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

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Elecion 2011: Mayor Ron Loveridge Speaks as Incumbents Prepare War Chests

[The formal deputy chief filed a claim alleging that the department launched an internal investigation into a consensual relationship with another officer which apparently included sex-texting, because he tried to expose attempts to cover up the former police chief's DUI incident. The inclusion of an agenda item dealing with claims filed by him and a female officer pretty much gave this one up to the public.]

UPDATE: Former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel files claim for damages alleging retaliation by the city for trying to expose the coverup of the DUI incident involving former Chief Russ Leach. More to come...

[A common sight in the Riverside City Council Chambers. Council Steve Adams leaving the dais during the time period of public comment at weekly meetings which he regularly does. You'll know it's an election year when he starts warming his seat again.]

It's beginning to look a lot like an election year's coming. If you attend city council meetings in Riverside, you can already see this taking place with some of the dais speeches. But now you can see it because some of the incumbents up next year are beginning to fill their campaign chests. With what, a lot of people will ask. If you want to know what's officially being filed, the documentation is available at the city clerk's office at City Hall.

Mike Gardner will face two declared candidates, Marisa Yeager and Dvonne Pitruzzello plus possibly a third if the councilman he defeated, Dom Betro, decides to file to run again. That would be interesting given that most of those backing Yeager's campaign were heavily involved in Betro's campaigns in 2005 and 2007. So what will happen with that support if Betro decides to toss in his hat and run again? Betro as you know has been putting himself in the spotlight of the media lately with his comments of praise towards City Manager Brad Hudson just before the recent round of scandals broke involving guns, badges and cold plates, most of which took place while Betro was on the city council. Betro was also allegedly privy to prior drinking problems involving former Chief Russ Leach including an unsuccessful intervention several years ago yet pushed for the renewal of Leach's contract in 2005 even though concerns about Leach had been forwarded in writing to the city council and mayor in December 2005.

It's anticipated that the Ward One election will be per usual hotly contested and probably a lot of money spent by the incumbent particularly given that the higher number of candidates makes the prospect of a November 2011 runoff much more likely. And with Betro in the mix, because who could really doubt that he would be content to sit on his hands, it could be even more interesting. Does this mean he'll be picking stakes and return to living in that ward again?

Ward Seven which is represented by Councilman Steve Adams who's finally spending more time in the ward he represents than in the wards he doesn't just in time for the election. He's got one declared candidate, John Brandriff and two more possibles including rumor has it Terry Frizzel. But it's no where certain that she's running again and the election process is still young.

Brandriff's been busy writing letters like this one about issues that Adams asserts that he has received no complaints at all about even though he's been implicated in the cold plates scandal and his alleged involvement in the promotional processes of two captains positions has yet to hit the mainstream press. This letter was in response to an earlier one written by Charles E. Condor, III who incidentally shares a name but isn't, the legislative aide for Councilman Chris MacArthur. But the attitude of corruption and criminal activity being "mistakes made" and that they should be disregarded because of all the accomplishments of City Hall is a common mantra inside that building.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise Reader's Forum)

Accurate reporting shouldn't be regarded as a vendetta. Investigative reporting is a fundamental responsibility for any conscientiousness newspaper ("Stop blasting city brass," Your Views, July 29). Far from being embarrassing, the effort to ferret out possible corrupt, criminal or unethical behavior should be worn as a badge of honor.

I think it's absurd to "shoot the messenger" because it brings to light poor behavior on the part of city officials. What this city needs is more transparency and accountability, not less.

I applaud the newspaper's efforts to keep the public informed about coverups at City Hall.

If the letter writer is somehow trying to imply that the ends justify the means and that criminal activity should be overlooked because of someone's performance in other areas, I disagree. No one should be above having to answer for his actions because of his position.

John Brandriff


Councilman Rusty Bailey is so far unopposed in Ward Three and Chris MacArthur (and his legislative aide whose son allegedly wrote a scathing letter criticizing critics of City Hall) are currently as well. But this won't be for very much longer as there are people who are seriously considering throwing their hats in these wards as well. After all, the ball has been officially dropped yet to announce the starting of Election 2011.

Mayor Ron Loveridge Breaks His Silence...Kind Of

[Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge speaks to the public with the written word, advertising about Riverside while glossing over its scandals.]

Mayor Ron Loveridge as far as is known isn't running for reelection though never say never with that guy (and he's not definitely out of an election until he declines filing for it on the deadline in 2012) but he's preaching the message that
Riverside's never been better. Where Loveridge shows that he and other temporary residents of City Hall have been living in a different universe than most of the people they purportedly represent. Again, you have corrupt and criminal acts being reduced to "mistakes made" which makes you think that maybe someone needs to attempt to do some more CPRA requests and find out whether Loveridge or anyone else there has gone off and hired another public relations firm to provide them with the same sound bytes to repeat to the media.

