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

Thursday, February 03, 2011

River City: Anatomy of a Football Game

[Sedgwick River came back in force and was still active 12 hours after a brief rain storm. One elected official said that the city will attempt to use FEMA funding to repair it after receiving many complaints from students having to cross it to attend several schools when it's flooded.]

River City Hall Drops Two CPRC Commissioners in Political Melee

Politics Still Rules Process as immunity challenges denied

[The Community Police Review Commission remains the political football of City Hall during the annual appointment process for commissioners]

[The City Council, here having a discussion on ahem, ethics underwent its appointment process for the CPRC ]

Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.

---Lewis Carroll

It doesn't matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn't matter anyway
Our lips are sealed

There's a weapon
We must use
In our defense

----The Go Gos

Some people walked out at the end of the annual exercise in appointing Community Police Review Commission in absolute shock at the outcome but I wasn't one of them. I looked at it two different ways. As a city resident, it was pretty appalling, but as a blogger who writes about politics at City Hall, once again very interesting material to work with once again from the halls of power. It was a very sad day for the CPRC which has seen a lot of them as it nears a critical anniversary but once again City Hall was showing that there's something else that puts Riverside on the national map besides high unemployment and errant water studies (as city officials discussed another study released) and that's what goes on inside its power structure.

It's a shame because Riverside has a lot of positive qualities but they're mostly out in the communities and neighborhoods and not on center stage where essentially how City Hall has carried out some of its business has put Riverside on the national news radar and not in a good way.

After watching this process for the past 10 years there's never been a shortage of constant reminders of just how political the commission remains at City Hall which has adopted it as one of its favorite playthings. And given the past 10 years of observing and witnessing what's been happening at City Hall including its ever evolving Seventh Floor complete with its own revolving door, it's nearly impossible at this point to really be surprised by anything that happens there. Because what the city government provided was a lesson plan in the more things appear to change, the more they remain the same.

As if hearing that the city manager "persuaded" a class of employees into cutting their deferred compensation when he gets to hold onto most of his due to his unique contract language hadn't been a reminder of that. Even though he gets far more than the $3,000 figure cited through his ahem, contract language he still gives up only a small percentage of it. But then one elected official at the belated reception for the new Community Police Review Commission manager actually called their loss of deferred compensation a "slight pay cut". In itself, the use of some rather interesting language that's not really accurate.

But anyway, the CPRC appointment process pretty much the way that it was anticipated to go. After all, when the process regarding incumbents is changed behind the scenes with no one knowing when or explaining why and certainly not allowing public comment yeah, people are going to think that there's some ulterior motive behind it. Good things involving community volunteer positions on the boards and commissions which are supposed to serve as very transparent mechanisms of participation by city residents just don't happen veiled in secrecy behind closed doors. But people thought, no the city just wants to give every applicant a fair process and that's not a bad thing but then again, it was pretty clear after watching the process itself that took place what whoever made the changes was actually thinking something else entirely. And it provided a very salient lesson from a very old history book for those in attendance.

In fact, the two incumbents didn't even know they were up for interview until told by other people besides the city officials who should have notified them much earlier than they did. They might have had questions about why they were suddenly and without being duly informed subjected to a completely different process than existed with their predecessors and a completely different process than incumbents in most of the city's boards and commissions. Does that make the changes in protocol bad in themselves? No, they might even be good, they might even be useful, they might even be fairer but the lack of communication about them and the complete mystery which surrounds how these changes took place and when just served as an overture to what took place afterward.

That delay in notification of the involved parties just feeds the theory that there was an ulterior motive to it, because again if there had been any integrity, the changes would have been made in a public manner which would invite public input rather than behind the closed door of some office or conference room on the Seventh Floor which is what apparently did happen. And it happened either through the ignorance or the tacit blessing of everyone on the dais even after everything that City Hall put the residents in this city through last year. Even after it should have learned that this kind of behavior behind closed doors has been detrimental to the public trust in the city and one of its departments. Even after learning that losing public trust is so much more easily done than rebuilding it. What the city government showed after an appalling lack of active leadership last year through the most difficult days in the city's recent memory is that collectively and perhaps even individually, it really hasn't learned a damn thing and that's shameful because of the high costs that 2010 incurred on many people including city employees who didn't deserve to pay the price to what others in more insulated positions had or may have done.

After all what did City Hall do, it handed off an "independent" and "sweeping" investigation to one of its employees who probably should have been included in any such investigation because he supervised and many say micromanaged the department head in question. Did anyone at City Hall publicly object to this inherent fox guarding the hen house action?


Did any elected official suggest that a truly outside independent investigation be done?


And did any of them respond when a couple of their direct employees were mired in serious questions about the accuracy or even production of their employee phone records?

No, of course not.

It was left to a community organized coalition and no doubt many irate city residents to ask or try to ask those questions and to try to address those issues. And when at least one elected official was "caught" (or a "got you" as one elected official said was a reason not to hand over public documents when requested) with some serious questions to answer when revelations of some of the scandalous behavior at City Hall came to light, he dismissed it as "old news" essentially patting himself on the back and everyone else for ensuring that it wasn't discovered until it became "old". Some elected officials were at least cognizant enough to realize the peril of that certainly politically and tried to create avenues for ethics complaints to be filed against elected officials later than six months after the alleged incident.

