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, January 18, 2010

El Nino is in the building

****High Wind, Flash Flood and Tornado Watches***

The first storm under the influence of a strengthening El Nino condition has hit Southern California including Riverside. It didn't rain much more than an inch at most places and it was quite windy at times as the quick moving storm zoomed through the region and cleared out by evening. Don't get those Bermuda shorts out yet. Round two is scheduled for tonight.

At least one street was flooded. Some trees went down and the city's Wi Fi network went offline (see below). But most people survived it, dried off and are waiting for the next batch of wild weather that the naughty boy brings to this region every 5 years or so.

[Arroyo Street as it passes through the Victoria Golf Course. Every time it rains because of issues with the stream that goes under the street, the water overflows and turns into a raging river blocking the street for up to two days until it dries up. This is hard for cars but harder for pedestrians on what's already not the safest thoroughfare, which is a concern because kids from the Eastside travel back and forth on this street to school. The best you can do is tell everyone to detour through the golf course and if they don't like it, then fix the stream and stop flooding a public street. If most of us created this kind of nuisance and hazard, we'd be fined. ]

[Riverside posts this sign about 10 yards in front of the river on Arroyo, but by then you can pretty much see the river itself. ]

I came across this posting about a blog reporter being allegedly assaulted by some security guards at the Fox Theater in downtown Riverside and ordered to be escorted outside of the recently renovated building (at considerable tax payer expense) by a woman who works there. He alleged that Riverside Police Department Officer Chad Chinchilla was ordered to come out and talked to the "perpetrator" for a period of time then left without making an arrest. I'm not sure who called Chinchilla or whether he was there anyway for some reason, and I'm not sure who as to have been arrested, meaning the reporter or the security guard, and on what charges. It's necessary to know that information to know what to make of the situation in its entirety because it raises several issues. It's hard to know what to think otherwise. But there are several issues that this alleged incident has raised already.

It's ironic because this blogger got mad at me once and stood in my face warning me that my "nasty personality" at City Hall wasn't make me any friends there. Okay, so tell me something I don't know or that I'm not aware of since I've been blogging and I've made it clear already that this blog's not for the power structure at City Hall. Meaning I'm not there to do any service for them in my blogging and I'm not doing publicity for the city, because for one thing, they hire people not to mention consultant after consultant to help them figure out how to reinvent themselves every six months or so, even if they freeze more police officer positions, eliminate the firefighter trainee position, cut hours at another library and lay more employees off. Whether it's through a new logo or "conceptual" renovations of how it projects its image to the rest of the world. Seriously, soon enough if not already, they can field two volleyball teams and the consultants can separate themselves into different teams and have a tournament in front of the Mission Inn. And the winning team gets to pick the logo which will be used as a "concept" until the city decides it needs a different one.

There's plenty of outlets out there including online performing that function for City Hall already and some of these individuals should be figuring out that being a "friend" to City Hall in your coverage of issues isn't going to necessarily grant you better treatment.

I mean, I am aware that certain individuals who used to work for a former councilman on a campaign were telling as it turned out the wrong people at City Hall that they were on Craigslist posting much of the nasty content that showed up during a certain election cycle that took place recently. I'm also aware that I'm much more civil at the podium when addressing the city council than some of the city council members sitting on the dais have been in response. Two of those elected officials are no longer in office though still attending key events hoping to stay on the right radar so that they can try to find their way back in the power structures of either Riverside or Riverside County. I'm also aware that if you're telling the city government something it doesn't want to hear, that civility really doesn't matter because you will still get verbally attacked on the dais. Not by everyone there, not even by most but the one remainder from the remnants of both the GASS and BASS quartets, both voting majorities which mercifully didn't last very long because face it, city residents who vote don't like rude elected officials who lash out publicly. That's why elected officials who engage in that conduct always tone it down a bit during election year, not that doing so has worked so far.

The first part of the incident in "The Truth Publication" post deals with the accessibility of alternate media into events hosted by the city. Does the city treat various media outlets equally or does it favor some, most accurately one over the others? The Press Enterprise is barely even a media outlet and that's not an insult, that's the truth. This publication is barely hanging on in life support and it's possible that this newspaper's days could be numbered if the current trends continue, putting Riverside on a growing list of cities without even one news outlet. Remember not too long ago when many cities had at least two? But no, the city doesn't treat all media outlets the same nor does it give them equal access. I wrote 10 years for a newspaper and witnessed that first hand and the publication I wrote for had its news racks forcibly removed and tossed in the back of a city truck, allegedly for violating a constitutionally suspect municipal ordinance targeted at adult content publications.

