Five before Midnight

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


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Election 2011: The Games Begin and a School Board Votes

[The neighborhood close to my sister's after the Feb. 22 quake in Christchurch, New Zealand when soil liquification flooded the streets with mud and water]

[Concerned community members left standing room only at the Riverside Unified School District meeting]

The Riverside Unified School Board voted at its Feb. 22 meeting in front of a packed house to proceed with its upgrade plans including for John W. North High School.

[School Board members listen to public comments from over a dozen speakers on the renovations for John W. North High School's athletic facilities]

Over a dozen city residents and former North High School alumni spoke on this issue and about how they feel that North High School is given the short shift compared to other high schools in the district including Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, which is much newer than North which along with Arlington High School and Riverside Poly are apparently older facilities. But North High School which has a record of academic excellence (and its athletes boast the highest average GPA in the district) was the last high school to have sprinklers installed, once hadn't had its sprinklers working for several months and the student athletes have to leave the gymnasium and walk outside to reach the shower facilities. Not to mention one speaker said there were so many holes in the field (from gophers) that it look like a bombing run.

Money had been raised privately to improve the entrance of North High and speakers countered one board member's assertions that the students didn't take care of their facilities. Many people have worked hard to upkeep the facilities that are aging at the high school named originally for the area of the city it's in and then later for Riverside's founder, abolitionist John W. North.

Many students from the Eastside and University neighborhoods attend or have attended North High School including many well known people in Riverside. But it's not news that the Eastside gets short shift in many decisions made by representative bodies left to make decisions that determine the future of the residents in this neighborhood. Former School Board member Ofelia Valdez-Yeager talked about how it's an exercise in regards to the "have and have nots" and that was apparent when some school board members talked about how it was important to stick to a budget...after ensuring that other high schools got larger pieces of the pie.

North High School students often have to travel farther at their own expense to play football games and for the time being, they will be using the football facility at Riverside Community College. Contrast that with Riverside Poly getting a swim facility and not being told to use the RCC Aquatic Center for its home swim meets.

The bond measure which was passed by the voters which earmarks money specifically facilities should be used in a way that benefits all of Riverside's schools in this case athletic facilities for its high schools but there should be parity between the schools in what they obtain so that Valdez-Yeager's words don't come to pass.

School Board Member Kathy Allavie came up with the compromise motion that was passed and includes the creation of a blue ribbon panel which will be free of the influence or participation of the school board which will determine how the extra funding will be used. The slight majority of the board including Gayle Cloud who provided the swing vote (thus reversing her earlier position on the issue) passed this motion to the applause of those in attendance.

Mayor Ron Loveridge when he teaches at the university used to assign papers to his students asking them to write about the Eastside, what they thought about it and any recommendations they would have for how to address the issues there. Sounds like a pretty interesting and educational assignment but what would be a much better one is the history of interactions and interrelationships between this neighborhood and City Hall.

And how often the Eastside gets brushed when it comes to how the city government does its business. Councilman Andrew Melendrez who represents the Eastside said that no Riverside Renaissance money went to that neighborhood. Whether that's the case, well it would be shocking if that were actually so. But what was really shocking or not was a recent vote taken that had to do with the Perris Valley addition to Metrolink which included the issue of creating "quiet zones" in areas of Riverside. Most of the expansion of Metrolink is taking place outside of Los Angeles due to the costly negotiations that would be required for rail access with freight train companies including Union Pacific, which is as the adage goes, once warned twice shy when it comes to making future deals.

But what wasn't discussed was what was in the fine print. The Eastside neighborhood naturally didn't get any "quiet zones" but what disturbed some folks was the fact that the money that had been allocated to install the long-needed grade separation on Third Street was apparently funneled elsewhere. This grade separation which was once fourth on the priority list for putting these grade separations in is apparently now up in the air even as trains have long blocked Third Street and often either Seventh Street or Spruce Street as well.

If that's the case, then one can only look at the actions taken and say wow, what backroom dealing led to this action as well as the provision which pretty much disqualifies City Hall from ever complaining or being involved in any legal action against the Perris Valley line. The lack of public hearings, and one councilman called a city council meeting on the final vote an adequate public hearing has marred this process in terms of the fine print items. Because many people know by the time anything gets to the city council, it's pretty much past the point of discussion and to the point of pushing a shiny button the console to cast a vote.

Besides has anyone looked at the length of the city council agenda...quite slight in content lately.

