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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer Hit River City

[Outgoing Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson and Former Councilman and current mayoral candidate Ed Adksion pair up at the going away party for a photo]

[All the buffet items had name tags which included the caterer, Provider which was the subject of a recent attempt by Riverside's City Hall to investigate its own contracting processes]

UPDATE: Brad Hudson outgoing party took place at City Hall. Coming up, who came, who didn't, who spoke, who didn't and an analysis of the event.

[City employees and community leaders gathered at City Hall to say farewell to outgoing City Manager Brad Hudson but who's missing in the front row?]

City Council denies appeal on ethics complaint filed by Michael Morales against Community Police Review Commissioner and city council candidate John Brandriff. Mayor Ron Loveridge leads call to deny appeal, saying that nothing extraordinary has been found to provide the basis for granting appeal.

Councilman Mike Gardner argues that it's not even "ordinary" and proposes motion to deny appeal. Appeal denied, 6-0.

[Riverside Police Officer Anthony Watkins giving out stickers at National Night Out at Lincoln Park in the Eastside. Similar events were held all over the nation including Riverside]

[The storm drain next to Andulka Park is getting rebuilt in sections to repair damage from last winter's rain storms. Until then, the creek that runs through the part of the city's gone dry.]

[Soon to be the police department's police administrative headquarters' old digs under a plan recently passed by the city government on its consent calendar without any public discussion]

The City Council and city manager need to provide a far better justification for the city office shuffle than anyone offered last week. And a city government truly committed to transparency would never have approved a costly, complex deal with no public discussion.

----Press Enterprise Editorial Board

It's been busy this summer and it's seen its share of heat waves and thunderstorms both provided by nature and through more political channels. Borders Bookstore is selling off all its stock which led to long lines inside the store and another vacancy in the Riverside Plaza complex, which saw the city's darling Instant Riverside replace Citrus Grill which though thousands of dollars in the arrears still almost managed to wedge its way into the downtown scene. I spent time visiting family and friends which meant trying to explain Riverside's canvass to those outside of it which is a challenge in certain areas and that's even without getting into the whole credit/debt rating mess. And with $25o million in bonds coming up due by 2013, there's going to be more to talk about in terms of Riverside's finances. The councilman who fretted about the $5 million in bonds due in January better go back and check the books because it's a lot more money than that which has to be paid. With what's coming up in terms of bonds owed, it's a pretty good time for some folks to look for other jobs, recession aside. The doors revolving on the ground floor will be them leaving, with City Manager Brad Hudson first and possibly more to follow in his footsteps.

Because beginning on January 1, Riverside will be entering a time of reckoning when the cost of its Riverside Renaissance will be coming back for payment. Remember at least 60% of the approximately $2.1 billion put into it is essentially borrowed money or debt. This blog has never been into doing public relations for the Renaissance because it's pretty much going to break this city. And that's not that projects within it most particularly those to address infrastructure issues aren't worthy. It's that so much of particularly the earlier part of the Renaissance was spent by City Hall being the middleman in threatening the use of eminent domain to get properties particularly in the downtown area to hand off to developers who were also getting campaign contributions from them.

Of course, Hudson the master planner of the Renaissance is already pretty much out of the building and he'll be six months into his job up north probably reinventing Sacramento County when the bills really start coming. Riverside won't have a city manager then because City Hall said that it'd take six months to recruit for a permanent replacement and in the meantime, Community Director (and yes, former Riverside County employee) Scott Barber is filling the interim spot.

Was it just me or did the city council's selection for the interim position strike anyone as interesting? Especially since there's three assistant city managers that served under Hudson and that's more than has ever served under any city manager. Yet the city council and mayor didn't select anyone of them to fill in that spot. Not Belinda Graham, nor Paul Sundeen nor Deanna Lorson but then again, there's a betting pool set up on whether any or all of them will be still working at City Hall by the end of that recruitment period. It's always like that when regimes end, and there's speculation that anyone new coming in might try to change the canvas a bit. It's not clear whether that will happen in Riverside.

So there was a lot to explain to people who don't live here about how Riverside does business. Spending time in Los Angeles, is an exercise in contrasts when you compare its artistic, cultural and economic development in comparison to Riverside. It's not fair to compare the two but it's hard not to notice how much more vibrant different areas of L.A. are compared to any part of Riverside. Riverside is not L.A. nor should it be but it should be something more than a stack of dominoes set up in a row downtown which are all dependent on none of them tipping over. The latest being that series of land swaps that's got people talking is just the latest of a series of them going back a few years and all of them are contingent in everything being done just right with the minimum of discussion at least in public.

