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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

River City Hall: Who to contact and how

An individual or two appear upset about the posting of links to this site at Inland Empire Craigslist because apparently what I post here is akin to saying that Riverside would be buried in rubble( at least that not connected with Riverside Renaissance projects) and that despite all of it, all Riversiders are managing to survive just fine and were all thriving in this city. I guess that's the reasoning behind the removal of the posts there as well. As far as reasons go, they weren't bad ones and more politely expressed than similar sentiments have been in the past.

After all, the unidentified individual(s) who sent me an email in July using my name complained in the "apology" that I was too negative. This was of course, after asking me in the first email if I hated myself or my mother and that apparently he, she or they didn't like my hair.

My mother hasn't done well in this blog. One visitor made nasty comments about her uterus and one said mine should be sown shut by the county. This blog has attracted some truly nasty responses to it including threats. Much of the feedback I received its first year or so was of that vein.

It's definitely true that this blog isn't always presenting a happy, cheerful commentary on Riverside, especially in terms of its politics. If that warrants its removal from Craigslist on a list focusing on "politics", then that's the best reason of all and the best thing I've heard all day. If the supporters of political candidates particularly incumbents running for office support doing so, then it appears to merely be an extension of the philosophy towards public expression that the city council has put on display at its meetings.

Oh, if that were only true about a city of content people, then with the possible exception of the wide open Ward Five race, the election process would have ended last June. They probably are individuals connected to one political campaign or another involving the city council seats because only those who are, truly believe so strongly that all Riversiders are thriving because of the actions of the incumbents. Most other people can see that some are thriving and others are not under the current leadership, which is why other political candidates in this election process have held appeal for different individuals and votes were generously spread out between candidates in each ward currently up for grabs. Some incumbents forced into a second round of voting dismissed this by saying their wards' votes were split up by issues pushed by different candidate and to an extent, the issues did drive this election but it's clear that the personalities did as well.

Certain city council members might say that their constituents are complaining to them about members of the public who are allegedly rude at the podium of meetings but people are complaining to me about the conduct of elected officials on the dais at the same meeting. Elected officials calling members of the public, "liars", elected officials divulging personal information in the hopes of embarrassing people at the dais and elected officials ordering elderly women to get expelled or even arrested at city council meetings. Actions like these have elicited some pretty strong reactions of repulsion and dismay and I think that this is part of what was being seen at the voting polls.

Which is probably why with one notable exception(and why he's one should be fairly obvious), you're seeing less of that at city council meetings in the crucial weeks before the November elections. The advisers of these individuals have clearly spoken and their charges are finally listening to them.

When it comes to looking out for one another, the city council members particularly those in BASS are very good at that, one major reason why the ethics code and complaint process is the miserable but impressive failure that it is and has been. If one city council member is calling an individual a liar, fighting with a member of the public or barking orders at police officers to expel an 89-year-old woman and the others are not intervening to check his or her actions, then how can city residents seriously expect them to handle the responsibilities of an ethics code and complaint process in the first place?

What happened earlier this year was that we were left facing four runoff elections including those in wards that should have been lockups if the incumbents were really ensuring that all Riversiders were at least surviving. Perhaps it is only those outside the immediate circles of the campaigns run by the incumbents who have been talking about the anti-incumbent sentiment which though scoffed at during the preliminary round pretty much carried the day. The voters were sending the incumbents a message and hopefully, they spent the summer thinking about it. I think they did and are acting accordingly.

It makes for an exciting if long election season but what does it say about the future of Riverside and how many of its populace is actually thriving? Still, as stated the politicians who had the victories they anticipated(including several who thought winning reelection might put them in a good position in the mayoral race) handed back to them with a message to see you this autumn have clearly been thinking and strategizing and hoping to turn the tide in their favor.

Though wishing and hoping by themselves aren't going to do it.

Which is why as the song lyrics go, it's beginning to look a bit like Christmas in certain sections of Riverside and decisions made outside of election years are being reversed during an election year. This is what often happens in scenarios such as this one. Riverside is not all that unusual in this regard. Enjoy it now. It might not last long but it's part and parcel of the election process almost anywhere.

The incumbents up for election and their supporters would like the public to criticize them in private(when they can choose whether or not to take their phone calls) and praise them in public, as one candidate said during a forum sponsored during the preliminary round of Election 2007. Other elected officials have complained that what they call their natural allies aren't contacting them and that it's the developers who are knocking their office doors down without seeing the connection between the two realities.

These postings at Craigslist provide a wonderful opportunity to further examine certain issues involving providing the opportunity to provide contact information for those at City Hall who make the decisions that impact the lives of all Riversiders.

As a city resident, it's your right to be able to express your concerns to your direct elected representatives which are your council member and the mayor. But often it's helpful to address other elected officials as well, depending on the issue.

Contact information for the city council is below.

Phone number: 826-5991

Contact form is here. The city council page also has a mechanism for determining what ward you live in if you don't know.

Also, below are email addresses.

Dom Betro(Ward One):

Andrew Melendrez(Ward Two):

Art Gage(Ward Three):

Frank Schiavone(Ward Four):

Ed Adkison(Ward Five):

Nancy Hart(Ward Six):

Steve Adams(Ward Seven):

Mayor Ron Loveridge has his own space. His contact information is the following.

Phone: 826-5551


Several of them have good response rates. The only two elected officials who have never responded to concerns or inquiries I sent their way were Councilmen Dom Betro and Steve Adams.

Fairly good response rates come from Councilmen Ed Adkison, Art Gage and Andrew Melendrez, for issues that I have contacted the entire council on. Both Melendrez and Councilman Frank Schiavone often follow up with further information on issues and respond to general and specific contacts on particular issues. For example, last year when the city council had voted 7-0 to have the city manager carry about a mandate and his office failed to produce, two responded directly to inquiries I had regarding the matter and others responded by running interference for the city manager rather than reminding him to do what their vote had mandated him to do.

The mayor's office oversees a variety of commissions and programs, including the Human Relations Commission which for years was umbrellaed under the city manager's office. That ended after City Manager Brad Hudson came to Riverside and the HRC submitted a letter asking for information in relation to the abrupt firings and resignations of several Black and Latino management employees at City Hall. Soon after, two full-time staff positions were reduced to half-time and split among three commissions. The commission has also seen resignations during the past several years. Currently, there are three vacancies, which need to be filled within 60 days of their departures.

Those interested should contact Loveridge's office and submit applications. The HRC is much less politicized than several other boards and commissions so you actually stand a chance of getting interviewed without knowing anyone at City Hall, though it still helps in any case. All three positions are at-large meaning that anyone who is registered to vote and is a city resident is eligible.

More information about applying for the city's boards and commissions is here. The applications are available in pdf format at this link and only one is required unless you're applying for the Cultural Heritage Board which requires a supplemental application. The recruiting deadline closes on Nov. 12.

The official reasons for the resignations vary though two commissioners abruptly left the HRC to be appointed to the Community Police Review Commission this year.

So, the HRC is currently under the mayor's office where it presumably can operate without outside micromanagement, similar to that faced by the CPRC which still is being run by the city manager's office.

Access Riverside includes this complaint form(in pdf) to file with the HRC regarding discrimination by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other forms. More about this process will be the subject of future postings.

Contact information for the HRC is here.

There are also the public forums, including city council meetings but actions have been taken in the past to restrict or stifle public participation in these venues. The time to speak has been reduced from five minutes to three. Public comment has been shuffled to the end of city council meetings. The consent calendar is off-limits to the public unless you can bend your city council representative's will to pull an item. Not everyone has the time to earn that privilege by working on their political campaigns nor the money to donate in their campaign coffers. People often feel that they can't compete with the development firms who do business with the city government.

Elected officials from BASS and their supporters were tired of hearing the "rants" of constituents including those who were lucky to ever have elected officials including their own representatives respond to their attempts to express their concerns on issues through less public means than an open meeting. These interests prevailed and succeeded in limiting the opportunities for the public to speak at city council meetings. And rumblings are already beginning that could lead to more restrictions on public comment. In fact, two city council members including one up for reelection went in tandem to the city attorney to ask them if they even had to include public comment on the city council meeting agendas. Both of them had voted and in fact pushed the agenda item on July 12, 2005 that instituted more changes including the ban on pulling items from the consent calendar.

The city attorney's office apparently told them that some form of public comment was required under the Brown Act.

Still, it's possible that more restrictions could be coming down the line, after the election. Just a feeling. If this is done, then that's something to keep in mind during upcoming election seasons including one for county positions next year.

In Moreno Valley, there will be public forums to discuss new housing that is to be built including over 3,000 units for low-income earning individuals and families that are to be built by 2014, according to the Press Enterprise.


It's important to begin planning now, Slagerman said.

"We'll have less vacant land (in the future). If the amount of land is shrinking, you'll have less flexibility," he said by phone.

Residents can voice their opinions at three meetings next week. The city Planning Commission and the City Council are expected to take the public comments into account when drawing up housing plans, which must be submitted to state housing officials next year for certification.

One option to meet the city's housing goals is to increase the density of residential housing in some areas, such as Sunnymead Boulevard between Heacock and Indian streets, to as much as 30 units per acre, Slagerman said.

Developers could build multifamily complexes on top of retail shops in a mixed-use format, he said. Tenants would live closer to commercial centers, he said.

"They've done it successfully in Brea. They're trying it on University Avenue in Riverside," Slagerman said.