But Councilman Steve Adams who heads the Transportation Committee for the city council has been asked to look into the lack of public hearings and notice for public hearings as well as the mystery of the disappearing allocation for the Third Street grade separation project that many residents in the Eastside had hoped would be on the horizon.

[Councilman Steve Adams who chairs the Transportation Committee has said he'll look into the lack of public hearings held before the city council before the alleged movement of grade separation money for Third Street]

Hopeful Adams can get to the bottom of it if he's not there already to determine whether or not the funding for the grade separation in the Eastside got reallocated elsewhere. And why there were no public hearings held on some of these fine print items.

But while many people left the RUSD board meeting content that at least some progress has been made, it's clear that in the larger scheme of things, it's still business as usual in Riverside.

Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson Discovers the Downtown Library

And Yes Brad, It's in Dismal Shape

Only in Riverside is it major news when a city manager visits the downtown public library. In this case, Brad Hudson who's been employed by Riverside since June 2005 took a trip off the well beaten path and wandered into the downtown public library which is as stated in a state of disrepair especially in the past year. Coming up will be a photo gallery of exactly how the public library now looks. It's no news to this blog as it's reported on the situation in the downtown library and its deterioration and Hudson's a pretty faithful reader.

But it's kind of funny that Hudson appeared to be so much in the dark about the library's condition given that the library department is under his own and that he had his former assistant city manager Tom DeSantis in charge of it. DeSantis had allegedly been very diligent in his micromanagement of the facility to the point of telling librarians where to shelve books but DeSantis apparently missed what had been going on. Not surprising because he was very busy doing other activities while working for Riverside including some that might or might not have played a role in his abrupt departure last year.

Apparently he was alerted by Councilman Mike Gardner who oversees the downtown where the library resides. Gardner himself is up for reelection and an unkempt library facility doesn't help his cause. But then again, the rest of the city council should view the situation of the library as not really helping their respective causes either.

Among the issues that it faces are leaking roofs when it rains and sometimes when it doesn't, and a second floor in which half of its public service area is cordoned off. There used to be a children's center which was quite nice and a teen space area that was also quiet nice but for some unexplained reason, the children center had to move all its books, equipment and furniture out of its space and then it got crammed in the already small teen space area.

Contrast that with the fact that about half of the shelving space left in the second floor has been vacated including the shelves. The one remaining public elevator is pretty scary and noisy when it is in use. It's not clear whether it's been upgraded with the latest safety features including equipment that detects anything including body limbs that would get caught in between the closing doors. Let alone whether it has safety features preventing the elevator from moving up or down if something including someone's arm or leg is stuck in the doors.

The woman's bathroom has had a sulfur odor (indicated sewer gases backing up through the toilet's traps) for years now and many times one or both bathrooms are closed for repairs. Recently when a public event was held downtown in that area, the restrooms were used by many people in attendance. It only took an hour for the women's restroom to be out of order and even before that, the fecal odor was so noxious, people felt like they were going to pass out.

On one occasion, when the women's restroom was closed (due to a broken light), a woman who had to use the restroom was told to go to the Mission Inn or City Hall and use the toilets there. When the employees were reminded about equal access to facilities regardless of gender, they opened up the employee restroom to women and expedited the repair order for repairs. When the men's bathroom has been out of order, women have walked into the bathroom and found men inside it.

[Discovering the Downtown Library apparently sent City Manager Brad Hudson into shock]

Brad might have been shocked about the state of the downtown library, the main hub of the entire system where there are branch libraries including newer facilities that look much cleaner and nicer than that downtown. And as already stated, DeSantis while here was a busy, busy bee including engaging in long meaningful visits to other nearby city owned facilities like Fairmount Park but surely he would have reported back any deficiencies or problems to Hudson or perhaps he did, but nothing happened.

It's odd considering that the city management put restrictions through its library director that gagged employees in the library department from speaking to people including the media. If the management had the energy and time to do that, why didn't they have time to address the growing deterioration of the library? And remember when Hudson and the city government were talking about demolishing the library and rebuilding it, some seemed to think that shouldn't be done yet. But that's Hudson's modus of operation is that when he's confronted with an embarrassment or a problem under his watch, he tends to say, I had no idea...I'll go check it out...oh my gosh...I really had no idea.

But what of the Riverside City Council's reaction to the topic at a recent city council meeting?

[If former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis micromanaged the downtown library during his tenure, how did it reach its current state on his watch?]

