Will the CPRC roll back the clock, and will the city council roll parking costs up?
I was trying to write this blog posting out in different parts of the city using the Metro Wi Fi system that the city has in place through AT&T. The public internet service has enjoyed some months of spotty outages here and there but for the most part, pretty fast service with few interruptions during the past few months, a big improvement from when it first started. But last week, coming back from a week out of town, it was like being introduced to an entirely different network system than it was when I had left and not in the best of ways. What had happened to it?
Some issues arose to the surface including one which impacted how browsers download pages while connected to the ATTMETROFREE network. That one started at about last Wednesday or Thursday and is still apparently an ongoing issue. The issue being that whatever browser you use to download pages, you might be seeing a lot of blank pages until you can refresh them enough times to get them working again.
Another interesting thing about the new ad page is that if you try to use any of the "contact" or "customer support" links on it, this is what will come up.
Secure Connection Failed
18.104.22.168 uses an invalid security certificate.
The certificate is not trusted because it is self signed.
The certificate is only valid for Noc1.testoss228.i250
The certificate expired on 12/20/2008 8:18 AM.
(Error code: sec_error_expired_issuer_certificate)
So it's expired, a duplicate and self-signed not to mention a duplicate.
It also says this:
* This could be a problem with the server's configuration, or it could be someone trying to impersonate the server.
* If you have connected to this server successfully in the past, the error may be temporary, and you can try again later.
These are messages that come up on browsers when a Web site accesses a port that's reserved for secured transmissions only without the appropriate certification.
Maybe that's something they need to address too. It's not hard to fix. You can get your security certificate renewed through several companies that do this though it's not really cheap. But it helps people feel more confident in the security level of your secured connection portion of your Web site.
Usually I noticed that when I've downloaded pages in different areas of Riverside using ATTMETROFREE, pages download fairly quickly. The downtown area in particularly is often very fast. But when I returned from out of town, everything seemed to have changed.
First of all, the internet ran as slow as molasses near my area, taking up to five minutes to load pages like Yahoo and with the internet dropping off fairly regularly. If the pages didn't download, they'd time out. But for the ones that stuck it out, what would happen is that there would be five minutes of downloading only to find out the final product was a blank browser page. Then five more minutes of trying to refresh the page so it would show up. And so on.
This was in sharp contrast to weeks of very stellar performance thank largely to good maintenance and quick and very effective responses to repair requests by the company hired to repair parts of the system as well as through people with ATT and City Hall. It was quite shocking to see it running like this after several months of fairly high performance. It was almost like someone flipped a switch.
The slower service could be due to increased traffic on an expanding system during the summer months but that doesn't explain the mystery of the crashing browsers.
No matter what browser was used, pages often had to be refreshed 2-3 times before they would appear on the page and some more complicated pages refused to load at all or kept timing out, according to pings done to those Web sites. These tended to be sites like PE.com or latimes.com, especially embedded pages inside the site and can't be downloaded at all even with 10 refreshings. And no, clearing out caches and addressing the browsers individually didn't work at all. When two or more show the same symptoms at the same time, usually neither one is to blame.
The computer after troubleshooting tested out fine in all areas except for diagnostically pinging Web sites and sections within the ATTMETROFREE network.
Diagnostic pinging showed 25-50% packet loss in the area between portions of the gateway of the network. which was more than enough to crash the browsers attempting to load pages with pieces missing. But the error logs in the browsers showed some signs that there was more involved than just packets being lost enroute. Warnings showed up in one browser error log for all the pages that were dropped and all of the warnings shared pretty much the same text, that there was text that showed up in all the error messages including a link and description of a banner add placed by AT&T on its free internet service.
Testing the network in other areas of Riverside yielded similar problematic findings which meant it wasn't solely a regional part of the network experiencing the problem but if there is one, it's probably the whole thing. Error logs on that computer garnered similar references to a articular advertisement being placed on the free service. Some sort of banner ad which includes an interactive "Yellow Pages" widget.
The four areas of the city's ATTMETROFREE which have been tested so far all showed problems. These centers were in the downtown, University Avenue corridor, University Neighborhood, Canyon Crest Town Center and Canyon Crest. Comparison studies with other public wireless networks that are located in the same areas showed no similar problems loading pages with the browsers or similar packet loss. And none of the ATTMETROFREE sites listed here appeared to show those problems until about the middle of last week. They all yielded good results when trying to access the free service from those same areas and there were no blank browser pages.
It looks like that one area to look for regarding a potential problem would be to look at the source code used to insert advertising that as a practice is included on the ATTMETROFREE service. This might not be a bad idea, given that the computer link which was shown in the error logs as the one that halted the page loading in virtually all of the cases is actually this one which takes you to a page run by AT&T that serves to mainly run banner ads. The part of the ad string that seems to appear in most of the error messages in the browser logs is that involving the banner widget for the "Yellow Pages" phone number search that appears in the right hand corner of that link. The placement of that "Yellow Pages" widget, its dimensions and its text are all included in the link that is included as value "z" in the error messages which might make it the subject of interest for further scrutiny of why the browsers crash right after part of value "x,y" which also appear in the error messages show up in the address bar.