One reason why this matters whether or not the city government even chose to acknowledge that serious problems took place last year is that it's through this process that lessons are learned, often painfully and behavior including that which is deeply entrenched is changed. After all, as the first anniversary of the DUI incident involving the former chief approaches, is the city really taking the steps to ensure that there are not future incidents of scandal? And if so, what are they? So far not much of anything.

The mayoral state of address was very revealing as there was no mention of anything that happened last year and the hiring of Chief Sergio Diaz was treated almost as if he dropped out of the clouds one day. When it's very important for the city council and mayor to both acknowledge publicly and show that they have an institutional memory of exactly how the city's newest police chief got here to avoid trying to make the same mistakes as it did before. It would have been refreshing to hear Loveridge say what lessons he had learned from last year during his speech and the steps that City Hall was taking to avoid any further scandals but since he has spent most of last year acting in public like they don't exist then that wasn't going to happen. That would have shown true leadership from a City Hall where it's completely lacking. Ironic considering how many elected officials have either declared or thinking about trying out for mayor next year.

Not all that shocking after the year that just was, but pretty disappointing anyway and it's left people shaking their heads as the news spreads about what happened during the appointment process for one of the city's most compromised boards or commissions. It's interesting because it left people hoping that the governmental body and the city itself doesn't hire or promote employees through the same process that it appoints board members and commissioners but then wait, that's how the police department and city ran its promotional system for at least the past five years at its highest levels, according to a lawsuit filed by two now retired police lieutenants. And there were similarities between the process and priorities behind those selections for CPRC commissioners as was done with the department's upper echelon promotional system so maybe what happened in the conference room at City Hall really shouldn't have been that surprising.

Still, I was pretty much sitting in the chair during the process waiting for the power plays in a couple cases to they often had done before because that's what the rule book states and no one's willing to write a new manual at least not so far. It's to the point where they should not have applicants come in and do interviews but maybe just run the names through the city council like they do in the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee because it's clear that the interviews themselves for the most part are a waste of a perfectly good day.

Even though this year produced some of the better questions asked by council members, it was pretty clear that no one really paid attention to the answers. The only unintentional comedic relief was when Adams asked what could be done to bridge the gap between the police department and the CPRC (which ironically, Beeman provided the best answer and explained mechanisms to do that, alas ones vetoed by the commission or its staff itself) which is pretty funny considering his own sworn testimony and some of the revelations that came out about him in two lawsuits filed by former police lieutenants that were settled last year.

Because if an elected official is really as alleged vetoing the chief's promotions and harassing and threatening union leaders who don't support him politically, and has never been a behind the scenes supporter of the commission, then maybe they should be answering the question themselves rather than asking it. But for the most part, the questions were better than in previous years...too bad it didn't really matter because those who provided the most thoughtful, less crowd pleasing responses, those who answered them best were among the first eliminated from consideration.

That didn't have to discuss it because unlike with more ordinary business, they didn't have to explain their votes or even discuss...almost as if the commission appointment process was just another item on an overcrowded consent calendar.

The city council and the mayor talk about how transparent (and the more they have to talk about it, the less it usually is) the process is, yet they cast votes written on slips of paper (presumably to prevent bloc building) and that's all that's said on the votes. No insight as to why they pick this person over that one (though it's clear that some of them didn't really want to explain and it's not hard to understand why)'s really not much different than if they held the deliberation or votes in closed session rather than an open meeting. It doesn't leave much to trust in the current process and it's been interesting trying to explain over the past 10 years how it works or is an example of democracy in action to those individuals witnessing it for the first time who walk away from it with a much different impression.

That's what has happened during this process many a time because it really does provide a look at what the elected government in this city is really all about and you wonder if it's this sad a display in public, what's it like in private? Because it's hard to walk out of a process like that and not really be concerned about how the government's being run especially with a couple of them but then you have to remember, the city council in the last five years has farmed out most of its accountability powers and responsibilities to its administration.

It sat by and allowed a police department for example to be run by civilian managers who mainly seemed to be more preoccupied with decking themselves out like police officers and micromanaging that department down to its last dime. And it's pretty clear now what kind of affect that had on a department which has three management team members including a chief from outside the city.

But then most of us who've been paying attention to the dilution and micromanagement of a civilian oversight mechanism like the CPRC aren't exactly shocked by what transpired in 2010 in this city. Maybe that's why most of the governmental officials were silent when it happened, out of shock but then again, some of them dismissed it all as "old news" and probably patted themselves for their lack of transparency in terms of the public knowing.

Because the public are left in the dark about what rationale the elected officials are using when they're making appointments or as was clear in this case, rejecting them. And the city government's certainly not concerned enough to change the process to create greater transparency.

