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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Introducing the new city council

On Tuesday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m., the Riverside City Council will hold its evening session and one of the first orders of business is to swear in the winners of Election 2008 which were incumbents Andrew Melendrez and Nancy Hart and newcomer, Paul Davis.

Davis will take over representing the city's fourth ward from outgoing councilman, Frank Schiavone who served on the dais for two terms then lost his last attempt at reelection by over 300 votes. With him gone, the dynamics of the city council will change quite a bit and it will be interesting to observe how quickly they change and in what direction they take the city council particularly in its handling of its direct employees City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. Who will be holding their leashes or be at their masts steering their courses? Like many questions that have been asked, the answers to those remain to be seen.

What many people have been wondering is who will be the new alpha dog on the dais if there is one. As many people who watched the meetings noticed, Schiavone appeared to pride himself as being the alpha dog and several other city council members seemed very deferential and almost intimidated by him when participating in discussions on agenda items or when casting votes. If the city council sees a new alpha dog to replace Schiavone, in all likelihood it will be Councilman Chris MacArthur, who some said has been eying that position in the past year. The trouble with MacArthur is that it's hard to separate his identity from that of his nearly-always present legislative aide. But just because the city council had an alpha dog (or in some cases alpha dogs competing for position) leading both its GASS and BASS quartets doesn't necessarily mean that will happen this time.

During both of those thankfully brief eras of power quartets, you had struggles for leadership taking place between Schiavone and former Councilman Art Gage (who was unceremoniously dumped from the power quartets when GASS between BASS) and also Schiavone and former councilman, Dom Betro during the latter days of base. It's no coincidence that none of these three men are currently serving on the city council anymore with all of them being voted out by their constituents although the margins of loss for some of them were smaller than others

So how does the council stand as of June 23?

Ward One: Mike Gardner, who has staked out a position of himself on the council which is one where he builds consensus with other members yet also stakes positions on his own including his attempts to stop the Schiavone/Adams driven micromanagment of the Community Police Review Commission.

Ward Two: Andrew Melendrez is now a senior councilman thanks to his reelection and thankfully is acting less and less like a junior one. People praised him for his ability to ask well-thought out questions on contentious and key agenda items but then bristled when he seemed to put his concerns aside and voted with the pack. Chinatown, round one was one example often cited and everyone saw how that turned out, but then Melendrez took principled minority positions after asking key questions on the issues like the CPRC and towing fees. That caused some people to blink their eyes open and take another look at him. But those eyes blew on open after as mayor pro tem, Melendrez took the opportunity to recommend himself as the chair of one of the city's most influential committees, the Governmental Affairs Committee and to add himself as a member of the powerful yet scandal plagued March Joint Powers Commission in one bold move. Wooowsieeee! That kind of behavior is going to renew rumors that Melendrez will be running for mayor in 2012.

Ward Three: Rusty Bailey, for being a West Point Academy graduate has yet to show any leadership since his election, a development which has surprised some of his supporters as much as his about face on some of the issues he had campaigned on including the CPRC. Some said he would be his own man but he seemed to follow around Schiavone everywhere like a loyal puppy dog (especially on the Governmental Affairs Committee) because he believed he owed Schiavone for his seat on the council and Bailey's too smart to settle for that. It will be interesting to see what Bailey does now that he's got no one to follow. Will he finally stand up and be his own council person or will he look for another alpha dog?

Ward Four: Paul Davis is the junior city councilman in this class and it will be interesting to see how he comes out of the gate and in what direction. People are leery of newly elected politicians after witnessing the conversion of Bailey to something at least the grass-roots contingent of his campaign didn't recognize so they'll be watching Davis more carefully. The key for him is to stick with his 14 point plan and to win converts to it, which on most of the points shouldn't be too difficult and to use his vice-chair position on the barely-there Finance Committee to put some of the budget checking back in the hands of the city council rather than just being handed off carte blanche and often sight unseen to Hudson's office.

Ward Five: Some say that MacArthur will use Schiavone's ouster as a means and opportunity to take over his position on the council as alpha dog, but the major problem with MacArthur is that some people get him and his rather zealous legislative aide confused with each other. A very difficult challenge to overcome for someone who wishes to step into the now empty shoes as the city council's leader. And is it he that holds those ambitions or is it his aide? There's a lot of unanswered questions about MacArthur who's as politically polished as they come which remain to be answered in the minds of people including those in his ward.