Tom Jerele, who has managed the Sundance Center on Sunnymead Boulevard for 12 years, said he is not in favor of rezoning property along the boulevard for housing. Housing is not the highest and best use of the land there, he said.

"We need to have an office corridor in the city, and (Sunnymead Boulevard) is the perfect place," Jerele said. "It has two freeway exits and it's in the heart of the western end of the city."

In Riverside, Harrison Elementary School was vandalized, suffering over $30,000 worth of damage to its equipment, according to the Press Enterprise.


Riverside Police Sgt. Frank Patino said the janitor, who was attempting to reset the alarm but could not, discovered the break-ins. Seeing some classroom equipment outside and the classrooms in disarray, the janitor called authorities, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the break-ins would affect about 90 students, who she will have to relocate. She said there is only one classroom available and she has no idea how long it will take to repair or clean up the damages that total more than several thousand dollars.

"I don't know where I'll put them," said Ferguson, as she looked at the scattered paperwork, paint on the carpet and walls, foul language written on the blackboard and other damages. "But we will make due."

Teacher Terry Dunn, whose classroom was burglarized, stood in his doorway in total disbelief. His students on Monday were going to finish reading folktales and start preparing for upcoming assessment tests in reading comprehension, math and writing, he said.

"I have no idea why anyone would think this is a fun thing to do," Dunn said. "This has broken my heart and will also do the same to my students."

The election in Redlands is some ways off but that hasn't stopped the Press Enterprise Editorial Board from picking its endorsements. It seem like this city has a big cash flow problem and clashes are anticipated between the city government and its city employee unions.


There is no simple, painless way out of Redlands' budget crunch. Only candidates who show the promise of facing up to that reality deserve support: Jerry Bean and Pete Aguilar.

Why the editorial board picked these two candidates is interesting reading but the board was looking at candidates it believed could alleviate the budget deficit which is near crisis levels by keeping public employees' salaries and pensions from rising. What the voters do is a question which won't be answered until the election in November.

Speaking of elections, San Bernardino's very own city attorney, Jim Penman along with Councilwoman Wendy McCammack wrote this letter in the Press Enterprise's Readers' Forum about the parolee housing situation in his city.

As stated, this election is being hotly contested in San Bernardino and whether or not Penman remains the city's attorney will be known after all the votes are cast.

Fontana's police department is rethinking the whole alarm thing after complaints and a law suit filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court have arisen about a proposed change in policy, according to the Press Enterprise. Still, the department is planning to keep to its course by changing its response policy.


Police Chief Larry Clark says responding to alarm calls monopolizes officers' time so much the Fontana Police Department will try a new tactic starting Monday. It's called "verified response," and he hopes the policy will free up his force to serve all of Fontana's 183,000 residents throughout the city's 36 square miles.

"Unless the alarm is verified by audio/video, private security or eyewitnesses, the Police Department will not routinely respond to the alarm," says a July 24 letter that Clark sent to residential and business alarm owners.

"What we're trying to do with this policy is to put the responsibility on the alarm companies and the alarm owners," said police Capt. Alan Hostetter. "We truly have been placed in the role of security guards for decades now."

Clark said the verified-response policy has some key exceptions.

"Rest assured that manually activated panic, robbery/hold-up, medical or duress alarms ... will continue to be treated as high-priority calls for service by the police department," his letter said.

It looks like more scandals have hit the Chicago Police Department, according to ABC News. Off-duty officers beating up individuals in bars and getting caught on video, a special investigations unit out of control and now something new. That being an uncovered plot of police officer against police officer.


The biggest shock came Wednesday when federal prosecutors charged special operations officer Jerome Finnigan with planning the murder of another member of the unit to keep him from talking to the government.

"This kind of stuff on Page One is just horrible," and reinforces a misleading stereotype of police, said Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green, who taught at the police academy for four years.

"The overwhelming 99.9 percent do their job professionally," he said.

But evidence of deep-rooted problems is piling up.

Here are the latest scandals of the Chicago Police Department.


In July, three off-duty officers pleaded not guilty to charges that they beat four businessmen in a bar in a videotaped confrontation.

In another videotaped confrontation, off-duty officer Anthony Abbate was seen apparently beating a 115-pound female bartender because she would not serve him another drink. Abbate has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of aggravated battery.

The quagmire is deepened by five federal lawsuits accusing police and city officials of covering up the torture of murder suspects at the Area 2 detective headquarters under violent crimes Lt. Jon Burge in the 1980s. Burge was fired in 1993 after a suspect in the murder of two officers allegedly was abused while in his custody.

Some call it a case of "bad apples" running amok and unchecked. Others say that given the shoddy nature of the department's own investigations of its "bad apples" and allegations made against them that it's a systemic problem within an agency that's seen brutality and scandals going back to at least the 1970s.

In 1998, this report discussed what was going on in the police department up to that point in time. But it didn't stop then, which is why the city and department are where they are today, under the microscope of federal law enforcement agencies.

Former Chicago Police Department narcotics detective, Juan Antonio Juarez wrote a book about the "brotherhood of corruption" about his experiences in this department. It doesn't seem like much has changed.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Elections here and there

There's such a shortage of affordable housing including rental units in Riverside that when one housing project is being built, it makes the pages of the Press Enterprise. Riverside doesn't meet the standards for the availability of low-income housing set by the state. The situation here has attracted the attention of experts of this issue and those who do evaluations of different cities to see where each stands in terms of providing such housing.


The 101-unit complex will double the number of low-income four-bedroom apartments in Riverside and increase three-bedroom apartments by 50 percent, Kulpa said.

"There isn't a lot geared toward larger families," said Rose Mayes, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County. "Families are moving in together to get ahead, and kids are coming back to live and take care of mom and dad."

The project cost $25 million. The majority of funding came from Union Bank, which received a $20 million tax credit in exchange, Kulpa said.

The government provides tax credits as an incentive for companies to help fund affordable housing projects. The remaining funds came from the city, donations and loans.

The complex will bring the city one step closer to meeting affordable housing targets set by the state, city officials said.'

"With the housing market the way it is, it is always a challenge to provide enough affordable housing for everyone that's looking for it," said Eva Yakutis McNiel, a city housing official.

What remains daunting is that the article stated that the addition of the six four-bedroom apartments doubled the number of such sized apartments in this entire city. That's pretty pathetic in a city of 300,000 that is close to having about 44% of its housing consist of rental units.

Most city officials have treated rental housing as a four-letter word and affordable rental housing, doubly so. Projects like these as Councilwoman Nancy Hart said, are critical, but there needs to be more of them, and they need to be spread out through the city rather than concentrated in one place, as Rose Mayes, the director of Fair Housing for Riverside County has always said.

As long as we have elected leaders who believe that certain neighborhoods are "special" in that they can't be considered candidates for construction of affordable housing for low-income families, then most of the housing will be built in one place. After all, when several of the housing projects were brought into one of those "special" areas, the downtown, they originally included about 15% of units set aside for lower-income families, but they were shuffled out of these projects, by the Development Committee. The members of that committee said that other housing projects outside the downtown would have about 30% of the units set aside for lower-income housing. But they didn't seem to know where they'd be built.

There are many accounts of individuals and families' experiences trying to find affordable housing including rental units in Riverside, a city which seems mostly geared towards building higher-density housing including condominiums geared towards higher income people. The following is one that I had heard from several different people living near the local state university several years ago.

Some rental properties including many of those built to accommodate UCR students during the 1980s were built with 20 year bonds including those which provided tax breaks if the property owners adhered to requirements that 15% of their units had to be set aside for lower-income families, in most cases those making less than the median income level for the city of Riverside who were not college students.

As the 21st Century came, many of these bonds were approaching the final years until the standards could be relaxed without the property owners being penalized. However, a couple of apartment complexes both owned by out of state real estate corporations thought that they could stretch the rules earlier and hired local attorneys to find ways to get around these rules without being forced to pay stiff financial penalties.

So these complexes began to raise their rents up to 30% at a time, several times within six months to a year, which is legal in this city if proper notification is given to the tenant ahead of time. Currently, Riverside has no rent control laws, one of the obstacles faced by those who advocate for affordable housing for lower-income individuals and families. In one complex, the tenants who were in the lower-income bracket found that rules were enforced against them that weren't enforced against other individuals.

Fortunately, the bond companies audited these apartment complexes and either levied heavy fines or threatened to do so if they didn't bring the percentage of low-income tenants up to the required levels. However, in response, the complexes began evicting month-to-month tenants who were students rather than renting to lower-income tenants to bring their percentage up and even operated at a lower vacancy rate for a while until the bonds expired. Actions that were not really fair to either university students or lower-income families when the only responsible and ethical action to take was to honor the conditions of the bond until its expiration.

Given that several apartment complexes in that area have either been or will in the future be converted to condominiums, that leaves a shortage of affordable housing for students in that neighborhood although UCR is using state funding to build more housing on its campus with the goal that about 50% of its students will eventually have access to housing on or around its campus. The condominiums will likely be bought as investment properties and/or rented out unless there are prohibitions against renting them out for a designated period of time. That condition has been placed on at least one other project but the city found out soon enough that advertisements abounded where these properties were being rented out by their owners even with prohibitions in place and it clamped down.

It's not like university students will remain in Riverside after graduation because there's not a lot of jobs available. They'll move out of the city and more university students will come in to take their places.

Higher rents in this area also prevent a hardship for lower-income individuals or families and provides less housing for them.

Housing's been an issue in this election but the impact of it on the upcoming city elections is not easy to predict. And there are elections elsewhere to consider as well.

