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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, October 02, 2009

Riverside Renaissance at a standstill?

The financial future of Riverside Renaissance is an uncertain one. It's not like most people hadn't figured that out already but this aspect of the renaissance program hasn't been as heavily discussed in its pages as the let's jump onto the bandwagon aspect of it. Now, before anyone says or states that this is an indictment against civic improvements, nothing could be further than the truth but it's still the favorite club to be used against any city resident who questions the "R.R" mostly by city council members who've been handed pink slips by the same people they chastised and are left to haunt the op-ed pages of the Press Enterprise to continue to sell the Renaissance as if the Dark Ages (i.e. the recession) is but a fantasy and hadn't yet arrived.

So what does it say when even the Press Enterprise is worried about whether or not the spigot of funding for the Riverside Renaissance programs is drying up?

What this means is that its political architects may be able to do the building and construction of many of the capital projects listed under its umbrella but may not be able to pay for the maintenance and operation of the projects after they are completed. Something the city council was warned about by those party crashers at its Riverside Renaissance launching gala at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium three years ago. Back then of course, the city council and mayor rolled their eyes at anyone trying to rain on the Renaissance train but they should listen to what the public has been saying. That it's not that they oppose the projects because there's quite a few good ones (though infrastructure and parks projects were more supported than the seizure of properties to give to developers portion of the Renaissance), they just want to know who and how they will be paid not only in order of completing construction but also in terms of maintenance and operations of the new city parks and other buildings. Where is the money coming to pay for it and whose pockets will be emptied? Will the money come from those "other" funding sources besides the general fund or will funding sources be used as ATMs or credit cards as happened with the city's sewer fund?

But when these concerns were raised at the Riverside Renaissance gala, these folks were treated as if they were as welcome as skunks at a country club and others seeing or hearing about that were afraid to ask at the time until the pom poms were put down. They were not viewed as fitting as comfortably in the chorus with little league organizations (complete with kids, always useful political props) and the Greater Chamber of Commerce who lined up at that same party. Concerns were also raised about the debt that would impact current and future generations of city residents.

And as it turned out, Riverside Renaissance didn't help some city council members get reelected as they might have hoped, in fact of its major supporters, three were voted out of office in the past election cycle and one barely made it through that process. And especially in light of the current and future budget picture, running on financial accountability platforms might be seen more frequently as it was in the past city council election where Councilman Paul Davis included that plank in his campaign to great success. Making it clear to people including voters in his ward that it's okay to question Riverside Renaissance's financial resources and not a bad thing, but a necessary thing. Don't be surprised if candidates in future city council elections follow this trend.

City Manager Brad Hudson the architect of the series of projects was missing in action and unavailable for interviews. But then he's not known for being media friendly when the news isn't great.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Councilman William "Rusty" Bailey said that in his ward, plans for a joint use park near Sierra Middle School have already been dropped, and Councilman Steve Adams is convinced some delays are inevitable. Councilman Mike Gardner said every project is receiving tough scrutiny as it comes up for a vote.

"Start dates are going to be pushed out," Adams said. "We don't know what the next year's going to bring in the economy, and we're not going to take any chances."

The bigger fiscal concern may come once the builders hand over the keys to new community centers, libraries and parks.

Two facilities that opened this year, Orange Terrace Park and Community Center and Andulka Park, together will cost between $500,000 and $550,000 a year to staff and maintain, according to figures Sundeen provided.

So far the solution has been to move existing staff around to cover new facilities and to contract out for some maintenance services.

"We're going to have to ramp up" when the budget improves, Loveridge said. "We will not be able to begin at the levels of staffing that (we would) if times were good."

Council members stressed that the city has been able to open and staff all facilities that have come online, and some said they're confident that growing operations and maintenance expenses will get covered somehow. Officials said they've already budgeted money for the Arlanza "cybrary" and the Arlington Heights Sports Park, which are both under construction.

Others said the council will face some tough budget choices. Councilwoman Nancy Hart said there may be "cutbacks here and there...and we're probably going to have some early retirements and maybe some more layoffs.

Interesting comments from an elected representative who chairs the Finance Committee which has yet to meet on her watch. This committee could be a useful mechanism for overseeing expenditures on the Renaissance if it met but then again, maybe that's why it hasn't met this year and greatly reduced its meetings since Riverside Renaissance was enacted. Then perhaps the entire Renaissance wouldn't have to be funded on "somehow" if there were greater financial accountability of it by the city council.

