Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Elections: Let the games begin

The election season kicked off with a bang at last night's city council meeting during the public comment portion of the meeting. Only it's difficult to tell whether it was the 2007 elections for city council or next year's mayoral election that had just gotten started. At any rate, it's rare to see two city council members go at it during election season when they aren't even competing for the same elected position. But as far as they seem to be concerned, better late than never.

It certainly looks like the gloves are off between downtown councilman, Dom Betro and Councilman Art Gage who represents a wide swath of the area around the Magnolia Center. Even though they are facing off against different rivals in their separate reelection bids, they seemed more content to take potshots at each other through intermediaries. Their conflict reflects a growing political shift on the city council that has been noticed during the past year.

The first volley was aimed at Gage when it was announced in the Press Enterprise here that four city council members had decided to endorse a candidate who was planning to challenge Gage for his seat. According to the article, Betro, Andrew Melendrez, Ed Adkison and Frank Schiavone had thrown their hat in the ring in favor of Riverside Poly High School teacher Rusty Bailey, a political neophyte. About a week later, Mayor Ron Loveridge also announced his support of Bailey over Gage as well. All this support for Bailey and the filing period for running for office hasn't even officially begun yet. Political consultants call this, shoring up support. Most people in the community refer to it as cronyism.

Still, what transpired at last night's meeting was still unexpected.

Television producer, Richard Paul apparently wasn't too happy with recent news coverage of the situation involving the grants issued by Charter Communications to individuals or organizations to produce free programming to be aired on its stations. Grants totaling $45,000 were allotted evenly in three categories, which are governmental, educational and public access and were then given out to those who had applied to receive the funding, which is required under the current contract between the city and Charter Communications.

For a while, most of that funding was given to Paul, because very few other people knew that the funding was available, and Paul had worked on Gage's political campaign which culminated in Gage's election. He also featured Gage on one of his programs which aired before the council meeting each week. But if other city council members knew about this situation, none of them acted on it. One wonders if they were saving it for a rainy day.

At a recent Governmental Affairs committee meeting, Betro and councilmen Ed Adkison and Frank Schiavone tried to iron out a process for allotting the grant money which sounded more and more like a loan as the process was mapped out. The Press Enterprise wrote the following story about the process of awarding these funds.

Group backs recipients for public access funds

The money was doled out this year to a variety of individuals who had applied for it, but Paul was not one of those who received anything. Although City Manager Brad Hudson had tossed the idea around at one Governmental Affairs Committee meeting that the city might indeed be interested in having Paul do programming for Charter Communication's governmental channel. I would guess that after last night's meeting, that probably is not going to happen.

Then there were innuendos about Gage leaking information out of closed sessions particularly in a situation involving proposed ordinances on animal ownership without any evidence. That situation erupted at a past city council meeting when a crowd of people showed up to complain about information they had received from an anonymous pamphlet that had just shown up in neighborhood businesses including veterinary clinics.

Several city council members said the flyer was based on false information before admitting that they had sent the issue to the city attorney's office for further research. Listening to the discussion, it was clear that if there had been a leak, it probably did not originate on the 7th floor, which you think the city council members would have realized but instead, they apparently made innuendos about Gage being the source. That was not fair to Gage and a cheap shot, but this is an election year and all is fair in love, war and politics they say. Elections are actually a combination of all three in RiverCity.

Paul then showed up at the city council meeting last night and started throwing barbs at Betro making comments about FBI agents coming to his house and how it was Betro and not him who was the subject of an investigation. Most of the audience was probably too stunned to follow Paul's train of thought on exactly what this alleged investigation is about, which isn't important and goes part and parcel when using information like that to discredit someone. There's plenty of that going around.

Paul continued on even after Councilman Steve Adams yelled, point of order. Everyone gasped in shock, because this was actually pretty shocking even for a process that lately has appeared more akin to a Young and the Restless episode than a meeting involving city government. It was also a cheap shot against Betro but again politicians seem to think that all is fair in love, war and politics. But both parties and their campaign strategists probably retreated to their alcoves of choice to plan for the next round of volleys in the future not long after the adjornment of the latest meeting.

Antics like those shown by both sides are reasons why many people do not want to either run for office in this city, or even get involved in the political campaign process. That's one reason why voter turnout is so poor in most wards in this city. People want to elect good and responsible leaders, not actors in some poorly scripted stage play. The only one having a good time is the person who has to review the production.

The antics of last night just go to show that this is going to be a long election season and by the time it's time for city residents to cast their votes to choose who will represent them in their wards, how many of them will still want to?

Then there are city residents like Yolanda Garland from ward 7 who hold yard sales to raise funds to pay the attorney they need to fight the city in a law suit designed to push the city towards abiding by two growth-control measures passed by the voters. Each week, Garland has people thinking even as she has them in stitches with her humorous but very pointed comments on development and growth-control issues to the city council.

This week, Garland received a letter from City Attorney Gregory Priamos warning her that she had disobeyed the orders of the city council and at the end of the letter, threatening her with arrest if she did it again. Undeterred, Garland told the city council she had video-taped evidence that she had not disrupted the meeting in any way. She's tough as nails and will be back next week.

She's also thinking about running for office against Steve Adams in ward 7. Election 2007, let the games begin.

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