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

Friday, July 11, 2008

Election 2009: Is "Plurality" Democracy?

There's some interesting postings on plurality vs runoff elections and what's best for Riverside at Inland Empire Craigslist's political section but unfortunately, any discussion of that issue or any link to discussion of that issue is being removed by an individual or individuals who don't want people to read about it. I hope that those who are engaging in this behavior are not the same individuals who claim to be supportive of the democratic process and letting the people decide.

This came about during a Governmental Affairs Committee this week when the city council members serving on it talked a lot about changing to a plurality process and leaving it up to the voters. But if they had respected the voters, they wouldn't have skewed their statistical gathering as much as they did when presenting their report in committee and they wouldn't be trying to rush it to the ballot in order to possibly change the election process by next year.

This posting is interesting and you should check it out before it vanishes. It provided further fodder against the argument that runoff elections produce the same outcomes as the preliminary rounds do. As I stated earlier, it would be interesting to take the figure back to the mid-1960s that claimed that two-thirds of all city office elections produced identical results in both phases of the process and compare it with the statistics taken from more recent elections conducted during the past 10 years. As stated by this individual at Craigslist, Andrew Melendrez who represents the second ward also benefited from a runoff election (as has Steve Adams from the seventh ward) beating out Ruben Rasso who had won the first round in 2005. He's not the only one whose win was decided by runoff.

And look at these results.

They are from the Nov. 3, 2003 election, which at the time served as the preliminary round in three of the four wards up for grabs. Look carefully at the final results for Wards One, Three and Seven. If it weren't for the runoff elections, Paul Fick, Mike Goldware and Terry Frizzel would be on the city council instead of Betro, Gage and Adams. In two of the three elections, there was a tiny vote spread between the candidates. And in fact in Adams case, he finished second in the 2003 preliminary round and made it into the runoff with a scant 8 votes over Mary Lou Morales. That year was unique in that the only incumbent who ran for election, Ed Adkison, faced only one other candidate and his election was decided that November.

To pass the bar set for avoiding the runoff, the candidate who's in the lead has to get at least 50% of the votes. At that point, they would achieve the majority of the votes in that election and have earned the win. But anything less than that, the election should go to a runoff. It plays enough of a role in Riverside politics that any attempt to eliminate it should be closely scrutinized by the voting electorate.

So for people to say that runoffs are insignificant for determining the composition of the Riverside City Council, it would only show that they haven't been around during the past decade when there's been a lot of flip flopping. But then what else are you going to say when you're trying to minimalize the impact of the runoff election system to facilitate pushing the argument of getting rid of it? And it was interesting to watch just how badly some of the city councilmen on the committee including one who is probably running for reelection next year want to eliminate it.

So much so, that's probably why the city council members on the committee (who direct the city clerk and city attorney on their research) chose such a large allotment of years from which to pick their sample going back into the 1960s instead of focusing on more recent trends. Just like the members of the body directed the city clerk to look solely at cities in Riverside County including those much smaller than Riverside rather than look at similar sized cities or large ones (which after all, Riverside aspires to be) in Los Angeles or Orange County.

As far as the current situation being a hardship on grass-roots candidates as opposed to well monied ones, that's harder to gauge in total because not all grass-roots candidates start off on the same level. Most grass-roots candidates struggle because for one thing, almost all of them are challengers. Even those who were initially voted in through grass-roots campaigns find high level fund raising a lot more doable the next time around. The current system isn't a panacea for grass-roots candidates but by itself it probably doesn't hurt them as much as other factors involved with that form of campaigning do.

For some grass-roots candidates like Dom Betro in 2003 and Gardner and Frizzel in 2007, the runoff system doesn't work out against them. In fact, it helps them whether it's the system used last year or the system that last year's system replaced. It's like the longer the election goes on, the better they do. Gardner and Betro are excellent examples of that, having won their runoffs after losing the preliminaries. But that's the case with Frizzel as well, given how much she narrowed the margin between her and Adams to scarcely more than a dozen votes. Gardner was outspent by Betro and Frizzel was even more outspent by Adams.

It's because the city council members who are promoting the latest change of this process don't want individuals to know the truth behind the statistics unless they can manipulate them in the guise of a public report. They want the voters to believe that ordinary every day people rather than those who raise big campaign coffers won't win elections if they have to face a runoff. Why? Because some of the more monied candidates next year don't want a repeat of Betro/Gardner. They don't want the grass-roots candidates to have a chance.

More to come on this story beginning at the city council meeting to be held during the evening of July 22 when what was passed by Governmental Affairs will be on the city council agenda. The City Council has to decide on the recommendations on that day to meet an early August deadline with the Voters' Registrars office. And as we all can guess if we don't know, this is one push for change that can't of course wait until next year.

