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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Stay of Bulldozing declared at Chinatown

In court, the lawyers involved in the ongoing case involving the future of the Chinatown site in Riverside have stipulated that no trash will be removed and no dirt moved on the property until the next hearing is conducted. If you recall, the city council denied an appeal filed by a local organization to stop the Jacobs Development company's peeps from potentially destroying artifacts lying beneath the soil on a portion of the site. Developer Doug Jacobs then began having workers bulldoze the site on Saturday, Sunday and Presidents' day which is a federal holiday. Alas, both the municipal code and his own permit stated that there's to be no noise generating work done on the latter two days but Jacobs went ahead and did it anyway. Complaints were made to the police department and Jacobs' workers were cited according to Lt. Mike Cook for violating the code.

Councilman Mike Gardner whose ward includes the Chinatown site called Jacobs' actions a conscious violation. Well, yeah. But is anyone really surprised that he went and did this and does anyone else on the city council care? Probably not, especially not when he continues contributing campaign contributions into their war chests for Election 2009.

If he'd waited until the date of the court hearing, he might had to postpone his bulldozing. Hence that's why he opted to do it over the weekend, city codes and permits be damned. Local residents would be chastised by the same city government which will no doubt give Jacobs and his firm a pass for his decision to violate those same codes.

But now he does have to park the bulldozers until next week at the earliest. Earlier, Jacobs had denied knowing that a temporary restraining order had been filed but now he admitted his intentions behind the bulldozing done over the weekend including that in violation of the city's municipal code and his own permit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Jean Wong, treasurer of the Save Our Chinatown Committee, said the group will seek a permanent injunction halting the medical office project no matter what happens in court Tuesday. The group is suing to overturn the city's approvals of developer Doug Jacobs' project on environmental grounds.

Jacobs had crews excavating the Chinatown site at Brockton and Tequesquite avenues throughout the weekend and Monday under the supervision of archaeological teams.

Jacobs said it is important to him to excavate the site ahead of Tuesday's hearing to prove there is no archaeological "treasure trove" at the site, which has been excavated twice before.

"If they got a restraining order, then I couldn't prove there was nothing there," he said.

Some people have been curious to receive more information about businesses owned by men and women of color downtown.

Several Black-owned barber and beauty shops were casualties several years ago of the installation of a new administrative building by Riverside Community College District near the bus terminal. They were popular businesses and in the Black community, barber and beauty shops are places to socialize as well which is why they are popular targets for gentrification. Many prominent people had their hair cut there (though the more popular shop for men is located in the Eastside on Third Street).

And in one of the ultimate ironies of the downtown gentrification story is how the only business that survived in that area is the adult book store.

Some Latino owned businesses on Market Street including a liquor store were casualties. The liquor store was operated by a family who would spend afternoons at the cash register watching baseball or soccer games while waiting on customers. Some of the businesses in what's to be the Fox Theater including a shop that sold beautiful dresses for festive occasions.

Latino owned businesses on Market Street including several auto shops were casualties of the "new" downtown.

As for the Tamale Factory, the success story about its relocation was not "in the works" or if so, it was at an extremely slow pace. A few years ago, the women who run it found out the historic building which housed it was to be used for UC Riverside's new center of the arts. They were heartbroken and upset and Black Voice News editor, Cheryl Brown got wind of it and wrote their story. After that article was published, pressure was put on City Hall by loyal customers of the Tamale Factory to either not evict it at all or to relocate it to a nearby available lot so that it could continue to serve people in the downtown. And the restaurant had a huge breakfast and lunch crowd so there were lots of complaints about its fate and concerns about its future after people learned that it could be evicted from the historic building. Every time I went to have lunch at the Tamale Factory, one of the two women there would thank Brown and the publication for bringing their situation into the public eye. But a period of uncertainty followed concerning where the new home of the Tamale Factory would be. Moving any business is risky, a fact of life for those which face being ousted and relocated through threats of Eminent Domain but moving restaurants can be very difficult in terms of their long term survival. Fortunately, for the Tamale Factory, they were successful at the new location.