In San Bernardino, the city attorney's election is heating up as incumbent Jim Penman has asked his opponent, Marianne Milligan who once worked for him to waive confidentially regarding her personnel records according to the Press Enterprise.


Since you have decided to seek election to a public office, I am sure you will want your employment history to be as available to the public as is my own employment history," Penman writes in a note to his campaign challenger, Marianne Milligan, who once worked in Penman's office. "I am sure you will agree the voters deserve to know as much about you and your background as they know about mine."

But Milligan said Friday she won't sign Penman's waiver, which expires Election Day, as a matter of principle.

"I can meet you at human resources and you can look at my personnel file. There's nothing in there," she said.

Milligan, who oversees enforcement of city building codes, said she suspects Penman "has something up his sleeve" regarding her records.

"I am not going to give him carte blanche to release that without any liability," she said.

Even Mayor Patrick Morris suspects that Penman is up to no good as he said that he suspected that Penman might plant something that's false in her record to make her look bad. Apparently, Morris had his own experiences in this area while running for office.


"In my experience with this kind of destructo-derby conduct, if he is given a release of liability he will just go wild," Morris said.

Penman was up in arms at allegations that he would even consider such a thing and said that the mayor was violating his fiduciary duties and all that.

You might find such discourse unbecoming to the political election process or you might sit with a bowl of popcorn and a beverage of choice to watch it all play out. But it's pretty clear either way not much has changed in San Bernardino.

Also playing out, are elections in Redlands where the candidates' campaign donations are the subject of this article in the Press Enterprise. Things seem more quiet there so far though Redlands' politics are often unpredictable as well.

Not all elections coming up involving city officials.

In Riverside, one of the police unions, the Riverside Police Officers' Association is also electing its president in December. Current President Ken Tutwiler is apparently planning to run again, and he brings to the process increased community involvement from his union and attendance at community meetings during the past two years. Whether he faces any competition remains to be seen, but during his term, he's definitely made his mark in a year which saw intensive contract negotiations and an attempt to bring "at-will" positions into the police department's upper management. Both of these developments led to appearances by the union's members at City Hall to speak out successfully on or against these issues.

After seeing the follies involving the marriage between "at will" positions and political agendas put on display in an unflattering way by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department this month, another perspective has come into play regarding the near-decision of those in the halls of power in this city to create those same positions.

Was a similar crisis narrowly avoided in Riverside?

In related news, the police department will be getting 20 new squad cars from the city council.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer who was videotaped choking a teen aged Latino male resigned from the department after pleading guilty to related charges, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sean Joseph Meade won't be facing time in jail but received 200 hours of community service, three years summary probation and time spent in an anger management class as part of his sentence for two misdemeanor charges of fighting.


The videotape appears to show Meade locking the teenager's neck in a chokehold for several seconds, according to sources in the department who have viewed it.

Moments later, Meade allegedly removes the boy's handcuffs and challenges him to a fight, say the sources, who spoke on condition that they not be named.

Police Chief William J. Bratton ordered the officer's immediate arrest, saying the attack was "without any physical provocation" and some the LAPD would not condone or tolerate.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the time called it a "grave violation of the trust we place in law enforcement and an insult to the values of the brave men and women of the LAPD who put their lives on the line to keep us safe."

The teenager had been arrested on suspicion of a curfew violation in Chinatown after been seen walking on a street in Chinatown with a teenage girl. LAPD officers pulled over and questioned them, authorities said.

The officers called the girl's parents, who came to pick her up. The boy was arrested.

Meade allegedly attacked the boy in the juvenile holding room that faces out to the detective room, where the camera was positioned. The sources said the grainy video shows the alleged chokehold. Then commotion occurs off camera. The video lacks audio, so it is unclear whether a verbal altercation sparked the alleged attack.

Another officer in the area heard the disturbance and reported what he had heard to his commander. That sparked an internal affairs investigation.

Officers were unaware that the hidden camera had been set up in the detective room.

Also in Los Angeles, the following meeting notice has been published.

The department will present its report on the May Day incident at MacArthur Park in the City Hall Public Works Board Room on Tuesday, October 9, 2007, at 8:30am.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the labor negotiations between the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the labor union have been broken down for a year and now are headed to court.


The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Superior Court by the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, alleges that the county's Board of Supervisors is guilty of "withdrawing its original wage offer and replacing it with one that is significantly worse . . . reneging on an agreement regarding the cost of retiree medical costs . . . insisting on contract demands that will foreseeably make agreement . . . impossible, and failing to vest its negotiator with authority to reach agreement."

"We've been at an impasse for a while and have reached a level of frustration with no end in sight," said Mark Nichols, general manager of the 1,800-member deputies union.

"We're just not going to have an equitable resolution, so we're asking the courts to have the county comply with bargaining in good faith."

Board Chairman Chris Norby said he was surprised by the lawsuit. "I think it's grandstanding on their part," he said.

"They say that we've taken certain things off the table, but what we offered them they rejected in the first place.

"It's a curious lawsuit; the courts aren't going to resolve this; we have to resolve it by sitting down."

Oh and if you're in Arizona or vacation there, there's a warning about a brain-eating amoeba living in some lakes that's killed several people so far. It's very rare to be infected by them but they get in through the nose, go to the brain and victims are dead within two weeks.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

You can never have too much chili in Wonderland

"The adventures first… explanations take such a dreadful time."

---The Gryphon, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(Lewis Carroll)

For Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who kind of look alike, think alike, act alike but don't talk alike.

The annual city chili kickoff didn't disappoint as various departments brought their home-made chilies down to White Park to be judged by a panel of three appointed experts not to mention people who dropped by. The proceeds from the purchases of tickets go to the United Way fund.

I don't know who won, but there was some very good chili there. There was some music playing and many people, mostly city employees milling around, talking. Contrast that with City Hall where few employees even talk inside the elevators, which are slowly losing that garishly King Midas motif and appearing more stylishly demure in tune with the modernism of the 21st Century.

Someday the elevators will all be finished, once they reconstruct them with parts including those purchased on Ebay and complete the restaurant that is apparently going to dominate the first floor.

I didn't see representatives from the public library there, let alone the promised display in honor of Banned Books Week which begins this Saturday nor were there any from the fire department which traditionally makes great chilies. But the others were there, including public works, public utilities, finance and the police department which had five chilies on display including several by Lt. Mike Perea and the Internal Affairs Division(housed separately from the other department chilies).

I purchased several tickets but representatives of different departments also provided several. Beef, chicken and vegetarian chilies were plenty, each one bearing the style and attitude of its artistic chef. Several departments also held raffles.

In the midst of it all, was a cardboard castle which was supposed to advertise the "Riverside Renaissance". There were characters there in costume, including what looked like royalty from a different time and place than the actual European renaissance.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

---Lewis Carroll

Every booth was so sure their chili was the best. Every department is sure it is the best. It's interesting to watch both the interdependence and inter-rivalries between different departments at work through the expression of culinary creatism and skills.

Councilman Frank Schiavone, who apparently was too ill to attend last week's city council meeting wasn't judging chilies and he seemed surprised that people believed in the entity known as FRED. The latest rumor is that they've split up and gone their separate ways, each splitting the candidates running in Ward Five in Ed Adkison's spot between them with Adkison getting Chris MacArthur and Schiavone, Donna Doty Michalka. Schiavone denied that he does what Adkison tells him to do.

Adkison wandered past to judge the chilies. I think he left his gavel elsewhere.

At any rate, Schiavone has apparently recovered and was talking about his auras and karmic law and well, chili. Let's hope this zen kick lasts for a while. However, don't be surprised if the city council speech code goes back to the Governmental Affairs Committee, a BASS stronghold, for another round of tinkering, but probably not until after November's election and before Adkison departs politics and goes back to the real world.

Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.

---Lewis Carroll

Both Councilman Andrew Melendrez, who represents the Eastside and representatives from the police department have said that there will soon be a community meeting as promised about the recent injunction against Eastside Riva as part of his regular meetings he's been holding. Both said that efforts have been made to get a representative from the elusive Riverside County District Attorney's office to attend, most likely Prosecutor Jack Lucky. The Human Relations Commission has also invited the District Attorney's office to send a representative to answer questions about the injunction at its October general meeting.

It remains to be seen whether the District Attorney's office will ever send a representative to answer the many questions about the injunction, namely the first one being, where's the District Attorney's office to answer our questions. Though apparently, Melendrez mentioned that he might be sending a representative to Casa Blanca to talk about the injunction.

So, the District Attorney's office isn't going to answer question about the injunction from those living in the neighborhood that is well, currently the setting for the injunction but District Attorney Rod Pacheco is sending a representative to a neighborhood where there isn't one. Isn't there room or enough representatives in the District Attorney's office to meet with residents of both neighborhoods?

More than one Riverside elected official expressed shock and some dismay that they were not informed of a forum in the Eastside last month held addressing the injunction. None of the city council members appeared to even be aware that an injunction was coming from the District Attorney's office. How could this be?

The District Attorney's office and the police department know about it, but the elected officials don't? It's a little difficult to adequately represent your ward if you don't know what's happening in it.

Melendrez also said that discussion on the UCR Charrette project was to be on the city council agenda this upcoming week but it's not on the agenda.

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

---The Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There(Lewis Carroll)

There's other elections taking place in Riverside this autumn and one of them is for both the Riverside Unified School District and the Alvord School District.

