Que Pasa In Baja?

Ensenada city workers going back to work. After a couple weeks of being on a sit-down strike, Mayor Novelo was finally able to convince them to go back to work by promising to pay the remainder of their Christmas bonuses before January 21st.

City workers are pretty pissed off, since the city has had problems paying their salaries, and now their Christmas bonuses, which for them amounts to an extra 2 months’ salary. By law, the Christmas bonus has to be equal to at least 15 days.

When he took control of the city, Mayor Novelo announced that the city was broke; since then, we have seen the effects of it. There are almost no streets in the city without potholes, and trash pickup services have been reduced to almost once a month now.

City workers don’t believe it, though; they say it’s not so much the lack of funds, but rather the inability to properly manage the situations that are affecting the city.

It has been a tough term for Mayor Novelo. He hasn’t been able to catch a break, and most people are pretty unhappy with the crises that the city is experiencing. This is probably the reason  he announced last year that he would not be running for another term.

The amount the city owes its workforce in Christmas bonuses alone is about $3.8 million USD, and this administration alone has already asked for about $11.3 million USD in loans to cover other expenses. This give you an idea how seriously the fiscal situation is for Ensenada.

AMLO comes to Baja. Our brand-new president visited Tijuana this past Sunday in order to announce the newly created free zone for the northern border along with our state governor Kiko Vega.

The president is scheduling visits to different parts of the country on weekends in order to have time during the week to attend to his presidential duties in his office in Mexico City.

He is famous now for travelling on commercial planes and even choosing the cheapest flights for his travel.

Migrants safe from police. Alma Migrante, a local non-profit group that helps immigrants know their rights, has won a trial making it illegal for local police to send immigrants guilty of committing administrative infractions to be sent to the National Migration Institute (or INM in Spanish) in order to be deported.

Representatives from Alma Migrante are stating that immigrants can only be sent for deportation if they commit a crime more serious than a minor infraction.

Although the line could be a little blurry sometimes between the two, an easy way to understand it is that an infraction would require you to pay a fine, but a crime would require jail time.

Snow is here! The civil protection office in the city of Ensenada has announced that both of our local sierras, Juarez and San Pedro Martir, have snow and are open for visits.

As always, they are recommended to drive there in a car in good condition, preferably 4×4, and bring warm clothes and supplies, especially gas and high calorie food, in case you get stranded up there.

San Pedro Martir, which always has more snow than Juarez but is also a farther away, is only open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm every day, and is not available for overnight stays.

Jaime Nieto, head of the office, stated that the roads are not in the best shape right now, and emphasized the need for a car in good condition if you want to visit.

We’re getting more cruise ships. During 2018 a total of 270 cruise ships docked in Ensenada, carrying more than 650,000 tourists. About 70% of those tourists descended from the ship to visit the city, and they spent an average $54 dollars per person.

Tourism officials are stating that its very likely that we will get even more cruise ships this year, since some cruise liners have already booked more dates for this year. January alone has 26 arrivals in total.

Bring your own bags. Rosarito and Ensenada decided last year to eliminate plastic bags in retail shops and the new measure has been in effect since the first of the year. Steep fines were announced for offending businesses, but at least Rosarito has said that they will not issue fines until April of this year.

It is possible for you to not even notice the change if your favorite store decided to switch to paper or biodegradable plastic bags (which are almost indistinguishable from normal plastic bags). This will still be legal and an option for businesses if they want to keep offering customers this benefit.

Welcome To the Northern Free Zone

One of the campaigns promises that gained more supporters around here for our new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO for short), was the proposal of a new “Free Zone” along the northern border that would reduce taxes, increase the minimum wage 100% and lower fuel prices to try and match those in the USA.

Since the first day of the year, this promise has become a reality, and you are now living in the new free zone for the northern border.

So, what does this mean for you? As a consumer, this means that you will now be paying 8% IVA on most products and services instead of the 16% you usually pay. For those of you unfamiliar with IVA, that’s the Mexican equivalent to the VAT in the US. Note that I said most; I will explain that later.

If you have a business, you will also have another benefit: Instead of paying the usual 30% on the ISR (income tax), you will now be able to receive credit for 10% of that. This means that you will only be paying 20% now.

Regarding gas prices, we have already seen some gas stations lowering their prices, since they have a special benefit in that they won’t be charging any VAT on gasoline and diesel; this reduced gas prices to exactly 16%. This reduction doesn’t actually match it to prices in the US, but it definitely closes the gap a little bit more.