Then again, it seemed likely that some discussions had taken place already and if this process was held behind closed doors, it's likely that there might be more discussion about the votes. What's clear is that not one of them feels comfortable or that it matters to discuss them in public before the votes are cast. In some ways that's unique to this process certainly in recent years but it's also not that much different from city council meetings in generals as the years pass.

That's why people think that going to city council meetings in general on most issues is a waste of time because they know when the council members and mayor sits down, the minds have usually been made up and the discussions that truly matter have already taken place. With people much more important than mere mortals who only have the power of the vote, but have shown in the past three election cycles that they know how to use it and how to grade their political officials. How can members of the public stack their opinions on issues with the really important constituents like developers and why bother to provide an assessment when asked about commission appointments when it still comes down to politics or elements like who's friends with who, who burned who years earlier or whether a person played golf or was on a particular soccer team.

And when you have city council members boycotting public comment because they don't like what people say (and they don't realize that their departures are caught on camera for the viewers at home), then what you have is a city council that's not in touch with all of its constituents, not just those on the city's Rolodex to phone when they need them to "me too" an item that the city government wants to pass that they think many people might not like or have questions about. One of the most popular questions I receive when meeting people who watch the meetings at home is why even bother going to the meetings because the city government doesn't seem interested and have even appeared hostile to people appearing unless they are there to applaud them even when they haven't done anything. That's a reason why the fact that so many incumbents have been voted out in recent years is hardly surprising and it's not likely the city's seen the last of that sentiment. They get voted out no matter who endorses them, something for incumbent city council to keep in mind first of all when they choose to do blanket endorsements of each other and then watch "their" choices get handed pink slips. But even those who defeated them haven't learned that lesson so it's not realistic to think that those who have engaged in that tradition longer to have done so.

But the CPRC has always been a popular football to toss around and try to intercept in the pass.

That's why in the end it doesn't really matter how much politicians at City Hall and their staff manipulate mechanisms like the CPRC and the newer toy, the Ethics Code and Complaint process. Doing so doesn't seem to help their own political survival either.

Because the votes cast would be public either way...only in a closed session, one can bet there'd be a lot more discussion and debate over candidates especially in close votes where there's no majority decision or result.

It's no less the political football that it was when it was created in 2000, out of political necessity and a lot of good intentions and it's no less than it was in November 2004 when about 60% of the city's voters passed a ballot initiative to put it in the city's charter. That action was done in an attempt to put its use as a political football by City Hall behind it, but it appears that the Seventh Floor politics and those who play them were just getting warmed up. Not much of a legacy for the commission which turned 10 years in January.

But what the city government doesn't know yet is that the more they grab onto that football, the less powerful it becomes because in actuality, the CPRC doesn't get its power from the political actions of politicians who themselves have been pretty interchangeable at the voting polls recently but for the community which has frankly lost faith and lost touch with the commission years ago. And the actions taken by the powers that be on the Seventh Floor aren't going to change that. What today's selection process has done already is generate talk that the appointment itself needs a charter change and what the community is talking about is well, if the city government wants to make it their political process, then the communities can make it all about politics beginning on the campaign trail this year.

What was striking about it, is that you had elected officials espouse one quality they prized most in commissioners before they eliminated candidates who held those qualities without any discussion of their actions. Take the councilman who was so concerned about those signing on knowing how much time the commission would require from them. He then turned around and voted for two candidates who appeared to have the least clue about how much time the commission would take and eliminated two incumbents, one who worked in a political campaign of the former councilman he defeated in his own election. Another councilman voted for at least half of those on the applicant list at least once, changing his selections completely each of the first three rounds of voting.

And who could forget the council members who said training, training, training was paramount and not just here and then they ejected the candidates who pushed for more training, the incumbents. Don't be surprised if some of the ideas that the incumbents provided are adopted by the council and credited to City Hall though given its track record at actually carrying out that kind of process with the CPRC, it's really difficult to be that impressed that anything will actually happen. And that the CPRC will be left with a third of its membership brand new with one of the only commissioners with experience and interest in mentoring newer members left on the sidelines.

What the city council and mayor collectively showed in this process was that they don't get it, they don't understand why the CPRC came to be, its tumultuous history

The only thing surprising was that at least five city officials appointed Robin Jackson for the first spot, the new candidate in the mix who gave by far the best all around interview in a pool which was far from "outstanding" as Councilman Chris MacArthur said. The former Santa Ana Police Department officer turned RCC photography instructor gave an interview that clearly showed she had prepared for her interview by doing research, had a lot of diverse skills to offer and was clearly interested by selecting the commission as her choice rather than as an also-ran or not even listed as an interest at all. And to a lot of people's amazement, she won appointment in only one round of voting even though she produced one of the best interviews in years and the interview seemed to be the most reflective in terms of her personality of all the candidates.

