Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, March 18, 2011

Election 2011: The Gates Have Opened and They're Off!

UPDATE: Riverside Police Department hosts department/media relations meeting involving different media outlets. Chief Sergio Diaz says that transparency among all his employees is important even as troubling developments have surfaced at the top allegedly stemming back to a response to a March 18 incident outside the city.

What went overlooked were some critical programs in the city's roster of Community Services and the work that those employees can do as the media relations aspect of the program dominated. But it was a very enlightning interesting couple of hours of questions and answers.

More to come.

[Members of the Riverside Police Department listening to comments made during Chief Sergio Diaz' meeting on police department/media relations]

[Concerned residents fill Riverside's City Council chambers on a meeting on Sendai's relief effort]

Ted Honcharik 25 miles away from Sendai purchasing and distributing heating oil to keep residents warm in their homes and shelters in sub freezing temperatures.

UPDATE: Special Governmental Affairs Committee meeting scheduled to address appointments to Charter Review Committee

A Crisis at the RPD? What went on at the top over the weekend? Why did it happen ?And how much have we really learned since 2010?

[Crews from Victoria Country Club shore up the river that floods Sedgwick with rocks, the only work that's been done on this commonly flooding area of the city so far]

"When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail."

---Pearl S. Buck

Riverside's Response to Sendai

The city set up a Sendai Relief Fund to help raise at least $250,000 to send to the city of Sendai in the wake of a meeting held at City Hall on March 14. The Fuel Relief Fund also raised funding and is in Japan trying to purchase fuel for transport and distribution along with generators up in the northern part of Japan including Sendai. Riverside City Council will review a resolution to send a $100,000 to Sendai Relief.

The City Hall in Sendai is up and running and very busy doing many things including as a shelter for homeless people. The university was badly damaged and there was discussion about what to do with the students. In Christchurch, New Zealand, the University of Canterbury was also badly damaged by soil liquification and quite a few students were sent to Australia to continue their studies. Food, water and gas continue to be in very short supply and there's not many areas with electricity. Long lines for blocks for food and for gasoline.

The weather in Sendai in March is very cold, often below freezing at night and there's snow or sleet, all of which the area saw this week.

About 20,000 or more individuals are believed dead or missing in the Myagi Prefecture which includes Sendai. The delta region near the coast was hit by the tsunami in between 15-25 minutes after the quake, leaving very little time for evacuation. Many people that the Sendai Committee was trying to contact have been accounted for except some of those in the coastal areas. Ted Honcharik flew to Toyko for the Fuel Relief Fund and is trying to buy fuel to take to Sendai.

Complicating rescue and relief efforts is the ongoing situation with the Fukushima Daini plant which although it generates electricity had its own supply cut off. Workers have been working around the clock to deal with six reactors in various stages of overheating and meltdown.

Radiation reached California on Friday morning but it's in teeny tiny amounts as radioactive iodide doesn't last long before degradation or conversion into a more benign form that dissolves in ocean water. According to some diplomat, radioactive Xenon was detected in equipment in Sacramento as there's a storm hitting Central California (and tornado warnings in San Mateo County)and so far none detectable in Southern California including Los Angeles.

Real Time Radiation Model is based on projects and weather shifts can change the pathway and the area where the troubled plant is will be facing a major rain storm on Sunday which could cause wind shift. Different cities in Southern California have radiation detectors including Riverside. Ironically, there's the usual particulate smog in the Riverside/San Bernardino area that's probably more dangerous.

Salt hoarding is taking place in some countries. But iodized salt doesn't ward off radiation caused by radioactive iodine 131. And Potassium Iodide can cause serious health side affects particularly in those over 40 which it doesn't help much anyway unless they receive major exposure. A lot of people have shell fish allergies (as it's the most common allergy in adults) including those not aware of it as well who could experience serious side effects.

One of the major cautions given out for people who are close to where there is release of radioactive iodine 131 is not to drink the milk until it's safe (and the iodide has degraded) as most of the thyroid cancers caused particularly in children after Chernobyl were from drinking cow's milk in contaminated areas. Cows eat the grass where the iodide settles before it can degrade naturally and then through bio magnification, they absorb concentrations and can pass it through their milk for a period of time. Leafy plants that are eaten might harbor some risk as well.

