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

Friday, November 06, 2009

Breaking Story: Riverside Finance Committee meets at City Hall

Breaking a nearly year long drought, the Riverside Finance Committee met inside the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at the top floor of City Hall. An audience of about six people including representatives from The Group awaited Chair Nancy Hart, Vice-chair Paul Davis and general member, Mike Gardner as they arrived for the meeting. Hart chaired the meeting but Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen did most the talking as he presented the agenda item which was on electric and water revenue refunding bonds.

[Vice Chair Paul Davis (l) and Chair Nancy Hart discuss issues pertaining to utility bonds at the annual Finance Committee meeting]

[City staff members representing the city manger and city attorney's offices along with public utilities field questions from city council members and the public at the Finance Committee meeting.]

During the meeting, members of the committee including Gardner and Davis asked questions as did people in the audience including Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely about the impact of Riverside Renaissance and its massive expenditures on the city residents. Interestingly enough, some of her questions were answered but some weren't though a lot of words were said particularly by Sundeen.

Sundeen did say that the internal audits of the city by an outside firm would be scheduled to be presented to the Finance Committee in January. It's not clear yet whether the committee will hold another meeting next month or whether the ongoing freeze on this once-major committee has really substantially thawed. That will remain to be seen in the months ahead but holding this meeting was hopefully a first step in the right direction as financial accountability and transparency particularly during these difficult times continues to be a major issue for many city residents. That's been something that's been fading away since the current administration has been in place since June 2005 although it's hoped with the last two election cycles which have redrawn the city council will stem this process and reverse it. Although that still remains to be seen.

One issue that came up is that it looks like there will probably be more employee layoffs though the committee members were not sure how many there will be.

During its heyday, the Finance Committee was one of the committees to be on and especially chair. Former chairs include former council members Frank Schiavone, Art Gage and current councilman, Chris MacArthur. But after it started disappearing on the agenda, Schiavone switched committees and Gage said that he was unable to get items on the agenda for the meetings and soon enough, the meetings started being reduced in numbers within months of the city council's installation of Former Riverside County Economic Development Agency head, Brad Hudson as its city manager in June 2005 and the city manager's office brought the city's finance department into its fold and picked Sundeen as the first assistant city manager of finance over the man who had once supervised him, Jim Smith who had served as interim assistant city manager under interim city manager Tom Evans.

There were some issues about whether the Finance Committee will cover the issues that it did in the past when it wasn't spending its time packed away in some municipal closet wrapped in moth balls. It's been quiet lately because the current and past chairs of the committee seemed content with awaiting instruction on the city manager's office on when to meet to discuss the financial issues of this city and the chairs are the only committee member who can call meetings. Other committee members in the present and past have expressed frustration with this stagnation on meetings of the finance committee as have city residents.

When asked about the issue of community block grant funding coming to the Finance Committee, Asst. City Manager Belinda Graham said she couldn't remember that happening in her five years with the city. Well, actually the committee discussed that issue at its April 18, 2005 meeting according to this meeting agenda. And that was the last time this issue came to the committee since Hudson has served as city manager.

The last meeting to discuss the audit reports was on Dec. 8, 2008 according to this agenda.

The last meeting to discuss user fees, an issue which was traditionally addressed by the Finance Committee at least once annually was March 10, 2008 according to this agenda.

The Finance Committee also reviewed budgetary recommendations for the public safety departments in the city back in the day when it was allowed to perform this function.

And why the subject is committees, this is how active the city council's committees have been since they were reconfigured in June after the latest round of city council elections.

Community Services and Youth ( chaired by Paul Davis): 4

Development (Mike Gardner): 4

Finance (Nancy Hart): 1

Governmental Affairs (Andrew Melendrez): 2

Public Safety (Chris MacArthur): 2

Transportation (Steve Adams): 2

Utility Services Land Use Energy Management (Rusty Bailey): 5

Municipal Matters

The Riverside City Council is set to hold another one of its meetings on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at both 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and will cover this agenda which includes business of both the council and the Redevelopment Agency which are pretty much the same people. If you haven't seen the agenda in the last day or so, check it again as it appears to have been revised.

If you attend the evening session, better not blink your eyes or sneeze or take a bit of a nap because it looks to be one of the shortest meetings in modern history, with only one presentation and one discussion item and a consent calendar which is fairly light. Unless of course, the public comment portion attracts a crowd of people on an issue or two as has happened several times in the past several months.

Norco is planning on moving forward after electing two city council members.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After ex-councilman Harvey Sullivan takes his seat on the council in December beside historic-preservation activist Kevin Bash, some residents don't expect major changes in the city but minor alterations in how things get done in Horsetown USA, a city that prides itself on protecting a rural lifestyle.

"I don't think much will change. I really don't," said Pat Overstreet, president of RURAL -- Residents of Norco Urging protection of the Rural and Animal keeping Lifestyle. "If you've seen it year after year, election after election, people get in there thinking: I can get in there and do a better job. But you find there are reasons things don't get done or things go at a snail's pace."

Overstreet said things take time and candidates learn that, after taking their seats and becoming deeply involved in city decision-making.

"I don't think there will be any huge, huge, difference," said Overstreet, who voted for incumbents Dick MacGregor and Frank Hall because of their experience.

Dusty Baker dedicates the ball fields at Andulka Park.

A Close Call

Why working at horse racing starting gate can be a very dangerous job. Fortunately no one was hurt nor was Quality Road who was gate scratched due to suffering lacerations on his legs after he was unwilling to load. He won't be allowed to race again until he passes a rigorous gate loading and schooling test.

The number "4" horse was eventually winner Zenyatta and she goes in the gate but "12", Quality Road as you can see balks, and throws a temper tantrum putting everyone around him in a dangerous situation along with himself. They put the blindfold on him, spin him around and then lead him through the gate but as soon as girth touches the sides, he starts bucking and kicking forcing his jockey, John Velasquez to have to dismount (and jockeys have been killed and badly injured in starting gates) off to the side. The blindfold becomes dangerous when while trying to back Quality Road out the open gates in the back after it's clear he's at risk of injuring himself seriously, he moves forward and activates the safety mechanism in the front gates which allow them to open when a horses pushes against them and gets out the front. Fortunately, one handler grabs him and putting his life at risk, manages to control him until the blindfold is removed.

Quality Road acted up in a similar fashion in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and to a lesser extent in the Travers Stakes.

Don't envy the guy who got headbutted by a 1200 pound thrashing horse as soon as he got through the front gate. Ouch.

The Board of Library Trustees will meet in the Arlington Library on Monday, Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. If you want more information, you can find it at this Web site.

The Metropolitan Museum Board meets at the downtown museum conference room on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m.

The Community Police Review Commission will meet on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Fifth Floor Conference Room at City Hall. Due to the holidays, this meeting will take place one week earlier than usual.


The Battle over the Soul of the RPD

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