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, April 06, 2011

Spring is Definitely in the Air

UPDATE: Riverside County Finds River City's bonds too risky to invest in forcing Riverside to buy its own bonds. And our elected leadership says nothing's wrong with the city's finances?

UPDATE: Councilman Paul Davis asks for issue pertaining to the ethics complaint against Councilman Steve Adams be placed on next week's City Council Agenda. Said he had gotten tons of emails and contacts and no longer wanted the issue "to taint the city council". Councilman Andrew Melendrez agreed and Councilman Mike Gardner agreed to it after hearing the explanation offered up by City Attorney Gregory Priamos as to why it was rejected. The rest of the city council remained silent and Mayor Loveridge said he would include it on the agenda because he never had refused to put an item on a meeting agenda when a city official asked for it to be added.

[Riverside Police Department Officers Neely Nakamura, Vivian Tate and Chris Carnahan hosted the successful Organized Retail Crime Conference that took place at March Air Field Museum on April 8. More details to come.]
"To make a permanent decision in the middle of what may be a temporary problem seems poorly thought out. I also find it a little bit obscene that the people who are at the very top of the economic ladder, it's their (large) pensions that are driving the debate."

---Stan Stosel, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to Press Enterprise

[Riverside Police Department Lt. Bruce Loftus provides training on the Cobain video system in the police cars to members of the Community Police Review Commission]

[CPRC commissioners receive a demonstration of the police department's Cobain video system]

The Community Police Review Commission held a special meeting on Wednesday, April 6 in City Hall and received training from Training Lt. Bruce Loftus on Coban video technology which is used by the department in the form of the dash cams that were installed in every squad car as well as the digital audio recorders that are carried by every officer in the department's field operations division. Loftus has trained officers in the use of both technology and he was accompanied at the meeting by Personnel Lt. Vance Hardin.

Both forms of technology took some time to be accepted by many of the department's officers but are viewed more positively now, Loftus told commissioners. Last November, the Coban camera in the squad car of the late Officer Ryan Bonaminio caught his suspected killer heading back to a stolen truck cab to leave Fairmount Park. Loftus said that a portion of that video was released to the public to help identify the individual as part of the homicide investigation into Bonaminio's killing, leading to the arrest of Earl Ellis Green who's been charged in connection with the killing and was recently ordered to stand trial. He also said that the cameras were useful in capturing driving violations involving vehicles pulled over by officers to be cited for those violations, that often officers would show the drivers the videos of them running red lights for example.

Still, it was an arduous journey just to get the city to install video cameras in all the squad cars that begun when former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the city entered into the stipulated judgment in 2001. One of the required reforms was for the city and department to research video technology in order to install dash cams in the squad cars. The stipulated judgment required 10 squad cars to be equipped within one year of the development of the technology to do so along with the drafting of a policy to govern the implementation of the cameras and the infrastructure hardware associated with them. In addition, the city and department were required by the judgment to make a reasonable effort to equip up to 25 more squad cars with this equipment.

What happened was that the city purchased and the department installed the initial 10 cameras purchased in 10 cars by about 2003, but in the remaining half of the judgment, the city and department only paid for and installed three more cameras which meant by the eve of the dissolution of the judgment, they had only installed 13 out of the 35 cameras in the squad cars.

Lockyer wasn't pleased about that and inquiries were also made by city residents about why the city had fallen so short on installing the cameras (and economic times were more flush than they are now) and there was no definitive answer. The city council and Mayor Loveridge were pretty apathetic on the whole subject. Most of Loveridge's energy expended on the stipulated judgment was to travel up to Sacramento at some point beforehand and beseech Lockyer not to call it a "consent decree". So in comparison to that feat, the topic of camera installation might have seemed a bit dry or maybe that fervent plea to give the legal settlement a more pleasing name exhausted him somewhat.

The only city councilman at the time who broke that ennui deal the city government had going was former city councilman and current mayoral candidate Ed Adkison who did ask questions including in public about why it was taking so long to get the cameras installed in the cars. The same questions it appeared Lockyer had asked. Monitor Joe Brann would later tell the Press Enterprise in its 10 year anniversary retrospective on the shooting of Tyisha Miller that he wished it had been done sooner.