But then what else is new?

Now there's explaining how Riverside can trumpet having its water revenue bonds bumped to AA+ yet Standard & Poors downgrades the country's rating to the same level and the stock market drops over 600 points. But double dip recessions aside, Riverside's City Hall has been very busy in recent days pushing through on the consent calendar one of those increasingly bizarre moves to essentially shuffle some money around, beginning with projects built by its favorite darling in development, Mark Rubin. One council member at some point broke from the pack and said something along the lines, of gee, maybe we should have pulled it and put it on the discussion calendar. But the problem is, they lack the ability to think of taking those actions until after the fact because what they've shown in the past few years, is that the public is an afterthought. The reason clearly being that the city government just doesn't think it's the public's right to know how it conducts its business when it comes to how it spends money particularly with private developers.

So what created all this fuss again?

The city council and mayor of Riverside without an iota of discussion at least in public approved that three-day deal between City Hall, Best, Best & Krieger and the city's favorite developer, Rubin. That's the mad shuffle where the city helps Best, Best & Krieger it's top outside law firm move into as the first client of Rubin's new Citrus Tower on University and Lime. The city will move Public Utilities into BB&K's old (new) lodging while the police department's administrative headquarters will ditch its current six years left on its $1/year lease and take over the Public Utility offices a couple blocks away. The debt being undertaken by Public Utilities in its own office space was addressed by a commenter on the article site but no one quoted from the city in the article addressed whether the general fund or police department's capital funded budget that would assume that debt in its stead.

Maybe if someone had pulled it for discussion, he (and it's very unlikely Councilwoman Nancy Hart would pull anything) might at least ask "staff" to answer those questions in a public forum.

It's interesting enough that they passed it but what's truly fascinating if disturbing is that the deal was passed with nothing in the way of discussion at least not in public. Everybody moving to new digs is acting really happy about it but that's not the only point. The point is that what looks like a game of musical chairs took place without discussion by elected officials in a public venue and how much is it ultimately going to cost the city. The interesting thing is that the louder the politicians protest that it's a background deal, the more you should be asking whether or not it was one. Yes, of course the city, BB&K and Rubin all came up with the latest elements of this plan independently and at the same time. Yes, and if you believe that, beach front property is going really cheaply in Idaho.

The one given here is that there are members of the city council who believe it but what about the necessity of doing such a deal largely behind closed doors is actually true? Or is just another behind the scenes play being pushed through that's something else entirely? An action done for a private developer?

Because this is what this is about, it's not about finding improved digs for the two public departments, it's about helping Rubin get tenants for his office building. The reason why is woven back into every backroom deal that the city's made in the downtown area going back about five years. It's like a scarf knitted together with fabric from different sources and if one thread is loose and it gets pulled, the whole thing comes unraveled. But if the city council and mayor were too busy patting themselves over this deal before voting it through with a laundry list of other items, at least city residents were asking the hard questions even if no one really cared enough to answer them.

One commenter wrote this about the issues he or she felt might arise with the relocation of the police department from Orange Street Station to the Public Utilities building.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The part of this deal no one is discussing is how much it will cost the City to adapt the Utilities' current office space at Ninth & Orange for the Police Department. Typically, law enforcement facilities of any kind have very special design considerations. How much is it going to cost the City to retrofit that building to meet the Police Department's functional and security requirements?

How, for instance, will the City adapt the structure to deal with the intake of suspects in custody for questioning? Where, exactly, will those suspects be brought into the building? Will they be brought in from police cars parked on the street, in potential contact with the street and foot traffic surrounding the building? Or will they be brought into the Police Department via an entrance within the attached parking structure? If so, how will this impact the existing uses of the parking structure, particularly by the District Attorney's staff? What specialized security measures will have to be installed to secure that entrance, and how much will that cost the City? And what will it cost to install secure holding cells within a facility never intended to function as a jail?

What is the City planning to do with all the communications equipment currently on top of the Police building? Not all of it can be moved to the Magnolia Station, as some part of it is needed for central operations. Will it be moved to Ninth & Orange? If so, at what cost? Will it be left in place and secure lines run down the street to the new location? If so, at what cost? And how much will it cost to retrofit the offices at Ninth & Orange with the secure communications and data lines necessary for a law enforcement operation?

And, what will it cost to retrofit the entire space to be suitable for a law enforcement command center? What will it cost to adequately reinforce and secure all the entrances? What will it cost to replace all the windows with security glass? What will it cost to install the necessary surveillance equipment? What will it cost to secure the perimeter?