Ward Six: Nancy Hart is very difficult to figure out most of the time during council votes. Some say that she simply adopts the position of the last council member who spoke on an issue and others say that she could assert herself more often than she does, not an easy task for the only woman on a male-dominated legislative body. She remained fairly allegient to Schiavone after being totally frozen out by him for opting to endorse Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster over Schiavone in last year's county race. Hart's closest supporters said the "freeze out" by Schiavone led to some of the most miserable days in her city council tenure. Still Hart clearly loves her ward and is very responsive to her constituents who live there. Maybe out from under Schiavone's shadow, she might start resembling the councilwoman she was several years ago on various issues including the CPRC.

Ward Seven: Steve Adams is in quite a pickle since the ouster of his partner, Schiavone and risks becoming marginalized by the rest of the council especially when his mouth runs away from him and he engages in some behavior like he did when he slandered an investigator hired by the CPRC. Because of that, Hudson's office had to march out its puppet, CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan to do damage control on that issue. Still, Adams the winner of this blog's 2007 and 2008 Golden Tongue awards has his moments when he actually stands strong on an issue that needs it. But with Schiavone gone, unless he picks up some other allies on the dais (not likely given his narrow squeaker of a win in 2007 and his almost certain ouster in 2011), he'll probably spend a lot of time whistling in the wind.

The city council's own version of musical chairs

One of the first acts taken by the newly reconfigured city council is to set up appointments to a long list of city council committees and county-wide boards. This task is traditionally left up to the mayor and mayor pro tem who in this case are Ron Loveridge and Melendrez. Melendrez surprised many people by suggesting his appointments to key city committees, including serving as chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee and serving on both the March Joint Powers Commission and the Riverside Transit Agency. Melendrez also put himself in for being vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee (which he chaired the last two cycles) and as a member of the Transportation Committee.

Newcomer Davis fared pretty well, with his key position being as vice-chair of the Finance Committee given that one of his commitments made when running for office was to look at the city's financial books and see if the money was being spent in a fiscally responsible fashion. Of course, one obstacle is that the chair usually schedules the meetings and this time, it's Nancy Hart. Let's hope that her record of scheduling meetings is better than her predecessor given how few times this committee met last year. According to records located at the city's Web site, the Finance Committee never met once in 2009, a far cry from just several years ago when it met once or twice monthly.

This is fallout most likely from the city council's decision to hand off most of its role in financial accountability of the city's budget expenditures to Hudson's office not too long after Hudson consolidated his own office with what once was a separate Finances Department that existed before his hiring.

Of course, the list of prospective appointments was included on the discussion calendar of the city council meeting on June 23 and will have to be approved by the city council through majority vote. Don't be surprised to see some wheeling and dealing and hear some complaints about assignments being made but it will be interesting if any major changes to the appointment lists are proposed.

It's too premature to see in which committees the biggest battlegrounds will be at this point.

Captain, where thou art the captain?

News is buzzing about the sudden retirement of Capt. Mark Boyer who until recently oversaw the Department of Investigations in the Riverside Police Department. No details have been provided about this sudden chain of events. News has also been buzzing over speculation as to whether or not this new opening will be filled or whether it will be left vacant due to budget cuts.

If they do fill this captain's seat, the current odds-on favorite appears to be Lt. Bob Williams who is currently assigned to the West Neighborhood Policing Center as its commander and is also the current president of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association. Speculation is that of all the candidates, Williams is the best politically connected but he's also been a lieutenant for quite some time, working a variety of assignments. Another name that has been dropped to challenge him is that of Lt. Mike Perea who if you recall was one of at least 15 lieutenants who tossed their names in the ring for the last captain's position, one that ultimately was given to John Carpenter. Perea is currently assigned to the Office of Personnel and Training on the hiring side and is Chief Russ Leach's liaison to the CPRC. Before all this, he preceded Williams as the commander in the West NPC and has also worked a wide variety of assignments.

If there is a captain's promotion in the works, this situation bears close watching given some of the allegations raised in the past including through ongoing civil litigation in U.S. District Court about whether or not there are influences on these promotions and who gets them welded outside of the police department. Who will be giving out the promotion if there is indeed one, the police chief or the city manager's office? We do know that at least one party has been removed from this alleged list at this point. And will it come down to experience or politics? Will anyone be warned to not hang out with anyone else to have a better chance?

All these questions remain to be answered.

Filling this captain's vacancy would of course leave a lieutenant position vacant which would bring vacancies at that rank up to two, with several more retirements of lieutenants anticipated by the end of 2009. Of course, if that position gets filled (and there are rumors about that) then that would leave a sergeant vacancy, which would add to the current list of three vacancies with at least three or more vacancies anticipated at this rank by the end of the year.

How many live bodies are included in the city's personnel listings in its preliminary budget report?

