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, August 08, 2008

Election 2009: A day of reckoning for two of downtown's cultural institutions

The agenda for the Aug. 12 Riverside City Council meeting contains some interesting items perusual. Unlike some of the more recent meetings, this one could prove to be a real endurance test for elected officials because the evening session will probably be more than an hour or two long.

On tap is the recommendation by Mayor Ron Loveridge and Ward One City Councilman Mike Gardner that the city council accept the recommendations submitted by the blue ribbon task force that is addressing the planned expansion and renovation of the museum and library downtown.

In their seven-page report, they advised the city council to thank the panel for its work, approve the report in concept and to schedule two workshops addressing issues arising from the project or projects.

The first one in October would involve a discussion of the space and program needs and would involve input provided by both the Board of Library Trustees and the Metropolitan Museum Board as well as members of the public.

A second workshop would focus on design and funding options provided by City Manager Brad Hudson and his denizens. This workshop would be scheduled for some time in November.

These developments and decisions on a possible city council recommendation come in anticipation of a meeting that could see a packed city council chambers. But it will be very interesting to see how the next stage of this issue plays itself out in the arenas of power at City Hall. Will the city council listen to the voices of the city residents who said they want each institution to have its own renovation, or will they stick to Hudson's original plan? And what will the ultimate response be?

It's important to remain engaged in this project for the long haul. And with four elected officials on the dais up for reelection next year, it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. As we've seen during Elections 2007 and 2008, those who need their constituents' votes tend to be more amiable to both listening to the views expressed by these prospective voters and more interested in bringing these views to reality.

Did utility rates go up or down during Election 2007?

Was DHL threatened by a lawsuit filed by the city during the waning weeks of Election 2008?

Did the prospects for Tequesquite Park remaining a park and not a credit card for Riverside Renaissance expenses improve or lessen during Election 2007?

Was the city manager able to turn three management positions in the police department to "at will or was this one of the very rare examples that the city council countered its city manager?

Election years are like the holiday season of giving and what remains to be seen is what "gifts" will be handed out to prospective voters during Election 2009. Better get your wish list together.

It's likely that all four elected officials will face varying degrees of political opposition in their respective contests next year. Already, prospective candidates are weighing their options in at least all the political races except that of Ward Two where it's not clear who will run against the popular Councilman Andrew Melendrez. However, it's more than likely his seat will attract more than a one-horse race by the filing deadline early next year. But if the anti-incumbent sentiment which accentuated the last civic election continues this time around, Melendrez will probably see less of that than those running in other races.

Ward Six Councilwoman Nancy Hart could see some problems and some competition. Political competition (along with voting turnout) isn't usually as contentious in Ward Six but a couple of residents living there are thinking of giving it a go. And women face a tougher time these days in local elections, interesting given that it was not too long ago that women constituted a majority on the dais, but there's allegedly been comments directed at Hart about it being important to get "the old grandmother" off the dais which is sexist and ageist. But she's playing it smart and beginning her fundraising fairly quickly and already lining up some endorsements according to her recent campaign literature.

Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone falls in the category of potentially having a more difficult time being reelected, given that his showing within his ward for the District One county supervisor race wasn't what it should have been. Several women have been mentioned as prospective candidates including current Community Police Review Commission member Linda Soubirous who's already run for the District One county supervisor seat in 2004.

But if she's playing it smart and those around her are as well, she's a much more viable candidate for 2013, especially given that her financial support may come from the same pockets as Schiavone's most notably from the police labor unions' political action committees which have supported both in the past. It's very likely that if Schiavone had won the supervisor race that Soubirous would have been a prime contender in next year's election and a formidable one given that she outperformed Schiavone in her own run for a county seat. If she decides to do so now, she'll have to burn Schiavone to do so, given that he played a primary role in her appointment as his ward's representative on the CPRC last year.

That's not likely at this point but there's still a long ways to go. But more likely, she'll continue her stint on the CPRC and then do what's being and will be done more frequently which is use it as a stepping stone for elected office because it's obvious from her track record that she wants to serve in public office. Given that she actually thought about running for two elective positions in the past year or so, it's likely that politics in Riverside hasn't seen the last of her.

Several other prospective candidates are still pondering their options for Ward Four but are keeping it quiet for now.