Minimum wage was doubled to $176.72 pesos per day (about $9 USD); the older wage at $4.50 was a joke, and almost nobody was working for that.

Since the newly created Free Zone is defined by a decree and not a law, businesses must register for it and they will have to meet certain requirements; therefore, don’t shout bloody murder if you see 16% IVA in your ticket, since there is a possibility that some businesses don’t meet the requirements or just haven’t applied yet.

In order to be able to obtain the benefits businesses need to prove that at least 90% of their total sales are from the border region. They will also be asked to prove that they have a valid address in the region for at least 18 months. These two requirements are key in discouraging mainland businesses from establishing an address in the border just to obtain said benefits.

Businesses that are already established have until January 30th to file their application, and newly established businesses will have 30 days after registering their businesses with the SAT (which is the Mexican IRS).

The free zone objective is to increase competitiveness with the US, avoid migration and make it more attractive as an investment option.

If you were here back before 2014 you might remember that we already had lower taxes here in the border, but that benefit was removed by president Peña Nieto. At that time VAT in the area was 11%. This means that taxes now will be even lower than at that time.

Several analysts say that Northern Baja will benifit the most  from this new decree, as the biggest percentage of the population in the state lives near the border, and because all its municipalities are considered part of it.

For now, the decree will be valid only for 2019 and 2020. Surely, results will be analyzed after these two years and a decision will be made on whether to extend it or not.

So, What Is the Baja Blues Fest Doing With All That Money?

In November, the Baja Blues Fest President Jackie Alameda presented checks to the children’s organizations benefiting from this year’s annual Blues Fest event at a luncheon hosted by Bobby’s by the Sea.  Checks in the amount of $4,000 (USD) were presented to Rosarito’s Friends of the Library, the Los Angelitos Orphanage, and La Mision Children’s Fund/BECA.

Bev Wilburg, representing La Mision Children’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, stated that the money would be used for the La Mision food bank, which feeds over 1,000 children. Once a month, families pick up a small parcel of beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, cooking oil and flour,  the cost of which is about $12. In November and December, families also received a small amount of chicken. On the last Wednesday of the month, Rotary members help to portion and bag these foods for the families. It costs about $1200 (USD) monthly to make up these tiny bundles. Thanks to a sustainable water system that was donated to the group, they are recognized as the only clean, potable water near Ensenada, in case of emergency.

Teresa Savala, representing  the BECA scholarship organization, discussed the schools and their needs in the La Mision area. There is currently a waiting list of students interested in high school. Parents are getting more involved in their children’s education, and more classrooms are being constructed. The money awarded today will be used for tuitions. The fundraising event “Fandango” funds about 90% of BEA’s needs, but BBF’s annual check really helps.  Although BECA is not a 501(c)(3) organization, they are now partners with La Mision Children’s Fund and are under the same “umbrella,” working closely together.

The Mexican government does not fund either of these programs. Books are considered a luxury and unaffordable for most families in Primo Tapia and the neighborhoods in the hills. Authors Darren and Ruby Perman, along with the Baja Blues Fest, donated 20 copies of their children’s book “Wookivoo” to the LMCF/BECA. The Rotary of La Mision has been an excellent partner, but they can’t do it all. For those wishing to help, donations of clothing, foodstuffs, toiletries and sanitary supplies may be left at the La Salina Bar/Restaurant in La Mision.

Friends of the Library past President Susan Shea informed all of us that a UNESCO study rated Mexico in last place in reading, of the 30+ countries studied. That’s sad, but not unexpected from a country that expects students to graduate from the educational system at grade 7! The Friends of the Library promotes reading, not only in libraries, but in schools and in the home. Book donations service all five Rosarito area libraries, a pop-up mobile library that operated in the Reforma last summer, and a new reading room at CEART. FOL has just raised the funds to purchase a bus to be outfitted as a bookmobile, and the funds from the Blues Fest will be used to outfit this new bookmobile. Other forms of income are the spring Home and Garden Tour and the Holiday Home Tour before Christmas.