But as far as going based on the same qualities which they embraced in her, they stopped doing that after the first vote and adopted tried and true (and if you've followed this process for 10 years, you've seen all these tactics) and very political choices in the following rounds. They weren't particularly difficult to pick out either but what was disappointing is that they are the same political games. One candidate picked, Ralph Johnson, a former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department seem to give the impression that he was applying for a job on the police department rather than a spot on the commission which provides oversight. And he didn't relate anything on his rather impressive professional resume in regards of his law enforcement career or his interview about community involvement.

Jane Adams, the other candidate who won after several rounds of narrow voting didn't even have the CPRC listed on her application as one she was interested on and she gave a good interview for applying for one of the other boards and commissions that she was clearly more interested in but didn't offer much up in what she would bring with the CPRC or seem to know much about it. It's a much steeper learning curve for people who don't seem very interested in the CPRC in particular rather than commissions in general.

Hart and others said it all though in the interview when they said they had to get the losing applicants on the other city boards and commissions without realizing the irony in that, this was how they stacked the CPRC's new appointments already. She beat out Andrew McManus, a sometimes bail bonds enforcer who didn't really give the impression he was that interested in the commission either. But then most of the city council isn't either so maybe that's why they relate so well to picking applicants to whom the CPRC's not on the radar or who don't seem to know much about it when there's much research available not to mention meetings to attend each month.

The selection process began auspiciously enough when the city council and mayor decided that rather than automatically appointing incumbent board and commission members to second terms, they would put them into the general pool. With the CPRC, the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Commission started with a list of applicants to that commission, winnowed it down to 13 with both incumbents Chani Beeman and Peter Hubbard and then the phone calls started being made to select applicants in the applicant pool for the city's other boards and commissioners and another group of them including those who hadn't even considered going out for the CPRC were added to the interview pool. That's nothing unusual, as that's happened before with even new applications being added to the CPRC applicant pool itself.

But there were questions asked why Beeman and Hubbard were required to go through the reappointment process that was different from all prior reappointment processes and in what public venue, the city council and mayor voted to change that process? Both the Planning Commission and Board of Public Utilities were treated in the same fashion and the handling of the CPRC's appointment process might be a preview for what's in store for the incumbents of those boards and commissions including one member of the Planning Commission who already sounded as if she were in trouble at the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting last month. But the talk was already starting that the incumbents at least those for the CPRC were in serious trouble.

And ultimately both Beeman and Hubbard were voted off the commission by a city council and mayor who seemed more intent on voting people off than in voting people on, as evidenced by some of the comments made by council members including Councilwoman Nancy Hart who said, we've got another one out....and so forth. The meeting which has been audio recorded one hopes is pretty eye opening as it is clear that elected officials who should have been trained in this process stumble over the process even as they fumble the football.

Any beliefs that it would be otherwise were more than defused by what transpired at the end of the all-day interview process. The ability of elected officials to engage in that is greatly facilitated by the fact that there's zero discussion at least in public about why political officials cast the votes that they do.

And both incumbents who were tossed by City Hall, clearly read the writing on the wall during their interviews. In fact, there were rumors that Hubbard thought about not putting in for reappointment. Clearly Beeman knew she was short at least two votes even before she opened her mouth and Hubbard, well his ejection from the commission came later in the voting rounds as the voting itself became more strategic. That was clearly seen by Councilman Rusty Bailey who grappled badly with that process picking different selections with each voting round clearly behind the curve. What's with this? I'm picking this person because they have the best qualifications, no wait, these two people I really mean that these two completely other people do. For being an expert on civics and government as an educator in those subjects, Bailey still hasn't picked up the basics on what politics is really all about and how it's played in River City.

But that's not nearly as good as well I pick this person even though they know nothing about the CPRC but they.....oh wait, round to pick this person because official A and official B picked this other person so I'll pick my choice and not the person competing for votes because I don't want either to beat the one I really want....omigod...this person has this association with me? Cool, he gets my vote. Then there's the, I'll vote for this person...didn't get it...drat...okay who did the mayor vote for in the last round...because he was the last name read in the tallying.

Then there's grrrrrr, I've been waiting for this day FOREVER and even though I pointed out that A is the most critical qualification, I'll pick two commissioners least likely to understand A because those who do, grrrrrr....I wouldn't vote for one of them if caught in the 40 day super storm that the meteorologists are I won't. And that was one of the incumbents, the ouster of which forced the ouster of the other even though it took some council members a couple extra rounds of voting to see that.

That was probably the most disappointing but most transparent dynamic in a process that actually had little transparency. But the most disappointing vote was Gardner's because he knows the process, he knows the commission including that putting a third of it on a steep learning curve with a new manager is extremely difficult, he went on and on (and rightfully so) about the commitment requirement and he still clearly voted on other criteria besides who was the best candidate for the job. Since he opted not to explain his votes in a public forum, there's still the campaign trail.

And there's an angle to the CPRC which he introduced intentionally or not which will be discussed in part two of this blog posting on this subject along with some further analysis of the appointment process and what it means for the CPRC.

Most people would agree with the dynamics that played out including the above.