There's a lot of debate and discussion on nuclear power plants including in the United States. Want to know how closely you live or work to one? This site will give you a rough estimate of your proximity to different power plants.

For example:

Zip Code: 92501 (downtown Riverside)

Closest Plants and Their Distance

* San Onofre 2, 3: 44 mi (can be unsafe in major catastrophes for food/water)
* Diablo Canyon 1, 2: 215 mi
* Palo Verde 1, 2, 3: 262 mi
* Columbia Generating Station: 868 mi
* Comanche Peak 1, 2: 1137 mi

* Interesting detail about San Onofre, Riverside's Public Utility gets about 1.8% of the electricity generated there.

Election 2011: Let the Games Begin

Elections can be very dull or very exciting and after going through an HOA board election that had to be sent to a lawyer for a decision, it's interesting to read about the situation playing out in the Riverside election. All but the fifth ward have candidates who are set to challenge the incumbents.

I don't endorse candidates because for one thing I don't live in any of these wards. What I do endorse is that the city residents register to vote if they're eligible to do so and that they vote whether it's by mail-in, absentee or at the polls. That's the most important power that people have in our city and our country is to vote. Many of the wards have had low voter turnouts and there needs to be greater engagement and participation in the process. People and organizations have engaged in voter registration drives, carpools to the polls particularly for the elderly and/or disabled. Elections are actually a lot more fun when you're on the sidelines and don't endorse.

But also because voters in their wards need to make their own decisions on who to vote for, and do the homework on candidates including their incumbents. If there's candidates forums in your ward, or neighborhood, attend them or maybe get together and hold your own. The League of Women Voters usually hold forums in different wards on different local candidates and issues. So do other organizations so if you can attend them, you should check them out.

The city's labor unions will be going through their endorsement process. Riverside Police Officers' Association President Cliff Mason is apparently the new PAC chair for that union. But Mason has more time now having severely injured his knee during a training for a position on the department's Metro/SWAT team. I was a bit surprised to hear that he had put in for the special assignment because he's a probational sergeant (and probational status does have its restrictions in certain areas for most people) but hopefully he's recovering. Some city unions like the Riverside Firefighters' Association usually endorse incumbents while others make it more interesting with some other choices. But you can't really blame the RFA for sticking to incumbents, it's often (but not always) safer and after witnessing how certain incumbent candidates have treated those who didn't endorse them in some past several election cycles.

Any questions on voting or on the election, or call 826-5557 and ask for City Clerk Colleen Nicol.

Ward 1:

Dom Betro

Michael Gardner

Dvonne Pitruzzello

Marisa Valdez Yeager

Betro's decision to file papers had allegedly resulted after Betro had made phone calls including those working in the Yeager campaign to support him running for election and some splintering followed. Because if you remember, some of the same people spearheading Yeager's campaign worked heavily on Betro's 2003 and 2007 campaigns.

He had been relatively quiet after losing his 2007 election by six votes, after issues such as Eminent Domain and the handling of two ward parks, Fairmount and Tesquesquite came under fire. But apparently Betro didn't make it through his first candidacy forum without complaining that the DGR allowed Save-Riverside's Kevin Dawson to ask the question about the July 2005 vote by the city council to restrict members of the public from pulling consent calendar items for separate discussion and vote. Betro denied at the forum that he had supported that but minute records drawn from the city's city council meeting archive as posted on this site clearly show that a motion which included that language regarding the consent calendar had been presented by Betro and seconded by Steve Adams and had passed 6-1 with Councilman Art Gage dissenting.

Memory loss or a false denial? It does make you wonder because that false or misstated claim by Betro was relatively easy to receive factual clarification on for anyone who goes on the city's Web site. Because if Betro had truly opposed the restrictions on the consent calendar that were eventually passed by the majority of the city council, why did he propose a motion to do just that and really, how stupid does he think people including those in Ward One are anyway?

This link shows the minute record if you scroll to 91-17 on the motion sponsored by Betro, which incidentally he also voted on its passage. So that gave him two opportunities to "push" for the restrictions on the consent calendar through proposing the motion and then voting on it.

The Democrats of Greater Riverside had a candidate forum for the two Democrats, Yeager and Betro and some contention was sown there by Betro who said he wasn't seeking its endorsement but that the members should "police" their membership. That caused quite a few members to be upset. There were also rumors for a while that some behind the scenes action would be taking place to decide which candidate would run, Betro or Yeager but if that's indeed the case, it hasn't appeared to work so far.