Los Angelitos was the singular orphanage to benefit from this year’s BBF. Ed Perry manages this home of 20 wards of the court in the Rosarito-Tijuana area, children with nowhere else to go, assigned by the Department of Social Services. Here they enjoy a non-institutional family-style quality of life. The children spend most of the week in their home in Tijuana in order to be closer to their schools. They spend weekends and vacations in their home in the hills between Rosarito and Tijuana in a much healthier atmosphere. Ed receives no government money but operates with donations from friends, the Rosarito Beach Christian Church, and his own monthly Social Security check. About 90% of the operating costs come from angels in the United States. The orphanage does not host fundraisers throughout the year. Mari Cruz, who grew up at Los Angelitos, is in her third year of university, earning a degree in Business Administration, and was very thankful for the opportunities provided to her.

For those keeping score, there wasn’t quite as much money available for the charities in 2018 as in years past. This year there was a major reorganization of powers at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, host hotel of the Baja Blues Fest, and the Hotel’s Board of Directors is now managed by Hugo Torres’ five children. Apparently they, and the HOA of the Rosarito Beach Hotel Condos, are not as charitable as patriarch Hugo has been. The use of the hotel grounds ran more than $8000 (USD) more than last year, and next year is looking even more dismal. Reportedly, the RBH declined to help defray some of the costs that they had helped to pay for in the past. As many of Rosarito’s community organizations have discovered, the RBH is harder to deal with now, and not quite as charitable as they have been in years past. But life goes on.

Needless to say, the BBF Board of Directors is searching for new venues for the 2019 music fest. The Friday night Meet and Greet Music Jam and Dance may be held at a location different from Saturday’s Blue’s Fest. The new venue does not have to be a hotel, as long as it is in the Rosarito area and has lodging nearby for the musicians and out of town guests. The new site will be a better opportunity for vendors and food purveyors, who were severely limited in their offerings this year, not being allowed to serve anything but desserts and sides. No flames allowed meant no spiral cut potato on a stick for me. I want my skewered fried potato…or six. The Blues Fest Board has decided to suspend the Sunday jam session (at least for 2019). This would save the cost of one day’s lodging, food, and venue rental.

The BBF Board is also seeking local businesses and community members as sponsors for bands (lodging, food, transport, etc.) or other costs related to the Blues Fest. Now is a good time to get involved with the Baja Blues Fest. It’s important to keep this an annual cultural destination. The BBF Mission Statement proclaims “promoting northern Baja as a safe and fun place to visit, bringing the residents from the northern and southern boundaries of…Rosarito together.”  Their purpose is to raise money for qualifying charitable organizations that cater to children in Baja California, “expand the cultural activities of our (Rosarito) area.” BBF’s tagline says it best: “Helping Kids with ‘The Blues’.”

Photo from: Sergio's Sport Fishing

Whale Season Has Started

Every year about 15,000 people enjoy the gray-whale sighting trips to the Todos Santos Island that local boat operators in Ensenada offer.

The whale season has officially started on December 15 this year and will run through April 15 of next year, stated Amador Arteaga head of the Tourism Promotion Office for Ensenada (Proturismo).

He also said that people will also be able to enjoy watching dolphins, sea lions, birds and other marine species that usually appear during the tour.

Arteaga is inviting tourists and residents alike to enjoy the daily tours that go out from the Ensenada malecon every day at 7:00AM and come back at around 3:00PM.

Reservations are highly recommended, and prices range from $350 to $500 pesos (18.5 to 28 USD) per person.

This same day tour should not be confused with the one that goes all the way to Laguna Ojo de Liebre where you can see the baby whales fool around with their folks and sometimes even touch them. That’s a great experience too but it takes at least a couple of days.

For more information about the different whale tours offered in Ensenada contact Proturismo at 646 178 2411.

Rosarito Informs Expats About Future Plans

Several representatives from the City of Rosarito met with the local citizens at the monthly FRAO (Foreign Relations Attention Office) breakfast meeting in November to discuss the future of Rosarito. The commissioners are taking opinions from foreign residents on matters that affect them. Mayor Mirna Rincon has made an effort to consult with foreign residents during her term in office, seeking their opinions on matters that would improve Rosarito. Known as the “Urban Development Program of Playas de Rosarito,” the effort is only in its initial stages, and the results of residents’ opinions today will make a difference in the in the direction of Rosarito’s short- and long-term future.

The survey is available online in Spanish at www.implanrosarito.mx. To obtain a copy in English please contact the FRAO office via email at FRAO@rosarito.gob.mx or through their Facebook page. The City would like to collect everyone’s response before the Christmas break, so get a move on! The City wants to hear from you.