On Sept. 26, a candidate forum was held for the Riverside Unified School District candidates, both incumbents and challengers, at the Sierra Middle School, according to the Press Enterprise.

The incumbents were Gayle Cloud and Lewis J. Vanderzyl and the challengers both will face are Luis Aguilar, Tom Hunt and Arthur Murray.


Hunt, a Riverside public relations consultant, and Aguilar, a Riverside attorney, said the district needed to collaborate with the business and civic communities in Riverside, as well as City Hall and local colleges. Hunt said he would bring a Rolodex full of influential contacts to the board.

"We need to connect much better with City Hall and our community," he said.

Hunt and Murray, a retired veteran educator, spoke about education as the foundation for keeping a skilled labor force and business in the city.

Murray, in particular, talked about how crowding at schools on the city's Eastside has resulted in students being bused to other schools outside their neighborhoods. He said he would promote new and timely construction to solve that problem.

"Children should be able to attend schools in their own neighborhood with time spent on academics, and not going to and from school," Murray said.

Cloud, Vanderzyl and Aguilar each appeared to allude to how the federal No Child Left Behind Act is rigid, forcing schools and districts to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching.

"We don't want to create students that are all alike, because they are all unique and different," Aguilar said.

They were supposed to come into town, try some cases then leave but according to the Press Enterprise, it looks like the strike force of a dozen judges may be extending its stay. Instead of leaving in November, they will be remaining here until at least next June.


The strike force was never intended to entirely clear the huge backlog.

"All of the partners are interested in finding a more efficient way to deal with the criminal caseload ... to accomplish more with existing resources," he said.

George assigned Huffman to work with the court, the district attorney, public defender, the county bar and other legal groups.

"I have been impressed that all sides are working in good faith and making good progress," Huffman said.

Fields said the county's judges are on track to hear approximately 900 non-strike-team criminal trials this year, which would be a record for the county. Last year, the county's judges heard 795 criminal cases.

Calling the extension of the strike force's stay "great news. District Attorney Rod Pacheco said, "It's getting a lot of that backlog out, and they can do it more effectively now because they are staying until June."

Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey said both the extension of the strike force and the administrative work on the system clearly demonstrate "the court's commitment to addressing and solving the backlog issue -- all aspects of it."

On the eve of Banned Books Week, here comes this column by Dan Bernstein from the Press Enterprise.

Instead of one novel or several novels being banned from the Riverside Unified School District, are they banning the teaching of novels? That's what Bernstein asks.



"They will deny it to the bitter end," says North High English teacher Ann Camacho, "but we all know that novels are not supported by the district and it's dangerous thinking."

The district's Dara Mosher puts it plainly. "We're a standards-based curriculum, not literature-based." The best way to achieve "standards proficiency"? Use the "core textbook." The anthology. But "ban" the novel? No. Never.

Yet, there was talk about not even reading novels until spring. Mosher said that was later "clarified. . . . What we said was, at the beginning of the year, novels could be used as outside reading." Students would discuss what they'd read. In class. Once a week.

Then came the phone calls and board appearances and another "clarification": Teach novels. Just get the core standards out of the way first.

So the novel is undead, tattered and battered. It remains a back-bench understudy to the anthology, that colorful compendium of carefully prepared "core-standard" bites, bits and chunks. Lit. Lite.

Board member Gayle Cloud thinks the district has its priorities exactly right. Yes, the novel "enriches things. . . . But we need to watch our dependence on novels for teaching things kids need to know on writing, grammar. . . . These kids have one shot getting through school."

And exactly how does one develop good reading skills, without reading books?

The Los Angeles Times ran this article on how the drop in homicides in that city this year might be related to a new program instituted by the Los Angeles Police Department and former gang members.


"For the first time, we're requiring captains to call the gang interventionists, give them the word on the shooting and get out there and avert another homicide," Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

"We are pretty good at solving homicides, but we are trying to get better at preventing the next homicide."

Beck and other LAPD officials said the intervention workers have been particularly good at "rumor control," calming tensions after a shooting to prevent retaliation.

It's a delicate dance, with gang interventionists taking pains to not look as though they're directly working with police out of fear of losing street credibility. They will help ease tensions, but most refuse to provide detectives with gang intelligence.

"That's a paradigm-changing breakthrough," said Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney who was hired by Los Angeles to evaluate its anti-gang programs. "They know they can't contaminate each other, and they're figuring the lines that can't be crossed, so they're negotiating that right now. I know that work is going forward."

The decline in homicides underscores an 8% decline in overall violent crime in Los Angeles, bucking a trend that has seen violent crime inch up in other major U.S. cities.

San Luis Obispo Sheriff Pat Hedges videotaped all this meetings with his employees, according to the Associated Press. Naturally without telling any of them. Now, Hedges is under fire for this practice but is defending it.


The sheriff told The Tribune this week that he believes videotaping the meeting was legal. One of those videotaped, Chief Deputy Gary Hoving, has filed a $1.25 million claim with the county alleging the sheriff's actions were illegal.

The state attorney general's office is investigating and the county has hired an outside investigator to examine the sheriff's actions, the county counsel's office said.

Hedges challenges the county's authority to investigate the matter.

"My supervisor under the (state) Constitution is the attorney general," Hedges said, adding that voters would have the opportunity to vote him out of office if they objected to his conduct.

Who was the first Black detective in the Riverside Police Department? The answer's here.

(excerpt, Riversider)

My Mom and I were among the many marchers in the protest against George Wallace.

My Dad was there to protect the presidential candidate.

Later that night, George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama gave my Dad a signed card making him a Honorary State Trooper.

----Tina Caroline, Det.Etienne Caroline, Jr's daughter

In World Rugby Cup news, the All-Blacks are heading into the quarterfinals against Romania without one of their key starters. Romania has already conceded the test match hoping to score enough points against the top-seed to avoid embarrassment. Still, in rugby like other sports, it's impossible to predict what will happen.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Election 2007: Forums and follies

Lake Evans may be dredged beginning in 30 days according to this article in the Press Enterprise.

The aeration system must be removed. Then the silt and whatever lies beneath. Those who fish the lake hope that whatever is left will help increase the population of finned creatures. The ducks, geese and other waterfowl are waiting it out.


About two feet of silt, an organic-rich mud created from plant debris and fish and fowl waste, has accumulated on the lake bottoms since the late 1980s when the lakes were last dredged.

"All this leaf clutter and the fish waste and then the duck population here is substantial," Middleton said.

The water quality is not as bad as it appears.

Middleton sampled the water to make sure it would be safe for workers Wednesday.

"It came up really, really nice. No chemicals of potential concern," Middleton said.

"There's a lot of organic carbon and that is to be expected. And nitrogen and phosphate ... You could go swimming in the water. You can be around in the mud and you don't have to worry about any kind of infection or anything like that."

The lake serves as a metaphor for this city in many different ways, both good and bad. It was the focus of police reforms which were imposed on the department by the state attorney general's office four years after three Riverside Police Department officers assaulted and tossed a Latino man into its waters. The man who could not swim struggled to the grassy area to hide until the officers who were hired to protect and serve not abuse individuals had left the scene of their crime.

On better days, it's been the scene of family reunions, picnics, barbecues and Fourth of July celebrations. The same lake where Jose Martinez struggled to live has seen flocks of ducks, paddle boats and fishing derbies.

The elections are seen in similar lights. Many people feel hope. Other people feel despair. Some see the future as unwritten. Others see past and prologue.

At any rate, the debates roll on.

Speaking of city elections, yet another debate was held among city council candidates last night at Riverside Community College and was sponsored by the Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, according to the Press Enterprise. Naturally, issues pertaining to Latinos were the ones on the table. It's interesting, given that these issues weren't raised at other forums including those in neighborhoods in the respective areas of the city where the population statistics place Latinos either in the majority or near majority of city residents in those areas.

This forum should have been a natural spot for Ward Five candidate, Chris MacArthur who ran an entire first-half campaign on what some people said called a racist and xenophobic campaign against Latinos particularly undocumented immigrants but he of course toned his campaign message down for the final round at least in front of this crowd. He was still the only person who mentioned Latinos at all during his campaign and he made it clear what his sentiments were towards them and while we're at it, people of Iranian ethnicities because his campaign workers spent time "warning" prospective voters about former campaign rival, Harry Kurani.

However, the forum was the mantra for the following.


All candidates spoke about how they would encourage more Hispanics to participate in government, whether it's by serving on a commission or solving language barrier issues at City Hall.

Where does one start addressing this statement, when Latinos aren't even considered fit enough to do business downtown unless they are involved in the food industry, you know selling tacos and burritos and putting salsa and chips on every table? Not that there's anything wrong with setting up a restaurant in Riverside, in fact you have to admire anyone who will try it, but Latinos tend to get pigeonholed as Mexicans(even though other Latino ethnic groups have communities in this city) and of course, their businesses can only sell Mexican food. It seems to be the only businesses they are allowed to own downtown. Everything else is seen as "blight".

With Mexican restaurants downtown, elected officials can talk about how inclusive they are and rhapsodize about Riverside's cultural and racial diversity. But if they choose to own other businesses, forget about that. Quite a few of those businesses are gone or going, like the barber shops and beauty shops owned predominantly by African-Americans and Latinos that also used to exist downtown including on University Avenue where Riverside Community College has more office space.

Whether this new Riverside Renaissance has any room for business owners of color or even people of color in this city remains to be seen.