Speaking of vacant positions,there have been some contesting of the list of personnel positions in the city's preliminary budget that's available here. It seems that the city is apparently trying to inflate its roster of employees who are currently working when in some city departments, up to 33% or more of the listed positions may be frozen. Many more employees particularly part-time have been frozen than the city has admitted while it touts its employee retention record against other cities like Corona where every departure, frozen position or layoff of any full-time or part-time employee is included in their somewhat dismal percentage.

There's been focus on the mythology surrounding the listing of personnel in the police department included in that preliminary budget report but apparently other departments in the city have faced similar situations as well. How many city employees are there actually left working for Riverside? If you want to know the answer to that question, the preliminary budget document on personnel which will be discussed at a workshop on June 23 is probably not the place to look.

So how many of these "personnel" positions are live people working in them and how many of them are empty suits due to retirements, layoffs and other departures? If anyone has any idea what these true numbers are, there's an email address at the top header that you can use anonymously to send some more accurate numbers for different city departments. Because if the public is being presented with a preliminary report that makes it appear that the city is more fully staffed than it is, then the public is being lied to by its city government and/or its direct staff. And if these are indeed falsehoods being told, they are being told on our dime.

Another thing is that many of the city's cited figures are being given out piecemeal on a monthly basis by Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout to the Human Resources Board which has asked to receive information at each meeting on the layoffs for the preceding month. According to her, only about 3-4 people have been laid off in this city without being retired out or lateraled into another city assignment. She doesn't talk about part-time employees or nonunion employees because of course, they don't count. Only in cities like Corona which are being compared as a more negative example of the recession against Riverside. So it would be interesting to learn what the raw numbers of the layoffs of these non-human employees actually are in the light of day.

One example of a very misleading misrepresentation of a full-time position that's really not for example is right inside the city manager's own department. Listed under the CPRC (which has the misfortune of being umbrellaed under that department) are two full-time employees. The administrative analyst and the manager. Well get this folks, the full-time manager pulls in at least $150,000 each year and works about a 20 hour week. He can't work full-time because according to several members of the screening panel involved in his hiring back in July 2007, one of the first things he told them is that his PERS retirement doesn't allow him to work full-time and he didn't want to jeopardize it. Okay, so the city manager's office lied to the city's residents when they expressed their commitment to make this management position full-time but they went further and paid this guy more money to work less time than they paid his predecessor to work two different directorships.

But it's like there's been a lot of city employees who have fallen into some municipal version of the Bermuda Triangle, while the city's circulating reports that make it appear that it is more fully staffed than it currently is by conflating employees with positions in its reports, prefaced with rosy letters about how the city's fully staffed enough to provide all its basic services.

A councilman in Norco has criticized the labor contract of the city's fire fighters

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Councilman Malcolm Miller has pointed to the portion of the public safety budget spent on fire service. The $4.9 million that Norco projects spending on fire and paramedics this fiscal year is about 46 percent of the total spent on public safety, which includes police.

Data from the state controller show the average city's fire and emergency medical budget is about 29 percent of public safety spending. Statistics Norco gathered on area cities put Norco at the top of the range, with the next closest cities -- Colton and Murrieta -- each spending 39 percent of public safety dollars on fire service.

"The contract for the firefighters is too generous for Norco to afford, especially in this economic downturn," Miller said.

Norco firefighters' base salaries are determined by a survey of comparable cities. But Miller sees overtime costs, which are driven by contract requirements, as part of the budget problem.

Miller suggested two possible approaches to reducing overtime costs: "working short," or running three-man engines if the fourth scheduled worker is sick or on vacation, or switching from four to three crew members per engine permanently.

While Redlands is looking at other fund sources to plug up the holes in its deficit.

But in Lake Elsinore, the relationship between development contracts granted by elected officials and campaign donations made by those developers has come under closer scrutiny.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Mayor Daryl Hickman and Councilmen Thomas Buckley and Robert Magee collected the contributions during their annual fundraising events: Buckley holds a golf tournament in May; Magee sells tickets for a Super Bowl-viewing fundraiser; and Hickman sells $1,110 suite tickets for a San Diego Chargers football game in September.

In March 2006 and 2007, Buckley and Hickman also sold $1,000-per-person tickets to a suite for an Anaheim Ducks hockey game. Use of the suite was donated by the city's contract waste-hauling company, CR&R.

The three councilmen and developers say the timing of the contributions and the votes is a coincidence.

"My vote had nothing to do with contributions," Hickman said. "My concern is to move the city ahead and do what's right for the city."

"Everyone knows when I raise money," Buckley said. "It's the same time each year."

"The reason I have my event annually is specifically to avoid the appearance of conflict," Magee said. "I believe my record speaks for itself."

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