So I'm well aware of how the city infrastructure in the past and possibly even now views any information that didn't come off of one of its press releases. But blogging about what's been going on in the city isn't going to put you on any of those lists. In fact, when a speaker at a recent city council meeting tried to display information about this blog and Riding in Riverside, the camera angles were apparently abruptly switched so that this information was not visible to viewers. If that's the case, then that's just a bit silly in terms of behavior you would expect to see out of City Hall.

The Press Enterprise has gutted its staff including most of its experienced reporters and recently tried to sell its building without any success. I get a lot of comments and emails about how that publication usually just republishes the press releases sent out by City Hall these days, which is a shame given the great tradition of reporting of the city beat done by current and former reporters David Danelski, Phil Pitchford and such.

But it's getting harder for that publication to survive in this economy and with the advancement of technology including the internet. And reporters are assigned to 4-5 beats at a time now rather than being able to focus on one beat. Beats like city government and law enforcement really are full time positions to be handled well and it's difficult to provide good coverage of what's really going on without being able to commit the time and energy, even if the interest is there. That's the current reality of the Press Enterprise. That and a controversial decision came from its leadership at Belo Enterprises in Texas that the lines between editorial content, news and advertising would essentially be erased. If done, this will essentially finish off the rest of what's left of the Press Enterprise's ability to be a news publication. The collapse of what's essentially the Fourth Estate in Riverside and other cities like it will result in a greater lack of accountability and transparency in local governments. The publication has essentially pulled out of San Bernardino and is putting the bulk of its coverage in South Western Riverside County, as its bureau down there has seen for the most part, zero layoffs. Its Moreno Valley bureau still exists.

Anyway, so I guess the "The Truth Publication" blog had been struggling somewhat to get access to the Fox Theater gala which finally did happen because this individual did post on the event including photographs of the politicians in attendance. The incident with the security guards took place at a different time after the gala. As far as who was supposed to have been arrested, that's just not clear. Did the theater representatives call the police or did the reporter? And who was the 'perpetrator", the reporter or the security guards?

As far as Chinchilla goes, it doesn't seem that either way there would be an arrest for a misdemeanor offense that he didn't witness. Chinchilla and any other officer is also aware that an "arrest" means booking an individual in certain cases and citing in others and paperwork to be filled out in a city where resources are limited. Chinchilla or any other officer might also realize that the time spent doing this for a relatively minor he-said, he-said situation might mean he can't perform his other duties which might be more important depending on if any calls for service including emergencies came up. And if this is the case, then this situation is not of Chinchilla's making, he just works for the city and wasn't in on the decision making to make major budget cuts in the police department. He doesn't make decision about the deployment of its resources, and the topic of how that's done and who exactly does that will be written about here as part of a series on how public safety services are deployed. Hint, it goes back to the thesis raised here about there being many cooks in the RPD's kitchen.

And the reality is that if you want police officers to be able to do these functions, you're going to have to take that up with City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who after all, are essentially telling anyone who doesn't agree with their handling of the police department that they have "final say" in everything. Not to mention that DeSantis said the police department's "fully staffed" which is just patently ridiculous and it's going to be interesting indeed if anyone on the dais steps up to challenge him on that issue and his somewhat suspect numbers.

And it might not hurt to also address the issue with their bosses (perhaps during tomorrow's closed session when Hudson's coming up for his performance evaluation) if it's of great concern to you.

And since this blogger's made it clear in his blog that he's on great terms with Tom and Brad, then this shouldn't be difficult for him to communicate to those individuals. Myself being under some form of moratorium on even having my questions answered by that city department which was issued to me verbally by DeSantis (who believe it or not, is a former public information officer for Riverside County, albeit one who had to sell the 1994 fiasco involving the death of a "toxic" woman (who was much maligned in death by the county) at General Hospital which cost the county a pretty penny in litigation) in 2007, it's hard to be sympathetic when news gets back to me that either is gnashing their teeth over something in my blog.

There's always the option of doing what's called a citizen's arrest when misdemeanor offenses are involved but there's a process for doing that.

However, again this does raise one of the ongoing issues that is currently being researched on my blog will be the whole concept of the relationships between elected officials and their use of police resource particularly in their wards and particularly during their reelection cycles. And how the behind the scenes politics at City Hall particularly during election cycles can impact employment decisions made by the department regarding where it sends its police officers and even how it may or may not be utilizing its investigating resources.