Incumbent Dom Betro of Ward One continues his forum-side manner, talking about how he's ensured the election of Latinos, meaning Councilman Andrew Melendrez, the only Latino or person of color for that matter currently on the dais because naturally, any man or woman of color needs to be backed by Whites to even try to get elected. Betro's certainly right in that education not incarceration should be a focus. But how much education is built into downtown's development outside of that benefiting UCR, let alone Riverside Renaissance? And Latinos though better represented at UCR than other universities in this system(thanks in large part to the passage of 209 which created a multi-tier system in this system), they are still underrepresented. UCR in their midst, includes students who tell Eastside jokes and make derisive comments based on stereotypes that are passed down to them even though few of them have ever been in the neighborhood.

But then in this behavior, they are hardly alone, are they? At least the students don't belong in a system that essentially rewards them for this behavior while breaking bread with the community's members in meetings and other venues.

Even the UCR's planned Charrette development project is geared almost entirely towards future UCR students. And speaking of the Charrette project, it underwent such an extensive rewrite once it went from the community input level to the UCR and Riverside Development Department level that once this was brought to the attention of Melendrez, he pulled it off of the consent calendar of a meeting several weeks ago. It will be on a discussion calendar of a city council meeting coming soon.

Ironically, the only mention of Eastside students would be to do some cleaning of the University Avenue area, as apparently some sort of unpaid labor source. Melendrez said he was shocked when he saw that recommendation on the list of them several weeks ago, knowing nothing about it. Since it's probable that using children in this way would violate labor laws which is only one of the problems, it will probably be dropped quickly.

Still, Betro got to the meat of it in a manner of speaking.


"Talk is cheap; action is what counts," he said.

Well, we've definitely seen the action in his ward. More to, rather than for Latinos at this juncture.

And while it might be appropriate to say Latinos benefit from improvements on University Avenue which bisects a predominantly Latino neighborhood, it doesn't seem to be so when it comes to Latinos owning businesses downtown, given that many of the businesses called unsightly and blights by Betro and other elected officials were owned by Latinos including immigrants who paid their share of business taxes into the coffer of the Downtown Neighborhood Partnership for exterior street improvements that their businesses never received. The properties, largely owned by White business owners, on the pedestrian mall got the lion share of these funds with vague promises that outlying businesses would see these improvements as well which of course never happened.

Then the city along with its partners the Greater Chambers of Commerce and the DNP turned around and called the Market Street businesses, "blighted" in part due to their exterior appearance which of course contrasted greatly with the renovated pedestrian mall. These predominantly Latino and Asian-American business owners had no representation, because the two above mentioned organizations sent representatives to city council meetings fully supporting their ousters.

Also, like Ward One candidate Mike Gardner said, there was a dearth of Latinos on the task forces for both Tequesquite Park and especially Fairmount Park given that if you visit the latter park, you will see a large population of Latinos using it for family gatherings and picnics. Yet, it's been a while since the city's had a task force let alone two that have been so well, White but why was there not a single Latino? There were also no Black city residents on either task force, which is odd in the case of Fairmount Park given how many people in this racial group enjoy the park as well, not to mention that one of the oldest family reunions held at the park is still held by descendants of several of the first Black families to come to Riverside.

Art Gage also put his two cents in the discussion of promoting inclusiveness to Latinos during the only night in the entire campaign schedule any of them will be talking about it.


Gage addressed getting more non-English speaking residents to participate in government meetings. He said translators are available, but the city needs to better communicate this service.

"Clearly it is an issue because you rarely see a person who only speaks Spanish at a meeting," he said

Maybe he doesn't but there are lots of meetings in this city with Latinos, including those who only speak Spanish. There are organizations in the Eastside for example where those who attend are primarily in this category including block groups. The problem is, that either the city has no clue that there are meetings like this or it doesn't really think that bringing English-only city representatives to a meeting where Spanish is the language is an issue. Which is why at many of these meetings, there are no Spanish interpreters(as "translators" deal with written not spoken words) to pass along what the guest speakers are telling them. Often a bilingual city official, like Councilman Andrew Melendrez or a city employee is left to try to do both and interpreters need to be someone who remains independent of the dialogue or presentation themselves. That is what is called in the field of interpreting, an ethical dilemma, when they are not.

Some times, ethics issues are raised by the failure to prepare ahead of time for a meeting with primarily non-English speakers as well.

At one meeting in 2005 where Police Chief Russ Leach of the Riverside Police Department was giving a speech on tactics used by his department to suppress gang activity, he told people that's what he would talk about. He would not listen to personnel complaints against his employees. The city had not provided an interpreter so at the meeting, only former Community Police Review Commission Interim Executive Director and Community Relations Director Pedro Payne was available to interpret.

His role of interpreter clashed with his role directing the CPRC because as an interpreter, he was passing along Leach's message of him not wanting to hear any complaints about police officers while working as a director of a commission who received and reviewed personnel complaints involving police officers. It put Payne in a bad position that he should have never been in and he did the best he could with it, but having the executive director of an oversight mechanism say that complaints won't be heard at that meeting sends a bad mixed message. It was bad enough to hear the police chief say that at the meeting. Accountability and good policing should go hand in hand, after all in the brand new police department that's what has been sold to the city's residents. A police department doing its job in a professional manner has no reason to discourage or even fear hearing of complaints involving its personnel even in a general manner and while Leach is unable to discuss individual personnel issues, there should be a means for communities to discuss the issues in a more general manner and there should be people at the meetings to take complaints or tell individuals about the CPRC and police department's complaint system.

That should have been Payne's designated role, or that of the commissioners who serve on this board if they attended these meetings, to both listen to the community's concerns and represent their commissions. The Human Relations Commission also has a vital role to play in this area.

At least one candidate brought up the role of Latinos on the city's boards and commissions, a very interesting subject to raise in any forum.

Latinos are currently underrepresented on the city's boards and commissions, which serve as important mechanisms for public expression and participation. Elected officials and their most immediate supporters are always chiding members of the public for not opting for these more acceptable forms of civic service over appearing at city council meetings to complain or criticize in front of the city officials and the cameras. Of course, most of those individuals who say these things are themselves White.

However, what has any council member done to encourage better recruitment and screening practices to ensure that the many more than qualified candidates for commissions including the Planning Commission and the Community Police Review Commission don't end up in the "reject" pile? It's not that Latinos don't apply. It's just that in many cases even when their applications are bulging with the highly coveted but ill-defined "community involvement", they don't get interviewed.

For example, there has never even been a Latino candidate for the CPRC in Ward One who has been selected to be interviewed let alone appointed to the CPRC. Commissioners who are Latino have only been appointed from Wards Three, Four, Six and Seven. At one time, there were four Latinos on the commission. Now, there is only one on a commission that addresses issues which disproportionately impacting Latino residents. Yet despite this, a parade of White candidates most of whom have political connections or business connections to City Hall or city council candidates are getting appointed to the CPRC and likely several other commissions as well.

It's like if you're Latino(or Black or Asian-American for that matter) and want to serve on a board or commission, your one option is to serve on the Human Relations Commission, a body that does important work but is so undervalued by the city government(with the possible exception of Mayor Ron Loveridge) that city leaders are pulling commissioners or having them jump ship off of this commission to serve on others most namely the CPRC.

But the Riverside Police Department's sworn division is around 18% Latino while Latinos represent only about 11% of the CPRC's composition. Which of course is another column.

After all, Riverside as of 2006 was at least 38% Latino.

In Colton, the city's fire fighters and dispatchers will be getting salary increases,according to the San Bernardino Sun to bring their pay scales closer to other similar agencies in the region.

Redlands has added to its roster a quality of life department, according to Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff.


Redlands is creating a "Quality of Life Department?"

Has the City Council completely lost its moorings?

The council voted 4-to-1 earlier this month to create the warm-and-fuzzy sounding quality-of-life department, at a cost of nearly $302,000 a year.

This is the same council that last month seriously considered a ballot measure to raise the sales tax because the city government needs more money.

It's the same council that imposed a hiring freeze in February, so the budget would balance for the first time in six years.

It's the same council that passed a balanced-budget ordinance in May, to show how sincere it was about curbing spending. Now this?

Yes, this! As the city slides further and further into not being able to fund its essential services, I'm sure that will keep those taking surveys at this new department quite busy. It's called looking for silver linings to even put a positive spin on the Redlands city manager's latest brainchild.

The power struggle over the state's beleaguered prison system continues with the state in one corner and the correctional deputies' union in the other, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times.

The corrections union is one of the two strongest labor organizations in the state. But the penal system from juvenile halls and California Youth Authority facilities to jails and prisons have been fraught with problems and more than a few scandals. And all these institutions


After a 16-month stalemate in an increasingly bitter contract dispute, state officials last week took the provocative step of declaring that they would unilaterally impose their "last, best and final offer," attempting to recoup what in most cases amounts to basic powers to run prisons as they see fit.

Over the union's threats to retaliate, the state would reclaim the right to question officers about such nuts-and-bolts items as sick leave and to decide how many guards -- and which ones -- should staff certain posts. Prison authorities also could make changes in operations that the union has blocked, such as determining when inmates visit medical clinics. And the state would vastly restrict the guards' use of grievances.

In response, the union, which holds $4.5 million in political action committees, has filed a complaint with California's Public Employment Relations Board saying the state is acting improperly.

"They are imposing a lot of things that are illegal, that they can't impose without a change in the law," said Ryan Sherman, a spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.

The conflict signifies the degree to which California prisons threaten to blot Schwarzenegger's legacy in the waning years of his governorship.