[Former city councilman and future mayoral candidate Ed Adkison while in office consistently asked why City Manager Brad Hudson and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis delayed in installing the Coban video cameras.]

But some maneuvering went on behind the scenes which is most often what happens in Riverside, and suddenly, City Manager Brad Hudson and his sidekick at the time, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis started talking about the dash cams again, all the amazing technology out there so that meant they had begun shopping perhaps. Just before the stipulated judgment went away, the city council had approved $500,000 to use towards equipping the department's entire fleet. But it took several years before that even happened. Even though Hudson and DeSantis were allegedly busy micromanaging the police department and a few other things, somehow it took them a while to get moving on the video technology.

[It apparently took some serious maneuvering to steer the S.S. Hudson back on course in terms of the purchasing of the police department's dash cams to install in its fleet of squad cars.]

It took several years for the video cameras to get installed where they are in use today, along with the audio digital recorders which were also discussed by Loftus who did most of the department's training in both forms of technology. In some ways, the adjustments by officers to the audio recorders were more difficult than those involving the video technology, according to the presentation but Loftus said that the traffic officers particularly liked being able to record their traffic stops in case complaints were lodged later. Sometimes officers at the end of their shift would tell their supervisors that they lost their cool in the field during an incident. Recordings both exonerated officers and also proved misconduct, in different cases. They also along with the Cobain video technology served as a means of recording an incident that was apart from emotions or memory recollections that could be impacted by different things.

The audio recording technology took center stage in a recent criminal proceeding of former Officer Robert Forman who stood trial in 2009 charged with three felonies of sexual misconduct and misdemeanor petty theft. Testimony was entered into the record by Forman and an investigator on the case about the logistics of audio recording and more importantly the transference and storage of those audio recordings. As an officer, Forman was required by departmental policy to record all professional, self-initiated contacts with the public, but it became clear to investigators at some point that he had either failed to record when required and in many cases, he had even deleted recordings.

Or so he thought. Because even though the actual recordings were gone, the recorder was equipped with an internal counting mechanism for recordings and the missing recordings were still assigned sequential numbering and so, where there were gaps in that numbering so were there instances when recordings had been deleted. At least 40 and quite possibly many more recordings were deleted over an unknown period of time (though it was narrowed to two months for investigative purposes), according to Forman due to him being a complacent and even lazy officer when it came to recording and transferring those recordings to the department's mainframe storage space for its recordings.

Why would Forman do such a thing?

Well the answer turned out to be quite simple. Forman's testimony that he was lazy and complacent was challenged by that of his own witness, Officer Michael Bucy who as a former trainee of Forman, had testified how regimented and strict Forman had been as a field training officer. But what had happened was that several years earlier, Forman had sex with a homeless woman in Fairmount Park and their activity was picked up intentionally or not by his digital audio recover which somehow wound up in the hands of the Internal Affairs Division and an investigation was launched.

Whether or not that sexual encounter (the only one the department apparently knew about) was consensual, the department and the Riverside County District Attorney's office gave different versions. The police department had sent that earlier case to the D.A.'s office and that office had declined to file charges or the D.A. hadn't filed charges because the police department told them its investigation had determined the sexual encounter between Forman and the homeless woman to be "consensual". But at any rate, he wasn't prosecuted for the earlier case and he wasn't terminated from his employment but one thing he might have learned if he chose not to change his behavior or to escalate it is that the audio recorder at least in his case had proven to be a liability. It makes one wonder what he had recorded with his device that he felt needed to be deleted and what was on the memory card that was missing from his recorder when it was seized during a search of his employment locker.

Apparently nothing about the prior incident was admissible at his criminal trial or testified about so when the jury listened to Forman break down about "slipping" and performing a consensual sex act with one of the women he was charged with assaulting under the color of authority, they might have really believed it was the first time he had done that. But then again by convicting him in that particular case, the jury showed it didn't appear to buy his testimony at least not regarding that time.

But Loftus gave the commission much needed training on technology that is often used to provide information including for investigations filed involving police personnel complaints.

The commission also discussed the final draft of its annual report and mostly debated and discussed the conflicting ethnic and racial labels given for city demographics versus those provided for complainants. But what should have been discussed as well was the fact that the commission had scant information provided under the "Trends and Patterns" section this year as well as the last. So to make up for that, this blog will prove an analysis in a future posting on what the patterns and trends were involving the commission and its charter mandated roles in the future.

