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

Monday, July 13, 2009

Will 200 more Riverside City Employees be getting pink slips?

The heat wave continues and that is just the weather's version that comes at least once every July to wilt the city and everything in it.

More heat is being generated at City Hall than outside of it as labor negotiations and renegotiations continue behind closed doors in this city. It's a ritual that takes place at least once a year.

"Off with your heads!"

---Queen of Hearts

There's been some interesting postings about the ongoing situation involving Riverside city government, its management and its city employees. During difficult economic times, the unkindest cuts have been proposed but it's not clear whether those who are making these decisions are facing any kind of salary cuts or freezes themselves.

Now, allegations have arisen that 200 city employees or more might be laid off if they refuse to give up the final 2% raise under their current MOU with the city and most likely, they are members of the SEIU General Unit. Or at least members of a bargaining unit that had an option to renegotiate their contract and chose not to, because of the city's budget crisis. Still, the allegations of threats being made in City Hall away from the public eye (while painting a rosier picture of the layoff situation) continue to be made as they had been alluded to earlier this year.

Yes, layoffs in the triple digits may actually be threats given by supervising employees in or heads of city departments to their employees if they don't give up the last pay increase included in their MOU. Which is ironic considering the city government just certified, meaning authorized that the ceiling on raises given to department heads and some of its other management level employees be raised up to 16% and even beyond that.

Now, if you're an employee who's not in this elite group, raise your hand if you've undergone a similar certification to have your maximum ceiling for your next raise increased by double digit percentiles. What, wait, you haven't been given this same opportunity or perhaps even better, to receive a six-figure salary to work a very part-time schedule as is the case of at least one management level employee at City Hall? Instead, you have been told that your salaries not only aren't going to be raised but they'll be frozen? And you've been told if you're a police officer among the 80 who are awaiting bonus or step up pay that you won't be receiving that either, instead of hearing that the ceiling of your bonus pay will be increased? It's not clear yet what action the Riverside Police Officers' Association has taken in response on this issue or whether or not it will take its case to the city council as well at this or any future meetings.

Allegations have also been raised that newer employees with less seniority may be the targeted employees in these threatened actions if the union's employees push for the 2% salary increase. But then in the city employment ranks, newer city employees have also been used by the management to be pitted against those with more seniority to try to keep them in line. More than a few city employees have called Riverside's employment ranks, a "plantation".

But it's interesting how city officials have said the layoffs are much fewer in Riverside than say, Corona and then you find out that first of all, they are counting only full-time union employees for Riverside's tally while for Corona, they are counting not only layoffs of these employees but also part-time employees and not the mention the freezing of both full-time and part-time positions. Could this be one reason why Riverside appears to be a lot better off than Corona? Why is it that Corona is counting its part-time employees? Unlike Riverside, does its people at City Hall believe that these people count? Riverside clearly doesn't believe that they do because it never mentions these part-time employees and when it lays them off, it's like out of sight, out of mind, never existed at all. Because Corona counts its part-time layoffs and freezes and Riverside doesn't, this gives some Riverside current and former officials and direct employees the opportunity to point their fingers and say, look at how much worse they are doing.

Because Riverside's laid off dozens or perhaps hundreds of part-time employees and city residents barely if ever hear about this going on with the only exception being the termination of a number of library pages.

At any rate, even as the city including its city manager and human resources director try to paint rosy pictures of the city's employee situations, why are there now allegations of threatened layoffs by the hundreds as a tactic to avoid the city honoring one of its MOUs (and there's been other allegations of the city manager's office not honoring employee MOUs in the past until about the time he arrived in the position)? Now, Riverside clearly is better off than some other inland cities but in how many of these places, are threats allegedly made behind the scenes when bargaining units try to get the terms of their MOUs honored at the same time, that decisions have been made to raise the ceiling on maximum raises that can be given to employees a bit higher up in the ranks?

It's all very interesting. It probably will stay very interesting in the weeks and months to come.

These employees and their supporters plan to show up on Tuesday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. to express their frustrations on this issue to the mayor and city council. But a lot of stamina will be needed with at least four public hearings and three discussion items on the agenda before public comment period is even reached.

Guess what? The city has decided not to leave the Community Police Review Commission in violation of the city charter any longer by failing to have a representative on the panel from Ward Two. Since Commissioner Jim Ward resigned about four months ago, this seat has been left vacant. This situation was addressed in this blog last week along with other issues plaguing the very much diluted CPRC. It's very embarrassing that the CPRC was yet in the process of another charter violation and the somewhat caviler attitude towards these charter conflicts by the city council makes one wonder if the charter is little more than a piece of paper with writing on it.

Now the city is in the process of trying to ahem, remedy that violation by holding a special Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 28 at 6 p.m. in the Mayor's office at City Hall just before the city council meeting begins. This committee which of course is headed by Mayor Ron Loveridge will screen applications for the entire city council to interview at a future date. The other members of the committee, Andrew Melendrez, Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams will offer their input and no doubt provide at least 30 minutes of insight into just how much of an insider you have to be to even get an appointment for an interview, let alone a spot on the increasingly politicized roster.

