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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Election 2009: "Working collectively for change" in Ward Four


Riverside continues first round of employee layoffs. This week, the city of Riverside laid off more employees including those working in positions in the Police Department and the Mayor's Office. And some say, the layoffs have just begun.

Why is Riverside underscoring the number of layoffs while cities like Hemet and Corona are telling their residents the truth?

More information to come...

"I'm a single person. I can't do anything without citizens behind me working collectively to make a change."

----Paul Davis, Ward Four resident who plans to run for that seat during Election 2009

In Riverside, a new policy was put into place that businesses that have too many calls for police services will be charged for them.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Councilman Frank Schiavone, who recommended the ordinance, said businesses that won't invest in security to prevent such incidents should no longer be able to rely on free police help when they occur, especially at a time of declining government revenues.

"It just puts a tremendous strain on public resources," Schiavone said.

A business will have to pay the costs when three or more police officers and a supervisor respond to a single emergency, or to a second emergency within a 30-day period, or to a third emergency within a 90-day period.

The ordinance does not apply when the business owners or tenants are victims of a crime.

The measure is meant mainly to push businesses to take measures to prevent situations that require police assistance, city officials said.

Police Chief Russ Leach said the Police Department is trying to work with bars and nightclubs to make them understand the importance of having enough properly trained security guards or bouncers.

Certain types of entertainment at the venues, such as hip-hop music groups, tend to need extra security, Leach said.

The Police Department also is trying to discourage bartenders from serving alcohol to customers who have already had a lot to drink, he said.

"Free police help".

I guess that's one way of putting a job performed by employees who work for the city. But police assistance and services aren't exactly free and in this case, it's not clear where the reimbursement for services performed would even be spent. Perhaps to reimburse the costs of collecting the money from these businesses that are being charged? It's more likely to be spent on that than say, towards unfreezing an officer position or being able to promote a supervisor. It's much more likely to be spent on attorneys trying to collect the money, possibly to the point where this "collection" or ouster of the offensive establishment for failure to pay costs more than the original price for these police services. Then the city may have to contract out to a company to do "collections" because during these times of "declining governmental revenue" it's probably would be contracted out to save money.

Once who will engage in collections is ironed out, there's still the issue that the city is talking about going from "free police help" to what, "paid police help"? Talk about a potentially slippery slope. Especially when you consider the history of policing in this country and particularly the relationship between policing and governmental entities. "Paid police help" (which is the opposite of course of "free police help") takes on a whole new meaning then.

Besides if half the stories floating around about cutting over-time are true, there might already be detectives not being paid overtime to handle cases outside of the homicide division. Hopefully, of course this isn't the case but with this city even in times when its finances are flush, you can never really be all that sure. And this is a city where even those in management go to meetings and provide statistics but when asked if there are records available to show them, they respond, no there are not but there are documents for my own records.

If the city council wants to support public safety and the police department, perhaps rather than throwing around terms like "free police services", they can address some of these other issues rather than ignoring them. Like concerns about staffing levels raised by a consultant it hired to audit the department for two years which were blown off first by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis through statements he made and then later apparently at least in public forums by the majority of the city council. Like concerns raised by a lot of people about taking longer for police officers to arrive.

Like the police officer who apologized to a security guard at one of the city's buildings just last week that the police couldn't respond to his call for help after a man threatened to beat him up with a chiar because it was probably a busy night with too many calls to repond to so some received no response. Getting "reimbursed" if that happens by establishments with a lot of calls for service isn't going to impact that issue. It's called a band-aid especially since more time and energy (and money) will be spent collecting all this money. And it also makes you wonder if their shift staffing levels are really what they used to be to talk about how "declining government revenues" are necessitating having to turn police officers into rent-a-cops.

Which is interesting because why is there this talk of charging out for police services due to "declining governmental revenue" when just several months ago DeSantis made a statement that the department was "fully staffed" to counter a consultant's audit finding and recommendations on addressing staffing issues. And not one single elected official challenged DeSantis' assertion that day or for all the public knows, since then.

