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 09, 2007

Icebergs and gold fever

There's been a lot in the news lately about the effects of global warming on the polar regions, meaning that more and more shelves of ice have broken off of them into the ocean, creating more and more icebergs. As you know, only about 10% of an iceberg is visible, with the majority of it lying below the ocean's surface.

Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise in his column today has asked questions that the whole city should be asking.

Riverside's spending spree and the CPRC


The critique that smacks of the aforementioned chutzpahcrisy is Gage's attempted strangulation-by-purse-strings of the Community Police Review Commission.

Back in '04, Gage's knuckleheaded move to choke-off commission funding didn't get (or rate) a second. But the surviving commission, never all that vibrant to begin with, has been hollowed out by the city manager's office. On New Year's Eve, the commission's director finally quit -- this after the CM's office had ordered him to stay away from community meetings on the ludicrous grounds that his mere presence betrayed a bias against police.

Did the council -- including those still fuming over Gage's 2004 stunt -- whack the city manager for this? Nope. They're fixing to enlarge his already well-endowed paycheck with the aid of that bottomless treasury.

Bernstein's references to Gage go back to 2004 when during budget hearings, Gage had tried to deplete the funding of the CPRC by 90%, but couldn't get even a second except once, a tepid one by Councilman Steve Adams. The rest of the city council essentially booed him then with its unwillingless to participate, but still, it wasn't until the majority of the city's voters approved a ballot measure to put the CPRC in the city's charter that anyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Doing that thwarted further efforts to sabotage the CPRC for oh, about several months. After former City Manager George Carvalho, the state's best city manager who wasn't paid $248,000 a year was fired, things began to change. He was replaced by interim City Manager Tom Evans who removed the first executive director, Don Williams and replaced him with Pedro Payne, then Human Relations Commission Director. The city split Payne two ways, while providing him the salary for one position. Still, under the traning of former CPRC commissioner, Bill Howe, Payne thrived in the position.

Enter Hudson and his sidekick Asst. City ManagerTom DeSantis, who seem to view community imput as a four-letter word and through their hiring and this latest contract offer, the city council has collectively shown that it does too. That was reaffirmed by the silence from the dais on the issue of what's going on with the CPRC, the loudest of all coming from its "supporters".

It's an election year, so today's column places both the Renaissance Project and the CPRC into the spotlight as potential campaign issues. As much as Gage , who is up for reelection, clearly despises the CPRC, at one meeting calling it a piece of junk, the awarding of a lucrative contract by the city council to Hudson despite actions he and DeSantis have taken against the CPRC, is exactly what Bernstein called it.

Gold fever has hit the city council, courtesy of Hudson, so you can't blame its members for not seeing reason. But with all the money spent on pursuing it as part of the new Riverside Renaissance, what will be left to pay for personnel and equipment in the city's police and fire departments especially since these departments will be spread thin, with city growth through immigration from neighboring counties and states and several planned annexations? It's highly probable that the gold will be long-gone before it's clear that there will be hardly any money left to spend on what is really needed.

Not that renaissance isn't a good thing, but the problem with it is that it is a 15-20 year plan, not a five-year one and it has been responsible for the use of a lot of Eminent Domain by the city against small business owners whose business taxes(at least 2% annually) into the coffers of the Downtown Neighborhood Partnership paid for a lot of the renovation of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall that's taken place during the past several years. Unfortunately, their taxes they paid were apparently never used to make improvements where their businesses are even though that had been promised to them. So now the city of Riverside is arguing that they are a "blight" on downtown and have to be removed. And as business owners they had no voice, because the Partnership and the Riverside Chambers of Commerce's leadership both advocated the city's decision to take Eminent Domain against them.

The one thing Riverside's government has often struggled with is making sure that its infrastructure, including fire, police, public works, streets and parks keeps pace with its development goals. That's why a neighborhood that was set to be annexed that wanted a sewer first isn't going to get one. That's why it's gridlock all over the city on its streets. That's why when Sycamore Canyon needs police officers, the Eastside has fewer to give them and why fire fighters had asked for more personnel during their past labor negotiations. Several neighborhoods had frequent electrical outages during the early summer because the aging infrastructure of the electrical system apparently couldn't cope with several early and intense heat waves.

The CPRC is just the sacrificial lamb that the city council has chosen to hand up so that they can hope to obtain all the renaissance that Hudson has promised them. Yes, several of them ran on election platforms stating their full support of the CPRC, but memories dim over time and the promise of new toys have considerably weakened their commitment to its future.



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