The latest draft of the 2010 annual report is here. It will be available online and in hard copy form at the CPRC office.

City Attorney Dismissed Ethics Complaint, Now Does it Twice Against Steve Adams

This isn't exactly news really but Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos rejected an ethics complaint against Councilman Steve Adams for the second time. In a sense, allowing River City to show its hand, meaning that all the recent "changes" to the ethics code and complaint system were just meaningless window dressing that even disappointed those who believed that the city government was truly capable of adding more teeth to the ethics code and complaint system that was voted into the city's charter by the majority of the voters.

[Councilman Andrew Melendrez was the lone elected official to challenge the action taken by City Attorney Gregory Priamos to deny a complaint]

The one surprise is that one councilman, the chair of the Governmental Affairs (which conducts annual reviews of the code and complaint process) Councilman Andrew Melendrez who at least asked questions about why the process really hasn't changed at all since it has first been created. The bottom line is that it was window dressing, Melendrez but thanks for asking anyway.

An organization I belong to, Riverside Coalition For Police Accountability filed both complaints along with members of the Eastside Think Tank. The complaints alleged that Adams violated the city charter's provision against administrative interference by involving himself in the promotions of now Capt. Meredyth Meredith and John Carpenter. Adams denied doing so in his deposition given in the now settled lawsuits filed by former Lt. Tim Bacon and Lt. Darryl Hurt but acknowledged that doing so would have been a violation of the city's charter and possibly state law.

However, it's clear in the depositions concerning testimony submitted by Carpenter, Former Chief Russ Leach, Former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel and Adams himself that something odd happened involving Carpenter's promotion in January 2008. The testimony provided by all four parties is contradictory on several key points but it's possible to look at the situation in its face and make some conclusions that not all went down as it should have gone down with the promotional process. Carpenter winds up meeting with Adams and Esquivel who's both close friends with Adams as well as was assigned by Leach to "mediate" the meeting between the two others. All three of those who met testified that they met at a restaurant in Corona to avoid being seen together by anyone they might know. Okay, so they're saying that it's inappropriate on its face for a councilman, a deputy chief or captain to be seen in public at a restaurant in any circumstances, whether work-related or even for personal reasons?

That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. There's many innocuous reasons why the three men could have dined together in Riverside and been seen by people they knew and they probably knew that. But if they're worried about being seen together, then that seems to suggest that there had to be a specific reason for that, probably as specific as the reason that brought all three of them together at the same table. The meeting as all four individuals testified was for Adams and Carpenter to "clear the air" because of some contention that arose during Adams reelection bed in 2007. Adams had been angry with both police unions for not endorsing his campaign and in fact the leadership of the Riverside Police Officers' Association had been upset about a letter circulated by Adams during the summer of 2007 while he was clearly was upset the union hadn't endorsed him.

Apparently he wasn't any more happy with the Riverside Police Administrators' Association for not endorsing his campaign either. Carpenter served in a capacity on that union with Hurt and Bacon and in fact at several city council meetings where members of both unions and other people showed up to protest key issues impacting both unions in the summer of 2006 and March 2007. The three men were seen together at those events as leaders of the RPAA. So anyway, Carpenter and Adams apparently have contention between them from the election that continued at least enough so that Leach had Esquivel organize a meeting between Adams and Carpenter not long after making it clear that he intended to promote Carpenter into a captain's spot.

They didn't sit down and have this "let's clear the air" session back in 2007 when the RPAA didn't endorse Adams and he was upset at the RPAA's leadership including apparently Carpenter. They didn't sit down for this "clearing the air" meeting in the spirit of the holiday seasons in November and December, which would have been a natural time to do so as it's a perfect time for the spirit of reconciliation.

They didn't sit down and agree to make nice or make up before Leach submitted Carpenter as his promotional choice to Hudson up to the day before Leach made that choice. No, they had to sit down and have a "clearing the air" meeting in Corona only after Carpenter had been named to fill a captain's spot by Leach who then submitted his choice to Hudson. Only at that time was there this need for a "clearing the air" meeting between the two men and why was that then if it had nothing to do with Carpenter being up for promotion? Adams testified that Carpenter was hitting him up for putting a good word in there for getting him promoted but again, if that were true, why would Carpenter be doing that unless he believed it was necessary, that the decisions weren't being made by the chief or even by Hudson on who to promote. And if Carpenter had been soliciting support from the city government to be promoted, did he also have meet and greets with other elected officials like Nancy Hart or Rusty Bailey who aren't mentioned in the lawsuit at all?