It shows the public how morally bankrupt some individuals in City Hall really appear to be unless they're actually clueless when it comes to high ranking individuals on the watch of Loveridge and other electeds violating state laws and only "correcting" them when they get caught by who else, state law enforcement agencies. If these were average members of the public committing these acts, would Loveridge and the rest of the cast at City Hall be saying that there were "mistakes made" and would ignorance of the laws be seen as a viable excuse for breaking them and not accountable for doing that? What's the first thing that judges and prosecutors tell people who appear in court facing legal violations? They say that ignorance is no excuse for violating the law. Well in Riverside, we've learned that for a particular class of people, that just isn't true. Politicians and their elected employees are allowed to be as ignorant about the laws they break as they choose and they aren't held to the same standard as everyone else under the law. And then the same people in this privileged class turn around and talk about "mistakes made" and how it's all fixed, and my look at that lovely tree over there.

If politicians want to do that, fine. But when you lose your next elections or have to scrape by to get in, or face a crowd of political opponents, perhaps then you can think back to these same earlier words which may seem reasonable to politicians if not the rest of the city's population who are mere mortals after all.

What happened in Bell is awful. It's ethically, morally and politically corrupt but whether laws were violated, hasn't been determined yet by anyone though there are certainly investigations taking place and people are rightfully upset about what's happened. So far the best indication of legal violations appears to involve the actions taken by elected officials to raise their salaries which were largely based on subsidies they received for membership on a list of boards and commissions on a monthly basis. Plus the fact that the city manager elected himself or got elected for a board he was ineligible by state law to serve on. But in Riverside, laws were clearly broken and the fact that they're "corrected" just went to show city residents the wall of privilege that exists to separate elected leadership (who should be more accountable) from the rest of the city. And if these laws were broken and ethics were violated, the fact that these individuals are still drawing pay checks at all means they are grossly more overpaid for their positions than even the highest paid city employees or elected officials in Bell.

But anyway, Loveridge glosses over two issues which have been raised by many residents in Riverside involving City Hall which are accountability and transparency. He says he supports both of them but offers no means of ensuring that both exist in City Hall because everyone knows that neither does when it comes to everything from the mayor and city council handing off all of their financial oversight mechanisms to the city manager's office piecemeal or when it comes to delivering on public document requests by either the public or the daily newspaper.

This is what he wrote on that issue:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

As mayor, I am committed to a City Hall that is open and transparent. City Hall must see all officials, elected and appointed, as public servants accountable not only to the laws and rules of the city, but also to the highest standards of public service.

But what does the mayor plan to do to ensure that this takes place and that city residents can be assured that it's taking place. The answer is that neither he nor the city council as a body have taken any such steps for either task. In fact, most of them still seem to be living in that alternate universe of a Riverside where none of these breaches of public trust took place. He talks about the direction of the police department under its newly hired leadership. But why does the department have a new police chief again? There's a reason for that just like for what else has taken place that's violated the public trust and damaged its faith in City Hall, on the eve of another election cycle.

He touches on the corruption as "mistakes made" in his next paragraphs.


As mayor, I am committed to a City Hall that is open and transparent. City Hall must see all officials, elected and appointed, as public servants accountable not only to the laws and rules of the city, but also to the highest standards of public service.

Let's see, Loveridge has been in power as mayor since 1993 which is a long time. Yet what has he done during that time to address these issues of not only openness and transparency but their cousin, accountability. After all, the conditions that festered to create the current mess that erupted rudely in a public forum as political boils often do, they took place on the watch of Loveridge much longer than those of any other elected official serving on the dais at City Hall. So how can the public be assured now that actions are being taken (especially when these actions aren't specified) by Loveridge and others in City Hall when they never acted in the past to either prevent these conditions from developing and taking root in City Hall nor did they openly and transparently address any of the scandals that have erupted recently including the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving Leach who allegedly had other drinking issues in public for years preceding.

Some actions have been taking place including an ongoing evaluation of Hudson behind closed doors which can't be as "routine" as many make it sound because city employees working for city government are usually evaluated either at the very end of the calendar year or the very beginning of it, rather than in its middle during summer which is peak vacation time. So the fact that Hudson is being evaluated by his bosses in the summer time rather than as has been customary at other times is very significant indeed in terms that this is taking place at all. But given the silence of most of the people on the dais except perhaps Councilman Paul Davis who has publicly challenged the city on the Fox Theater's management, there's been little done or said by elected officials to inspire much if any confidence in the public that these serious issues are being addressed.

Those including Loveridge who had previously praised Hudson as well, the best thing since sliced bread are in the most difficult position because how do they reconcile such praise with serious concern about behavior that most likely they knew had taken place or should have known (including when advised by their legal counsel on the lawsuits filed by the former police lieutenants settled earlier this year) and maybe just assumed that the public would never find out.