The women who run the restaurant love their new location which took nearly a year to build but is very successful today but they also really loved having their restaurant housed in a historic building. It's funny that anyone would use the trials and tribulation of the Tamale Factory as an example of the city actually helping a local minority-run business. The credit for its success goes to those who run it and those who eat there who supported it and continue to do so.

Other Latino and Black owned businesses in the downtown including the mall area complained that when they filed for assistance through the business loan programs, they were denied even small loans. In one case, $7,000 while White-owned businesses including Mario's Place, Simple Simon's and Toad in the Hole (which was relocated) were getting the bulk of the money from a separate restaurant loan supply. One restaurant, the Supper Club's owners had to hire a lawyer and threaten a 14th amendment lawsuit in order to receive a loan. Both that business and the Toad in the Hole went out of business within several years as the majority of most restaurants do particularly in areas of a city without anchor businesses. The downtown area lacks anchor businesses which restaurants need to survive and thrive.

Minority owned businesses and others downtown were upset several years ago when the Riverside Downtown Partnership (an organization of businesses which in reality, exists mainly to serve the interests of the Mission Inn Hotel) wanted to double the business tax (from 1 to 2%) among its members. The reason why business owners were upset was because they felt there was taxation without representation because the bulk of the tax dollars were being spent to improve the pedestrian mall and the money never seemed to be seen outside of Main Street. In actuality, the RDP is supposed to cover a fairly large area of downtown out to Brockton which serves as an outer perimeter.

There was a large meeting in the Riverside City Council chambers to address the doubling of taxes and people were dismayed when they discovered that the board for the RDP was all White with no diversity whatsoever among its membership. The irony is that many of the businesses which complained about not seeing any benefit in their own streets (and the taxes were spent on exterior improvements)from their own business tax dollars paid the price later on through threatened Eminent Domain by the Redevelopment Agency which used the lack of exterior improvements on their streets (especially in contrast to those spent on the pedestrian mall) to call their area "blighted" and thus push for the Eminent Domain using money from one of the city's favorite credit cards, the sewer fund. A couple businesses including a small Indian market received a stay due to the city running out of money as did a property owned by a prominent person in Riverside that housed the Sierra Club and the Quaker Center.

And what did the RDP do? It picked up its pom poms and supported publicly the city's decision to threaten some of its own members who paid business taxes into it with Eminent Domain. Why? Because remember, its main role is to advocate for the Mission Inn Hotel which goes back to its creation. For years, the biggest eyesore downtown was the shuttered up hotel, far removed from the days of Frank Miller. Until its day came when it reopened and the patience paid off.

Most of the so-called "old money" businesses are closer to the pedestrian mall. Someone said many of them were originally started by rich men who gave them to their wives to keep them busy so they could conduct their business deals without being hassled.

Yet some of those who do business or live downtown claim to speak on behalf of the area against those "tenant" (meaning they rent space which many businesses do) and "marginalized" businesses (which means they're not served by them) and accuse others of calling them "racists" when that's not been done. But the ultimate strawman argument that individuals who defend questionable practices which may be racist are to accuse others especially those experiencing racism of calling them "racists". As if that's much more important than racism and as if the practice of racism can't be challenged or questioned quite easily without using the term "racist"
against anyone.

I didn't live downtown. I worked in a building in the pedestrian mall area that was frequently broken into including having a glass door shattered and taken off of its hinges. The locks on the outer doors and business doors were vandalized, there was no electricity one day because the fuse box was vandalized and the plumbing overflowed because someone tried to flush potted plants (sometimes with pots) down the toilets. More than a few times, business owners or their employees would go into the building early in the morning to see naked men sleeping in the hallway.