Not so peaceful on Riverside's Dais?

It's interesting that this issue has arisen where Michael Williams Company has apparently not accepted Councilman Paul Davis as a client because to even consider it had generated too much heat, enough so that some of the other clients (and the list includes city council members and the mayor) would pick up their marbles and leave. It's not usual for this campaign fundraising business to turn down an incumbent politician as a candidate so this situation's very interesting indeed.

Candidates on Riverside's dais who are currently clients of the Michael Williams Company include most of those currently sitting on the dais in Riverside. Mayor Ron Loveridge and council members, Andrew Melendrez, Rusty Bailey, Chris MacArthur, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams (who's the current mayor pro tem) all are using the Michael Williams Company to help them raise funds for past and perhaps future campaigns. Only Councilman Mike Gardner (besides Davis) doesn't retain their services.

Davis tried to retain this company and was stalled for about six months before the head of this company told him he couldn't take him on as a client or some of his other clients would walk and no longer use his services. In fact, they would boycott his services. It makes sense that the individuals who would be most likely to threaten to boycott the Michael Williams Company would be those who are most upset with Davis and most likely that would be some of the individuals who share dais space because it's hard to understand why elected officials like those running for county positions would threaten to walk away. It would also make sense that the clients who would carry the most clout to sway the Michael Williams Company to not accept Davis as a client would be those who had upcoming elections when they would most likely be utilizing this company's services.

Those include Adams (who is running in 2011 according to the Web site), MacArthur (who has also declared through this site for 2011), Hart (who is apparently raising money for the 2013 election) and Bailey (who's up in 2011). It's also possible that other individuals who are planning to retain the Michael Williams Company to run for other political offices including Schiavone (who's a possible for county supervisor in 2012) and a host of characters who plan to join what's already looking like a free for all in the 2012 mayoral election. Names mentioned (and you have to take these with a grain of salt) include Melendrez (who's a client of Michael Williams Company), former Councilman Ed Adkison, along with former councilmen, Art Gage and Dom Betro. Are any of these engaging in this threatened walkout and if so who? One would hope that none of them would do something like this. Hopefully, that's not wishful thinking.

Complicating the issues is the fact that Michael Williams Company is also representing current Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff who's up for his first real election in 2010 against a fellow employee, Frank Robles. Schiavone (whose likely looking at a future as a county supervisor) is hosting the fundraiser for Sniff and Davis, for Robles. So is the battle over the sheriff's position in the county impacting the business decisions of Michael Williams Company?

It's not clear yet who these clients of Michael Williams Company are who have allegedly threatened to bolt if that company took on Davis as a client. But it would be very disappointing if this roster of individuals engaging in tactics better reserved for the sand box included members of the Riverside city government. Yes, we know how the city council and mayor view anyone they consider to be an "outsider". After all, most of Riverside's residents don't miss the fact that the city council essentially (though officially, individually) issues blanket endorsements of some of its incumbents. Not that this really seems to help the chances of the incumbents to get reelected all that much, which indicates that these endorsements actually carry little to no weight with voters.

Still this is just so embarrassing that elected officials would act in such a fashion, to show that yes, the city government which is for the people and by the people of this city is a closed off country club junket that is not welcoming to outsiders for fear that the boat might get rocked. When in fact, this is exactly what Riverside needs including at City Hall.

Unfortunately, not even being deceased spares you from some hateful rhetoric, like that which has been aimed at the late Yolanda Garland who died of cancer early last year, after spending years advocating for people in Riverside and her ward.

This is one example and incidentally Garland was a staunch advocate for the police department and expressed her concerns about the staffing levels in a June 2008 meeting not long before what she said was confirmed in an audit of the police department.


"To all of you, do not forget our meeting at Cocos. We need to organize Mike's campaing to get him out. I will be there, Yolanda and the stinking bunch. See yo then"

There are those of us who haven't forgotten Yolanda's work. RIP and whenever we got out and have some cream of broccoli soup, we'll think of you.

The Wrath of El Nino: Wi Fi vs Dial Up

[Dial up on left, Wi-Fi on right, Monday night. The computer on the left is displaying a list of blog postings. The one on the right? An interrupted connection. ]

I was testing the Wi Fi to see how it would fare during the first El Nino storm of the season and actually, the Wi Fi managed to stay working except when major gusts blew the signal out and downpours weakened the broadcast signal strength from the Access Points. But in between rain bursts it functioned well until it finally stopped raining. Then it went down and except for brief episodes of life, has remained pretty much offline since about 4 p.m. yesterday. It's not clear whether it's a network or regional problem or when it will be back up and running again. If it is, El Nino will still be waiting.