So the three men met and according to the sworn testimony provided by all three of them in deposition, all three leave that meeting satisfied and with Carpenter and Adams both testifying that they left on better terms with the "air cleared" between them. Then, within 24 hours, the promotion of Carpenter gets approved by Hudson, who remember has his own bosses he has to report to including Adams and Carpenter was a captain.

There's a lot of debate about who said what and that Adams denied interfering with the promotional process involving Carpenter. But what gets lost in the shuffle is one fundamental question. Why was it so important to have Carpenter, once and only once he was selected for promotion, reconcile any differences with Adams, political or otherwise, in the first place at that particular moment in time? The police chief as a department head has the right to hire, fire and promote although the city manager who supervises him has final say on the promotions made by all department heads. That's the process that was set forth for the chief and any candidates applying for the promotion including Carpenter.

But that's it, the city council and mayor don't have that right (although there had been precedent in 2000 where they apparently tried to exercise it anyway in closed sessions) and if they have political differences with a candidate for promotion, then there's no reason to "clear the air" involving them on the eve of a promotion. The fact that there instead appeared to be an urgency on the part of several parties to do so does more than hint that Adams did over involve himself in the promotional process. Why, because if Leach truly had the freedom to promote without interference from the city government, then this so-called "clearing the air" meeting would have never taken place. Not all the way in Corona nor anywhere else. Considering the timing and sometimes timing means a lot, then it was inappropriate, period.

The police chief's right to an unfettered promotional process was violated and Carpenter's rights to be promoted under that system were violated as well. It shouldn't be a criteria of the promotional process to have an elected official be happy with you because you endorsed him for election or unhappy with you because you or your organization did not. Even if a candidate for promotion's union campaigned against a councilman during the election process, shouldn't be a factor to consider when deciding who gets promoted. Yet was Carpenter penalized for that by having to be vetted by a city council member for promotion, and if so, why didn't anyone stop that from taking place?

What the police chief should have had the freedom to say to Adams or to Hudson who could communicate it to Adams, is I'm real sorry that you and my choice as captain have these non-work related political differences but you know what, I'm promoting this person based on criteria apart from your relationship that's more important and you're just going to have to learn how to deal. Leach of course certainly by that time wasn't in any position to do it that way and Hudson and his cohort DeSantis didn't seem all that inclined to provide any type of environment for that to be done either. That whole meeting should have never happened in the context that it clearly did according to the testimony provided by the three parties in attendance in their own words.

But if that was wrong what Carpenter apparently faced, what happened to Meredith was at least as wrong if not more so. For whatever reason, she wasn't given the same opportunity as Carpenter to reconcile her differences with Adams though there didn't seem to be any similar contention between the two of them. There were allusions that Adams instead had preferred another candidate as captain instead of Meredith in December 2005 and in fact, that individual, Mark Boyer, was promoted instead. But then again, maybe being female didn't work in her favor to go through an appeal process when her promotion was revoked after she was informed by Leach that she had received it. After all, Lt. Carpenter was referred to as Lt. Carpenter, Meredith was allegedly referred to as the "fat bitch" in the context of, "there's no way that fat bitch is getting promoted".

Well as it turned out, she didn't get promoted. She had been led to believe that she would by Leach and then became Charlie Brown with the football jerked out by a Lucy Van Pelt before she could kick it. Imagine going down to an office to get a promotion you were told you were getting only to get out or to find out that it had been revoked at the last minute. That happened to Meredith in December 2005. There's been no testimony presented that refutes that she was denied a promotion after being told she had gotten it.

[Then Lt. Meredyth Meredith had her promotion to captain vetoed in the 11th hour and after allegedly telling Leach she had a case, she was promoted six months later. Meredith was never afforded a "clearing the air" meeting with Adams.]