I am on different emailing lists that provide the links for many of the articles posted on this site and more than a few have detailed serious problems stemming from the concept of "paid police help" vs "free police help" and not always with the police departments, but with the governmental agencies who fund and oversee them. Hopefully, some serious thought about that went into this decision making in this situation. I guess we all shall see how it turns out.

The intentions may be very benign and perhaps beneficial but in practice, what will actually happen? And how is it determined and based on what guidelines on whether the business is the problem or the "victim"? The line between the two may be blurred. Will it impact how often businesses may call the police for response to a problem, say a bar fight which is what many of the problems have been throughout time. Is the establishment owner viewed as the "victim" in these cases or a "perpetrator"? The city by approving this ordinance obviously has picked the latter.

This ordinance sounds like an attempt to deal with a frustrating situation but seems reminiscent of the days when the city tried to crack down on false burglar alarms by refusing to respond to alarms that went off from subscribers who hadn't paid city permit fees. One day, a woman was beaten, raped and tied up in her own garage and set off her alarm. The police were never dispatched because of a $25 alarm permit fee that wasn't paid.

Sometimes the best intentions need some real thinking before being implemented because what often happens is that they wind up getting repealed or undone by the same governmental bodies.

And then came news that the city's tax revenue base will be about $12 million less than anticipated. At least one more layoff in the fire department has been announced by City Hall to join the other six people who've been fired so far. It's likely more lie ahead with some departments like Park and Recreation more likely being vulnerable than others.

Elected officials did put a positive spin on the situation. They still collect their salaries after all, as do their $40,000/year legislative aides.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

While declining revenues are not good news, Councilman Frank Schiavone said he was glad the council has been conservative in its spending over the years and in preserving a healthy reserve.

"We've done extremely well, from a management level, when you look at what other jurisdictions are going through," he said, referring to cities with large numbers of layoffs.

Schiavone, Sundeen and Councilman Chris Mac Arthur, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, said the great unknown is whether the state will take money away from cities to help plug its own shortfall, estimated at more than $11 billion for this fiscal year and $28 billion by 2010.

Mac Arthur said the city needs to remain cautious about its spending but has the reserve to tap if needed.

"I think the reason we have a rainy-day fund is for times like this," he said.

Ward Four City Council candidate, Paul Davis speaks out on his upcoming political campaign next year against incumbent, Frank Schiavone.


"They're going to be my biggest campaigners," Davis said of his family. "We've always tried to educate the kids about the political process. It helps them in their growth and education. It's one thing to hear the word 'Congressman', it's another to see government in action."

And the Davis family is already hot on the campaign trail.

Tyler joined Dad yesterday in walking Ward 4 -- the city's largest -- shaking hands and making contact with constituents while Davis' wife, May, prints up campaign posters and flyers. May Davis handles all print advertisement for her company's two stores -- one in Riverside and the other in Moreno Valley -- and her work would put any high dollar ad firm to the test, Paul said.

All in all, he's in good hands.

And his grassroots message of responsive government is sinking in, he said.

"This campaign's not about one specific thing," Davis said. "It's about the need for fiscal responsibility and ethics in government. There's a lack of transparency and a lack of involvement. The incumbent is not involved on a day to day basis in what goes on in Ward 4 unless it has to do with a big campaign donor."

It's true that City Hall and many of its departments are not as transparent as they used to be. Attempts to get a copy of the preliminary operational line-item budget for the Community Police Review Commission for the current fiscal year from the city manager's office which is the holder of the purse strings for the city since the consolidation of that division with Finance. However, City Manager Brad Hudson and his stalwart assistant, Tom DeSantis were unable to respond to this request and their unofficial public information officer, City Attorney Gregory Priamos responded in their stead, presenting simply a link to the online annual budgets including this years. The official reason why he responded instead of the Hudson/DeSantis duo, was because all information requests now apparently go directly through the city's "legal department".