Was this due to those "marginalized" businesses downtown? Of course not. And ironically, that building which leased office space had very high turnover (with year-leases hardly ever being renewed) not because of the "marginalized" businesses or even the crime but because the landlord had some rather strange practices in place including allowing people to park in the back and then calling up a man who some said was an acquaintance who owned a towing company who would send a truck over to tow away cars and then charge anywhere from $100 to $750 to get them released from a lot. Those practices don't tend to be very business friendly.

As far as the ongoing Chinatown situation, the Save Our Chinatown Committee faced off on court with the lawyers from the city of Riverside, Jacobs Development Company and the Riverside County of Education for the hearing on the temporary restraining order the committee sought to prevent destruction of the artifacts it believes lies beneath the soil.

Judge Cahraman denied the order without prejudice and sent it off to Judge Waters, according to a minute order. Both sides have to stipulate that no trash would be removed nor would any soil be moved until further hearing on the order.

One wonders if this is why Doug Jacobs violated his own permit restrictions against using noise making equipment on Sunday and Presidents Day (a federal holiday) in order to turn over as much dirt as possible before being restricted in this manner. As it turned out, even he admitted that was the case.

This comment asked if the situation would be blamed on former Ward One Councilman Dom Betro. Is there any reason why it should or would? This individual didn't volunteer any possible reason.

And what was found in Wildomar when construction began on an animal shelter there?

The Metropolitan Museum Board in Riverside voted at its meeting to go with the 30,000 expansion.

But rough waters remain ahead in the form of the S.S. Hudson and whoever is steering that ship in regards to plans for the expansion of several cultural institutions located in downtown Riverside. The museum board and the S.S. Hudson are now on a collision course.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The vote, a recommendation to the City Council, puts the museum board at odds with City Manager Brad Hudson, who has said an 18,000-square-foot expansion would be enough to host the national traveling exhibits that officials want to bring to Riverside.

The board and Hudson agree that the Riverside Metropolitan Museum's top priority is a seismic retrofit and renovation of the existing building, a Renaissance Revival-style structure completed in 1914 on Mission Inn Avenue.

The museum board's vote is in line with a recommendation by the Raincross Group, which is organizing a coalition of community groups in favor of a new 100,000-square-foot Main Library on the site of the existing library and a three-story, 30,000-square-foot museum expansion in the museum parking lot.

Doug Shackelton, chairman of Raincross' library and museum committee, said the figure of 30,000 square feet comes from two studies done for the museum by architectural firms.

The library board, the Committee to Renew the Library, the Riverside Downtown Partnership and the museum board now have all expressed support for the Raincross proposal, Shackelton said.

The Community Police Review Commission is in the middle of controversy involving its officer-involved death investigative protocol which led to the issue being referred to the Governmental Affairs Committee without a City Council discussion. That committee met earlier this month with Chair Frank Schiavone and Councilman Steve Adams with Councilman Andrew Melendrez substituting in for Rusty Bailey for this item. The direction of the S.S. Hudson in terms of being stirred to push for restrictions on the ability of the CPRC to effectively do an independent and timely investigation of incustody deaths wasn't turned but was allowed to stay in place while the process gets muddled around some more particularly by those who have been steering City Manager Brad Hudson through his course deviation all along.

Ward Four city council candidate Paul Davis lobbed the first challenge at incumbent Schiavone by telling those in attendance at the Friday Morning Club's meeting on Feb. 13 that it was Schiavone who ordered Hudson to take the CPRC's implementation of Charter Section 810(d) on this new course. Whether that's the case, that's what quite a few people suspect, in terms of why Hudson's doing this action now with his sidekick, City Attorney Greg Priamos when it wasn't done several years ago. There's a couple reasons why not and they're very important and so far haven't been mentioned by anyone and they won't be, certainly not by Hudson and Priamos.

But the troubles faced by the commission or the consequences of micromanagement as it's been called by many watchers is only part of the story involving the CPRC. City Hall has managed to undermine its operation in different ways which damage its ability to function as an entity addressing issues in the community and the police department let alone serve as any entity which could bridge the two.