Meredith didn't get promoted until six months later, after she allegedly returned to Leach after talking with an attorney who said she had a discrimination case. Actually if she had filed for not being promoted considering the questionable chain of events after allegedly being referred to as a "fat bitch" by a city official, she could have written her own check from the city's legal contingency fund or a jury could have done so at trial. Something for Priamos to think about when he quibbles about civic liability in the workplace, before farming out yet another labor claim or lawsuit to be handled by an outside law firm especially since the city appears to lose most of those cases filed against it through various avenues. After all, all that information is posted in all those posters in different city work places about discrimination and harassment and retaliation against whistle blowers. Yet it continued to allegedly punish whistle blowers when it wasn't hunting them down and settled three lawsuits filed by three different police officers alleging that in 2010. All three of those officers are currently retired.

It's hard to read through the hundreds of pages of depositions given by various employees and public officials past and present including on the promotional issues and not be very disturbed not by what's alleged but by what the witnesses say in their own words under penalty of perjury. They don't say that's what happened with Meredith and Carpenter but they show how it all played out to the point where a meeting that was inappropriate on its face especially considering the timing was allowed to take place...albeit where none of the players could be seen playing. Not to mention another captain's candidate being told to report to the chief's office to be promoted and then being told after that, oh by the way it's been canceled. Does either of these situations remotely resemble a professional work environment? And do either place the police chief in a position of his or her role at all in terms of exercising the powers that have been afforded him or her. Do they instead make it clear that the powers of promotion lay way outside of the police chief?

Current Chief Sergio Diaz stepped into his position in July 2010 perhaps knowing exactly what he had stepped into regarding that.

He once averred at a public forum meeting early on in his tenure that it was community leaders who were telling him not to promote not elected officials but if leaders tried to do that in the community, they have zero power to compel it. They're not the city manager and they're not an elected official one level higher than that who may or may not have overstepped his city charter delineated bounds. And allegedly some of the same parties who were involved in this behavior in earlier days under a different chief did resort to old patterns of behavior but didn't get anywhere which if the case would be refreshing change. But what's also disturbing is that after all this time and turmoil, there doesn't yet exist a city council that gets it, certainly not collectively. That in the previous five years, the police department was a shiny toy that saw quite a bit of time being played with by officials, elected and otherwise at City Hall.

Which is one of the real reasons why Priamos has to dismiss this ethics complaint is because if a public hearing was held and people made statements including undisclosed information, it could start the clock over again on any legal action that could be taken against the city by any person wronged by what took place. But in Priamos own words, protecting the city from the risk of civil liability is only his second most important function, behind that of protecting the city council members and mayor who employ him. Allegedly Diaz has distanced himself and the department somewhat from Priamos and his assistant city attorney, Jeb Brown which hasn't made them happy in the least but if it's true, that would be a wise move by Diaz and a refreshing one indeed.

Maybe that's another reason why Priamos is being heavy handed still with the ethics complaint process because he's no longer able to play as large a role in the police department's management as he did in the past. It's hardly surprising, especially in the light of everything that well...came to light last year involving the antics of those inside City Hall. What will be equally unsurprising is that for most of the rest of the city council and certainly Loveridge, little or any questions will be raised as to why the city government proposed, passed and promised changes that were to be made regarding the ethics code and complaint process with its collective fingers crossed behind its back. Because Priamos knows how to count to at least four and if he's acting as one person called it, outside his scope of authority, he's got at least four hands patting him on the back while he does so.

The better world would be if the city government was truly able to hold one of its own accountable, say for administrative interference and not circle its wagons and cover up for one another, including the use of a mechanism designed to hold them more accountable in the process. If Adams violated the provision in the charter involving administrative interference in connection with the allegations that he interfered in the promotional process inside the police department twice, the city council and mayor (who are always telling city residents how well they police each other) had ample opportunity to address it themselves but the body's way of doing that was to settle the lawsuits that raised the allegations behind closed doors on the eve of trial. That a police promotional candidate could have participated in union activities involving an election and not have to reconcile that 24 hours before a stalled promotion became active again and another could listen to the news that she'd been promoted and actually believe it to be true.

But then it's not called River City for nothing.

No Photos Please, Move Along Now

[The Fox Theater, once again is denying appropriate press coverage of its tony events. Anyone surprised?]