The storyline which took place in the last couple of years involving the city's sewer fund is an interesting one to follow. Below are some of its highlights.

Riverside realizes need to upgrade sewer system but accounts conflict.

Customers in Riverside concerned about sewer rate hikes

Sewer rate hikes not as high as expected?

The City Council votes 5-1 to approve sewer rate increases

Now sewers are very important but there were disputes or at least disagreements in terms of information provided by past and present city council members not to mention city department heads about when the sudden urgency for a new and revamped sewer system was first sounded. Past city council members like Ed Adkison and Maureen Kane denied every hearing the alarm sounded during their watches and it does seem that the push for the sewer system began much more recently. Probably after the sewer system spent its time being so high a priority in this city that the funds kept in its designated piggy bank were spent on other important tasks like buying up properties on Market Street through threat of Eminent Domain so they could be handed off to developers including a couple who lined the campaign chests of several mostly ex-councilmen.

Watching sewage spew out of the ground and stench up the air for blocks isn't a pretty sight as the sewer beneath Chestnut and 13th Street ruptured near what used to be Grant Elementary School last year sending sewage cascading towards the area where parents parked their cars to pick up their children from that school. Some of them couldn't get to their cars because after all, who wants to step and walk through a stream of sewage? But then there's that other side of it where you wonder if the sewage is the only part of the whole episode involving the sewer and its funding source that smells. That seemed to be the mindset of those who commented on the sewer articles run by the Press Enterprise on what exactly happened to the city's sewer fund during the past few years.

Public Works Director (and former administrative analyst) Siobhan Foster sounded the need for a new sewer but her own employees find her lack of experience in engineering to be a bit of a problem in a department where that field plays such an important role but she's not the first administrative analyst that Hudson has elevated to an important position. Still, it is a fairly old sewer going back decades but it's curious as to why previous city council members weren't notified of its sad state if that is indeed the case.

The customers of the utilities are supposed to pay the higher sewer rates so where does this money go? The sewer fund? If that's the case, try selling that one to city residents with a straight face, given the past record of spending that money elsewhere. If the public is going to pay higher sewer rates, then there needs to be a secured account where this extra money goes so that it can only be spent on renovating or rebuilding the sewer system. After the history of using the sewer fund money on other things besides well...sewers, the public needs some additional assurances that accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure their extra money paid doesn't go towards buying more properties or other expenditures.

Meanwhile, Riverside's financial situation in the wake of the recession made the international news media in terms of how will the city's doing or not doing. The article asks the question: Will California become the nation's first "failed" state?

Actually, I think a better question is what will happen to a once prosperous state when you elect an actor who's almost more of an action figure from Mattel to lead it?

(excerpt, Guardian)

Few places embody the collapse of California as graphically as the city of Riverside. Dubbed "The Inland Empire", it is an area in the southern part of the state where the desert has been conquered by mile upon mile of housing developments, strip malls and four-lane freeways. The tidal wave of foreclosures and repossessions that burst the state's vastly inflated property bubble first washed ashore here. "We've been hit hard by foreclosures. You can see it everywhere," says political scientist Shaun Bowler, who has lived in California for 20 years after moving here from his native England. The impact of the crisis ranges from boarded-up homes to abandoned swimming pools that have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Bowler's sister, visiting from England, was recently taken to hospital suffering from an infected insect bite from such a pool. "You could say she was a victim of the foreclosure crisis, too," he jokes.

Riverside, Pedestrian Friendly?

Mayor Ron Loveridge spoke about how Riverside particularly the downtown is a city for people to walk around from one place to another. Blasphemy in any city located in Southern California, the region of gridlocked streets and highways that become parking lots much of the day. But the truth is, most people who are pedestrians not just by choice but by necessity are scared to walk in Riverside, a city where many streets still lack sidewalks on either one or both sides of the streets and where when construction done, care is taken to preserve the flow of vehicle traffic but not so much pedestrian traffic. I think most people say a silent prayer of some sort when crossing some of the intersections in this city especially the ones which look and run more like four-lane highways after undergoing renovation. In fact on some projects when they were being done, the companies building them will block off sidewalks on both sides of the street. It's kind of funny to be walking down the sidewalk and see one sign closing it off and telling you to go to the opposite side but then you cross the street and run into another similar sign. So what's left to do, walk down the center divider or take a detour which adds an extra mile or two to your walking. What this tells you is that Riverside is led by people who for the most part clearly don't get out of their cars much