Will Ward One be as contentious in an election this time around as it was last time? That remains to be seen because there's not been much discussion or debates on the issues that each candidate brings into the race. Most of the focus so far appears to be on fund raising and garnering support even if it means poaching onto another candidate's army roster.

Ward Three:

Rusty Bailey

James Harold Davis

This election was fairly quiet. A few murmurs of possible candidates but only one other filed papers.

Davis has a blog called Rivercity Voices where he wrote this campaign letter addressing redevelopment agencies and the ban of mobile "hot food" vendors passed by the city council. Bailey still has to make amends with many of those who stumped for him in the first election because even those who specifically went out and recruited him as a third ward candidate against incumbent Art Gage are dumbfounded and somewhat dismayed at his shifting of position on several issues. So what will be interesting to watch with Bailey is whether these folks have parted ways with him or will return to his camp. Will Bailey be extending the olive leaf branch instead? Not unless he needs to and it's not likely this time around. That would be more likely if he does as rumored and puts his hat in the mayoral election (along with half the political set it seems) next year.

Ward Five:

Chris MacArthur

Although there were some murmurs of candidates thinking about running in the fifth ward including Keith Michael White (who took out papers), none of them filed papers and so MacArthur is running uncontested. Contrast with 2007 when a flock of candidates lined up in the ward to contest for a seat vacated by an incumbent rather than a candidate who wants to stay in his seat.

The city council will discuss this issue on whether or not to hold the election in his ward anyway which would allow for write-in candidates hopefully before they or most of them blanket endorse him in his election or appointment. Because yes, if the election is called off, MacArthur would be a city council appointed representative for Ward Five, not an elected candidate from that ward. That's something for MacArthur and the city council and mayor to keep in mind when they discuss this issue on March 22. Do they want to elect MacArthur to represent Ward Five or allow the ward's voters to do so themselves?

The city including the voters in Ward Five will find out this Tuesday.

Ward Seven:

Steve Adams

John Brandriff

Terry Frizzel

This race started out looking like it was going to be between incumbent, Steve Adams and challenger John Brandriff until Terry Frizzel who just missed winning the election by about a dozen votes last time entered into the race, potentially increasing the odds for a runoff election (and thus a longer campaign season) quite a bit. Races with three candidates don't always result in runoffs but many times they do. How will the balance of the election in this ward shift with Frizzel in the race, or will it? It's going to mean burning more shoe leather for the candidates in the La Sierra area but they're some good pairs on sale at various venues.

Campaigning for all three candidates will be crucial as the race will likely be over for at least one of the candidates in the June mail-in election. So no one can afford to be relaxed in their political campaigns up to when those ballots start get mailed in by voters from that ward.

Drop the Take Home Cars Already

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has this issue by the teeth involving the ongoing issue of take home cars. And it has once again stated that the city has to address this issue and provide more than fuzzy math to explain the costs to the tax payers. They should just scrap the whole cars to council cars period and go back to a car allowance that's accountable and transparent to the city's residents. And they should also lose all those post it notes which makes you wonder how many expenditures of the residents' tax money are recorded using similarly dubious methods.

And did any of the independent audits including the ones done by Mayer Hoffman McCann catch or make notice or warn the city about using the post-it method for recording financial expenditures? Apparently not, or those warnings were ignored because former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis was still trying to pass off post its as good accounting and recording practices. Speaking of DeSantis, Hudson has allegedly been doing a soft shoe shuffle to distance himself from his former sidekick by telling newer people working for the city that DeSantis had "bad" relationships with certain entities.

Hudson had in DeSantis' final weeks tossed under a bus or two but DeSantis' departure was not due to this but his own behavior. During his tenure, DeSantis had micromanaged the police department almost down to the penny but he had competition for engaging in micromanagement mania with City Attorney Gregory Priamos who had matched him action for action. So far, Chief Sergio Diaz has apparently kept Priamos at a distance and a bit out of the loops, which Priamos (who allegedly has a "shrine" to law enforcement in his office) won't like that one bit. But that action done by Diaz would have been long overdo, because when it's getting to the point where Priamos wanted police equipment including lights on his city-issued car, that's just way too far.

