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, July 14, 2009

Employees get threatened with layoffs while City Hall's new makeover continues

"Layoffs and cuts to public services shouldn't be the first thing we do but the last thing,"

----SEIU 721 General Unit representative, Greg Hagans to the Riverside City Council

The Riverside City Council meeting on July 14 was packed to the gills and not just because the building which for some reason is undergoing renovation appears to look a lot smaller than it did only weeks ago. Hundreds of people including many SEIU General Unit members attended to listen to their leadership speak about among other things, threats to lay off more city employees if they didn't give up their 2% raise, the final incremental increase which was included in their most recent contract with the city. It's ironic that employees are facing layoffs, basic services they do might face cuts and the city council chambers for some reason is being renovated again including having its public bathrooms moved out of the building. It seems that if the city's in such a budget crisis (while crowing over its alleged $41 million to everyone who will listen) to be "forced" not to honor MOUs (when the city's record in doing this is allegedly often questionable even in better times) then you would think it could postpone construction on City Hall and moving the public bathrooms until a better fiscal picture was reality.

City officials and their direct employees will argue that this is yet another Riverside Renaissance project and the money for that and paying salaries doesn't come from the same place yet then they'll borrow money from the sewer fund to give the Redevelopment Agency money to buy businesses on Market Street or they'll keep borrowing from the Public Utilities Department to fill a deficit in another city account. And since the city council voted to not have to approve any more interdepartmental fund swapping, how much that is going on is the city council even aware of?

As for the money, ultimately everything is paid for or will be paid for by who else? City residents. Public services today by the current generation and Riverside Renaissance by future generations, perhaps at the expense of other things.

Larry Deal of the SEIU said that the loss of more employees would impact the quality of the city's basic services. He payed homage to the city's never ending search for that perfect title labeling it the most artsy, cultural, city in America by saying that the museum and library needed improvements to become part of that tradition. Deal said that the library was staffed by people not qualified to do those jobs.

SEIU vice-president Gregory Hagans said he was pleading with the city government to come up with reasonable solutions to the present layoffs and loss of city services. He said his union had received nine layoff notices in recent days and he didn't want to see people laid off and services to city residents cut. He said that the city should do layoffs and service cuts only as a last resort.

He proposed that the city call a 30 day moratorium on all layoffs and that it create a task force of the following representatives:

Staff members
citizens picked by city council members and the mayor

And they would do a cost analysis projection to see how efficiently money was being spent.

Other divisions of city employees are facing similar crises. At least 80 police officers have not received their bonus or step up pay and shift-differential pay might be the next one up for grabs. The Riverside Police Officers' Association is said to be working on this situation.

Did an off-duty Riverside Police Department officer attack a teen in Orangecrest?

A family came forward at the meeting to describe an allegedly disturbing incident involving their 13 year-old multi-racial son, his friend and an off-duty Riverside Police Department officer at Orange Terrace Park in Orangecrest.

According to the family, this incident took place on July 4 during an event held at the park in commemoration of Independence Day. The young teenager Austin, had a skateboard with him when he encountered the officer who was not named but described as being about 5'10 and 250#. Austin's father spoke and said that the officer used profanity and harassed and assaulted his son, who he then introduced to the audience. He was very short and slight.

"Does he look like a threat to you," the father said.

The father said that the officer grabbed his son's arm and pushed him to the ground. When Austin tried to call his father with his cell phone, the officer grabbed it and threw it on the ground. The officer grabbed his skateboard and threatened to split it in two. When his mother picked him up, the officer said that "responsibility begins at the home." The mother said she wondered where it began with police officers and whether or not this individual had undergone anger management training.

In the audience while this account was being provided were Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Police Chief Pete Esquivel. Also in attendance were two individuals who worked in the department's Internal Affairs Division. Although usually in the past, department representatives will speak to families who tell these accounts to the city council at the meeting, this time no one did. But then again, that's the Community Police Review Commission is set up for.

The father said they had a difficult time learning the officer's identity but they did learn it. This account is not the first disturbing one told about the behavior of off-duty officers in the Orangecrest neighborhood.