The stupidity of the Fox Theater is discussed under its management by William Malone. The same theater that the tax payers have paid the city council/redevelopment agency to seize through Eminent Domain from some family and then spent $30 million of the funds generated by tax payers to renovate it as essentially a playground for the well to do in this county and Los Angeles and Orange Counties as well. One only has to check out the selection of the performing acts and the ticket prices to figure that out. The elected officials who are paid tax payer dollars to represent this city's residents who have footed the bill for the publicly owned theater are in addition subsidized by taxpayers' money to attend performances there for free.

But the thing is, it can't escape this reality. For all the talk of shopping Riverside which is great, it's mostly the poor and the middle class who shop locally, as those who have more money spend especially their disposable income outside of the city, the county or even the country. While a lot of middle class and poorer people shopped in Riverside including for affordable entertainment, many of the wealthier people spend money in L.A. County, Orange County or even Mexico. So what the city tries to do instead is to lure big wallets from outside the county but there's too much competition for those spenders in their own areas and so far the city's efforts despite the mayor's flowery speeches at recent meetings haven't worked out.

That's one of the reasons why unless it receives private funding through endowments which is how most successful theaters operate, then it will always wind up draining the money from those taxpayers who can't afford the tickets anymore than they could fork out the money for the Star Trek exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum last year. But as long as the city government continues to build Riverside especially the downtown as a playground for the rich people with lots of disposable income, they'll never turn it into a viable economic source of revenue. It's not like the city council is winning much support by doing this politically because the council members who stumped for this vision the hardest are no longer in office. What's interesting to watch is how little some of their heirs to the ward seats have learned from that because they seem intent on making the same mistakes as their predecessors. The path to economic prosperity in Riverside will never be among the wealthiest people because for one thing, there just isn't enough of them period as more people's earning power is going the opposite direction and with a limited population of people to woo, many of them just aren't interested.

If you can't even find enough people with disposable income to serve as cornerstones of private fund raising for the Fox Theater, then the project is pretty much dead in the water over the long term. Because if those people aren't interested to invest in theater which succeeds mainly as a private sector investment, then how can you convince people to pay exorbitant ticket prices to attend? It's a beautiful theater with great potential that could be realized if more planning had gone to it and at least as much energy in that direction as that spent seizing it through Eminent Domain and if it were managed a whole lot better.

If the theater was truly giving back to the 300,000 or so city residents who have invested portions of their disposable income including by shopping Riverside and buying or owning property there including in that particular Redevelopment Agency zone. But guess what, many people in that "blighted" area can't afford the ticket prices either. It's just been a tough few years for most people in Riverside when dealing with the real world, the one that several elected officials don't seem to quite get yet including the mayor.

But that's the way Riverside chose to do business. It chose to engage in theater ownership before they chose to engage in building and running their own Inn in one of the worst markets for the latter in modern day history in the riskiest corner of the state of California. This city's leadership just seems drawn not to sound investments with money that's not theirs but high-risk ones, one observer told me, but then again, they're spending other people's money.

The Fox Theater is a grand looking palace and some of the acts it hires are quite memorable but while it's owned by the residents who pay all its bills including the contract the city issued to William Malone, it's not the people's theater. Currently it doesn't earn enough money to even benefit the people of Riverside as it seeks to woo the cultural arts crowd from Los Angeles and Orange Counties which have plenty where they are to keep them happy and with gas prices the way they are...well who wants to travel?

It didn't have to be that way, it could have been entertainment that could have offered discounted rates for people who can't afford to attend theater in the city in the region that's #1 in the nation for worst recovery rate and #2 in the nation for job unemployment/competition according to Forbes magazine and other publications. This is all in a city that's flush in Redevelopment Agency projects that are purported to import jobs but really don't according to the city's own statistics it reports itself to Sacramento and why would the city produce false numbers to the state that weren't very flattering? Why, because a lot of the employees are imported into the city right with the jobs.

I read somewhere that the Fox Theater is having some Dancing with the Stars event with its local celebrities and they won't let anyone photograph it unless it's beforehand by some tony publication like Inland Empire Magazine that seems to be the latest in darling publications courted by various city players. The excuses are somewhat odd only because they are playing on the assumption that not only can most residents not afford tickets but apparently they're ignorant about the realities of performing in and staging theatrical productions. Take the excuse about flash photography being too distracting to performers. If the performance is done on stage, then it's being lit up by exterior lighting from all different directions right? Well, if you've ever been on stage for any reason, you'll know one thing, that there's a lot of light spotlighting on performers already. One of the reasons why stage fright isn't really that common is because the people on stage usually can't see the audience because of the lighting. That's why you have to sit still for an hour or more to get makeup that's thicker than pancake batter (which it resembles) on your face not to mention three or four different forms of makeup around your eyes to make sure they don't "disappear" in the bright light.

