Peter Hilton is a licensed private investigator, firearms instructor, patrol operator, pepper gas instructor, and for the past 13 years, he has been an inspector with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. He has also been a lobbyist and has worked with a chief of police in Burbank as well as with former California Assembly member Scott Wildman.
Hilton runs L.A. Loss Prevention Investigations, a 30-year-old security business located on Eagle Rock Boulevard, just one store away from Sir Michael’s Party Rentals, owned by Eagle Rock’s unofficial mayor, Michael Nogueira, who heads both the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.
Until this past October, Hilton, too, was on the board of the ERNC. He ran unsuccessfully for the post of council president—and he attributes his loss largely to competition from two powerful rival slates, one of which, he says, played a “dirty trick” on him by orchestrating Nogueira’s candidature at the very last minute, while Nogueira kept assuring him that he wouldn’t run for president.
Over the years, Hilton has dabbled in writing—largely as the author of bills regulating bounty hunting for the California penal code. But next month, he’s hoping to take his writing farther than ever before—by launching what he refers to as a “local Internet news service for the Eagle Rock community.”
Called EagleRockCommunity.com, Hilton’s proposed news site will be owned by the Eagle Rock Broadcasting Company, according to a flyer that he circulated at this past Tuesday’s monthly board meeting of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. Hilton will be the site's editor. “From the Left to the Middle to the Right and Beyond,” it will include everything from local opinions, editorials and human-interest stories to politics, business and local advertising.
Hilton sat down on Wednesday with Patch in his office to talk about his journalistic ambitions. The conversation led to what bothers him about the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council as well as a dispute he’s currently embroiled in with the .
Excerpts from the interview:
Eagle Rock Patch: What’s the Eagle Rock Broadcasting Company?
Peter Hilton: That’s a little DBA [Doing Business As] of mine where we do radio building and broadcasting. I’m an amateur radio licensed technician holder, with my son. It’s a nice, little company that doesn’t make a lot of money. We’re trying to get a license through the FCC for a radio station for the past couple of years. They froze all the licenses on the AMs and the FMs because they’re doing re-banding, which should be complete in April 2013. So we’re going to try to purchase a small license and run a radio station on AM and the Internet. And we’ll use this venue [EagleRockCommunity.com] through that [Eagle Rock Broadcasting Company].
Patch: Why are you choosing this moment to launch the venture?
Hilton: I want the momentum of the community to keep going after the [large turnout at the ERNC] elections. I like politics, I like the community and what I realized was that my voice [at the ERNC] wasn’t really strong enough.
Patch: What kind of content will Eagle Rock Broadcasting Company have?
Hilton: We’ll do exactly what Patch is doing—a venue for local topics backed by an Internet service and, later on, a newspaper. We’re going to have local opinions, just like Patch has blogging. We’ll throw out a topic, let people come in; people want to put a topic out, we’ll put it out. We’ll focus on stories happening in the area, like the story last night at the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.
That was a really interesting story about the [ERNC] bylaws. They talked about getting rid of the president’s position and making it an appointed position. Very incestuous way to go. Why would they do that? When I asked, they wouldn’t answer that. There’s a reason why the president’s position is elected. Because the president is a focal point—the leader who brings things together. Well, what happens now when you appoint the president? The same power that appoints the president can take him off, right? Well, what if he doesn’t agree with your position? You put in another president.
Patch: Who’s going to do all the writing on EagleRockCommunity.com?
Hilton: I’ve got some writers and am out right now canvassing for people to do stories. I have James Kholos—you met him at the [ERNC] elections. Nice writer, very passionate about things. He lives up in Mount Washington. We’re both doctors—I have a doctorate in law, he has a doctorate in philosophy. I do security, he’s a chiropractor. We’re of the same mind and come to the same point but from different roads. I’m grounded in fact determination, he’s grounded in passion. His emotions are driving him, which is great. We compliment each other and bring great writing styles together. In fact, we’ve just finished writing a book together.
Patch: What’s your role going to be in the venture?