Riverside also had 281 pedestrian getting hit by cars last year, more than took place in San Bernardino. It's not really surprising when you try to navigate the crosswalks and cross with the pedestrian signal and find you're still taking your life into your hands. And the generous 15 or so seconds that most intersections give pedestrians to cross, is actually less considering that pedestrians have to wait for the people like even the district attorney who run red lights (and get ticketed , see below), the people turning left on the red arrow and the people turning right without looking where they are going. And what the article didn't really mention is that one of the biggest safety risks for drivers not to mention the pedestrians that they nearly hit (and flip off) are cell phones, which were supposed to be illegal to use while driving after they proved to be as detrimental to a driver's performance as a few few shots of whiskey. But that law appears to have been passed with a wink and a smile, meaning it's not going to be enforced.

Riverside could be a very great pedestrian city friendly, but there needs to be a serious commitment and effort made to do so. It would be great if the city officials themselves would set the standard and do more walking or try alternate transportation, something only one city council member, Mike Gardner does so far although Councilman Paul Davis uses alternate fuel in his vehicle. Perhaps each month, they could sponsor a Day Without a Car for elected officials where for that day, they would have to walk or use alternate transportation including the bus. It would be an eye opener for most of them.

If they want downtown to be the center of pedestrian benevolence, they should also think about making the traffic signals more amiable to pedestrian traffic. Having to wait about 3-5 minutes for traffic signals breaking up the pedestrian mall does have the tendency to also break people's strides.

But it's still pretty much too dangerous with more crosswalks it seems disappearing, not as many sidewalks (and it took a lawsuit to get the wheelchair ramps properly installed in more curbs as several hundred were ordered to be done or redone by a federal court judge) in such a growing urban center and drivers not paying attention to their driving but eating, putting up makeup, chatting to a passenger or on the phone and then there are those who harass women they pass by or assume that every woman walking in certain areas of town is a prostitute.

Some years ago, the Riverside Police Department sent some of its officers undercover to do a sting of ticketing people who nearly hit them while they posed as pedestrians in cross walks. Even though about 60 people driving cars were cited in one day, they suspended the operation because why? It was too dangerous for them or so the story went.

It hasn't gotten any safer to be a pedestrian in one of America's "Most Livable" Cities.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has announced its mayoral endorsement. The Board endorses current mayor, Ron Loveridge and then details what kind of mayor they wished he would be. But they can wish all they want because that's not the kind of mayor Loveridge will ever choose to be. And if after 15 years of service, he still has only the potential to be the kind of mayor the Board wants then it's probably not going to come to pass. But most editorial boards endorse candidates for what they represent, not what they wish they'd represent.


The mayor, for example, could have ensured that the public had far more than a few days to digest the sweeping Riverside Renaissance program before the council approved it. And certainly the mayor should have recognized that a councilman pushing a grandstanding lawsuit since 2007 over traffic from ports endangered collaborative efforts to land transportation funding. The mayor also might have played a role in changing the widespread perception of a high-handed City Council dismissive of public input, and ensured transparency in a city administration prone to working outside the public eye.

Loveridge has a good record of making himself readily available to the public, and he is easily approachable. He is also an affable ambassador for the city, and a reliable supporter of arts programs and other civic activities.

But the mayor needs to be more than a cheerleader. The change Riverside needs this election is not a different mayor, but an incumbent willing to exercise more active and forceful leadership in office. Loveridge has the potential to be that mayor, if he is willing, and voters should give him that chance.

Again, it seems that if he were willing, he had plenty of time to exercise this type of leadership. He's picked his mayoral style and like it or dislike it, he's pretty much stuck with it. Voters are either voting for him because they like his style and don't want him to change it and if any are voting for him to take the Board's advice and change his style, then they're wasting their votes.

For other endorsements by the Press Enterprise Editorial Board go here.