Tests at the nearby access point (the street lights with the routers attached to them) indicated that the signal broadcast fairly well until it reached about five feet away from the access point. Signal strength for the connection point fell off (without internet connectivity) at about the 20 feet point with no clear reason why.

The only way to load pages was to sit beneath the access point and that was only pages without too many plugins or widgets like Yahoo and most online news sources. It's not clear why the Wi Fi performed better during the storm than after and as of now, the outage of Wi Fi connectivity in this area has been about seven hours. Some people also reported similar problems with usage since the rain actually stopped.

Hey, I think it's a great system and I'm really all for it, it's got a very important public safety component which the contract with AT&T provided but it's going to be more difficult for AT&T to try to get paying customers for the free version's counterpart ATT Metrofi if you sign up and pay for a week, it rains and then it takes several days to return. It's hard to get paid customers for an outside network which is vulnerable to weather conditions anyway.

Tonight's match up between Wi Fi and Dial Up, no competition and the Wi Fi had been doing more than holding its own in previous competitions, with faster loading speed and better upstream than dial up or DSL. However, in the latest test, dialup averaged about 25 seconds for page loading (down stream) and 20 seconds to send an email (upstream). The Wi Fi? Well, it's still loading the first page two hours later. And with the Naughty Boy scheduled to make repeat visits before he departs, it could be a challenging winter and spring for the Wi Fi network.

But fortunately, the city's pretty responsive in this area including through its Information Technology Division which said that the ISP, AT&T (which is playing this one close to the chest) which serves the Wi Fi has said that there are issues that have arisen and is out fixing them. If you have questions about the Wi Fi, the IT Division is the place to go, they are really nice and helpful and if you call the 311 information line, ask for a woman there named Tina. And for those waiting for the Wi Fi to return, one place to go work or send that email on the fly is the Coffee Depot on Mission Avenue in downtown Riverside. And get one of those egg and cheese sandwiches which are quite good.

***The annual Black History Parade that usually takes place in downtown Riverside has been canceled. There will be an Exp but no parade. *****

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein checks out Riverside's top secret water reservoir.

Public Meetings

The Riverside City Council has decided to hold another meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 3p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and will be discussing this agenda. Actually it won't be discussing much of anything on the agenda. Of course, if you go and speak at this meeting, you'd better not say anything critical because Councilman Steve Adams might have another unfortunate meltdown, especially if he's mayor pro tem. And even though this city council might appear to "work together", behind the scenes as shown by the appalling situation with the Michael Williams Company, it's possible that some of those on the dais are saying that they can't work together or don't want to work together.

But before the excitement of the city council gathering, comes the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss the neighborhood partnership. I have a rather funny story about my election as an alternate representative to that committee by members of my caucus region. I received a letter from the city three weeks later saying I had been disqualified due to new rules that had been passed governing the process after the election. You know in most civilized and organized processes when rules changes like that are made, they don't apply to elections or processes which have already taken place. I got a good chuckle out of that one. People at City Hall complain that I don't play "nice" or follow the legitimate mechanisms the city sets up for (limited) public participation in their government. But hey, I did and I got disqualified for it. Next time, I'll pass. Blogging's much more fun anyway.

But although I'm sad to see the Office of Neighborhoods go (again), I hope it comes back as being more representative of all city residents and not just those that show its rather narrow point of view. Because this city's more diverse than it's given credit for by City Hall and I'm suspecting more diverse than City Hall likes.

The Public Safety Committee meeting again, this time on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m. to this agenda on the city's favorite charity, American Medical Response. Because of course it's up to the city and not the business itself (and AMR is a business based out in Colorado) to make sure it stays economically viable. It's hard to understand how City Hall is perfectly willing to make decisions so that its infrastructure will crumble while it's bailing out developers' projects sometimes with tax payers' money and/or eliminating their competition which of course is a vital part of this capitalist society as we are often told. But the developers who the city treats most generously are on campaign contribution lists for city officials and guess what? So is AMR only it's not called that. It's under another name of that company out of Colorado that you see so often on campaign contribution disclosure forms at City Hall. Check those campaign statements out at the City Clerk's office, where the top city clerk in the country, Colleen Nicol is at. The one direct employee of the city council with an international reputation of excellent service and innovation.

Coming later in 2010:

Sex, Lies and Audiotape

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