The link above had to be copied from an error log from one of the browsers because the ad itself never actually did appear by itself for obvious reasons, meaning that the ad itself is probably crashing before it can be loaded. It does appear to be taking most of the Web site that it's supposed to precede or share down with it to the point where a browser trying to load it will crash which is unfortunate.
The sudden issues of performance of the munifi system after weeks and months of fairly good quality and much improved service was a bit of a disappointment. It's not clear that if AT&T believes that its issues have been dealt with, if the situation involving the crashing browsers will be remedied any time soon.
Municipal internet systems have great potential and Riverside's has gone in great directions with a lot of hard work and dedication, but the issues that have plagued the network this week where you're unable to load pages without browser crashes is an unfortunate development.
But I tried to load the PE.com page unsuccessfully for 20 minutes and finally gave up, after Yahoo failed to load after 10 minutes. And alas, this newly reborn slower, browser crashing system doesn't seem to like Blogger.com much either.
And yes, the ATT people have been notified about the browser issue. Hopefully, they will look into it and whether or not the placement of any new banner ads or changes in them on the free service might have caused any problems with the service.
A section of the area around Canyon Crest did experience an outage for about 15 hours due to an issue with one of the larger routers which was deftly repaired and back on line. But several sections of Canyon Crest remain slow and erratic as of today. Still, the repairs that are done in the neighborhoods are often done fairly quickly and very professionally. The success of the service owes a lot to that maintenance and the city's done very well there. But it's strange to have these latest problems with the larger network almost being pinpointed to a specific time and issue, and they've been going on for nearly a week.
So anyway, most of this blogging was done on several public networks in the stead of the ATTMETROFREE which didn't experience these same browser issues.
Parking tickets are about to triple in Riverside.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
The City Council approved the increases without discussion earlier this month.
Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents the downtown part of the city, said he would have preferred not to raise the penalties. However, he said he agreed with a staff explanation that the increase is needed to cover $13 in state-imposed surcharges and a processing fee for each citation.
The fees are not new, although the surcharge increased $4.50 in January. The principal goal is to put more money in the city's parking structure fund, Gardner said.
"We need to build the parking fund," he said.
What will the reaction to this be? It will be interesting to find out how motorists will take it during these long, hot summer months.
Some people have reported back that Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner in Riverside has made comments at the last meeting of the Group that he believes there's enough votes to overturn the city council's decision to essentially strip the CPRC of its powers to independently investigate officer-involved deaths in a timely fashion. That would be great and one wonders where the fourth vote would come from but it still remains to be seen whether the city council would even take it back for a public vote if the dynamic of the city council has changed that much on this issue.
And it's not a given whether or not the current composition of the CPRC could even handle a return back to abiding by the city's charter when it comes to these forms of investigations. Would they even agree to return back to doing the former investigative protocol or would they refuse out of loyalty to the people who likely would remain the big holdouts, City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. After all, this could be one of the power plays of the year if this issue does go back on the table. City employees fighting to maintain their status quo. City Council members who appear intimidated at times by their own direct employees and a commission filled to the gills with infighting amongst itself and its part-time puppet manager.
Will this contentious issue be returning soon to a venue near you? That remains to be seen as well. Whatever happens, it will probably make great theater.
Several Inland Empire cities have cut their Fourth of July celebration spending in light of budget cuts.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
With cities taking measures to balance their budgets, such as shutting down city halls on Fridays and eliminating police officer positions, some city officials have concluded that this is not the time for pricey fireworks shows -- which burn through thousands of dollars in minutes.
But fireworks fans need not do without their annual fix. In plenty of cities, including Riverside, San Bernardino, Temecula, Beaumont and Perris, the shows will go on. In Lake Elsinore, too, there will be fireworks. They just won't be sponsored by the city, and not over the lake.
The Lake Elsinore Storm baseball team is playing a home game at Diamond Stadium July 4 and will put on a fireworks display afterwards, said city spokesman Mark Dennis.
Dennis said in recent years the city's fireworks display has cost between $20,000 and $28,000, paid entirely from the general fund.
Faced with a $3 million budget gap, the city is dipping into its rainy-day fund and city workers are losing benefits and will have to take two furlough days each month this year.
"They should take four!" said Rudy Gil in downtown Lake Elsinore last Friday upon hearing that the fireworks over the lake had been cut. "Keep the fireworks going!"
But never fear, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors is likely to pass its final budget soon.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
The budget relies on departmental spending cuts, money from the county's rainy-day fund, planned labor concessions, layoffs and other reductions to bridge a $130 million revenue shortfall.
"Calling this year's budget process a challenge would be an understatement," County Executive Officer Bill Luna writes in his budget recommendations to the board. "The overnight loss of $130 million for general fund purposes (from a base of $750 million) makes for difficult choices."