Alas, Priamos clearly hadn't read the document in question closely and didn't read it to make sure it actually contained the information requested under state law because there was no line item budget provided in it for the CPRC. In fact, there wasn't any such thing for any division in the city manager's office. Further requests for this information led to an indirect respond that the information had to be provided by Administrative Analyst (and one-time interim executive manager of the CPRC) Mario Lara. Lara apparently provided a date in which this information would be publicly available online at the city's Web site which was six weeks in the future.

Imagine a city with a city attorney who claims to be so well versed in the CPRA that it's actually viewed as acceptable to have to over a month for information about the city's preliminary budget. Fortunately, a copy of that line item budget existed in the CPRC office which had permission to hand it out and Executive Manager Kevin Rogan made it available before the rough date given by Lara.

And that's just trying to get information about how the city is spending people's tax dollars. It's so ridiculous that it had to take so much effort to receive information about how the city's spending its money that it gets from city residents through sales and property taxes. That information should be handed out freely, not substituted with some convoluted maze that if you happen to find the public information, it's through sheer luck.

Davis is also correct that city council meetings have been less accessible in terms of what the city residents can choose to discuss, since the formerly powerful BASS quartet led the vote to ban city residents from pulling items from the consent calendar in July 2005. His campaign appears to be grass-roots rather than big bucks donors but it's already picking up some steam in Ward Four even though several months remain before the official filing date.

The fourth ward is the city's largest and will remain so at least until the city's ward lines are redrawn after the national census in 2010. In it, are lots of people frustrated with how the city's handled such debacles as DHL-Gate which will be ending at the end of January with DHL Express moving its planes out of the area to offset huge budgetary deficits with its domestic operations.

You can't really blame them, of the parties involved including the March Joint Powers Commission, the GlobalPort Management and the company, they seemed to be trying to avoid getting sued by the Riverside City Council for breach of contract when if anyone was breaching a contract anywhere, it was Riverside, because remember, the MJAP and its Riverside governmental representatives who served on it knew that they were most likely bringing early morning flight noise to the neighborhoods of Orangecrest, Canyon Crest, Mission Grove, Alessandro Heights and others, because after all, freight companies are known to fly shipments out from their hubs at night and into the wee hours of the morning. The so-called "crazy" residents, party poopers and "gad flies" were right about DHL and they were right from day one.

Pity, it took several years (and an upcoming county seat election) for their voices to be truly heard.

It's hard not to be cynical but then again, so are many Ward Four residents. This will be an election where there will be plenty of comparative shopping among whoever decides to run for the privilege not the entitlement or right to represent this ward's residents. And it will be nice if a candidate wins who will truly put this ward at the top of the list of priorities and not second or lower. Hopefully, Davis' candidacy will at least encourage those dialogues to take place and rousing discussions and debates on the issues pertaining to the city's largest and most participatory ward.

As for Schiavone, he'll be appearing at the Friday Morning Club to give a talk on Dec. 5, 2008 at 10 a.m. He will be talking about his plans for Ward Four and the city.

Corona's city council has selected its mayor.

Here come the judges! Six retired judges will be hearing civil trials beginning in the middle of this month. Included on the roster that will be working for free, are some powerhouse judges.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

The judges all have agreed to work for free, fitting cases to their availability, Riverside County Superior Court Presiding Judge Richard Fields said.

All of the retired judges have served on the bench in Riverside County Superior Court. They include judges Victor Miceli, Charles Field, E. Michael Kaiser, Dallas Holmes, Stephen Cunnison and retired 4th District Court of Appeal Justice James Ward.

However, one commenter did ask the question of the hour.


"How long until Rod Pacheco demands these judges try criminal cases?"

Give him a couple of months.

One of the final results of Election 2008 came in from Perris where Joanne Evans beat out Christopher Sandoval for a seat on the city council by only 12 votes. Hopefully, Riverside's own election squeaker, Ward Seven City Councilman Steve Adams will call her and congratulate her given that he too narrowly won his reelection bid by just over a dozen votes.

Also selecting its mayor is Norco.

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