Representatives from IMPLAN (the City Planning Commission) and COPLADEM (Committee Planning for Municipal Development) gave presentations on the future of Rosarito. Mayor Rincon was unable to attend, as she had her hands full with a few new “arrivals’’ in town. It was her wish to “put in touch the foreign community with the government of Rosarito, and vice versa.” But she has placed great importance on making Rosarito comfortable for Mexican and foreign residents, and that all cultures are to be celebrated. The security of Rosarito’s residents is of utmost importance, but there are other areas of concern.

The City, State, and Federal entities have a planning framework equal to the Constitutional extents of government; City is three years, with State and Federal being six-year terms. These are all short term planning periods. Urban development plans and programs have a planning framework of 15 – 20 years, exceeding the periods of all elected officials. This is sometimes where projects get a bit screwy. Let me direct your attention to the Machado Bridge. I’m not sure where the current “plan” came from, but I saw a rendition many years (and two mayors) ago, and the site showed a beautiful Los Angeles style cloverleaf of on and off ramps… totally maneuverable.

About that bridge… at this time the City is waiting for the State and Federales to fix the bridge, its ramps, and bring the whole area up to safety code. The Mayor and the City of Rosarito will not accept the bridge until everything is fixed and made usable, including handicap accessibility. The importance here is that the City does not want to be held liable legally for problems associated with the bridge. This is what the “hold up” has been; a big stalemate.  In the meantime, the City is being punished and people are getting hurt with the mismatched road markings and directions.

Other problems cited by residents were the deplorable shape of roads in the Primo Tapia/La Mision area of the city and the green plastic headlight-diverting barriers set up between Rosarito and Puerto Nuevo. Any roadway, signage, or traffic concerns may be directed to City Hall and the Roads department, or by contacting the FRAO office.

Regional and State planning include the planning for the two basic areas of Rosarito, the Playas de Rosarito Urban area which is about 27% of the physical area, and the Primo Tapia Population Center, including a new side bridge, which is basically everything south of the ‘’city’’ and incorporates the remaining 71% of the “suburban” zone. I’m not sure what happened to the remaining 2%…just blame it on the New Math.  On the horizon is a new branding of the Primo Tapia area, “Rosarito South”, which will be receiving upgrades in the future (one of the long-term plans). And in case you are wondering, the City of Rosarito includes six districts, 19 sectors, 69 boroughs, and 116 neighborhoods. A detailed map is available in the Planning Office, but it is nearly impossible to decipher.

The City’s new policies are focused on population growth, which globally could potentially double by the year 2050. Currently there are nearly two million inhabitants in the Tijuana area (which includes Rosarito), and another 3.2 million in San Diego, which means over five million people in the bi-national metropolitan area.

The Rosarito administration unveiled 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the New Urban Agenda, which include focus on the family unit, food production, education & literacy, intelligent urban planning, and sustainable power sources. Human principles being focused on include equality, democratic transparency, urban safety, accessibility and environmental sustainability.

Renters Beware: Baja Tom Does It Again

Over the last 3 years we’ve had about 7 people contacting us regarding problems with rent deposits not being given back after contracts are over. One of those people was so angry and felt so frustrated that decided to pay us to publish an ad in the paper for a couple of editions, since we’ve heard about this problem before we decided to keep printing the ad for free. The ad is still being printed in the classified section of our paper.

Today we received another complaint from another tenant, a lady that claims to have given notice to him that he was leaving the house on January before Tommy Springer just went ballistic on her, this is her original message on social media:

“Many of you know Tom Springer… I just told him January will probably be my last month in a rental… Hes giving me 24 hours to vacate before he comes in and changes locks, poisons my dogs, and takes off with my deposit and rent. I know rights are very different here… Does anybody have any advice??”

We’ve heard everywhere about Tommy’s victims in La Mision, we’ve written about it before and will continue to do it to try and help other people from falling victims to his scam.

He always refuses to give back the deposit by plain lying to people, saying he will get them their money whenever the property gets rented, which of course is not true.

In the latest complaint we got the tenant stated that Tommy threatened to hire guys to rape her. That’s typical from him. When we printed the “Renters Beware” ad on this newspaper, Tommy called and said he was going to murder the publisher of this paper stating that he knew the car he drove and his even his VIN number.

If you’re one of his victims or know someone that is, we highly recommend to go over to the police station and file a report for threats, it will not get him arrested but if we can get enough people to file reports he could sure get himself deported from Mexico.