But Diaz doesn't work for Priamos, he works for Hudson and it remains to be seen what will ultimately happen in that relationship.

Nothing good has come out of it from the cold plate scandals to mysterious incidents involving damage to cars (and yes, a fence post through the undercarriage of a vehicle would qualify) to city residents subsidizing the costs of council members to use vehicles for personal business and vacations. Many people can't afford to keep their own cars or fuel them up or fix them (especially after they hit hundreds of new potholes) so how can the city residents be expected to foot these costs for elected officials?

But the PE does a good job at explaining how ridiculous it gets. The faces from some elected officials on the dais are classic when city residents ask for little things like accountability and transparency when spending money, in the face of all the problems and scandals that have been uncovered or are waiting to be.


The latest revelations from City Hall exhibit yet more confusion about this perk. Council members can drive the city cars on personal trips, as long as they report that largesse as income to the Internal Revenue Service. But city officials give differing accounts of how that approach works in practice.

In 2009, four of the five council members then driving city cars claimed on their taxes that half the mileage was for public business and half was for personal trips. One councilman claimed no personal mileage that year. Councilman Steve Adams said last week that the city uses the 50/50 split on mileage to ensure council members don't underpay taxes, though Council Andy Melendrez thought the division would be 60/40. City Finance Director Brett Mason said the city has no formula, and that council members are responsible for reporting their personal mileage totals for tax purposes.

Well, that certainly clears matters up. City records might throw light on how often council members drive the public cars on private trips -- except that the city does not track the vehicles' use. So taxpayers have no way of knowing how much of the 19,494 miles Adams listed for 2009 were on public business, or why he drove his city car 10,000-plus miles more than Councilman William "Rusty" Bailey did that year.

The city should be embarrassed by an official privilege no one can interpret coherently. And the fact that the city hands people free cars and gas with no questions asked should make taxpayers uncomfortable. Slapdash oversight of public assets is unacceptable practice.

Riverside residents understand that doing the public's business does entail expenses. But city policies should ensure that those costs are verified and justifiable, and not just wild guesses billed to taxpayers.

Councilman Paul Davis is surrendering his city-owned vehicle.

Adams has also apparently surrendered his car in the light of these unresolved issues popping up especially during an election year. Because if city officials are using their city cars for personal use, it's pretty much a given that the voters will make their feelings on that well known during an election year.

Police Department to Sponsor Open House

[Chief Sergio Diaz, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino in quieter times but is something brewing behind the scenes?]

Chief Sergio Diaz and his cabinet will take a break from welcoming the department's newest hires to hold an open house at the Magnolia Policing Center for the newly revamped Community Services Division housed at Orange Street Station.

Some say it's critical for Diaz in particular as a chief, because being the chief's not an easy job, but by Thursday, everyone should be in good spirits to welcome community members to the station to educate them on a division that was disbanded several years ago under the former chief. Crime-Free Multi-Housing, Youth Court and other services are umbrellaed under this new division. Acceptance letters are already going out for the newly reopened Citizen Academy. But the job as a chief is to keep your management team close and never take your eyes off of them because you might not know what they've been up to when you're not looking because the last permanent chief didn't look. And when someone's been a busy bee, that's his responsibility to address just as much as if it's in a negative way as in a positive.

Thursday, March 24 at 10 am. at Magnolia Police Station on Magnolia near La Sierra in that little mall. It will be hosted by the management team as well as Lt. Guy Touissant and Sgt. Dan Warren who lead that division.

Local Organization Cites Lack of Diversity on Charter Review Committee

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely wrote this letter in response to the selection of nine White city residents to the Charter Review Committee despite the fact that members of that racial group comprise about 39% of the city's current population. This blog had already cited that in a previous posting on the selection process for the Charter Review Committee by the city council and mayor. Applicants of different races applied for the committee but of those forwarded to the city council for interview by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee, all of them were White. One Latina was submitted as a member of Councilwoman Nancy Hart's ward and was chosen as second alternate.

But the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee's screening process has always been problematic, not as much from a racial or gender perspective as the fact that this Committee tends to forward mainly names that its members are familiar with. The mantra that is commonly used on that Committee has often been cited here and that's the following:

Member #1 (holding application): Do you know this person?

