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

Monday, October 20, 2008

"As the Girders Rise", package it up and sell it.

Riverside City Councilman Frank Schiavone is trying to get the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to halt its approval of the purchase of the Regency Tower building still under construction until one small detail is worked out for the city's Redevelopment Agency of which Schiavone is a member. The direction taken by this commercial development project is still twisting and turning even as the construction continues on the ten-story building at a quick pace. It's been a soap opera from its beginning to where it stands now. Just call it, As the Girders Rise and shop it around to a local network.

At a recent Development Committee meeting, at least one councilman lamented on the fate of the Regency Tower even gazing out through the haze lingering in the skies outside the seventh floor of City Hall at the majesty of steel and glass which would soon become part of the view. But it would be a bittersweet reminder of lost opportunities, not of renaissance. At the time the wistfulness hit hardest, the committee was going to recommend the sales of more property to developers who would build similar buildings, in one case leaving the chair of the Metropolitan Museum Board in tears to suddenly learn that the dream spot for the new museum expansion was alas, not to be.

Museum supporters still advocated for that plot of land at the public workshop the city council and mayor held on the proposed expansion and renovation of the downtown library and museum. At one point in that discussion, one city councilman discovered two words in his vocabulary after two years of spending up to $2 billion on capital projects in the face of a formidable recession: financial meltdown. The city was never nearing its financial limits when it was handing off properties, at least once at a reduced price from what it had just purchased it for to developers. But say the words, "library", "museum" suddenly, uh-oh, there's a money crunch. Honeymoon's over.

But if it's news to the city council, it's not news to people in a city where directives may have been issued to paint detectives' cars more like police cars to give the illusion that there are more officers on the streets than there were in the 1980s. Because the only reason to do that would be to create illusion and with the tower, what was being sold was apparently also an illusion.

The saga of the Regency Tower has some selling points which are crucial to any serial drama. Angst, power struggles, meetings, money, more money, developers, competing interests and yes, more money.

At first, it seemed that this building would be the darling of the downtown, in terms of bringing in jobs and revenue through its use for and by the private sector which may or may not even want it. People sell to public entities when they don't think they can make more money selling space to the private sector. Still, the plan was to sell office space to private companies perhaps law firms.

But that's not how things turned out this time given that there was another public entity downtown hungry for space to expand its own operations. In fact, the building is currently scheduled to switch hands from a development firm to a public agency, with that action being possibly finalized through a vote taken this Tuesday at the Riverside County Administrative headquarters. With the economic picture looking bleak, maybe this developer saw this as his best option for a return on his investment.

The keys to the building are now projected to be handed off eventually to Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco who's getting new digs at half the price he had wanted.

Schiavone wants the $4 million that he said was to be given to the Redevelopment Agency of Riverside (also known as the city council) but interim Asst. City Manager Belinda Graham essentially said, subsidy, what subsidy?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"This stinks," he said of the situation.

Graham said the spaces would be used more as downtown becomes more vibrant.

The city Redevelopment Agency encouraged construction of Regency Tower to bring new people and businesses to Riverside and boost the city's tax revenues.

If Silagi sells the building to Riverside County, there is no benefit to the city because new businesses and hundreds of new workers will not be coming to Riverside, Schiavone said, and what he considers the $4 million subsidy would be wasted.

The agreement between the city Redevelopment Agency and Silagi for construction of the building does not have a clause that calls for Silagi to return the money in the event he sells the building to a public agency rather than keeping it in the private sector.

"I don't care whether it's in writing or not," Schiavone said. "Make us whole. Give us back that incentive that wasn't meant to be used like this."

But how do the county supervisors feel about the proposed delay in the vote? The opinions of two of them were mixed.


The two supervisors who represent portions of Riverside city, John Tavaglione and Bob Buster, split on whether to delay the board's vote.

Buster said he opposed postponing the vote, especially over a mistake he said the city made in its dealings with Silagi.

Tavaglione said he would be fine with a 30-day postponement as long as it didn't jeopardize the county's deal with Silagi, delay the project or affect the building's price. He will bring up Schiavone's request at today's board meeting, he said.

Silagi, the developer, said early Monday afternoon that he had not spoken to anyone from the city.

"If somebody's ready to talk to me, they can always reach me," he said.