Testimony continues in military court surrounding the killing of four Iraqi detainees in Falluja in 2004. This proceeding focuses on Ryan Weemer, who was the one who originally talked about the killings while taking a polygraph examination for a job in the Secret Service.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

Capt. Jonathan Vaughn told a military investigating officer in telephonic testimony that Weemer and his comrades were told before the Fallujah invasion that they were to transfer anyone in custody through an established chain to a base set up at a train station outside the city.

"This was not a free-fire zone," Vaughn testified. "We articulated the process by which the captured detainee was to be moved back from the firefight."

The testimony was given on the second day of an Article 32 hearing, after which the investigating officer, Maj. Glen Hines, will recommend either trial or dismissal to a commanding general.

Weemer is caught on tape talking about what happened in 2004


In a recording of the 2006 Secret Service interview played in court Thursday, the Marine said his squad argued over what to do with their prisoners after a platoon leader asked by radio whether the men were dead.

"We didn't take any prisoners. ... They didn't have weapons. They were just sitting there," Weemer said on tape. "We argued about it, but we had to move, we had to get out, our unit's moving down the street. I did one guy and then ... I just left, went out to my team."

A Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent testified Thursday that Weemer seemed to regret the episode when they spoke in November 2006.

"Sgt. Weemer spoke at length about fog of war," testified investigator Mark Fox. "About how he felt he had blood on his hands."

Hackett spent several hours fiercely cross-examining Fox, who acknowledged no physical evidence of any shooting was found when investigators returned to what is believed to be the same house in Fallujah more than two years later. The owner of the house told agents he did not find blood, bodies or bullet casings when he returned home months after the battle.

Hackett, who referred to the captives as insurgents, also asked Fox why he hadn't pursued the possibility that Weemer shot in self-defense after another member of the squad told agents that when he asked Weemer why he shot one of the Iraqis in the face, the Marine replied, "He went for the gun."

Fox said Weemer himself never indicated in interviews he felt threatened.

Another Marine in the fire team told investigators that Weemer initially blocked his squad leader, Jose Nazario Jr., from shooting

Jermaine Nelson, another Marine charged in the killings, had agreed to work as a confidential informant and taped phone calls with Nazario.

Nazario worked as a Riverside Police Department officer and was still serving his probation when he was fired from the department last year after his arrest. Nazario's attorney said that his client was unsuccessfully pushed to testify during Weemer's hearing.

More background on Ryan Weemer.

Jose Nazario

Bill Postmus, the San Bernardino County assessor speaks out in the wake of the scandal that has shook his office.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I am trying to do what I would do for any other friend and give him a helping hand and mental encouragement," Postmus said. "I don't abandon my friends just because they are going through a tough time."

But Postmus said he could not discuss the specific accusations against Aleman.

"I heard rumors," he said of the possible criminal wrongdoing. "I can't get into the investigation."

He said investigators interviewed him, and he is fully cooperating with authorities on the case involving Aleman.

Should the Soboba reservation expand its boundaries? That's the question in this survey. The majority of people in this poll oppose the demolition of the downtown library.

A retired San Jose Police Department sergeant was caught padding his paycheck.

Also in San Jose, a criminal investigation has been launched into the actions of officers assigned to investigate the drunk driving crash of an off-duty officer.

Ex-Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona and his lawyers are trying to delay his federal corruption trial. Will there be one?

The New Orleans City Council is granting powers to its independent monitor.

(excerpt, The Times Picayune)

Police representatives and citizen advocates said they will get a new agency that could make major strides in building public confidence in the New Orleans Police Department.

"I changed my attitude on this bill after the amendments because it can work for police officers, too," said Lt. Henry W. Dean, president of the Fraternal Order of Police local. "This gave us lemons, and we tried to make lemonade out of it."

Michael Cowan of Loyola University told the City Council that the independent monitor is critical to improving race relations. High-profile police brutality cases and killings of unarmed black suspects have exacerbated already poor relations between the NOPD and black New Orleanians. A few dozen mostly black residents in orange Safe Streets Strong Communities t-shirts applauded when the ordinance was approved.

Lt. Simon Hargrove, president of the local Black Organization of Police, said recent changes in the bill's language assured his members that the monitor would not be adversarial toward officers.

"The idea before was, 'Now we have someone policing the police,'" Hargrove said. "I think that's the wrong mindset. The officer and the community need to have confidence in the process."
Norris Henderson, co-director of Safe Streets Strong Communities, said the changes didn't water down the monitor's potential impact.

"The biggest thing is the protocols are in place. This is OK; we can live with it. It's not like we gave away the house to save the kitchen," Henderson said.

Visitors include the following.

City of Riverside

Office of the State Treasurer Bill Lockyer

United States Department of Justice

University of California, Riverside

Belo Enterprises

Loma Linda University Medical Center


Koo Koo Roo Chicken

Claremont Colleges


Graybar Electric Company

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