On his watch, federal courts have appointed a receiver to oversee prison healthcare and are weighing whether to intervene again with an inmate cap -- or even a possible prisoner release -- to relieve pressure on the teeming lockups. Hundreds of inmates die each year, and in many cases there have been allegations of abuse or neglect.

Often people throw around the terms "dictator" and "dictatorship" loosely without having ever set foot in one or actually living under one or a militarized junta. Like Burma.

The whole world is watching.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

River City Hall 101: Rules and resources

(Part of an ongoing series)

Someone from the Human Relations Commission passed along information about a forum tomorrow at Riverside Community College on Magnolia which will be held involving candidates from all four wards up for election this November. It's held at the new library from 6-9 p.m.

With two candidate debates tonight at different venues, you'd think there wouldn't be enough room or time for a Mayor's Night Out but one's being held at the Northside today. It will be interesting to see how Councilman Dom Betro who represents that neighborhood divides his time.

Mayor Ron Loveridge, council members and city staff will meet as Mayor's Night Out visits the Northside Neighborhood today at Fremont Elementary School, 1925 N. Orange St.

Attendees may converse with city staff from 6:30 to 7 p.m. to discuss projects and programs in the neighborhood. A 7 p.m. question-answer time with the mayor and other city leaders is scheduled. The event begins with hors d'oeuvres, provided by KH Metal & Supply.

Information: 951-826-5813.

--Marlene Toscano

The Press Enterprise doesn't really write much about city council meetings anymore and some meetings, they don't seem to send reporters to even attend them. But then maybe given that most recent meetings have been well, brief that the amount of space given to them is appropriate.

Briefs are what they do write to detail the actions of the city government. Even the attendance of dozens of senior residents for an annual hearing on rent control for mobile homes only resulted in a short article of a few lines of text.

But that's an unusual event, as few people attend city council meetings, in part because many people feel like the decision making takes place in other venues besides the city council chambers on Tuesday afternoons and evenings. Others watch the meetings on Charter Communication's governmental channel which airs them live and also in reruns twice a week. It's interesting being approached in a store and the person will say they saw me at a meeting even when City Manager Brad Hudson had the brilliant idea of only showing speakers' backs and then ask me questions about what happened, express concerns about what the city's doing and then shake their heads at some of the conduct they've seen on the dais especially in the past six months. Many of these people do not attend meetings but they do vote.

Many have questions about what state laws govern conduct at meetings and the access city residents have to documents related to city business. The California First Amendment Coalition is an excellent source of this information. Included at this wonderful Web site are the following.

The Ralph M. Brown Act

The California Public Records Act(pdf version)

Proposition 59(November 2004)

Commonly asked questions and answers

Brown Act and CPRA letter templates

The above Q & A page addressing commonly expressed issues involving the Brown Act, which applies to public bodies or private bodies created by public entities in certain circumstances, is a very helpful to start if you have questions on this state's "sunshine" law.

It is very important to learn these laws and study them, because you will need that knowledge when the local government acts in ways that assume that a member of the public won't be aware of the existence of these laws let alone what they mean. An uninformed populace is what is counted on.

For example, City Attorney Gregory Priamos provides legal interpretations of certain laws when denying CPRC requests which are counter to the text of those laws, including a subsection of P.C. 832.7 which allows for the public release of statistical information on complaints to the police department including the allegations and dispositions of those allegations. Other cities willingly provide this information and in fact, Riverside itself used to release quarterly reports on statistical information from the Internal Affairs Division to the Human Relations Commission until it ceased in 2002.

Priamos is there to follow orders of those who vote to keep him employed so obviously those individuals giving him the orders to provide legal interpretations which conflict with those given in other cities which happily provide the same information on request for whatever reason want to keep information from the police department restricted for reasons known only to them. It's a bit perplexing about what is in this statistical information that the city doesn't want anyone to see but it clearly doesn't. After all, the cities of Santa Rosa, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkely for example provide information even more detailed than statistics and they are legally able to do so.

Riverside can, but doesn't and that can fairly or not lead to speculation that those numbers are ones that it sees problems with putting on display. One would think that after exiting a five-year period of stipulated judgment that the city would be more than eager to increase transparency to this tax-supported public agency, not less.

Apparently, Priamos and those who give him his marching orders don't agree.

There is a lawyer hotline for information gathering purposes only in case you are trying to access a public meeting, find out about public meetings or most commonly, access public information through the CPRA request and are receiving responses from the city attorney's office which don't quite smell right.

If you need assistance finding lawyer to help you, a form is available for you to fill out and submit for this assistance.

When Terry Francke was in charge of this organization, the response times for requests were much quicker than they are now. Francke left CFAC to head a newer organization for government watchdogs called Californians Aware. This Web site also has a legal search engine but alas, no lawyers practicing this type of law can be found in Riverside.

Its members do audits including a well-publicized one involving the ability to access documents from law enforcement agencies. On this page, you can look up your law enforcement agency to see if it makes the grade.

For example, the results for the Riverside Police Department are here and this audit ws performed by Martha Sarabia from the Press Enterprise. This department received an oral score of C and an overall score of a D+. Few people were surprised, but actually this was one of the higher scoring law enforcement agencies in the Inland Empire as the list will show.

This one tested accessibility to state agencies.

One means of redress is the city's ethics code which was adopted by the city after voters passed it in November 2004.

The city's Web site has this form that its employees and the public can fill out to report violations of ethics and fraud. It even includes a hotline to call and report them.

The information here makes it clear that this complaint process has little to do with the ethics code passed in 2005. There's nothing on the city's site about the ethics code process that's easily accessible.

This is hardly surprising, but it's academic because the ethics process that evolved from the passage of the ballot initiative in 2004 has no teeth. Four known complaints were filed, with only one going before the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee and three others being rejected by the city attorney's office.

In one recent case, the councilman involved allegedly engaged in the same behavior that was listed on an ethics complaint filed against him within days after a letter was sent out stating to the complainant that the complaint had been rejected.

Minute records for the only complaint to be heard in front of that committee are here.

What's happened through its implementation is that the city attorney's office has become the arbitrator of ethics complaints rather than the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. But again, according to the chain of command flow chart of City Hall, Priamos works for the city council and if the city council had any interest in regulating its own behavior rather than that of the public, there wouldn't have been an ethics code passed. But once the will of the voters got into the city council's hands to mold as it saw fit, the instinct for self-protection came first. Consequently, you have an ethics code that actually serves to shield the elected government from accountability, instead of increasing accountability.

But ethics code processes even failures like the one in Riverside do serve as good litmus tests when scoring the ethics of an elected body precisely for these reasons.

In Murrieta, a city where elected officials attack each other on the dais rather than the city residents who criticize them, the ethics code has divided the city further according to most parties.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Council members struggled over how to conduct the ethics proceedings, which both lasted more than two hours.

Residents squared off, some calling the councilmen unfit for public office, others saying the policy was a political tool.

Speakers also criticized the three levels of public reprimand -- admonishment, sanction and censure -- and said the penalties were just slaps on the wrist.

The council members also used city ethics against each other.

At his ethics hearing Tuesday night, Enochs suggested Gibbs and McAllister should be in his place for actions that could have violated the code.

For example, Enochs said McAllister took campaign contributions from developers and did not excuse himself from votes on their projects. McAllister denied the allegation last week, saying the money went to a political action committee rather than to himself. McAllister added that he excused himself from one vote.

Current Councilman Art Gage said during the last public candidate forum that decision making was often done at the Sire's Restaurant. Some say it's the Falconer but that's too close to City Hall. Can you picture Councilman A trying to persuade Councilmen B and C to approve a development project while asking one of them to pass them the steak sauce or a cold beer?

It could go like this.

A: Oh, that housing project of 600 mansions would go nicely underneath those hills.

B: Yeah, Oh, where's the A-1? There it is. Do be a pal and pass it my way.

A: Maybe 700 mansions would look nicer. This steak is simply divine. As for A-1 sauce, bite your tongue! What sacrilege to put a sauce for mere commoners on such succulent beef.

B: My apologies. Yes, the more mansions, the merrier.

C: Did that plant just move?

[Three men put on hats and put on Groucho Marx masks and continue eating.]

Now, the Brown Act normally frowns on such gatherings, otherwise known as unpublicized meetings. But meetings between GASS members and their successors, BASS have become part and parcel of the local folklore that they've taken on a life of their own to the point that even councilmen talk about them and the Press Enterprise reporters don't check it out. Apparently, they are aware that this is going on on this front.

Yes it's true, Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle is vacating that post earlier than previously scheduled according to the Press Enterprise.

Doyle is leaving the building because state law requires that he begin his new position with the parole board within 30 days of being appointed.

He'll be raking in two salaries as he leaves a department in turmoil.


He will retain almost 100 percent of his $216,000 annual salary as sheriff in retirement and earn another $112,000 a year in his state post.

County Supervisor John Tavaglione, chairman of the board, said Doyle has not been to work since at least early last week when a divided board appointed former Assistant Sheriff Stanley Sniff to replace him.

Doyle fired Sniff, an at-will employee, late last year without public explanation.

Tavaglione said Sniff would be sworn in next Tuesday during the Board of Supervisors' regular meeting in downtown Riverside. He had been scheduled to take office Oct. 12 or 13.

Doyle had urged the board to appoint Undersheriff Neil Lingle as sheriff. Lingle was formally scheduled to retire today but has been on vacation for several days.

