RIALTO - One of the most important meetings in city history actually took place outside the city - at the Coco's in Diamond Bar in fall 2004.

About a half dozen people met for a power breakfast that morning. The topic of conversation: getting Rep. Gary Miller's help to close Rialto's airport so it could be replaced with the indiscreetly named Renaissance Rialto, a master-planned community.

Set up by the project's developer, the Lewis Group of Companies, breakfast-goers included Miller, David Lewis, some advisers and Robb Steel, Rialto's economic development director.

"It was such a pipe dream," Steel said of closing the airport, which, with Miller's help, Congress approved in 2005. The breakfast was a success.

After chowing down on the weekday special of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and coffee, Steel, now 50, picked up the check, calling it a "small price" to pay.

It's been a week since the opening of the 210 Freeway extension between Rialto and San Bernardino. The completion of the freeway makes the coming months and years critical for Rialto, and Steel is the man in the center of it all.

"I feel really, really blessed to have him," said City Administrator Henry Garcia.

Garcia said he "begged" Steel to come to Rialto after the two worked in the same capacities in Colton.

An old baseball player with a dry wit and dark hair sprinkled with gray, Steel looks like a guy a developer can do business with. And he talks like someone you want managing projects. He has a tendency to answer questions by referencing complex economic models, footnotes in financial studies and in a bureaucrat-speak it takes a master's degree in public administration to have a chance at decoding.

Steel couldn't be at the city at a better time, said former Councilman Joe Sampson.

"From an economic development and redevelopment point of view, Robb has been one of the best things that has happened for the city," he said.

Earlier this year, Steel saved the city millions of dollars by negotiating an increase in the minimum amount of money the city would make off selling the airport to develop it.

When it became clear the city might get only $6 million because of a disagreement with other parties in the deal, Steel helped negotiate increasing the minimum the city would make to $26 million.

"I respect Robb Steel more than any redevelopment director we've ever had," said resident Greta Hodges, who doesn't shy away from criticizing city officials and decisions she doesn't like. She said she's a fan of Steel because he's honest - he answers even tough questions truthfully, she said - and because he's realistic about what should be built in Rialto.

Steel, who lives in San Clemente, said he's willing to make the drive because working as a redevelopment director in the Inland Empire is exciting. He likes the intellectual challenge of dealing with a region that is growing faster than its infrastructure can be built.

A project like Renaissance Rialto, with a price tag between $1 billion and $2 billion, is almost unheard of in a city the size of Rialto, he said.

"I'd like this to be the last city that I work for."

Steel's office is packed with binders about the projects moving forward in Rialto. He also has a Maxwell Smart bobblehead - "I'm bumbling like he was," he said - and an autographed photo of Barbara Feldon, who played Agent 99 in "Get Smart."

Steel thought the autograph was real, but learned it was a joke perpetrated by some of the staff in the office.

There's an air of levity in the Redevelopment Agency office downtown, which is down from City Hall a few blocks.

Steel's No. 2, Economic Development Manager Greg Lantz, said Steel makes the staff work long hours.

"He's a taskmaster," Lantz said of the boss, "but at least he's good to work for."


BS Ranch Perspective

That very important meeting as it is quoted as saying took place, and I am actually surprised that the reporter finally!! FINALLY!! A Reporter got it right that there was something funny going on with the Congress, and the "Largest Transportation Bill" in the Congresses History!

Representative Gary Miller of Chino Hills, Whittier, and that area, Which had NOTHING TO DO WITH RIALTO at that time, placed a small piece of "pork" to the Transportation bill. If the president signed the bill, that little piece of added pork that Rep. G. Miller placed in the can was going to allow the City Council to Close the Rialto Airport with a small Popular Vote by them. Something that had NEVER BEEN DONE IN THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA BEFORE!! Rialto was about to make history, against the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). As we know the president signed the bill and the City of Rialto made that Historical Vote Against the advice of the F.A.A.

Rep. G. Miller's Payback for his contribution to this plan was simple, Rialto Council member's Ed Scott and Joe Sampson Promised by a hand shake no doubt, since this is kind of not so up above par, promised the Development of the Airport land to Rep. Gary Miller's Development Company, You know it makes you wonder? How the congressmen, and Representatives of this fine land go into Office and come out Richer then when they entered!!! Just something that makes you wonder?? Especially since this was such a cut and dry thing. However I hope that the properties were held above the standard again. It just makes me sick how this happens. Business is just sickening.

This whole meeting makes me sick, because the hard working development companies that worked hard to get to where they are today!!

I truly hope that the business practices that Rep. Gary Miller took to get the Bid for the development of Rialto's Airport Land ("The Rialto Renaissance) Because that sure puts a bad taste in my mouth about how the business is done for small cities and towns. Bloomington is attempting to become a City, however I feel that Fontana, and Rialto might be putting up some blockages up to keep that land from becoming a City all their own! Now it doesn't seem like it on the news and this report (My BLOG) is the first that you are hearing of it, but mark my words there will be some blockages in a way that you will least expect it, to keep Bloomington from becoming their own City!!

Rialto Renaissance is something that might or might not happen either, they keep closing and slowly closing the airport. but as for now the airport is still open!! The places that they were hoping to make large gatherings of Automobiles and travelers to get from their homes to the 210 Freeway are not happening.

In fact there are less cars on Ayala, Riverside, Baseline, and well most all the commuter streets in Rialto then there was before, with the exception of the ones that are around the commuter streets (Valley S.Riverside Ave, Riverside around the 210 on ramps, Ayala at 210 fwy, Ayala at 210, North Riverside Ave @ Sierra Ave, to get in I-15 fwy) Other then that the city streets have about the same amount of traffic on them and there is less or slower traffic.

There really isn't that much Traffic increase that would warrant any closure of any Airport for shopping and more traffic desire, the Rialto Renaissance should be placed on hold because the demand is slow for it right now. Also the way that the airport was closed should be looked into by the Federal Government for any Criminal Wrongdoing, on the part of Rep. Gary Miller, any and all of the Council members on Rialto City Council, Specifically Edward Scott, and Joseph Sampson, the rest of the council for possible wrong doing on this passing of the note & closure of the Airport Via their Vote!!

BS Ranch