Under the budget plan, Animal Services, Child Support Services, Human Resources, Mental Health, Public Health and other departments are expected to lay off about 175 employees altogether. The number would grow if the county cannot achieve a 10 percent reduction in the cost of wages and benefits through union contract negotiations, Luna writes.
The county is in contract talks with the Service Employees International Union which represents about 6,000 workers; the roughly 200-strong Deputy District Attorneys Association; and the probation unit of the Riverside Sheriffs' Association.
The county plans to complete those negotiations by July 28, Luna said.
It will be very interesting to see if that actually takes place but it's been said that both Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco have agreed to pay cuts. Which means that somewhere in this latest heatwave, Hell has just frozen over.
But in Redlands, the Press Enterprise Editorial Board is very displeased with how that city is handling its budget woes.
The joint powers agreement allows an end run around those restrictions, if the city can provide a legal rationale for shifting the money. But the Redlands City Council approved the creation of the new authority without any of the details in writing. The council supported a vague outline, and the city will fill in the fine points later. Casting votes without seeing the specifics is a poor way to run a city. And the city's plan breaks the implicit promise of repairs and upgrades to the water and sewer system. The city raised water and sewer rates last year, saying the money was necessary to finance improvements. Now those projects will wait, as the city will apparently have no obligation to repay money it will take from the water and sewer funds. An opaque plan that sidesteps voter-approved restrictions at the expense of promised utility improvements erodes public confidence in city government. And the city's failure to provide any specifics before the council vote invites suspicion that the city does not want residents to know the details, at least until the scheme is in place. Redlands has more direct ways of addressing red ink. The city could pare spending, or if it wants to protect services, ask residents to boost taxes. Those steps are painful, but straightforward. Schemes that make city financing ever more incomprehensible obstruct public understanding of city decisions, and weaken public support of government. Bureaucratic convenience is a poor substitute for residents' active participation in city business.
San Bernardino's police helicopters have been grounded through budget cuts.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
For San Bernardino police's helicopter program, Sunday was a day for bittersweet reflection. Success stories were traded under the cloud of the copter's last shift -- the latest victim of a city budget crisis.
"It's going to hurt," said San Bernardino police Officer Josh Cunningham, the department's flying observer. "We went a lot of places patrol vehicles couldn't."
With loss of the $500,000 annual helicopter contract, San Bernardino, for the first time in three years, will return to using the sheriff's aerial service.
The countywide helicopter answers calls from Chino Hills to Yucaipa, limiting the amount of time it can devote to a single area.
"To put that burden on the sheriff's department, it's difficult," said Leo Bell, a retired sheriff's deputy whose California Aviation Services provided San Bernardino's helicopter and pilots. "You think of the vast square mileage they have to cover."
Cutting the five-day-a-week police copter, which one council member called "the toughest" call of a protracted budget season, has happened elsewhere as well.
As for the rest of San Bernardino's budget for next year? It's being delayed until the city attorney can tell them whether it's legal or not to borrow big bucks from their Economic Development Agency funds.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
City Council members also questioned the prudence of citing nearly $250,000 in savings for a Fire Department reorganization that has yet to clear its first review by a council committee, and a claim that a city-run auto impound yard could bring nearly $750,000 in revenue next year.
City tow company owners and the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce sharply challenged the impound yard as harmful to local business.
"We cannot afford to lose one more business in San Bernardino," said Larry Quiel, the chamber's vice president for business support.
During the first month of the new fiscal year that starts Wednesday, San Bernardino will continue to operate on its spending plan for the current fiscal year after Monday's unanimous council vote.
City Manager Charles McNeely, who started his job June 1, says San Bernardino needs a period of stability to start building a stronger financial base.
In a memo distributed to city leaders before the meeting, he predicted that without access to the agency funds he might have to consider another 41 layoffs, cuts in programs from libraries and parks to public safety and depleting the city's $2.8 million reserve fund.
Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff talks about the double talk regarding salary raises.
Cities and counties up and down the state have sought take-back bargaining from their unions.
Just last week, Riverside County supervisors approved management pay cuts for sheriff's employees to help trim $21.8 million from the department's budget.
San Bernardino city extracted concessions from its unions to help close a $9 million deficit.
Why hasn't Redlands accepted the Redlands Professional Fire Fighters' offer to give up $560,000 in raises for fiscal 2009-10? It's been on the table since February.
The Redlands Peace Officers Association has offered to cut overtime and health care costs.
But talks are on hold, even as city official cite "contractual obligations" as the reason for taking $2.5 million from the water agency to fund public-safety raises.
Union officials say police and firefighters are being made scapegoats for the city's financial straits.
The firefighters offered to take no raises in 2009-10 and 3 percent raises in 2010-11 and 2011-12. That would save city up to $1.3 million.
"We are trying to be part of the solution, and we are just being absolutely stonewalled," said Bill Conway, president of firefighters union. "I've never worked so hard to give something away."