This is the more perplexing conclusion to Loveridge's op-ed piece because he ties in openness and transparency with the latest city's slogan-driven conceptual thought called "Seizing Our Destiny". There's nothing wrong with strategizing about economic stimulation through jobs as long as there's actually...strategizing going on and not this endless cycle of city government reinventing the city through logos and slogans (at tax payer expense) every time the city generates negative press especially outside the city. And if it's anything like the city's other master project, Riverside Renaissance, the "Seizing Our Destiny" program will actually involve the city government holding onto fewer mechanisms of financial accountability and transparency than what it started with. Hardly a way to ensure that these twins along with their unmentioned relative, accountability will thrive through the pushing of another conceptual, undeveloped strategic plan.


In 2010, let's make the promise of Riverside's economic strategic plan "Seizing Our Destiny" a reality. Success depends on our working together. This plan charts an extraordinary process for defining and shaping our future as a great city in which to live, learn, work, raise a family, play and visit. Let's do it.

And it is my pledge that as we seize our destiny, City Hall will be open and transparent for all of us.

The mayor's foray into writing op-eds is duly noted and is as always, very interesting but what did he say really? He said, not to worry our little selves about scandalous behavior ("mistakes made") that they essentially got caught at (aka "corrected") without giving any practical or even tangible assurances that these behaviors won't continue to be repeated and ultimately exposed putting Riverside even further into a negative light which may impact its ultimate development and realization as the city that "seized its destiny" or was the center of arts, culture and innovation.

Riverside Electric Rates to "Freeze" and then Increase?

The city of Riverside has said that it plans to freeze its utility rates and offer more assistance through its programs. It's a bit hard to get excited about the latter because the only person I ever knew who needed financial assistance on her utility bill needed it for several months before finding and starting a new teaching job for special needs kids some years ago. Well, to make a long story short, she had to prove she had the money she needed before she could receive any funding on her utility bills and well if she had it, she wouldn't need to borrow their money (and she had planned to pay it back). Not exactly what the city had advertised at least at that time.

The proposed rate freeze that will take place for two years isn't however going to come without some eventual cost which is pretty much in line with the other products that the city has sold the public including Riverside Renaissance. Yes, the rates are going to be frozen but apparently there's a part of this story which hasn't been told to city residents yet and that is after the freeze period expires in two years, electric rates will rise again, by up to 60% for the consumer. This is because some of the products that are going to be installed are going to be "smart meters" which are digital and are read by something similar to a radar gun from off of a person's property at a distance. The costs of the meters and rebates will allegedly be paid for by the public because the city failed to acquire federal grant money to get this equipment installed. But "smart meters" will render at least some jobs done by those manually reading them out in the field in danger, as technology often does.

Also "smart meters" while convenient for the city may also over time lead to the loss of 30 jobs because people won't be required to read meters the same way anymore. If this is the case, then will these people be laid off during difficult economic times by a city that has prided itself publicly on its number of layoffs or will they be given other jobs? City Hall should really answer that question when it's unveiling a plan that could impact people's lives in that way. The city residents should know of an estimate of what their ultimate costs will be and hopefully City Hall including its elected officials will provide this answer in the interests of openness and transparency.

Insulation and solar panels will be available too which can be very useful for people but people need to be told exactly what the ultimate benefits and costs to them will be. That's just doing good business to the public who are the consumers after all.

This is a reminder that if you're a city resident, it's always smart when the city tells you that you're saving money or it's not costing anything to look for any hidden costs. Because you can't get something for nothing and just like in cases like the Riverside Renaissance for example which is being treated essentially like Santa Claus bringing an indefinite supply of gifts, you need to open that gift horse's mouth and look inside it. But if the city's trying to say, they're going to freeze rates and going to the press about it, they should be telling the whole story including any rate increases that take place during a period when the recession (assuming it doesn't double dip) will be during the period when the Inland Empire and Riverside are still in a recession.

Some people say, Riverside can't raise rates only the state can do that. Not necessarily true at all. Riverside can and has voted to create tier payment structures which have involved rate increases in the past. Riverside owns its own utility unlike other cities more reliant on outside companies like Southern California Edison. Of course it remains to be seen what will pass after the two year rate freeze is over and whether rates will continue to remain at that level (which certainly isn't very likely given the freeze has a determinate time limit) or whether they will indeed increase and if so, how much. At the very least, it's something for the Riverside city resident to definitely keep an eye on and pay close attention to when 2012 approaches but the city has raised rates through redefining tiers of rate hikes.

The city council went through a period of great turmoil when it last tried to vote to approve a tier of rate increases impacting local people including businesses. Many people complained en mass and the city council voted to revoke it most likely because several of its members were up for reelection. After the election of course, another tier increase in rates took place.

At any rate, this situation bears close watching in the months and years ahead.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the latest pretty box called a hotel planned for downtown Riverside. That would be the city's very own hotel, the Hyatt which it plans to buy and own for itself. This comes amid news that 20 hotels in the Inland Empire have gone into foreclosure including 11 in Riverside County. This region has the highest foreclosure rate for hotels in the state.

News about the higher rates of hotel foreclosure were documented in both January and April this year.

The death of a Riverside County District Attorney's office employee was by suicide.

Corona voted to make a helicopter deal with Riverside.

Simple Simon reopens after the fire.

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