Policemen Protest And Take City Hall

About 900 municipal police agents from Ensenada took to the streets yesterday protesting that their salary, that was due on the 23rd, wasn’t paid yet. They were also complaining that their holiday bonus hasn’t been paid and is already two weeks due.

The group marched from the Macroplaza mall in Transpeninsular all the way to City Hall with signs and banners demanding the payment of their salary.

“Policeman live day to day, if we don’t get paid, we don’t have means to feed our family, I say this so citizens of Ensenada can understand us, we are not doing this because we like it, we need that money in our homes and delays in our salary can’t happen” said Rafael Ruiz, local agent.

A local cop salary starts at about $650 USD per month. Of course it can be more, depending on their rank and seniority.

Other policeman complained that their credit score was affected when the last city administration didn’t make payments on loans the agents got, even when those payments where directly discounted from their paychecks.

Before the day ended, their salary was deposited into their bank accounts but not yet their holiday bonus.

City officials said they were doing everything in their power to get more resources in order pay the amount they owe the police and that they were hoping to make the payment on the holiday bonus this coming Friday.

 

With information from El Vigia

Reflections on the Baja 1000

Congratulations to Justin Morgan of El Cajon, CA, whose Honda (Pro Moto Unlimited Class) crossed the finish line 28 seconds ahead of Second Place Winner Cameron Steel of San Clemente, CA, in his SCORE Trophy Truck.

In all, there were 285 entrants, most of whom were from SoCal, although there were a few from widely scattered places such as Las Vegas, NV, and other regions such as Utah, Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico, plus Mexicans from places such as Mexico City, Puebla and yes, Ensenada!

The Baja 1000 is a grueling event, and the only vehicles that make it to the finish line have been constructed to withstand severely rigorous conditions. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart: The drivers take a beating along with the pounding endured by their cars or trucks.

Not everyone affected by the presence of the racers and their entourages is a fan of these events (the Baja 1000 is held annually in mid-November, while the Baja 500 begins May 30th and ends June 3rd), but like it or not, these events appear to be traditions that are here to stay.

In their defense, they bring a voluminous amount of revenue to the city coffers. The hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes and bars are filled to capacity, prior to and during the events.

Contrarily, they cause local traffic mayhem that raises the blood pressure and tries the patience of the local residents, who still have to go to work, school or place of worship, and have to do so in many instances by adjusting their schedules and their usual routes. Blvd Costero (the coast road), from Playa Hermosa to the end of town is the focal point of the race, and is especially constricted in the area bordered by the Riviera, CEARTE and Museo Carocol. That’s where the racers set up their trailers and pits and retail kiosks. Local vendors also set up food carts. Musicians roam the area. Foot traffic is heavy, vehicle traffic is highly restricted.

As a result, many motorists choose to use alternate roadways, such as Pedro Loyola and Reforma, thereby causing congestion on those arteries as well.

Ultimately, there is a traffic burden testing everyone’s patience from Zona Centro to Playa Hermosa, and all primary routes into and out of  the city.

I used to experience angry meltdowns when caught in one of these traffic traps, but eventually I learned to roll with it.

Now I actually enjoy the festive atmosphere and the period of lucrative exchange that the local vendors enjoy serving our strange but wealthy visitors from other worlds.

The operative word is “wealthy.” In case you hadn’t noticed, the vehicles that are trailored into town to compete in these big events are expensive, and their entourages include pit crews, mechanics, family members, support vehicles carrying spare parts, etc.

The drivers themselves are either rich and/or have sponsors with deep pockets.

Anyway, my change of heart came about a couple of years ago. I was in the parking lot of a Calimax in Zona Centro, preparing to use their ATM, when one of those monster trucks pulled up next to me and parked.

When its driver went into the store, I got out of my car to take a close look at the thing, marvelling at all the expensive hardware adorning it. I noticed a skinny, pimply-faced teenage boy sitting shotgun, watching me gawk at the truck.

“Wow, quite a machine,” I offered.

“Yeah, it’s my Dad’s! He’s really proud of it. He works on it all the time. It’s kind of his hobby,” the little geek replied.

“Hobby?!?” I thought. “Wow…”

Well, who am I to judge? There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy and building a great big gas-guzzling monster truck, is there?

And heck, who’s to blame the guy for taking it to a foreign country, tearing up a few thousand acres of desert, perhaps accidentally killing a few indigenous and/or domesticated animals (and the occasional human being), for sport and profit?

Welcome to Baja! Thanks for coming! See y’all in a few months, when we can all share and enjoy the desert together.

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