It should be an interesting road towards the extended season of Election 2009 (which could surpass the drama and excitement of its predecessor) and the discussion, debate and decision making on the renovations of the library and museum are one brick on that path.

Also on the agenda is an MOU between the city council and both of the city's school districts involving the assignment of school resource officers from the police department. The districts will bear 45% of the costs and the city, the remainder.

The controversial bar fight at Events Bar Sports Grill which sits adjacent to one of the Riverside Police Department's field operations stations went to trial and three out of four of the individuals charged were convicted and sentenced including two American Samoan men who were targeted by other individuals in the bar because of their race. The fight cost one man his eye and left the other permanently disabled.

This bar fight first came to light after it was revealed that some of the early witnesses were off-duty police officers who when it happened left the building hopefully to get help. That aspect of the incident was not mentioned in this press release about the department's response.

The bar, the city and the police department were sued by the individuals injured in the fight and this year, the city counter sued. It's all being battled over in Riverside County Superior Court at this point.

Hemet's mayor will be stepping down after his term is up. At least one of his colleagues on the dais was not too happy about his decision.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I understand it's a tough time right now, but I'm heartbroken he's not running again," Lowe said. "He's been a wonderful asset to this community and afforded leadership of historical value that can't be matched."

But the city election races are shaping up well with lots of happy candidates.

In the wake of a recent taser death in Hemet, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said there was no connection to the device. The department has purchased more tasers to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings.

Ground is being broken for Banning's new police station.

About 22 cases were dismissed last month in Riverside County Superior Court, which was a record of sorts.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

It was the most criminal-case dismissals in that category for a single month since court officials started keeping records of them in 2007.

Eight of the dismissed cases were felonies that were immediately refiled by the district attorney's office. Misdemeanor cases cannot be refiled unless the dismissal is reversed on appeal.

At least 53 criminal cases have been dismissed since January 2007 because of time limits, according to a list released by the courts.

There may have been more.

The district attorney's office says its own records show 58 such dismissals for 2007 and 2008, and that prosecutors refiled almost all of the felony cases. The DA's office has not yet talked to the court to reconcile the discrepancy

Last month's dismissals came after the June departure of a special six-member temporary judicial strike force.

Five open judgeships also went unfilled for most of the month, and funding for seven new county judges was delayed for a year because of the state's fiscal crisis.

Some July days had 12 to 15 judicial benches empty throughout the county, said Riverside County Presiding Judge Richard Fields.

Over 3,000 people attended the funeral of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Juan Abel Escalante who was killed outside his parents' home in a drive by shooting.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The 27-year-old father of three was a local success story who emerged from a neighborhood plagued by gang violence, friends and neighbors said. They described him as an outgoing child from a close-knit Catholic family who, from a young age, strove to improve his community.

"When it comes to the young people from Abel's part of town, we tend to only hear about the kids sucked into lives of violence and crime," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "Abel was a man who rejected the conventional wisdom and defied the odds. He turned away from the destructive forces entrenched in his community and refused to give in to the elements of hate and division."

Escalante's popularity was evident on the day of his burial.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, childhood friends and even the waitresses who had served him and his family at one of his favorite restaurants in Montebello attended the funeral Mass, which was closed to reporters at the request of the family.

The girlfriend of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona doesn't want the jury at her trial on corruption charges to know about that relationship.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

A defense lawyer for Debra Victoria Hoffman, who was charged along with Carona and his wife in a wide-ranging indictment last fall, has asked that the description of Hoffman as Carona's "longtime mistress" be struck from the indictment, which may be read to the jury at the start of the trial.

The defense called the description "unnecessary, gratuitous, inflammatory and prejudicial."

The case has already produced sensitive allegations of extracurricular relationships involving the former sheriff, who resigned earlier this year to fight the charges against him.

Last month, Hoffman's lawyer, Deputy Federal Public Defender Sylvia Torres-Guillen, raised a claim in open court -- which other defense and prosecution lawyers say is false -- that Carona had a romantic relationship with a former top-ranking federal prosecutor in the region.

In Eugene, Oregon, the police chief and the police auditor go head to head.

More information on the civilian review process in Columbia, Missouri.

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