All you see when you look out is light shining in your face and the reality is, performers even amateurs don't really pay attention to the audience anyway. Having done dramatic and musical plays or reviews, not to mention performing in choirs and choruses sometimes in pretty good sized venues, I've never actually recall ever seeing a flash photo taken in all that time, and flash photography was more bright and potentially intrusive back in the day than it is now. The only flashing light? A spotlight that exploded due to overheating fortunately during a dress rehearsal.

And the way good productions are "blocked" or staged beginning weeks in advance is enough to keep performers from getting precariously near the edge of a stage so they could topple off. While it might be new to the dancers, any producer is going to stage the production weeks before they have to worry about it. As for the audience, because of all the lighting, they don't tend to notice flash photography either. It's a given that there will be flash photos taken by Malone and his minions for publicity shots including for their own professional portfolios and resumes for future business ventures. In most professional scenarios, most performers have to sign releases allowing themselves to be photographed though not always.

What's ironic is that this isn't a professional musical or dramatic production nor is it a concert or performance being provided by a professional dancing troupe. It's a social gala for charity where frankly many of the people who sign up or attend are hoping to be photographed, including by local and event-oriented publications like Inland Empire Magazine or Riverside Magazine. That's why they're smiling in the photographs. People go to charity galas to be generous but also often to network or to be seen.

I'm not really following the upper society scene in Riverside including at the Fox Theater I (along with all Riverside residents) partly own but I've been following the problems that plagued its management and its treatment of the media. The theater could be a really great place if they had a greater variety of acts there, if they had shows where more affordable tickets were sold, if they were more media friendly and if they maybe served as a training ground in some fashion for future local entertainers or people who could learn the more technical crafts that are carried out behind the scenes like set design or sound mixing. Quite a few theaters have educational programs like these including for youth, including for surprisingly affordable rates, not to mention programs with schools to introduce each generation of children to entertainment venues like theaters. The school has two past and apparently dueling Performing Arts Schools but though either or both are receiving city assistance in one form or another, neither really are involved in reaching out behind either Riverside Community College or the University of California, Riverside.

There's a lot that can be done with a performing venue like a theater but instead what seems to be done here are steps that actually underserve the venue which is owned by every city resident through the money used to purchase and renovate it. A charity gala could be an important event in that respect too but it seems as if those interested in covering it hit a couple of strange roadblocks.

No, this doesn't seem to be as much about media access to taking photos, it's likely they don't want people accessing them and taking them for free during the performance. It's often mainly about licensing and it's often based on how certain people probably including Malone and his people define media. To people like them, mainstream newspapers and magazines constitute respectable media. They don't include blogs or many alternative media under that banner. They just don't and Santana probably knows that he's just naturally got a tougher course to follow than say, the Press Enterprise, Instant Riverside or the Inland Empire Magazine in order to get similar access to many events. Bloggers like Santana are expected to mirror the larger style media even as they don't have the resources and frankly the coverage areas of mainstream media.

And Santana's the nicer blogger in Riverside, much more stylishly dressed and a superior photographer for sure. People at City Hall like him, politicians like him, department heads like him, city managers like him and yet he gets treated in such fashion. Still I'm not sure how often he's had his blog cursed out just in the past couple of weeks by assorted folks. That recently happened with this blog over a recent posting I wrote on the situation involving the alleged arrest of one of the police department's most recent hires. A new hire who just happened to be related to one of its captains. Apparently this captain also just happened to reportedly try unsuccessfully to ask a Corona Police Department watch commander as a favor to cut his son loose (leaving three other men arrested with him still locked up in the municipal jail) early and apparently without much of a paper trail. It's probably a major disappointment that something like that happened but it still has to be dealt with and hopefully that's been done in a way that strengthens the department and not weaken it.

