I think we all knew that the Inland Empire was on the low side of wages in California, but it turns out that the Inland Empire is on the low side of wages throughout the United States. The wages are about weekly wage in Riverside County of $927, in San Bernardino about $931 a week. That puts us number 50 of 50 large counties. This study was done by Jonathan Lansner of the Orange County Register, business writer, he wasn't looking at data of what bosses, employers and workers say they're getting - he was looking at the hard numbers from federal job counts. And there's a little bit of good news here: wages were up about 4.2% in a year in Riverside County, about 3.4% in San Bernardino County, but that still left us at the bottom of the rankings. You know, of course a lot of that is attributed to the warehouse and distribution centers in the I.E. and we all know that's modestly-paid work, but look at it this way: the Inland Empire is adding jobs, they're just low-paying jobs. So it turns out folks in the coastal counties, L.A. County and Orange County, are getting 40% higher wages. That's a big difference, so what you have going on is people are buying homes in the Inland Empire because they cost less, but they're commuting on the freeways to jobs in the coastal communities. And we all know what that means, that means traffic jams on the freeways."
Purper: "Yes it does. Next off, Redlands has settled a federal discrimination claim by the city's former human relations officer."
MacDuff: "Right, we've talked before about these accusations of discrimination and harassment based on gender. The claims were brought by former human resources director Amy Hagan, she no longer works for the city. And by the way, she's not a party to this settlement and the city did not say whether there is a monetary settlement. But the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told the city it must offer training to employees with an emphasis on harassment and retaliation, and that has to be done by January 1st so by the end of this year. The EEOC dismissed the claim, saying that it was unable to conclude that there were violations of the statutes, but it also was not able to certify that the city's in compliance. So the city says this is not an admission of any wrongdoing, so the city attorney said that he is satisfied with the settlement. Now, Hagan is still seeking $200,000 to settle her claims that she was discriminated against by being denied lifetime medical benefits that were afforded to other similarly-situated coworkers. And also you'll recall that the former city manager Enrique Martinez is also suing over his continuing benefits."
Purper: "So last off, the state Attorney General has approved the bankruptcy sale of the former Air Force Village West in Riverside."
MacDuff: "Right, we had talked about this last week. Altavita Village, which used to be called Air Force Village West, is a nonprofit community catering to retired military and others now, and promising them medical care, staying in place. They would be able to transition into assisted living and skilled nursing care. The sale of this property to a for-profit called Westmont Living had to be looked at by the Attorney General's office to make sure that it complied with all the regulations, so the A.G. has included several provisions including requiring Westmont Living to maintain the size of its skilled nursing unit at 59 beds to maintain its Medical and Medicare certifications and to file reports on its compliance over the next five years. It's also requiring the formation of a community advisory board of seven to twelve residents that would have to be consulted by Westmont Living at least every quarter for the next five years, in other words four times a year at least to make sure that those residents' needs and wishes are being fulfilled. The other thing that came out here is that all of the employees, more than 300 employees, received notices that their jobs will be terminated when the sale is completed. And those employees say that they're being required to re-apply and re-interview for their jobs, and they don't know how many of those jobs will remain. Press-Enterprise did reach out to Westmont Living and their calls were un-returned."
Purper: "All right, thank you so much, Cassie."
MacDuff: "Thank you, Ben."