As for the commissioners, Beeman will be fine off the commission because she provided about 90% of the thrust of the rudderless commission in the past two years and she was the most informed applicant, the most committed to the process and she'll continue her involvement in these issues in probably a more effective way. I had my doubts about her especially considering how her reappointment went in front of and allegedly behind the scenes but unlike most people, she took the ball and ran with it, attended more meetings, worked harder and put the most into the process by far than anyone else in the commission. Even when you disagreed with her and often I did, that couldn't be denied.

She earned her reappointment, and she lost it not because she wasn't a good enough commissioner but because she was too good of one and because of politics, pure and simple. It's frightening that someone who could actually work as hard as she did, to serve both community and police (and her son's an officer) well. She had her faults and there were things she did I really disagreed with but she had her strengths and frankly the last thing the commission needed was to lose an experienced commissioner to political game playing. Because it's about three years behind where it should be (and that's mostly due to anticipated and unanticipated high turnover among its members and managers) and it's falling even further behind but since it exists mostly as a political football for elected officials to play with once in a while, that doesn't matter.

And as someone who knows the commission much, much better than all the elected officials put together, every single elected official who didn't vote for her reappointment (and Hubbard's for that matter) should have given a detailed explanation why they did not or they should just be ashamed of themselves and their silence. I never thought I'd say that but she worked her butt off to help the commission become better and more accessible and to improve relationships with the community and the police department outreaching to both community and the Riverside Police Officers' Association and earned a second term.

Since it was clear most of the other applicants were interchangeable (as more than one said, we've got to find other boards and commissions to put them on forgetting that those boards and commissions had applicants who weren't invited to be interviewed). Did they have to vote for any board or commission incumbent? No, but they should all line up and provide reasons in public as to why not right after they cast their votes if they don't actually feel like having a productive and informative discussion on the issue ahead of time.

The commission is too much of a toy by the city government to really benefit from people who actually are truly interested and committed towards carrying out the roles and responsibilities as dictated in the charter. And she was one of the only applicants who wasn't trying to please the interviewing body, taking political risks with some of her candid responses (though not as big as the one Hubbard took when he mentioned the Riverside Coalition of Police Accountability which like any community organization not registered through the city is equivalent to the Mafia kiss). Hubbard had his issues, his conflict of interest which the city council and mayor denied existed before and the fact that he missed meetings and even slept during a couple of them but he became in his own way a political pawn as much as Beeman. In fact, some people walked away believing that elected officials cut some deal to eliminate one to eliminate the other and before any elected official howls about that, think about this fact even though that theory is not a very likely one to explain what did happen.

If you don't discuss or debate your votes on these critical appointments before casting, you really nothing to complain about in terms of how people perceive them. You want to change that, either start having those discussions even if there's conflict and you can't go along to get along on it or just take the process behind closed doors so that at least the discussion takes place if you are too afraid to let the public in on it. Have the guts to talk about your votes before you cast them right in public. And if you've had discussions about the process behind the scenes then share that information too. The people who apply to the city's boards and commission truly believing they're on equal footing deserve at least that much accountability and transparency in the process.

Below are three rounds of voting by the city council and mayor. Each commission appointment required a minimum of five votes. The numbers translate to wards. The fourth and final round of voting was difficult to follow because of all the confusion and disagreement over the vote tally, what the vote tally should be, who just got eliminated and general chaos over the process itself. But that was the round where Adams was appointed.

Ward One:

1: Jackson
2: McManus
3: Jackson
4 Hubbard
6 Jackson
7: Jackson
Mayor: Jackson

Jackson appointed. And only Beeman rivaled her in the interview process as she was clearly a top candidate.

One interesting note about this round is how originally outgoing commissioner, Brian Pearcy was the designated Ward One candidate and I learned this through numerous discussions at City Hall yet only in the first round of voting was it kind of passively made known (but not formerly announced) that all Ward One candidates including the incumbents who were at-large appointments would be eligible for this category. One of many times, the city's been indecisive about its own appointment process. Eh, probably won't be the last.

City wide:

1) Mcmanus adams
2) Beeman, Ibram
3) Hubbard Beeman
4) Hubbard Ballance
5)Johnson Hubbard
6) Johnson, McManus
7) Johnson Hubbard
Mayor: Johnson, Adams

Hubbard just narrowly misses reappointment, Beeman is eliminated essentially and notice how Hubbard starts to fall out in the voting.

1) Adams, McManus
2) Beeman, Johnson
3) McManus, Adams
4) McManus Hubbard
5) Johnson, Hubbard
6) Johnson, Adams
7) Hubbard, Johnson
M) Johnson, Adams

Johnson appointed but look at Bailey all three rounds, in three rounds of voting with five choices allowed, he picked five different candidates, changing his vote completely each round.

Chamber of Commerce Organization Refused to Endorse Lunar Festival Downtown

[The Lunar Festival was a great success but where was the Chamber?]

One of the best cultural and entertainment events in Riverside was endorsed and supported by businesses who were members of the Greater Chamber of Commerce but not by the illustrious Chamber itself. Not the first time the Chamber has shot itself in the foot but it missed out on an event attended by at least 20,o00 people including many who shopped Riverside while they were there lending support through their dollars to local businesses including restaurants.