Over a dozen business owners near the latest grade separation project on Magnolia fear that it will cost them their businesses. These weren't the restaurants and stores that had to relocate but others nearby who say they will be impacted by the planned closure of Merrill east of Magnolia which will make life very interesting for those people who will be added to those already trying to navigate the new design of one of Riverside's biggest municipal nightmares, the Central/Brockton and Magnolia quagmire because people go down Merrill in large part to avoid that concrete mess.

Two cases dismissed in Riverside County's overcrowded court system are up for review by the state's highest court.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside County courts are the most congested in the state. There have been 374 felony and misdemeanor dismissals since January of 2007 because the cases reached their last day to be heard, and no judge was available.

The situation has since eased, and there have been no such dismissals since June.

One appellate court decision the Supreme Court will hear upheld a felony firearms case dismissal.

The other case is an appellate court reversal of a felony drug case dismissal.

The firearms case was dismissed after Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios J. Hernandez II refused to send it to specialized courts or the three-courtroom Hawthorne Elementary school court, where there is no security. Hernandez was upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside.

The reversed dismissal overruled Superior Court Judge Thomas Cahraman. A court opened late in the day in Indio for a case waiting in the downtown Riverside Hall of Justice. Too late, and too far away, Cahraman ruled in dismissing.

But the 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled the logistics would have been good cause to delay the trial until the next morning in Indio.

And speaking of the congested courts, Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein recaps on Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, or "Cuddles" as he calls him, and his week.

One commenter seems more concerned about the recent traffic ticket Pacheco received for running a red light (in one of the red light camera zones), his second in two years and his third since 2006.

In related news (labor issues not traffic tickets), Michael Hestrin, who heads the union of deputy district attorney prosecutors argues his case against budget cuts faced by his office.

The new city of Menifee celebrated its first birthday with a party. Happy Birthday Menifee.

Two former disgraced employees of San Bernardino County's Assessor's office had their claims for damages rejected by the city. Now come the lawsuits.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The claim process gives public agencies a chance to address disputes before lawsuits, Wert said.

"When a public agency rejects a claim, it simply means the agency didn't see an opportunity to resolve the issues raised in the claim outside of litigation," Wert said. "That was the case with the Erwin and Postmus claims."

Because the issues could later end up as lawsuits, Wert said the county does not specify the reasons for rejecting the claims.

On Thursday, Postmus and Erwin said they were not surprised the county rejected their claims.

"They have long made clear that they will be ruthless and aggressive against all those with whom they have a political disagreement," Postmus said by e-mail.

He said his next step will be to file a lawsuit.

"It may be a long process, but I look forward to a victory ultimately after all the facts are heard and adjudicated in a fair and impartial forum," he said.

Erwin also said he plans to file a lawsuit.

"The claim is a precursor to a legal action," Erwin said. "Having it rejected is not unexpected."

Postmus and Erwin now have six months to file lawsuits.

The Portland, Oregon city auditor will hire an outside expert to review how the Portland Police Bureau handled the internal investigation of a controversial incustody death investigation which lasted three years.

(excerpt, The Oregonian)

Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade said Thursday the expert will consider why the Portland Police Bureau's internal inquiry spanned nearly three years and will examine whether police policies or training that drove the officers' actions are adequate. The expert will review the bureau's completed internal affairs investigative reports and will not conduct an independent investigation of Chasse's death.

"The public and city officials need to know that the Chasseinvestigation was thorough, balanced and unbiased," Griffin-Valade said.
But mental health advocates who have been closely following Chasse's case, as well as other police watchdog activists, say the city's action is "too little, too late."

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland and Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch said what's needed is the release of the bureau's internal investigative documents.

"They always are just one step behind where we need a police review board to be," said Handelman.

The third time the charm?

It took three arrests but a San Antonio Police Department officer finally turned in his badge. They all took place in one month and involved assaulting and stalking his girlfriend.

Say a fond farewell to Ford's Crown Victoria, the staple of police forces everywhere. Production on them will stop in 2012.

(excerpt, Kalamazoo Gazette)

It's unfortunate for us," Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said. "The cage alone inside our Crown Vics is the same cage for the Crown Vic five years back, and that's an expensive piece of equipment ... The Crown Vic is dependable; they fit what we need.

"That's all going to go out the window when they switch to the Ford Taurus."

The Taurus may be Ford's next police vehicle, according to an Aug. 28 report in the Detroit News, though the automaker has not officially announced a successor to the Crown Victoria.