The city will be accepting any new applications from interested and eligible parties in Ward Two to include in its current pool of applications. The two week's notice still gives the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee plenty of opportunity to try to pack the CPRC with another political appointment if it chooses to do so. After all, some of the prospective applicants who thought about trying out for the opening decided against doing so after attending the commission's meetings. Several of them left shaking their head at the dynamics in the room of the commission currently caught in the grip of micromanagement. Others asked who the commissioners were there to serve, City Hall or the community? A couple didn't seem sure whether CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan was on the commission or not, let alone who he served (the city manager).

Since January 2005, all boards and commissions in the city are required to have at least member from each of the seven wards. And the CPRC currently doesn't meet that requirement.

Not surprisingly given the recession, there will be less demand for commercial and office space for the next couple of years.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside and San Bernardino counties, especially the cities close to the Los Angeles and Orange county lines, such as Corona and Ontario, have a similar problem because many companies in the residential construction industry opened Inland offices just two or three years before the housing meltdown started.

Economist John Husing said some 7 million square feet of office space was constructed in the Inland region in the three years before the subprime crisis. At the time, it marked a shift from the area's reputation as a strictly blue-collar job center to a more rounded economy.

Now a total of 6.4 million square feet of office space is vacant.

"The problem is, we built tons of space. At the time we really needed it," Husing said. "Now you can roll a bowling ball down the middle of most of these offices and not hit anyone."

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors may vote to lower developers' fees. But at least in one district, the plan doesn't seem that popular.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said the impact of proposed fee cuts to the county budget would depend on how effectively the measure promotes new homebuilding.

"Potentially, it could be a couple million dollars," he said. "But the idea is to stimulate the economy, and if we are able to do that and get some people back to work, then it is a positive impact."

The proposal would shave about $2,000 off the roughly $4,000 fee for building one home in the Eastvale area of the county, Knorringa said. That's just an example because fees vary from one part of the county to another, he said.

The county projects that new single-family home permits will decline to about 2,000 in 2009. The high was almost 30,000 in 2005.

Supervisor Bob Buster said many residents have contacted him saying they oppose cutting fees for builders.

Buster told supervisors in April that he would rather see a plan that gives the break to homebuyers, not builders. He said Monday that he was still skeptical but willing to support the proposal because it's temporary.

"If it can get something started in the next year, then the loss of fees in exchange for the new jobs and the economic development could balance out," Buster said. "But it's not something I would support for the long term."

Moreno Valley's city council will be voting on what to do about its foreclosed houses.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The City Council will consider several actions at tonight's meeting to authorize City Manager Robert Gutierrez to sign agreements to promote the program. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at 14177 Frederick St.

The city last fall was awarded $11.4 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to address the housing foreclosure crisis, according to a staff report by city Economic Development Director Barry Foster.

Nonprofit housing development corporations have been selected to acquire and rehabilitate apartments and other multifamily units and rent them out.

Other companies will buy foreclosed homes, rehabilitate them and resell them.

"We're trying to get them back with homeowners, make sure they're properly maintained and provide home ownership opportunities," Foster said.

Lake Elsinore is working on developing its downtown plan.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board is chiming in on what San Bernardino County needs in its next assessor during the post-Bill Postmus era. And it gets right to the point.


The San Bernardino County assessor's office needs more professional management and less politics than it had under Bill Postmus. And the office could use a measure of stability after the tumult surrounding Postmus' tenure. So county supervisors looking to fill the vacancy should turn to the man who has been doing the job since November: Dennis Draeger.

Supervisors today are slated to discuss a replacement for Postmus, who resigned in February. The board will consider either appointing Draeger, now assistant assessor, to the top job, or opening the job to other applicants.

The most straightforward course would be to make Draeger the assessor. He has 23 years of service in various roles in the assessor's office, as well as a decade of experience as the county's chief tax collector. He is a professional who knows the job.

Two Los Angeles County Sheriff Department deputies mistook a cell phone for a gun when they shot and killed a man in Athens.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman said Woodrow Player Jr. twice pointed a "dark object" at deputies during a foot chase Friday, causing them to believe that he was armed with a handgun. The second time he pointed the object at deputies, they opened fire.

When investigators searched the alley where the shooting occurred, they recovered a cellphone next to Player, not a gun, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

"It appears the dark object was a cellphone," Whitmore said.

Investigators found a loaded gun in a car from which Player had fled, but it was several hundred feet from where he was shot.

The incident began about 9 p.m. when deputies pulled up to Player's parked vehicle because he matched the physical and clothing description of a man who had threatened some people in the area with a gun. But when deputies approached the car, he ran across the Imperial Highway and into an alley, Whitmore said.

Whitmore said sheriff's internal affairs detectives interviewed witnesses who said they too believed Player had pointed a gun at the deputies before he was shot. "We had a witness who said they saw a muzzle flash," Whitmore said.

But Shendall Duncan, 35, of Athens told the Times it appeared to her that Player was unarmed. She said she saw deputies shoot Player three times in the back before he fell. He attempted to keep running and was shot again, she said.

Whitmore said the incident was being investigated by the department, the county's Office of Independent Review and the L.A. County district attorney's office. Sheriff's officials refused to identify the deputies involved in the shooting.

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