Member #2: No, I have no idea who they are, do you?

Member #3 (shakes head) ----

It usually goes into the reject pile UNLESS....

Member #4: Wait a minute there, I saw this person at [this meeting or this social event] and such and such and such...

The application gets snatched from the rejected pile and put in the interview pile. So too often it comes down to whether or not the member of this committee knows a particular person and if someone applies who they don't know, they often act as if it's that person's fault for not being "involved" in the *right* places or things even if they're active in their communities. But when you come and think about it, part of the job of an elected official is getting out into their wards, all its communities and neighborhoods to get out and know the people they represent. So if they don't "know" a particular person, then in a sense he or she has failed as well. Some people who have good applications including long-time involvement in various areas of civic and community life just aren't on the "right" places (or have no prior board or commission experience) and get overlooked.

As for the lack of diversity, it just seems that for most of the members of that screening committee not to mention the city council seem to be much more familiar with the applicants who are White than those of other racial backgrounds. There's some exceptions but that's been mostly the rule in some years of witnessing how the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee works as well as city council and mayoral interviews of candidates. In many ways, it still appears to be pretty much an insiders club.

UPDATE: Special Governmental Affairs Committee meeting to be held Tuesday, March 22 at 1 pm in the Mayor's Ceremonial room to address appointing additional people to the Charter Review Committee

Melendrez Faces Heat; Quiet Zones Added to Eastside

[Councilman (and 2012 mayoral candidate) Andrew Melendrez faced intense complaints from ward residents about the lack of quiet zones in the Eastside]

Riverside's Eastside will be getting two quiet zones after criticism arose involving actions taken by Riverside's City Council. This happened when the city council voted on a motion involving the Perris Valley Metrolink project which included in fine print that the city would be placing the fourth ranked Third Street grade separation on the indefinite back burner and then be funneling some of that money to quiet zones outside of that area. But criticism arose including by community leaders so the addition of these "quiet zones" was added onto a "revised" city council agenda for March 15's meeting.

The excuses for the lack of ability to fund raise still don't wash at all especially since the fifth ranked Iowa grade separation has its requisite funding along with those three grade separations which preceded the Third Street project. Not to mention they were originally planning as early as 2007 to actually funnel the funding for the Third Street separation to a belatedly added one in Madison Street in Casa Blanca mainly as a means to reinvigorate the plans to "finish" Overlook Parkway, essentially working towards completing the expressway, more commonly referred to as locals as the "Highway to Hell". Without this grade separation prioritized for funding, the "Highway" can't be completed. So there's some speculation that might ultimately be behind the Eastside losing the construction of the grade separation which would have prevented trains from two companies from blocking a main thoroughfare into several neighborhoods. If emergency vehicles suddenly can't get through Third or Seventh (or Spruce) depending on how far the train's gone before it stops, it's supposed they can always go around and hopefully no one will die in the meantime.

Stop the Highway to Hell is a site with more information including a FAQ section on that whole situation.

A former councilman in Corona has plead guilty to making false statements.

Public Meetings

Monday, March 21 at 3 pm inside City Hall, the second community meeting on the response by Riverside to its Sister City Sendai which has been hit hard by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

Tuesday, March 22 at 3 pm and 6:30 pm, City Council chambers, the city council and hopefully the mayor will be meeting to discuss this agenda. Among the items discussed in closed session is the workman's compensation claim filed by former (and now retired) Riverside Police Department K9 officer, Allen Jaekel.

Not to mention this item on whether to hold an election in June involving Councilman Chris MacArthur, the only candidate filing for the fifth ward seat. The city stated it would save about $55,000 not to hold the election but if they decided not to, it would prohibit write in candidates and most recent, the precedent has been to hold the election anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, at 4 pm and 5:30 pm, at City Hall is the Community Police Review Commission's meeting to discuss this agenda. Items including discussing the annual report and whether or not the police department should change its personnel complaint form.

[CPRC while it was trying to conduct its wild election earlier this month]

Thursday, March 24 at 10 am, at the Magnolia Policing Center near Tyler Mall is the open house for the newly revamped Community Services Division.


40th Anniversary Memorial Service for Leonard A. Christiansen and Paul C. Teel

April 2, at 10 am at the Mission Inn in Downtown Riverside

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