The Riverside Fox Theater use policy was discussed, debated and voted upon by the city council.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Steve Kester, who directs Riverside's Raincross Chorale, told the council that arts groups like his didn't have the kind of input they deserve on the theater-use policy. It's difficult to plan programming for the year knowing a performance date could be changed on short notice, he said.

Kester asked the council to vote against the Fox policy and study it further.

Councilwoman Nancy Hart raised a concern that long-established Riverside groups might be shut out of the theater by the cost of renting the space. Booking decisions should be weighed on not just how prestigious a group or event is, but the group's history in the community, she said.

"I myself do not want to see the Fox Theatre used for birthday parties," Hart said, but, "There's probably kind of a balancing act that needs to be worked out."

Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes the theater, said it will be important to "maintain a mystique" about the venue, but that doesn't have to mean excluding local groups. He added that for some dates, nonprofits might not get a break on fees.

"The (18 days are) a minimum. It's not cast in stone," he said. "I think this is really a pretty fair compromise."

And despite protest, the city council closes a street in the Greenbelt.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City fire and police officials said at the hearing that they did not believe the closure posed a risk to residents and that records showed that the area generated few emergency calls in recent years.

Conversely, some city residents said they almost lost their lives from speeding cut-through traffic using greenbelt streets not built for the current volume of cars and commercial trucks.

City resident Charlotte Kaukani said she was nearly hit while crossing Dufferin Avenue earlier Tuesday.

"Somebody is going to be killed because of the excessive traffic," she said.

Kaukani's comments were followed by greenbelt resident Charissa Leach's support for the closure to follow through with what voters already supported years ago with the growth-control measures.

"This is what the people voted in place, whether it was 1987 or today," said Leach.

Councilman Paul Davis proposed postponing the vote and favored finding an alternative. However, no other council members expressed support for the idea.

The Riverside Police Department's Magical Musical Chairs

Not exactly, but there's been some movement of mainly sergeants and lieutenants to different assignments in the police department. This intricate ritual occurs in January and July and this time there was a bit of shuffling around in the middle ranks of the department.

Five lieutenants for example have been transferred to head different divisions.

Lt. Larry Gonzalez, from NPC East Area Commander to head of Special Operations (including METRO and aviation)

Lt. Gary Leach, from Special Operations to Personnel Division (and liaison to the CPRC)

Lt. Vic Williams from NPC North Area Commander to NPC East Area Commander

Lt. Chris Manning to NPC North Area Commander

Lt. Mike Perea, from Personnel Division to Investigations

Hanging on to his assignment will be Lt. Bruce Loftus as NPC Central Area Commander. For a while, it looked like he might be heading to Communications (a situation that concerned him because he likes his position), but the department has kept him where he is for now.

The contract negotiations between Riverside County and one of its largest labor unions remain deadlocked.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the county's latest contract proposal is unacceptable.

"These cuts will hurt our services, they'll hurt our members and they'll hurt the public," said union member Mark Grays.

The union represents about 6,000 of the county's 20,000 employees. It's one of three unions negotiating new contracts.

Supervisors have said they are seeking 10 percent cuts to union members' compensation to help offset this fiscal year's budget shortfall. They approved 10 percent pay cuts to management. Elected officials volunteered for the same cuts.

However, Steve Matthews, the union's regional director, said Tuesday that the county's negotiators are asking for cuts that amount to 18 to 28 percent of workers' pay and benefits. He called for an impartial mediator to break the stalemate.

On Monday night, about 1,000 county employees joined hands and formed a circle around the downtown Riverside County Administrative headquarters building.

San Bernardino County gets its "new" assessor.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Dennis Draeger was appointed assessor Tuesday by supervisors who praised his steady leadership in the five months since former Assessor Bill Postmus quit.

Draeger, a 34-year county employee, was sworn in minutes after the unanimous vote.

"I will not let you down," Draeger said. "I will not let the taxpayers of San Bernardino County down. Nor will I let down the employees of the assessor's office."

Draeger, who previously has served on the Calimesa City Council, will fill out the remainder of Postmus' term, which expires in January 2011. He said he plans to seek a full term in the June 2010 election.

Murrieta is looking very carefully at its planning commissioners.

And what will become of Grand Terrace's city manager?

Is your city or county engaging in budget reshuffling?

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