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April 24, 2001 PROBE

April 24, 2001

QUESTION: If you read the account in the newspaper, it sounds like letting women into the American Citizens Club went smoothly.

But I hear that last bastion of Hispanic machismo crumbled only after a battle. In one meeting, the "discussion" came to blows. Can you find out? — Younger Male, Brawley

Tony Gallegos, who is a lifetime ACC member, admits there were some ruffled feathers but denies the debate ever turned physical.

There was a commotion but that happened when the rain-soaked ceiling fell into the ACC social hall during a Quinceañera, squashing the cake and dropping gallons of dirt on the coming-out party principals.

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"We had to pay for the cake — $500 — clean the clothes, repair the ceiling and give them another party," said Gallegos.

The goal had been to accept women as members at the Valentine's Day installation of officers. With the club still arguing the issue and the social hall without a ceiling, the board decided to postpone the installation.

The faction favoring women accused the reluctant older members of "dragging their feet."

"It was not true. We were overwhelmed with so much stuff happening to us," Gallegos said.

Anxious to move ahead, one ACC member in support of women joining the club gave membership applications to women before the board voted to accept them.

That angered some members, but nobody hit anybody, Gallegos insists.

Having women in the ACC is long overdue, according to some members and women.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, when she announced she would run for the democratic nomination for governor at an ACC fund-raising event in Brawley in 1987, scolded, "If I had known this was an all men's club, I would have declined the invitation (to speak)."

She vowed she would not come back until the club opened its doors to women.

Our sources in Brawley say Stella Mendoza, newly installed as an ACC member, called Feinstein to give her the news, Our sources say Feinstein has indicated she will make another visit to the ACC.

QUESTION: Read the Associated Press story attached to this question and tell me again why we pay higher gasoline prices than anyone else in the state?

It's time for a major investigation into gasoline price fixing down here. Our average price exceeds the highest price listed in this story. — Robbed at Pump, Holtville

We'll tell you what we think and then we'll tell you we have no way to prove it.

Our gasoline prices are higher here than in San Diego because we don't have the population that would create the sales volume to attract the major players in the gasoline game.

With virtually no competition here, the dealers are free to charge whatever the traffic will bear. Lately, that's a lot.

We can't imagine there is any need to fix prices. All they have to do is drive around and look at the other stations.

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