River City Hall: Who to contact and how
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): email@example.com
Andrew Melendrez(Ward Two): firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Gage(Ward Three): email@example.com
Frank Schiavone(Ward Four): firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Adkison(Ward Five): email@example.com
Nancy Hart(Ward Six): firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Adams(Ward Seven): email@example.com
Mayor Ron Loveridge has his own space. His contact information is the following.
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.