Tavaglione said Assistant Sheriff Pat McManus has been running the Sheriff's Department in the absence of Doyle and other top managers.

Sure enough, after the board of supervisors meeting had been conducted, the new sheriff, Sniff, was already talking to media outlets.

Bye, Bye Bobby is the mantra by the folks over at Inside Riverside who are still celebrating the failure of Doyle's undersheriff(and some say understudy)to be the heir apparent to the sheriff's position. He lost out in a squeaker of a vote done by the county board of supervisors to fired Asst. Sheriff Stanley Sniff.

Here's another letter written about the changing of the guard.

In Fontana, city residents are expressing alarm at a change in policies of how the police department there will respond to alarms, according to the Press Enterprise. The police department is tired of responding to the many falsely triggered alarms so it's planning to verify each and every alarm with the security company before it responds.


But the change doesn't sit well with several residents who addressed the Fontana City Council on Tuesday and at its last meeting, on Sept. 11.

Wayne Ruble, a retired Fontana Unified School District administrator who served on the Fontana school board from 1985 to 2006, said he's been burglarized several times at his home near Alder Middle School.

Ruble said his insurance company told him they would cancel his homeowner's policy if he didn't have alarm protection, Ruble said.

The Inland Empire Alarm Association, a trade association based in Riverside, filed suit Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court, seeking a writ that would prohibit the Fontana Police Department from instituting the "verified response" policy.

The lawsuit also seeks a court determination that the policy is illegal and unenforceable.

Riverside had its own controversy involving home alarms in the mid-1990s when a woman was raped and beaten in her home and waited for police to come and help her for the hour that she was kept captive after triggering an alarm. However, they never came because there was no record that she had paid the $25 permit fee for alarms. That incident and the explanation from the city on the lack of response alarmed many individuals as well.

Operation Raw Deal, an investigation to bust steroid users caught a New York City Police Department transit officer according to the New York Daily News.


Israel Sanchez, 32, accused of selling steroids over the Internet, faces up to 30 years in prison on drug-dealing and money-laundering charges.

The 18-month investigation - which authorities dubbed the biggest steroid crackdown in history - was revealed Monday.

Sanchez joined the NYPD in December 1997 and patrolled the subways as a member of the Bronx Task Force in Transit.

He was suspended on Thursday and resigned from the force later that day, about 24 hours after the indictment was filed in San Diego.

Sanchez "must have breathed in too much steel dust working in transit," a disgusted police source said.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

River City Hall: Politics and processes

"If the public believes they need to modify the authority granted in the charter, they can start a ballot initiative to change the charter."

---San Jose Councilman Pete Constant said to San Jose Mercury News.

Update: An earthquake has struck Riverside with the epicenter being & miles away from El Cerrito. It measured 3.9 and is likely an aftershock to an earlier 4.2 earthquake which struck the area. More information is here.

The Riverside Main Library isn't quite sure how it's going to commemorate Banned Books Week which is an event sponsored annually by the American Library Association, this year. The first floor employees said that there are no events planned for the library, but that it will be the theme at the Chili Cook Off at White Park on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

The second floor of the library which houses the administration offices had no events planned that they were aware of though they did know that Banned Books Week was coming up on their calendar.

One word of note, if the library's staff does set up its exhibit for the chili cook off on Wednesday, it'll be early. The event is actually being held on Thursday, Sept. 27 according to the Parks and Recreation Department.

It's odd to see the library's staff out of sorts on this event because in the past, it had set up an impressive display in the lobby to commemorate it. After all, this is an event that the library has proudly held for the past 20 years.

Speaking of the chili kickoff event, it's held by the city employees for the United Way and if you pay some money, they give you tickets to try out the different chilies made by the different city departments. They offer chilies with beef, chicken and also vegetarian. Some of them in the past have been very tasty. Some have been most unusual culinary experiences which makes it's a fun event as well.

An interesting debate has been going in different places on about who to support, Councilman Dom Betro from Ward One or Art Gage from Ward Three. Come again?

Even though Betro and Gage are running for seats in two different wards, they have been used in arguments defending the endorsement of one over the other pertaining to the issue of eminent domain.

First, here's a litmus test that might prove useful. Ask yourself would you support or endorse a candidate who voted to file a SLAPP law suit against an individual or community activist organization to stop them from circulating a petition in an attempt to get an initiative addressing eminent domain on the ballot.

The vast majority of those who favor and push for a democratic process and public participation in local governments frown on the filing of SLAPP suits by city attorneys on behalf of elected officials. Some of them have already frowned on the actions taken by Riverside's city council against the Riversiders for Property Rights.

Other cities including those in the illustrious Orange County placed similar initiatives on the ballot including Anaheim and Newport Beach.

Whether or not you support eminent domain is not the issue here, the issue here is whether or not you support the use of the city's funds to file SLAPP law suits. Two of the councilmen who voted to file the SLAPP law suit, Frank Schiavone and Ed Adkison, also pushed to get initiatives on the ballot for a future election. Any criticism of their initiatives was met with cries that these individuals were interfering with the will of the people and the right of the voters to decide for themselves on an issue.

Okay, that's fair enough criticism, but obviously this standard doesn't apply to elected officials in the same manner. However, that's FRED and they're kind of a quirky duo anyway and they'll be election news down the line, no doubt.

Getting back to Betro and Gage, who to support in this example of inter-ward politics? Betro's already off of an endorsement list if you frown on elected officials who support SLAPP law suits. But what about Gage, who after all as people rightly said voted against the SLAPP law suit?

Well, look at his record and his prior support of supporting eminent domain against houses in his ward in exchange for office space coveted by a company which is owned by a well-known developer known for padding the campaign accounts of many an elected official. That developer is Doug Jacobs and his relationship to Gage and other elected officials and candidates is outlined in this excellent letter about the Ward Two elections several years ago. Plus, if you check out his past and current campaign donors, development interests abound like they do on other campaigns in this election.

But factor that in with whether or not Gage has truly learned his lesson on eminent domain as many of his supporters have said and the fact that he was mere votes away from having his keister handed to him on a plate by a neophyte, William "Rusty" Bailey who is end0rsed and funded by a majority of those sitting on the dais including the BASS quartet. The lesson learned might sit for several months or maybe he's truly changed his philosophy on eminent domain for private development. The problem is, no one but Gage knows for sure. So it's a gamble.

Put this together and knowing that most likely, Bailey is too new and too green to be able to come up to speed as quickly as he will need to to just keep up with the city council and you have a very difficult decision to make. He's got to prove he's his own man and not a puppet and that his years spent working in the county's economic development agency under then Director Brad Hudson doesn't mean he's still beholden to him because that's one factoid in his biography that his supporters often leave out.

Also, it would help if he and his supporters learned the difference between an air freight service and a freight train corporation and which one DHL falls into because many residents south of Central Avenue including those in his ward are very aware of the presence of DHL.

And the fact is, it may be between two candidates who are not as greatly separated on the issue of eminent domain as is the case in the other election races with the possible exception of the Ward Five race.

This city is in one of the fastest growing areas of the country and it's hard not to feel like a kid inside a candy store or to see dollar signs and looking at stories about other places, there doesn't seem to be that many where politicians and their supporters don't get caught up in all that. This will make it difficult to find good candidates who don't want to jump on this band wagon who can earn enough money to launch an effective campaign. Which is why launching an education program on eminent domain and its problems is very important, particularly for those it and its cousin, "friendly condemnation" might impact at a future date, which is what they did in some of these areas where eminent domain initiatives were passed on the ballot. An educated populace that votes will help dictate what candidates ultimately succeed in getting elected.

The problem with eminent domain is very similar to that impacting the Community Police Review Commission. Both processes have become very politicized and both processes are entirely dependent on who is in power at any given time and what their feelings are about either.

Do you have elected officials who support eminent domain or oppose it in certain circumstances? What do they say publicly? What do they do privately?

Do you have elected officials who support the CPRC? Do they oppose it? Do they support it in idea and oppose it in reality? What do they say publicly? What do they do privately?

For both, you must ask yourself while looking at your watch or your calendar. Is there a majority of individuals who support this? Oppose that?

There are still many people who don't understand what eminent domain is and how it might impact them. There are still people who are unaware that the CPRC exists.

Any progress for either by any progressive regime, if there ever is any, can be lost or regress when the political tides change at City Hall once again. Two steps forward. Two steps backwards. One majority voted in and then voted out to be replaced by an opposing majority. That's why eminent domain is called something else during an election year and commissioners on a board created by ordinance and cemented by charter are moved around like chess pieces and City Manager Brad Hudson can joke to individuals about how he and his staff are busy in his office micromanaging the CPRC and elected officials can point fingers directly or indirectly at their political rivals for events that transpire after they've left a commission.

In both cases, the local government has taken for its use tools used that impact communities without much in terms of community input whether it's by ballot or by expression. And at least in the case of the CPRC, many community members felt that they've lost an important mechanism in the CPRC to a city leery of more law suits filed against it through its police department.

And wrongful death law suit number six is about to be filed in court joining five earlier law suits filed in connection with four other officer-involved deaths since 2004. Some say that they've heard that the shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill may have attracted more interest in it than the earlier shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud and given the concern in connection with that fatal officer-involved shooting, that's saying a lot.

It's too hard to think that far ahead. It's unlikely the Hill shooting will even receive a briefing before the CPRC by its investigator if he's even still on retainer until next year, given the current backlog in officer-involved deaths faced by the CPRC.