Hilton: I’m going to be the grader of the content. I’ll decide what goes on the site and where it belongs. Obviously, my law degree gives me a level of understanding about the legal aspects—defamation, slander, things of that nature.
Patch: What are your expectations from EagleRockCommunity.com?
Hilton: I want it to be interesting and exciting. We’re going to have a lot of video streaming. There are going to be no barriers—we’ll publish whatever we feel will be good for the community to look at. One day we’ll focus on the view from the left, another day on the view from the right. What I call “the beyond” is the fringe view of transsexuals and lesbian, gay and youth movements—things of that nature. Just because people have to be 18 to vote doesn’t mean that people cannot be involved in politics. Young people have a voice. They work eight hours a day—harder than most people who go to work.
Patch: What would be the range of your broadcasting service?
Hilton: It would probably go from Pasadena and Glendale to Burbank. And the nice thing about Internet broadcasting is that you can stay local but go universal.
Patch: How did you get into radio?
Hilton: I got into radio while I was in the military, the police and as a private investigator. My son got his broadcasting license—we build and fix radios for people through my son. He’s 23 and has done that for years.
Patch: Tell us a bit about your background. How long have you lived in Eagle Rock?
Hilton: This will be my 25th year in Eagle Rock. I’ve lived in the same house. I came here in 1983. January the first, 1983, at 10 past six in the evening. My wife died in England in 1982. And I came here on my way to Australia. I was going to emigrate to Australia but my mother and father were here and I came here. My mother still lives with me. I initially lived in Glendale and came to Eagle Rock in 1988 after meeting my [second] wife.
Patch: What happened at last year’s Eagle Rock Music Festival? You had a little run-in with the security.
Hilton: I was crossing the street outside the festival—on Wilbur and Colorado—with my son and one of the security [personnel] came up to me and grabbed a hold of me and said, You can’t cross the street. I said, what do you mean—get your damn hands off, what the hell are you doing? He said, You have to go through the donation. I said, Hey, I don’t have to go through anything. I’m just crossing the street. I grabbed a hold of him and said, Get off me. The next moment I know, I’m on the floor, knocked unconscious. Another security guard shoulder-charged me and knocked me down. And we have a [law] suit against them right now.
Patch: Really? When?
Hilton: I filed the suit in the civil courts downtown in October this year. The Center [for the Arts, Eagle Rock] never responded—never communicated with me. Their security company never responded to me. I sent them letters, e-mails, I had $26,000 worth of medical bills. I was knocked unconscious and had a concussion.
Patch: So you waited for a year to hear back from the Center for the Arts and the security company and then filed a lawsuit?
Hilton: I’ll tell you what was really annoying to me. I had been communicating with them. I said, give me [the name of] your attorney, your insurance [company]. You heard me talk at the Neighborhood Council about it—I talked to them [Center staff] right there. They would never communicate with me, wouldn’t give me anything. I contacted the security company. They never responded. I talked to [Council member] Huizar’s reps. They weren’t happy with what happened.
The Center hired this company. We watched them, telling people to come through the donation. They did it last year and this year. They were shaking people down. They weren’t telling people they didn’t have to donate. They were making people get $10 out. The way they were doing it is making people think they have to pay to come in. Minorities, especially, thought they had to pay to come in. (Editor’s Note: In a recent interview with Patch, Center for the Arts Development Director Renée Dominique denied anyone was coerced to donate money to enter the 2012 Eagle Rock Music Festival.)
Patch: Wasn’t there a sign saying that nobody will be turned back for lack of a donation?
Hilton: It was a very small, fine print. Give me a break. It’s bait and switch is what it is—luring people in and then switching the game. And let me tell you something. They [the Center] were asked at the Neighborhood Council where their money’s going—what they’re spending it on. And they’ve never said anything, they’ve never told anybody. To me, they’re liable. I would rather they settled, but they didn’t want to speak to me. They never even apologized to me.
Patch: When do you expect the first hearing to be held?
Hilton: We’ve got a settlement conference in April—to see whether they want to settle the case.