The CPRC lacks a full-time manager even while the city's preliminary budget passed last June states that it has one. It hasn't engaged in meaningful community outreach in the past year or so. It's not really participated in any meaningful outreach to the police department either. Its commissioners are not receiving the training they need to be getting (involving both community and police issues) and it's not clear whether or not the newest commissioners (including just appointed Robert Slawsby) have ever received any orientation training before serving.

The annual reports are no longer annual even though that's one of the functions of the CPRC to provide to the city council, mayor and city residents.

In future postings, there will be an examination of the CPRC and its undermining by individuals at City Hall and elsewhere as well as the progress of the city in implementing two sets of recommendations, one provided in a five-year progress report by the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability and the other provided by consultant Joe Brann who produced a report to the city council on his recommendations nearly one year ago.

Were any of those recommendations implemented at all from a study that cost at least $20,000? Upon rereading the list of recommendations in his report, it doesn't really look like it. What's happened in the wake of mishandling and micromanagment by City Hall is a police commission that can barely function and perform its charter-mandated responsibilities. Which appears to be how City Hall likes it.

The $200,000+ contract for former City Councilman Ed Adkison's company was approved by the city council at its meeting without undergoing a competitive bidding process. Anyone surprised?

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge still won't release records in the case of former Assessor Bill Postmus' drug investigation.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

This morning, Elwell said his position sealing all records was strengthened Feb. 9 after he met with prosecutors in chambers during a scheduled review.

Elwell announced that the investigation is expanding and protecting the safety of informants was more important than ever. He did not elaborate on those comments.

"The sources continue to provide additional information in respect to these investigations," Elwell said.

In court, newspaper attorney Al Wickers said he was hampered by being banned from the information discussed in the Feb. 9 private meeting. Such a broad sealing usually involves drug rings or organized crime, Wickers said.

"We don't believe a blanket sealing order is constitutional here," Wickers said outside court. "But we weren't in chambers."

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board did something a bunch of people wish they could do and that was to chastise the city of Rialto for contemplating the hiring of a public information officer even as its other departments face cuts.


No matter. The new PR person would handle publicity for Rialto and polish the city's image. But while the city manager supervises other staffers, the new spokesman would answer directly to the council. And if the council disagrees on public relations, the mayor can dictate how the new officer should proceed.

That setup looks like a publicity machine for the council, paid for by taxpayers. Or, as Councilman Joe Baca Jr. put it: "I think sometimes items that we're working on get misconstrued with the public. It is important we have someone who can clarify it for the record, make sure the public knows what our priorities are."

Yes, there are few more crucial duties than making sure the public has a good opinion of the council. But Rialto residents might wonder: Just why should they pay for this service, given the city's many other public needs?

A man who was paralyzed after being tased has sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Blake Dupree filed the federal lawsuit for battery, assault and negligence against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, several deputies and two sheriff’s supervisors for the incident, much of which was captured on videotape. The two supervisors are the subject of an internal misconduct investigation for authorizing the use of a stun gun because Dupree refused to come out of his cell and submit to electronic fingerprinting.

According to the lawsuit, Dupree was standing from four to seven feet above the concrete jail floor on a bunk with his hands raised in a defensive posture Feb. 27, 2007, when he was stunned with a Taser gun, which delivers a 50,000-volt shock. The suit alleges Dupree fell and, instead of giving him medical treatment, sheriff’s supervisors ordered him to stand up and deputies carried him to the fingerprint area and dumped him on the floor.

“Defendants’ actions rendered Plaintiff paraplegic. Plaintiff has no use of his mid to lower torso or legs, and limited use of his arms,” wrote Dupree's attorney, Justin Sanders. "Deputies knew Dupree’s muscles would be incapacitated by the electro-muscular disruption of the Taser rendering him unable to break his fall."

Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times last year that "common sense" should have dictated that using the Taser on Dupree was inappropriate while he was on the bunk and likely to fall as a result of being shocked. The suit was filed after settlement negotiations broke down with the 22-year-old Dupree in Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey.

Another man died while being tased.

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