Not everyone including a noted city department head is a fan of this blog and that's fine. But hopefully, this situation was addressed in a manner befitting of the police department's mission of protecting and serving the public, of doing the same of its workforce from a problematic hire, to keep its management team accountable and not out seeking preferential treatment for individuals and not increasing the city's risk of civil liability. That's what matters much, much more than how a department appears and that's what will shape the department for better or worse over the long term is how situations like that which erupted are handled, and how measures are put into place to ensure they don't happen again.

Over 320 applicants (including four women) put in for the available positions in the police department and less than 12% even made it up to and through the background process. Reading the multi-page "life statement" application created by POST which the police department helpfully includes as part of its nicely documented personnel and hiring section of its revamped Web site provides a perspective on how scrutinized candidates are from the beginning. It does beg questions about how the police department wound up with the son of one of its higher ranking employees who apparently couldn't even make it to the swearing in ceremony let alone the first day of work in the position without getting arrested after being released from probation by another agency one month shy of his graduation at an academy in Orange County.

Hopefully if people outside the department aren't allowed to ask questions without generating some form of upset internally at the top, then someone inside at the management level is seriously asking them and getting them addressed. Cursing about bloggers is probably therapeutic on some level but it's not going to help address pressing issues like those raised by the incident involving the new hire nor is it going to increase accountability at the management level. And if at this point, management personnel are still trying or giving preferential treatment in criminal matters involving relatives then that's not really happening is it?

It's not easy to fix the long-standing problems at that level overnight and Diaz had his work cut out for him. But incidents like that one make it clear there's still work to be done and he's still got to set his tone as leader of his management. Until he does that, then there may be those who believe they can get away with things.

Charter Review Committee Application and Selection Process:

Take Two

The city had selected its nine member panel to spend the next 18 months or so discussing and debating different issues and sorting through different agendas to come up with recommendations to take to the city council for possible ballot initiatives to take to the voters. The city council stacked the panel with an ex-council member, ex-interim city manager, partner from its favorite law firm, Best, Best and Krieger, president of the Greater Chamber of Commerce, etc with some interesting newer people thrown into the mix. But in a city that's only 39% white in its population, the city council and mayor picked a panel that was 100% white.

Mainly because it's election year for the majority of council members, the city government opted to convert the two alternates to members, pick more new members and new alternates all during a tight time line for the charter review process which got a little squeezed because the mayoral election which it's based upon for some reason got switched by the city's voters from 2013 to next year.

New people have already started applying or saying they will apply including a blast from the recent past from the police department. Stay tuned as this process is still definitely ongoing.

Here's the announcement from City Clerk Colleen Nicol.

Charter Review Commission | Expanding Membership

Community leaders,

At their meeting on Tuesday, April 5, 2011, the City Council expanded the membership of the Charter Review Committee by four members and two alternates.

Recruitment opened immediately and will close on Monday, May 2, 2011. Please help by sharing this opportunity with registered voters of Riverside who may have an interest in serving.

Further information is available on the City’s website at You may wish to call the City Clerk’s Office directly at [phone number deleted by poster] or email [deleted by poster].

Thank you,
Colleen J. Nicol, MMC
City Clerk
City of Riverside
[phone and email deleted by poster]

Public Meetings

Tuesday, April 11 at 3 and 6:30 pm. at City Hall, the city council will be meeting to discuss this agenda. Items including the use of redevelopment bonds to move the police department's dispatch division out of the Orange Street Station to Magnolia Police Center.

Wednesday, April 13 at 3 pm. The Finance Committee meets on City Hall's Seventh Floor to conduct interviews for the city's next independent auditor. This could be the most important meeting of the Finance Committee so far this year.

Sonja Bjelland who worked for the Press Enterprise for some years as a police beat reporter before being a casualty of the layoffs at the publication has this Web site.

Portrait of a Major Earthquake

Feb. 22, 2011

It's always smart to prepare for natural disasters as recent earthquakes and/or tsunamis in places like Christchurch, New Zealand and Japan have shown.

[My older sister's kitchen after the Feb. 22 Christchurch earthquake.]

[The effect of liquification on a neighborhood street after the Feb. 22 quake. Soil liquification causes major problems for the foundations of buildings in many places with higher water tables.]

[The Christchurch toilet, one for nearly every home. Two big casualties in major quakes are water mains and sewer lines. ]

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