Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/30/2010 03:28:03 PM PDT

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – The Vineyard Press, a community paper that Councilman Rex Gutierrez has wanted to publish since his employment with San Bernardino County ended last year, is back.

Formerly known as the Grapevine Press and Rancho Cucamonga Today, the free monthly publication had its inaugural issue delivered last month to 30,000 homes in the city. The 24-page broadsheet includes historic Cucamonga photos, local business features and several essays penned by the councilman including a bizarre tale of Gutierrez’s recycling habits.

“It’s tongue in cheek,” Gutierrez explained. “Not a serious publication.”

The copy is not all written by the councilman. Gutierrez said his wife and a salesman help out along with several “mystery writers.”

One mock advice column features Doctor Bombay, the eccentric character from the show “Bewitched.” In the July issue, Dr. Bombay gives advice on whether dogs should sleep with their owners in bed.

In the past, Gutierrez’s publication played a sizable role in the controversial councilman’s political career.

The Attorney General’s Office in the late 1990s began an investigation into conflict of interest violations when officials discovered companies that had contracts or did business with City Hall – such as Lewis Homes and Burrtec Waste – also advertised with Gutierrez. In 1998, Gutierrez stepped down from the City Council and the probe ended. Gutierrez sold Grapevine Press before getting elected again in 2002.

Gutierrez said he now knows who he can and can not do business with.

“I can’t do business with developers, banks, Burrtec,” he said. “I’m trying to do it the right way this time.”

City Attorney Jim Markman said the city is keeping track of Gutierrez’s advertisers and will refrain from doing business with them. If one of Gutierrez’s advertisers should ever come up for a City Council vote, the councilman would have to abstain, Markman explained.

“We’re trying to keep the city’s business from his business,” Markman said. “Staff is not going to be lazy about this. We’ll do whatever we can to keep out of trouble.”

In 2006, Gutierrez resurrected the paper and used it as a political campaign piece to support his re-election. One article slammed former Mayor Bill Alexander and accused him of having plans to leave the city for Arizona. That year, Alexander, a longtime opponent of Gutierrez’s, lost the election to Mayor Don Kurth.

“That was harmful,” Alexander said this week about the 2006 article. “People were saying I was getting ready to abandon them but that was never the case.”

Alexander visits Arizona, where he has property and relatives, several times a year.

The once political rivals seemed to have put their past differences behind them. Alexander and Gutierrez intend to run for City Council in November.

“Every hatchet is buried. It’s unfortunate that happened but it’s over,” Alexander said. “No hard feelings, no bad wishes.”

Alexander, who has subscriptions to two local newspapers, said the Vineyard Press could be an asset to the community if it publishes positive local news.

“If Rex’s paper is dropped here, I’ll read that, too,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have.”

Gutierrez vowed to not smear Alexander or any other opponents in his publication.

“Since we’re trying to be uplifting, we try not to have politics in it,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t want it to be a political weapon. I’m past that. I’ve changed in my old age.”

It remains to be seen whether the 50-year-old councilman, whose has a court case to settle later this fall, will steer clear of politics in an election season with three City Council seats up for grabs.

In the July issue, one article brought up a stop sign issue that pitted neighbors and Gutierrez against Supervisor Paul Biane. In another piece about the city’s sign ordinance, two photos depicting anti-Biane and anti-District Attorney Mike Ramos signs were used to illustrate the article.

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