But then given that downtown according to the Chamber appears to be a playground for only a relatively small segment of the population, this development though disappointing in the 21st Century is hardly surprising. The Chamber at the very least underestimated the buying power of the city's fastest growing racial population, Asian-Americans (in part because of the universities and colleges) and at worse, it engaged in behavior worse than that. After all, the Chinese haven't been banned from immigrating to the United States for years now and have been an important fabric of this country and Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans haven't been interred in camps (permanently losing their economic properties) while sending 25% of their eligible numbers into the armed forces to fight the Japanese forces, since the 1940s. But discrimination still remains in other forms including the issue of invisibility.

But many of the businesses who had their properties taken by the city through threat of Eminent Domain (which the Chamber publicly endorsed) were owned by Asian-Americans and Latinos including relatively recent immigrants and since some of them were leasing the space rather than owing it, they lost their businesses for good. Clearly not fitting the Chamber's and city government's vision of the newly renaissanced downtown.

But will the Chamber become more enlightened by the time the next Lunar Festival rolls around or starts organizing again? That remains to be seen but by being narrow in mind or at least in vision, they miss out on opportunities to benefit from the economic contributions of Asian-Americans and many other peoples who attended the festival in full force and helped make it a success during its premiere year.

The businesses who were smart and inclusive enough to endorse and support the Lunar Festival should also work within the Chamber to change some of the attitudes inside there because that might go a long way towards changing some narrow visioned minds within that organization that purports to be an advocate for small business owners in Riverside.

Riverside Government Discusses Salaries, Keeps Company Cars

Riverside's mayor and city council discussed their pay situation at the most recent city council meeting late in the afternoon after they moved discussion of this and the deferred compensation proposal involving a group of management employees to the end of the meeting. It's ironic watching that discussion take place involving the sacrifices that city government has to make with their deferred compensation when it appears that it at least had a voice in the process and could ask questions in a relatively open environment because they are the top bosses in the city's hierarchy. They didn't have to sit and be told to embrace something and not be able to really ask any questions about it. But considering that at least one unfortunate city employee was allegedly given a two week unpaid vacation not long after asking a question in a meeting with upper management which was set up purportedly as a question and answer session, it's not surprising that there's not much asked in the way of questions.

And purportedly because of the way their contracts were worded, certain upper management employees who persuaded their subordinates to make sacrifices with their deferred compensation pay were allowed to keep most of theirs. Maybe that proposal that was approved after the city council and mayor discussed and voted on their own salary and benefits packages as part of a charter-mandated biennial review, would have gone down a bit easier if the upper management was making nearly the sacrifices that they were "asking" of their employees.

At any rate, many people are kind of a loss as to how the city officials get retirements and some life long benefits while putting in a minimum of five years on the dais and why management employees like Brad Hudson get much more generous health care packages than the employees that he and his team are telling to make sacrifices for the better fiscal health of the city.

But as this goodwill tour of Hudson (whose reins on this one might be firmly in the hand of Loveridge) is moving from one labor union to the next including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and then there's also been concern about certain high level employees pushing for step increases for themselves before there are freezes.

What will be interesting is when Hudson and company take their pitch to the Riverside Police Officers' Association which has three prominent leaders currently at various stages of promotional probation which lasts nine months for sergeants. Primarily because of the history of what's happened with police union leaders in both of its associations in the past several years and probationary status makes employees vulnerable.

Already Vice President and Sgt. Brian Smith has raised questions on the process and he's not the only member of the association to do that but he's the first one publicly. Hopefully President and Sgt. Cliff Mason will join him in publicly asking the questions which frankly need to be asked and discussed in part because the city's climate towards union leaders who ask too many questions hasn't been very kind and in fact, wound up costing money through litigation filed by past union leaders. What will this process due for future recruitment in both the fire and police departments (if it does the same thing) is a question that has been asked, but so far no answers by city management, hardly surprising there.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

But Sgt. Brian Smith, vice-president of the Riverside Police Officers Association, said a two-tiered pension system means asking employees to do the same job for different compensation, which could be "very dangerous and problematic in the long run."

He thinks the state's money problems and national economic slump have focused a disproportionate amount of attention on pensions.

"I think (Riverside officials) have jumped on the bandwagon because it's easy to do," Smith said. "The council's going to use this opportunity to force bargaining groups into a different pension system."

He said the 340 or so members of the association have been working on an expired contract for nearly three years and they haven't had raises or benefit increases in four years.

Is Hudson or any of his staff working on expired contracts at the moment? And how much money and benefits was paid off to make former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis go away after he resigned after alleged conduct not related to any of the known scandals was reported?

The Riverside Police Administrators' Association shared some similarities but some differences with the rank and file union. The RPAA has already had past leaders who have experienced repercussions due to their labor involvement in raising controversial issues.


Lt. Ed Blevins, president of the Riverside Police Administrators Association, said he won't know how the union's 23 members feel about pension changes until an upcoming meeting.