Buster raises a good point, as to whether or not the county should potentially jeopardize its purchase of the tower at a price it negotiated to bail the Riverside Redevelopment Agency out of a mistake its negotiator likely made when it came to these parking structures. What's interesting about this affair is that even a city employee is contradicting what one elected official has said about the subsidy. And why is that? Why does what Schiavone say differ from what Graham says? And how will that work out for Graham, whose direct boss is City Manager Brad Hudson. It's doubtful that her opinion is contradictory to his own. He doesn't appear to run his department that way, being much more organized and streamlined in his approach to civic matters especially those pertaining to development and redevelopment.


And what's this about not caring what's actually in writing? Admittedly, in recent weeks that's sounds more than a bit familiar through actions taken if not exactly words spoken.

It's funny because the same mentality towards what's in writing seems to be the philosophy of choice by the city including Schiavone as it pertains to the Police Review Commission. What's in writing and what's been approved by 60% of the voters didn't matter in that instance, so it's not surprising that whether or not the Redevelopment Agency actually possesses as part of its contract a clause involving these parking place fees doesn't matter either.

Because the charter of the PRC was certainly not meant to be used the way it's been used by the city council and its direct employees. What's good for the city council (minus one member)'s view of the PRC might be just as good for the developer who created this building and his buyer, Riverside County. You know, goose, gander that sort of thing.

But this saga including its latest chapter are far from over. More thrilling developments (pun, intended) to come!

The San Jacinto Police Department chief is taking off and giving his job to a replacement from Temecula.

Fontana's having a city council election this year and it's heating up.

There's a lot of tough issues they will be facing.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

One of the top issues raised by candidates is the wave of housing foreclosures that has hit Fontana particularly hard. Residents complain about empty houses where the lawns go untended in once-thriving subdivisions.

Jason Paul Kilian, 40, a pastor at First Lutheran Church in Fontana, said the housing crisis should be the city's No. 1 priority. The council should do all it can to help people stay in their homes, attract buyers to empty houses and maintain housing values.

"We're in a bit of a crisis here and so everything else will pale in comparison," Kilian said.

Santiago and Purther also say the council has not taken enough leadership on the foreclosure crisis.

But Rutherford said that's not the case. The city has been working with banks to make sure foreclosed homes are properly maintained and has programs encouraging first-time homebuyers, she said.

Even more contentious is the once harmonious city council of Moreno Valley, as fireworks have erupted during its election season.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

What is the relationship between Iddo Benzeevi and the council?" West said at a recent council meeting. "The citizens have a right to know."

Batey, who was sitting right next to West when the councilman made his allegation, said West showed so little respect that he didn't have the courtesy to call to find out the facts.

Also, he said, he didn't even give Flickinger, who was absent from the meeting, a chance to defend herself. West's remarks were "completely and totally out of line," the mayor said.

"If you pay for the trip, it doesn't have to be reported," Batey said.

The heated exchange, which continued in private after the meeting ended, was a sharp contrast to the way the council has operated for most of the past 12 years. The council members have generally agreed with each other on most major issues and kept any policy disagreements from becoming personal.

Prior to the 1996 election, council members publicly clashed during meetings and at one point even considered censuring one of its own members. The council went through a change when three incumbents decided not to run for re-election that year, paving the way for the election of Batey, West and White.

After a rocky start, the newly formed council began to work cooperatively, Flickinger recalled.

"I think we've done a pretty good job until the last year," she said by phone.

Not exactly surprising news, but a study of the Los Angeles Police Department determined that Black and Latino motorists were pulled over at higher rates than White motorists. This is even though White motorists are found with contraband at higher rates than motorists of other races.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

"The results of this study raise grave concerns that African-Americans and Hispanics are over-stopped, over-frisked, over-searched, and over-arrested," wrote report author Ian Ayres, a Yale Law School economist and professor.

Ayres' report, published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, analyzed the Los Angeles Police Department's own numbers for pedestrian and motor vehicle stops in the year July 2003 to June 2004.

Even after researchers controlled for demographics and neighborhood crime rates, they found significantly higher stop rates for black and Latino residents. For every 10,000 residents, blacks were nearly three times more likely to be stopped than white and other "non-minority" residents, facing 3,400 more stops. Hispanics were stopped on 350 more occasions.