And finally, has anyone at the City bothered to chat with the District Attorney about this to discuss the wisdom of placing the Police Department directly across the street from the District Attorney's office building, and relocating it within that parking facility? Has anyone at the City given any consideration at all to the potential threats and hazards this may create, both for staff and the general public?

Has anyone at the City given this scheme any real consideration at all?

Maybe the city will answer these and other questions in the comprehensive presentation including PowerPoint that it must have prepared before approving this plan involving the police department's relocation. The above logistic concerns about that relocation could have gone to the city's Public Safety Committee first for discussion of the logistics. But then oops, you have another layer of transparency in a city government that like to use that word a lot but in practice, has no clue what it really means.

If it did, City Hall wouldn't be such a mystery to so many people in terms of how these deals are being made, how these type of land swaps can just whoosh down the chute of zero accountability to approval. And even the city council members who've run on accountability and transparency platforms can't pull the item (because an earlier city council stripped the public of that right) and have a comprehensive and open discussion on it. If they believe it's so great, they had a perfect opportunity to sell it during a public discussion rather than once again, hide behind staff reports. But they opted out of doing so because the truth is, they didn't care, know or even think to ask the public what they'd think of what's going to be a rather expensive multi-million dollar triple land swap to in actuality, help a developer double his underselling projects in the downtown area.

It's true that the police department's building for example is antiquated and cramped but then again so was the downtown bus terminal when the department decided to move Internal Affairs and then the Neighborhood Policing Center's North headquarters there several years ago.

Into facilities where at least one of those divisions received only a two week notice of their moving day and the facility itself had poor electrical wiring, a leaking roof and zero signage for the first two months so no one knew that it was a police division and not the Greyhound Station. Both divisions weren't all that happy about the move. Internal Affairs apparently were concerned about having investigation witnesses arriving there in view of uniformed officers a doorway away and their neighbors at the NPC were concerned about serving as security guards for the Internal Affairs Division.

Internal Affairs eventually relocated back to the Magnolia Police Station, its third home in several years.

Eventually, that situation more or less ironed itself out. And hopefully the management personnel stationed at the barely habitable Orange Street Station will not run into such obstacles in their move to their own digs. But to rush into an expensive acquisition for new digs when it has a $1/year lease until 2017 while the economy's preparing to tank again just seems to invite concerns and questions.

Once again City Hall has made sure it's too late to ask any but keep your eyes out because soon enough, there will probably be more of these types of land swaps as the city government continues to prop up flagging development projects at taxpayer expense.

But the Press Enterprise Editorial Board scolded the city for its downtown giveaway. So that makes at least two of us who find it highly questionable.

Cool Downtown Signage

[A sign advertising high-priced condos as rentals, if you can have a lot of cash]

[A sign outside of one of the downtown "public" parking garages]

RPD and Wikipedia

[Chief Sergio Diaz (l.) and two of his cabinet members who've both been busy, but has anyone seen Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer lately?]

In the last blog posting, there was the tale of the two postings about the Riverside Police Department at the Wikipedia site which were posted side by side on this page. The I. P. addresses were posted with each entry, with the second, which was being a wireless network which is part of the City of Riverside domain.

Meaning that the amended posting originated from that domain as well. It didn't take long to receive an email from the author of that amended posting along with a detailed explanation of why the changes were made from inside the police department's management. That was interesting but while I disagreed with portions of the original wikipedia posting, I did think that if the city was going to edit pages, that it should not have excised the portion on the DUI incident of former Chief Russ Leach, it should have added a provision of what exactly it has in place inside the department and the city to prevent favoritism from taking place.

Speaking of the department, I've had people ask me about what's happened to Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer who's become nearly invisible in the past few months. He used to be seen in much higher profile at public meetings but now he's disappeared.

Riverside Gets a Train

In the meantime, while Riverside can't get a piece of the high speed railway, it did issue permits for the the transport of "low risk" nuclear waste through the Inland Empire. And Riverside which banned mobile food trucks now plans to embrace them. There's a food truck festival in early September in Riverside being held and maybe then, the city government will have a better understanding of what the mobile food truck movement is and how it's been done in other cities.

Mayor Ron Loveridge Lashes Out at Press Enterprise Editorial Board

[Mayor Ron Loveridge all smiles here but not while lashing out at the local newspaper's editorial board regarding its concerns on redevelopment agencies]

In his latest op/ed piece, Mayor Ron Loveridge vents at the newspaper's editorial board for not jumping on the redevelopment agency train. He didn't look too pleased sitting at the head of the table while the city council interviewed the newspaper's publisher Ronald Redfern for a position on the Charter Review Committee. Redfern didn't get much in the way of votes though he raised some important points during his interview which of course put any chance he likely had of being selected for the committee at risk.