A lot of the turmoil of the CPRC that started after the commission ruled against the department's own finding in the Summer Marie Lane shooting continues as the process involving the April 2006 fatal shooting of Lee Deante Brown proceeds well into its second year. The process involving that shooting has virtually ground to a halt at the level where the CPRC was to draft a public report in connection with it. The tremendous turnover both in terms of executive managers and commissioners alike has created a situation where it's not likely that the second to final door will be closed on the Brown shooting any time soon.

Complaints filed with the CPRC have suffered similar difficulties coming to resolutions given that the average investigation time spent by the department involving complaints is currently fluctuating between 200-370 days, depending on what month it is and these averages are three to six times the recommended time periods for the handling of the more serious category of complaints. Discussion about this situation has led to what the department has called reorganization of its internal affairs division to better handle these investigations.

But given the politicizing of the CPRC, it often seems like it's simply more politics.

What's past is prologue. The solution to both issues is the same, because the problem involving both is essentially the same. Processes which shouldn't be politicized have become nothing but, politics.

The Orange County Register also ran this column about the renaming of a park in Manhattan Beach after a Black couple forced to give up their home during the 1920s to eminent domain.


The story tells the tragic tale of government stealing the dreams of a minority couple, but although racial attitudes thankfully have changed in the past 83 years, other views are remarkably the same. In fact, in many ways the situation is worse than in 1924. Cities have more power now than in the past to take property by eminent domain from anybody for any reason. Supervisor Chris Norby talks about how cities engage in ethnic cleansing -- i.e., minority neighborhoods often are viewed as, de facto, blighted and therefore game by city officials to take by eminent domain and given to big developers.

Here's a survival guide for those facing SLAPP law suits.

Although there's been a lot of focus on the city council races, there are other elections taking place and some of them are for positions on various school boards in Riverside County.

There are going to be more candidate forums involving these important races coming up.

The League of Women Voters of Northwest Riverside County, The Group and the American Association of University Women will be conducting the following candidates' forums.

Candidates for the Riverside Unified School District:
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 7:00 PM at Sierra Middle School, 4950 Central Avenue, Riverside

Candidates for the Alvord Unified School District:
Monday, October 1, 2007 at 7:00 PM at the La Sierra Branch Library, 4600 La Sierra Avenue, Riverside

Candidates for the Jurupa Community Services District:
Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 7:00 PM at the Jurupa Park & Rectreation Center, 4810 Pedley Road, Jurupa

Development projects to build housing in different areas of Riverside County are hitting the skids according to the Press Enterprise.


Fred Bell, executive director of the Desert Chapter of the Building Industry Association in the Coachella Valley, said developers are forging ahead with planning and approvals.

"But they are not going to move forward until the market changes," Bell said.

The stalled development at Winchester Hills and nearby properties -- together called Winchester Ranch -- has left the landowners with a huge financial burden. Homeowners and businesses that were expected to occupy the development would have repaid the debt on more than $20 million in bonds for extension of nearby Domenigoni Parkway.

Instead, Rancon and other developers who invested in Winchester Ranch are saddled with paying off that debt until the community becomes a reality. Other improvements have been put on hold.

Rancon President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Comerchero has asked Riverside County officials to indefinitely delay issuing $12 million in bonds that would have paid for new roads, sewers and flood-control improvements in Winchester Ranch.

Comerchero said he's waiting for better times.

More and more housing projects are coming to Riverside. It's not clear whether any of them have had their schedules for construction impacted by the recent downturn in the housing market that impacts the sales of houses particularly new houses nationwide. The impact is being felt keenly in the Inland Empire. The current problems in the housing market mixed with a record number of foreclosures has attracted increased scrutiny from a variety of circles and experts in relation to this crisis.

Still, Riverside builds on.

More revelations coming out of San Jose through the San Jose Mercury News which just published this article about the city council's vote to expand the powers of its independent monitor's office.

However, Auditor Barbara Attard sharply disagreed, saying that she had lost important ground.


The council's 10-1 vote calls for the police auditor to sit in on a police-training review panel any time a suspect dies after being subdued with Taser stun guns, batons or other kinds of force. While the auditor already sits on such a panel for officer-involved shootings, there was no similar process for deaths after other uses of force.

But the council also made clear Tuesday that the auditor's role in reviewing death cases is limited to participating in the training panel to determine if policy changes are needed - not, as she believed, to determine whether officers used force according to department policy.

"To be denied audit authority we had for four years is a big step backward," said independent police auditor Barbara Attard.

The vote also disappointed civil rights groups and Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, the lone dissenter, who in 2003 led protests of an officer's fatal shooting of a Vietnamese mother whose vegetable peeler he mistook for a cleaver.

"I think we're moving backward," Nguyen said. "I'm very disappointed."

Attard is to be lauded for her efforts to push for her office's independent oversight of officer-involved deaths. Still, she is met with resistance in her city's government that does not want this extra scrutiny particularly in the wake of five deaths related to taser discharges by its officers since 2004.

It's the controversy over the use of these nonlethal devices which has increased the questions by the residents of San Jose, along with a study of pretext traffic stops done by officers which showed that Black and Latino motorists are stopped and searched at disproportionate rates. That and another study citing that African-Americans and Latinos were more likely to have force used against them by police officers led to the local NAACP calling for a federal investigation.

But San Jose responded saying it was dealing with its "use of force" issues.

In 2006, the ACLU questioned whether the police department was still committed to its traffic stop data studies.

(excerpt, ACLU from Northern California)

“The SJPD was the first police department in California to implement a data collection program in 1999, and it is a shame that the SJPD may be backing away from its public commitment to this innovative program,” said Sanjeev Bery, San Jose Director for the ACLU-NC. “We are also troubled by the department’s repeated failure to comply with our requests for the most recent traffic stop data.”

An early study conducted in 2001 involving the San Jose Police Department is here.

The Riverside Police Department also initiated similar studies in connection with the stipulated judgement it entered into with the state in 2001. The last report generated by the department was in March 2006. The last report released publicly was in March 2005.

The next study is supposed to be released in March 2008 with figures gathered from traffic stops conducted in 2006 and 2007. An email dated mid-April 2007 from the police department stated that there was the March 2006 report was never released publicly that year because the statistics it included were the same as those collected during earlier years.

According to a CPRA sent to the police department in August 2006, the department has $25,000 in its budget earmarked for this study that it received from the city's general fund.

Columnist Sandy Banks from the Los Angeles Times weighs in on the $1.5 million settlement paid out to a Black fire fighter in that city and the impact it will have on the future of that department.


The antics of some firefighters -- and the department's failure to rein them in -- have cost the city $13.5 million in legal payouts during the last year, including $6.2 million to a black lesbian firefighter whose mouthwash bottle was filled with urine in a station-house prank, more than $2 million to two white male firefighters who were retaliated against for going to her defense, and $320,000 to a female firefighter sexually harassed by her male captain.

The Pierce lawsuit shook loose dozens of photos depicting firefighters -- including Pierce -- engaging in shenanigans, including smearing what looks like mustard on the body of a fireman tied to a chair and pretending to shave another's private parts.

I had hoped a trial would help answer a nagging question:

What's with a bunch of grown men -- highly trained professionals, life-saving heroes who can make more than $100,000 a year -- getting their kicks making prank phone calls; dousing one another with buckets of water; ridiculing blacks, Jews, gays, women . . . and calling it old-fashioned, macho fun?

I was hoping for an answer on Saturday when I met with the city's new fire chief, Doug Barry, over breakfast at his neighborhood Denny's in Lakewood. It turns out Barry doesn't get the humor either.

In his 32 years in the department, Barry never cared much for the raucous firehouse culture. He loved fighting fires, treating the ill and injured, handling dangerous emergency calls, he said. But the "horseplay," as he calls it? "It didn't look like much fun to me at all."

He said he made a habit of walking away rather than participating in even good-natured pranks. It doesn't seem to have hurt his standing with fellow firefighters or slowed his rise through department ranks.

What hurts him now, he said, is the black eye the department has suffered because of the perception that the conduct in some fire stations makes "Animal House" look like a debutante ball. "It's very embarrassing to me," he said. "It speaks poorly of us."

Yes it does, and Banks tries through her interview with the new chief to get her answers and also to find out what the future holds for the beleagured fire department.

The red highlighted section was done by me, because Banks asks a question I have often asked as I'm sure others have as well when these scandals splash the front of news headlines. Why are the telling of racist, sexist, sexual and homophobic jokes considered a bonding experience among both police officers and fire fighters? Why is this considered "macho" behavior and thus acceptable even necessary to be part of a clique?

Why is this behavior when manifested more often rewarded in a variety of ways by supervisors of these individuals while those who report it using processes that are set up to do so the ones who are ostracized and punished both by their peers and by their employers?

Here, there and everywhere. That's what people who protest against racism and sexism in the workplace often say. Look closest to where you are first, then branch outwards rather than just point fingers and say it's happening only in other places.

Local columnist, Dan Bernstein wrote this piece on punctuation in honor of another celebratory seven-day period.

Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle who was to depart for his new job on Oct. 12 has decided to quit today, leaving the board of supervisors wondering how to proceed at this point to bring the sudsy drama of the past month to a conclusion.

Visitors to the site this week include the following.

The City of Riverside

The County of Riverside

Universal Studios Vivendi

Burton Snow Boards

Deutsche Telekom AG

Tennessee Board of Regents

Belo Enterprises

The Desert Sun Palm Springs

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