"These stark statistics ... give a numeric lens for the lived experience of 'driving while black' or 'driving while Hispanic,'" Ayres wrote.

The Riverside Police Department set aside money in its budget as of autumn 2005 to the tune of about $25,000 from the city's general fund but the department has yet to release its latest traffic stop study report to the public three years later. The last mention of it was the announcement at a community forum at California Baptist University that a professor at that institution would be providing the analysis over the two year period that would be covered by the study.

The Los Angeles Police Department also missed its chance to test over 200 rape kits.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The 200 cases were part of an overall backlog of 7,000 sexual assault test kits that have not been examined by the LAPD. Each kit contains a potential genetic road map to the perpetrator of a crime.

"Sometimes I find problems as city controller that simply defy explanation," said City Controller Laura Chick at a news conference at which she unveiled her findings. "It is beyond disturbing that the thousands of victims who have undergone the invasive ordeal of [submitting to] these tests do not even know that their evidence is still untested."

The LAPD has been repeatedly criticized for its huge backlog of untested DNA evidence, but officials have said that they lacked the money to move faster on the cases.

Chick's report, however, found that the logjam existed even though the department had received nearly $4 million in grants in recent years to address the problem.

Chief William Bratton also said the department needs help with its fingerprint audit.

A county sheriff in Texas has been indicted for drug smuggling. One of several who have faced similar charges in the southern part of the state during the past decade.

(excerpt, USA Today)

Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra was named in a 19-count indictment along with more than a dozen other people. The south Texas sheriff is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana; accessory after the fact, for an alleged suggestion he made to a co-defendant to use false documents to avoid apprehension; and facilitating the drug trafficking conspiracy through use of a telephone.

The first count alone carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life as well as a $4 million fine.

Guerra was added to the indictment after the FBI searched his Rio Grande City offices in early September.

The sheriff who preceded Guerra had also been prosecuted for a crime. In that case, for bribery and plead guilty.

In Boston, officers who are taking promotional exams there will be searched at the door.

(excerpt, Boston Herald)

About 700 Boston police officers will be screened with a security wand for electronic devices and told to empty their pockets and bags when they take a promotion exam today at Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

The new security measures are being taken nine months after cheating allegations arose about the Boston firefighter promotion exam, leading state civil service officials to scrap the results. An inquiry revealed that numerous firefighters talked during the test, brought cellphones into the testing room, and took unusually frequent trips to the men's room.

The investigation was prompted by an anonymous tipster who alleged that a group of firefighters went into the bathroom during the November 2007 exam and used their cellphones to text answers to colleagues taking the exam.

"In the past year, we have reviewed all of our security procedures and updated them," said Paul Dietl, head of the state's Human Resources Division, which administers civil service exams for police and fire departments across the state.

In Chicago, the morale of officers has deteriorated due to friction between the officers and their current police chief.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

"People are doing just what they need to get through" their shifts, said Lt. Robert Weisskopf, president of the Chicago police lieutenants union, "and not any extra."

In addition to making fewer arrests, police are seizing fewer guns and frisking gang members less often than they did before Superintendent Jody Weis was brought in to clean up a department embarrassed by a string of brutality cases, according to interviews, statistics provided by police and an internal document obtained by The Associated Press.

Department spokeswoman Monique Bond disputed the notion of any deliberate slowdown by police, saying, "There is nothing that we have to prove or support a theory like that."

The world's largest jumbo jet landed at Los Angeles International Airport from Melbourne, Australia.

Litigation Corner:

There's been a flurry of recent litigation activity against the city, including lawsuits filed by current and former employees who worked for code enforcement and current employees of the Riverside Police Department. Here's the citation for a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last February that wasn't against the city that was filed earlier this year.

Plaintiff: Riverside Police Officers' Association
Defendant: California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and Does
Intervenor: Los Angeles Times Communications LLC

Case Number: 2:2008cv01346
Filed: February 27, 2008

Court: California Central District Court
Office: Western Division - Los Angeles Office [ Court Info ]
County: Riverside
Presiding Judge: Margaret M. Morrow
Referring Judge: Frederick F. Mumm

Nature of Suit: Civil Rights - Employment
Cause: 42:1983 Civil Rights Act
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Jury Demanded By: None

Is it related to this case and this one? The RPOA also has some other lawsuits it's preparing for filing soon.

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