"I think for RPAA, the majority of members know that something has to be done. It's just what particulars need to be worked out that is equitable to both sides," he said.

The city council and mayor didn't give themselves raises but to call what they took a "pay cut" was not accurate either because they gave up their deferred compensation which is rather generous considering they don't put in 30 years with the city.

The whole car issue is interesting...but some employees don't get updated contracts for several years and others get cars (though apparently no one has opted to adopt the refurbished Chrysler 300 driven by the former police chief) and explaining the whole system to a person or two who have had their cars repossessed because they can't pay to keep them and have to navigate through Riverside's public transit which takes some getting used to for many people is kind of difficult. Giving elected officials cars for business use, okay maybe there's an argument there but giving city council members cars as their sole means of transit so they can go to Vegas not on business or get their cars towed from Newport Beach or from some off- road field by the city is just too outrageous. And keeping stables of nine or more Chrysler 300s for elected officials and management employees when you have police cars driving around with burned out headlights (though in one case, the light was working about two hours later) and a lot of wear and tear just invites questions about where the city's priorities are and how they got so screwed up.

The most hilarious comment was by Adams who compared elected officials to police officers and they had to have cars readily available to serve the public in the same way. That's just ironic given that several higher ranking city officials allegedly tried to deck their city cars with emergency lights, police radios and police pursuit tires.

I think the best thing to do at this point is to sell the whole fleet of Chrysler and Mercuries and buy or repair some vehicles that are actually more practical for use by the different city departments. And wean some of the highest level employees off of the fancier, gas guzzling expensive cars and have them drive more economical ones or hand them all bus passes. When these folks go around telling everyone else that the city's got to cut its finances because of harsh economic times, it might help if they were driving to those meetings or assigned to drive sensible cars more reflective of that reality. After all, that's what most of the rest of the more ordinary folks are doing.

Election 2011 is also heating up with the fund raising in candidates continuing in earnest and those who so far aren't facing opposition have raised and spent the most money. But what's interesting is how two rumored candidates for mayoral who are running for reelection to their council seats have dealt with THAT question.

Rusty Bailey is one of the strongest rumored candidates in the 2012 who hasn't formerly declared and here were his comments:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The mayor's election is not for a year after (the council election), so if the voters decide to put me back in office in Ward 3, then I'll think about running for mayor after that," Bailey said.

That's kind of strange logic because just because an elected official gets picked to be a council person doesn't mean that the constituents want that person to the following year to say, wow I'm so popular, I think I'll spend most of my time running for higher office. No, when people usually vote a candidate to represent them for a term of four years, they usually have some expectation that the politician will fulfill the terms of office before running for anything else. Now politicians like Bailey might find that an utterly foreign concept but among the more ordinary folks, there's some degree of annoyance when a city council candidates runs for the job making claims about how much they want it, how important it is, how they won't rest until they do A, B and C and then only after getting elected to one office, do they decide, nah what I really want to do is be mayor or assemblyman or something else instead. That's a pretty basic tenet for most people but apparently the only ones who have trouble grasping it are politicians.

So Bailey should stick it out as a councilman because there's more than enough to keep him busy there for the duration of his next term in office, should he win one. But what's interesting is that the two councilmen who flirted with mayoral runs in 2006 were up for reelection in their own wards in 2007 and neither wound up winning.

Councilman Mike Gardner also made similar comments.


"I haven't pushed real hard to raise money," Gardner said. "I would hope that I can do my campaign for less than $50,000."

He is also mulling a run for mayor next year, but like Bailey, he said he won't decide until after council elections, "and it will be influenced by how my election goes and who else is running."

The first part of his comments is great to be a candidate who isn't pushing for an expensive campaign during a period of economic hardship which is both realistic and makes it appear that he's not out for the special interest donations including those who from developers (who themselves are pretty strapped for contributions). But again, again it's interesting how incumbent council members opt to remain mum on the issue until they are reelected, assuming that they are and then apparently making announcements on whether or not to run for "higher" office. Ward residents tend to support and vote for candidates that they believe will fulfill the obligations the voters have of them when they make their choices including filling their entire political term of one office before seeking another. Many people probably wouldn't support the same council candidate for office if they were only interested in serving a partial term before moving on and up and they should have all the information on the candidates including future political plans so they can make an informed choice. Not necessarily only if the candidates win their seats, it's also that their elected officials would be adding more time campaigning for those "higher" electoral positions.

At the very least the councilmen running this year who are interested in contesting in next year's free for all race for the city's next mayor should declare that intent before running for council seats so that the voters in their respective wards can make fully informed decisions.

And Gardner in particular is going to have his hands full just being reelected in his own ward with two declared candidates and rumors that former Councilman Dom Betro has picked up papers which means he's at least thinking about running again. And every political rival has to be taken seriously no matter how unassuming and broke they appear because the main foe of political candidates is overconfidence.

Dan Bernstein wrote this article about the sacred bovine and caught Adams in a misstatement about not using cars for out of town trips.