In Lansing, where the Michigan State Police tests police vehicles, Lt. Keith Wilson said the Crown Victoria has been the car of choice among police agencies for the past several years because of its proven durability and serviceability.

Wilson, commander of the State Police's precision-driving unit, also said that until 2006, the Crown Victoria was the only police-rated vehicle with rear-wheel drive, often a preferred option for police.

"We're confident that whatever Ford brings to the table as a replacement for the Crown Vic will be a quality product," Wilson said. "They're very aware of the needs of law enforcement. It is their goal to retain their market share of police-vehicle sales."

A new program in Chesapeake Virginia helps its officers engage with the mentally ill.

(excerpt, The Virginian-Pilot)

The new course is designed to give officers tools to address and, if needed, defuse situations in which people with mental health problems become dangers to themselves or others.

Communication is critical, Michalski and Baker say. An officer needs to make personal contact; giving a name, talking, reaching out verbally. Not challenging or calling a bluff; not saying "You're not going to shoot" or "You're not going to jump."

Establishing some kind of rapport is a key. Role-playing scenarios that show good techniques will be an important part of the training course.

The need for better approaches to dealing with mental health patients is increasing for two reasons, Michalski and Baker said.

One is the decrease in funding that has led to a shortage of available facilities. The other is a current philosophy that aims at letting patients function in the community rather than in institutions.

Chesapeake's program will be modeled on one in Memphis, Tenn., and an indication of its success has been a drop in the number of SWAT team calls.

Michalski and Baker also say part of the reason the program works is the increasing professionalism of police officers.

Social Networking 101:

Hooters and SWAT Teams don't mix

Top 10 Social Networking Tips for Cops while maintaining a Face Book or MySpace page. Some expert suggested this list after some police officers in Midland Texas got caught posting a photo of a waitress holding a shotgun while sitting on a squad car. Not to mention that the posting of Hooters photos led to the downfall of an entire SWAT Team in New Jersey. And even though they argued that they were forced to go to Hooters, it didn't work.

Meetings and Candidate Forums:

Monday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. Human Resources Board meets at City Hall on the Fifth Floor. Among other things, the board will be receiving a presentation from City Manager Brad Hudson. Chief Russ Leach was a no show last week and it's not clear when or if he has been rescheduled to present on the hiring and retention of female officers in the police department.

Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council/Redevelopment Agency meets at City Hall in downtown to conduct its weekly meeting. The agenda is here.

For Immediate Release!

The La Sierra neighborhood group Residents for Responsible
Representation is holding an Alvord Unified School District
Candidate's Forum on Tuesday, October 6, at the Magnolia Ave. Police
, 10540 Magnolia Ave., in Riverside.

The forum begins at 7:00pm with opening remarks by RRR President
Sharon Mateja. Bill Scherer will be the moderator.

Please see the attached flyer.

Refer questions to:

Bill Scherer

Phone: 951.662.1571

Wednesday, Oct. 7 between 6-8 p.m. The Riverside Police Department and Eastside Think Tank will be holding a community policing forum at Zacateca's restaurant on University Avenue in the Eastside.

Friday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. The Friday Morning Club hosts former councilman and current mayoral candidate, Art Gage at the Janet Goeske Center at 5257 Sierra Ave, near Streeter.

And one charity boat race....

Saturday, Oct. 10 at 3 p.m. The city council members in Riverside will take to Lake Evans at Fairmount Park to engage in a sailing regatta. The race is free and if you want to attend the barbecue and door prize drawings, that's $10. Half of the money goes towards the sailing and the other half will be split among charities sponsored by the city council members in proportion with how many tickets they sell. You can buy a ticket from one of them or from Park and Recreation located in the building in back of White Park.

Six of the city council members are entered with the status of Councilwoman Nancy Hart being unknown (as it's her birthday that weekend).

Here's a list of city council members and their charities.

Mike Gardner……….….Arc Riverside

Andy Melendrez…….…Community Settlement House and the Volunteer Center

Rusty Bailey…………..The Assistance League

Paul Davis……………..The Fairmount Park Sailing Program

Chris MacArthur……....The Arlington Temporary Assistance League

Nancy Hart…………….Not known yet

Steve Adams…………..Make a Wish

The third annual Law Enforcement Ride began in Riverside.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older