A number of personalities and new faces had an impact on San Marino throughout 2015. A look at some of the key figures from the past year:
Hail to the Chief
Eyebrows may have been raised at the start of the year. John Incontro, a Los Angeles Police Department veteran who oversaw SWAT and other elite crime-fighting operations, had just taken over as police chief for the retired Tim Harrigan. Would he bring a grizzled attitude to this small-time job, staking out a hard line whenever scrutiny intensified on police conduct?
Incontro surprised them all, combining a personable, responsive demeanor with some innovative approaches to crime suppression.
“He’s just done a great job,” said City Manager John Schaefer, himself a former San Marino police chief. “I think he’s connected with the community. He’s been visible. … An old-school guy might have said, ‘I don’t give a darn. We’re never going to wear [body] cameras. I’m not going to be transparent about the number of complaints we have. I come from the LAPD. We kick [butt] and take names.’
“John just doesn’t do that. He is more zealous about investigating issues that might be misconduct than I might have been. He is more than happy to meet with members of the community and address issues.”
In the fight against crime, Incontro implemented procedures that got detectives involved much earlier in the wake of an incident. At his urging, the department also secured a blizzard of search warrants and emphasized urgency in getting crime lab work completed. The result was greatly improved results in the arrests of suspects and the recovery of stolen property.
The SMPD had a particularly impressive stretch from spring to mid-summer. Over a five-month span, it arrested a suspect in a brazen case of burglary and car theft after a nanny was accosted at a Winston Avenue home, the immediate capture of a burglary suspect after an Oxford Road woman encountered a stranger in her guest house, the recovery by SMPD detectives of a San Marino High School runaway girl in downtown Los Angeles, the arrest of a Mission District shoplifting suspect and the arrest of a suspect in a smash-and-grab burglary of a Huntington Drive jewelry store.
You win some, you lose some. Unless you’re Linda Sun in 2015.
Early in the year, she co-chaired the committee that persuaded voters to pass Measure E, a six-year renewal of an $865 school parcel tax. It was approved decisively in March.
Then she took a few weeks off before jumping into a co-chairing role for Measures U and SA, the utility user and public safety taxes. Both of them passed overwhelmingly in November, providing key underwriting for police, fire and other city services.
The school parcel tax needed two-thirds approval; it got 75.35%. The public safety tax also required two-thirds in the affirmative; it got 73.88%. The utility user tax needed a simple majority; it polled 71.79%. Combined, the three taxes will account for $8.6 million annually for San Marino’s public coffers.
Sun was joined in the parcel tax effort by co-Chair Bob Wicke, and on the public safety and utility user campaign by co-Chairs Jerry Hawk, Mort Mortimer, Tom Santley and Dr. Allan Yung.
Other notable people who figured prominently in the course of events locally included:
• Jim Frawley. San Marino’s fire chief, who headed up the tri-city command, departed in April to take a job as fire chief in Santa Cruz.
• Steve Koblik. After a 14-year run as president of the Huntington Library, he retired at the end of June, leaving behind an impressive legacy as a rainmaker for the Huntington’s ambitious projects. During Koblik’s tenure, the Huntington’s endowment grew from $153 million to $450 million, and the six-year capital campaign he led raised $244 million — $69 million over its goal.
• Laura Skandera Trombley. The president of Pitzer College in Claremont — and a renowned Twain scholar — came aboard July 1 as the Huntington’s new president. An understandable champion of the humanities, Trombley said she resolves to foster “an integrated experience” for visitors, creating “a place where the greatest, most interesting thinkers of our day can come together and talk about some of the manuscripts, some of the art, some of the botanical gardens, and talk about how this all interrelates.”
• Mario Rueda. He was hired as fire chief on Dec. 1 and will begin work here in the second week of the new year. Like Incontro, Rueda comes to San Marino as a veteran of a big-city agency, having served as a deputy chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department for the past 15 years.