For Loveridge and the others on the dais who have stumped for the Redevelopment Agencies even stripping affordable housing funds off of various projects to pay for the tap into the monies for non-affordable housing, there's a question that's been asked and that's if you're so certain that your handling of the state-owned agency is so right on, then it's a simple step to call up State Comptroller John Chiang's office and ask for a forensic audit.

Not one elected official has offered to do that.

Heavy Redaction in the City's Independent Investigation of Itself

[Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos who probably has never met a black felt marker he's not liked]

The city has released its "independent" investigation of the allegations of favoritism allegedly raised by different city employees including recently fired Deputy City Attorney Raychele Sterling of favoritism in contracting. Outgoing city manager, Brad Hudson hired Cihigoyenetche Grossberg Clouse from Rancho Cucamonga to do the probe which of course found that the city didn't do anything wrong with both its use of A. Webb firm for the contract on a sewer plant and also that the City Hall Cafeteria wasn't subsidized from money from the Park and Recreation Department because its manager is friends with Hudson and it's been operating in the red.

The investigation went one step further saying that not only didn't the city do anything wrong with its contracting practices (though there's hints of some vague issues) but that it was doing all these things because City Hall was valiantly trying to "shop Riverside".

The report itself is a hoot to read. It closely resembles what classified documents look like when they're finally released which means it's redacted. All the names of city officials and employees (but not private vendors) are blacked out so the reader is left to fill in the blanks as to whose name is hidden behind the black marker welded perhaps by Priamos himself.

But if you've been following what's going on, it's not impossible to figure out who's who. Pick up a copy at City Hall (and it's a pile of papers) and see if you can play a version of Mad Libs River City style.

Wi Fi Outage to be Fixed

[Part of Riverside went "dark" after the monsoon thunderstorms last weekend and is currently under repair]

The unexpected rain storm caused some damage to some equipment that is responsible for broadcasting the signal from the internet to the network, causing an area of the city to lose coverage. The city made arrangements to acquire the equipment and work crews needed to perform the repairs on one of the towers which will be necessary to fix the outage and restore the service to the south-eastern part of Riverside.

There's no timeline on how long it will take to repair the equipment impacting the affected area but it's into its second week so if you're in a dark area, check out the free wi-fi at the areas Starbucks, McDonalds (Mission Grove Plaza), Carl's Jr. in Canyon Crest. Buy yourself a burger, expresso or their more nutritious alternatives while you search.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 1 pm and 6:30 p.m. Riverside's City Council will meet once again to discuss and pass this agenda at City Hall's council chambers.

Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 3p.m., Ethics complaint appeal hearing to be conducted by the city council at City Hall involving an ethics complaint filed against Community Police Review Commissioner and city council candidate John Brandriff by Miguel Morales.

Rearing its head more quietly this time it seems is the city's ongoing lease of terminal space downtown to Greyhound Bus Lines. Only since it's being done in an ultra-secret closed session, there's of course no backup material on this once contentious item.

Here's a blast from the past. Mayor Ron Loveridge is again pushing for the hiring of Roberts Consulting Group to conduct the search for the new city manager. If you remember history, the mayor pushed the same company but the city council interviewed firms though they wound up going with Loveridge's choice. It didn't matter what firm they chose because they had been intent on hiring Hudson the entire time.

I didn't receive a personal invite of course but the city's planning to hold a going away party of sorts for soon to be former City Manager Brad Hudson at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug 9 from 5-6p.m probably in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall on the Seventh Floor.

Campaign Disclosure Statements online

Riverside's Web site has links that go to the campaign contribution disclosure forms filled out by all city government political candidates. As an example, here's the latest statement for Councilman Steve Adams.

What jumped out was the sizable payments he received to those political consultants, Brian Floyd and Associates (which sprung from the breakup of Floyd & Lucsko) which is known for its...colorful if highly unsuccessful campaigning style for the likes of past losing candidates including former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco last year.

Floyd's resume is posted here and who would have ever guessed he's screenwriting partners with former Community Police Review Commission member Robert Slawsby who was appointed to the body when former Floyd client and councilman Frank Schiavone was on the dais.

Their latest screenplay project? An R rated comedy called Bachelor Party Planners.

Also paid for advertising by Adams was local blogger and publisher Salvador Santana whose publication The Truth just returned to print copy form. Both he and his publication received $250 apiece from the Adams campaign for printing expenses.

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