City Hall Finally Hosts Reception for the New CPRC Manager

[CPRC Manager Frank Hauptmann was finally welcomed to Riverside by City Hall a month after beginning his job there]

The reception finally took place welcoming Frank Hauptmann into his position as CPRC manager which he's actually been working at for a month. He was hired to be part-time by the city manager and due to his PERS retirement, he can only be compensated for a certain portion of hours but he said at the reception which was attended by elected officials, police department employees and members of the public that he will stay at work until he finishes the work that needs to be done. Hauptmann has taken a very active role in the management so far even doing checks and balances on some of the ongoing errant behavior by certain commissioners in certain situations having to explain the appropriate procedures for the process that they have been entrusted with doing in a proper manner.

He spent time talking to individuals at the reception working his way around the room which is very good to see in a new management employee of any type but certainly one who's managing a community oversight mechanism.

Given that the commission has underperformed in nearly every area in the past couple of years, Hauptmann has his work cut out for him, that and avoiding micromanagement from his bosses and their bosses. He's in charge of managing a mechanism of oversight that's important for community managers but unfortunately a political football for City Hall, so yeah it's going to be a difficult ride. But Maywood was probably an even higher learning curve than River City in terms of the political dynamics.

Jurupa's political candidates dicuss their goals at a public forum.

Is anyone surprised by this development?

Press Release and PSA from the RPD

This came through the email list via Lt. Leon Phillips:

Riverside, CA -- On Thursday 2/3/11, just after 2:00 PM, Riverside Police Officers were dispatched to a call of an intoxicated juvenile in the area of California and Van Buren. A passerby reported seeing what appeared to be a 16-year-old juvenile passed out at the side of the road. The first officer on scene walked into the unimproved Challen Park and saw a group of approximately 15 juveniles. Several of them immediately ran away into the surrounding neighborhoods. Others were so intoxicated they were unable to flee. When more officers arrived they discovered a total of five (5) persons who were in need of emergency medical care because of excessive alcohol consumption and intoxication. At least two were completely unresponsive. Officers called for multiple AMR Ambulance and Riverside Fire Department units to render aid to the individuals. Four (4) intoxicated juveniles ranged in age from 14-17. One 18-year-old also received care. The individuals who were conscious were extremely belligerent with the officers, AMR and RFD personnel. The five (5) intoxicated persons were taken by ambulance to local hospitals for emergency medical treatment. The parents of the juveniles were notified of their condition and location by Riverside Fire Personnel.

The Riverside Police Department takes incidents such as this very seriously and encourages all parents to closely monitor the activities of their children to ensure their safety and well-being. Underage drinking can be very dangerous and may cause long lasting health concerns in addition to the immediate dangers associated with alcohol intoxication.

This is very solid information on the problems of intoxication from alcohol and the impact it can have on the individual and others around him in many different ways. But it doesn't just apply to teenagers but to adults as well including those who get behind the wheel. No matter who they are.

Public Meetings

Monday, Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m and 5:30 p.m. the Riverside Unified School Board will conduct a study session and further discussion and vote on the John W. North High School Stadium issue. More information here. Some board members are saying that North High School should have the same stadium facilities as those afforded several other high schools but ironically former North High School Principal Chuck Beaty who's on the board has said that "they have enough already".

Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council will meet and discuss this agenda. The public is invited to attend, it's mostly theater but it's still free.

Campaign Event

Campaign Kick-Off for Dvonne Pitruzzello for Riverside City Council Ward 1 is Thursday, February 10 at 5:30pm at the Flowerloft in Downtown Riverside.

Joe Pitruzzello will unveil and showcase his art work of the Mission Inn and other collection pieces. Wine and Hors d’ oeuvres will be served to live music by Ellen Schwartz. Donation is $25.00. RSVP: 533-1122.

Political Announcement

(the best looking mayoral, official or rumored, yet)

Thanks Ron Woodbury for actually asking and remembering who votes

Greetings: My name is Ron Woodbury and I am running for Mayor of Riverside in 2012. In order to complete my platform I need your input. I do not believe a candidate can possibly publish their platform/agenda without obtaining a substantial amount of feedback from the community. This is Your Community, and I need Your Voice. I very-much appreciate your help. My survey is located at If you wish to contact me directly, my contact information is on the Website as well. Thank you in advance for your help. Ron

Additional Training Needed?

After reading Dan Bernstein's column on real bovines as opposed to sacred ones, I found it very interesting.

It's clear that there's some additional training need for police officers and sheriff's deputies in bovine county (and Riverside County has ranked high as a county with many cows) and that involves how to preg check cows. It's not too hard, all you need is a pair of plastic gloves up to your elbows and a cow. Those with larger sized biceps might find the squeezing sensation to impinge the circulation but the tingling sensation that results is only temporary and no...your arm will not get stuck in there forever. The above link includes a tutorial on how to successfully determine whether your subject cow is pregnant.

It's a bit messy because of the part of the cow's anatomy that you're sticking your arm into for the preg check but as long as the cow doesn't bear down or better yet take off running with your arm stuck...there...then you're in pretty good shape.

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