[Councilman Mike Gardner (l.) may find that the state of the downtown library might come up during the upcoming city council elections]

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein updates on the library situation and he provided that information that he gleaned from a recording taken of the city council meeting including the joking done about the library.


I blame myself for putting Hudson in such an awkward position. If I'd known that Councilman Mike Gardner would suggest that the city's top administrator walk through this pigsty, I would have written about the wonders of the navel orange instead.

But maybe the city manager and his bosses should occasionally be reminded that they are the stewards of an open sore that is such an embarrassment that it has become a punch line.

During that same meeting, which consisted mainly of mutual back patting and virtual group hugs in celebration of the city's supposedly chipper finances, Gardner said: "The downtown library itself needs a little spiffing up."

That's when laughter rippled through the council chambers. If Gardner were a stand-up pro, he would have quickly added, "Take my blight. Please."

Instead, he said what everyone except the council has known for years: The library "has slipped to the point where it is not adequately functional now."

Even MayorLuv briefly paused from seizing the city's destiny to muse, "If you parachuted into the city and only landed at the library and walked around, I'm not sure what judgment you'd have of the place." (I am. "Beam me up! Now!")

The city manager said his walk-through inspired him to "come up with some improvements that won't be too costly."

Gardner told me later new carpeting, painting, better lighting and fully functional restroom fans will improve "a really depressing, ugly smelly place." Library visitors should see "significant change" by mid-April. Exactly how much the city plans to spend remains foggy.

The library might be a punchline for the city government at a meeting but it's probably going to be a thorn in the side of some of those currently on the election trail much like the neglected city parks haunted his predecessor Dom Betro (who naturally has decided to run again) and helped launch Gardner's own political campaign. And it remains to be seen when or if these improvements cited by the city manager who suddenly had the inkling to visit the downtown library will bear fruit or not before Election 2011 reaches its preliminary (and possibly final) round at the time of the mail in ballot election in early June.

Speaking of political campaigns for Election 2011, there's this curious campaign going on Inland Empire's Craiglist. Councilman Mike Gardner's "fan" is back hitting photo shop and posting enigmatic political advertisements online, this time stumping for Marisa Valdez, actually Marisa Yeager who's running for election in Ward One.

Not sure what the point of it is, and on what basis this person is endorsing Yeager. But if I were Yeager, I'd be a little bit leery of this guy. He's never backed a winning campaign yet.

In other city council news, questions have arisen about its bidding process on contracts. Okay, it's a bit late in the game but at least it's being done. Too many questions have arisen for years about how the city contracts out its business and engages in the bidding process. Attempts to find the legal contracts with the city's outside law firms including Best, Best and Krieger have been futile and questions have been raised about fluctuations in the so-called discretionary spending ($50,000 per item) by Hudson's office.

Now is the city council finally asking questions? If so that would be refreshing indeed.

Stronghold Engineering got the contract but lost an employee to electrocution at UC Riverside in some type of industrial accident. Several years ago an employee from that same company was working in a man hole at 10th and Main just next to City Hall and accidentally cut into a live wire (which was to have been shut off by the city) and was badly injured in the resultant explosion. The accident also knocked out power to the downtown pedestrian mall area.

RPD: Strategic Plan On Hold; Department Needs to Redefine Mission

[Three members of the Riverside Police Department's management team including Chief Sergio Diaz (l.) have decided to suspend the progression of the Strategic Plan for now]

The Riverside Police Department has an interesting but roller coaster history with its Strategic Plans. The expired one that was instituted through the stipulated judgment imposed by the State Attorney's General started strong and then ran aground not long after the dissolution of the judgment in March 2006. Then when it expired, a new one was proposed, then stalled, then restarted, researched, reported on, designed and written into draft form by May 2010.

Even while all hell was breaking loose around it, it continued on forward, but when new Chief Sergio Diaz came in, it started anew. Asst. Chief Chris Vicino with an extensive background in strategic planning from his stint at Pasadena Police Department took a large role in the process bringing back then Sgt. Jaybee Brennan to serve an instrumental role in its progression. Brennan had been one of the surviving members of the Audit and Compliance Panel which had as one of its focus the creation and writing of the Strategic Plan.

More public forums in addition to those done earlier in 2010 (not to mention an online survey) were done in the autumn of 2010, in different neighborhoods inside the four neighborhood policing centers of the city. After soliciting and receiving input from the public at community forums and running an in house survey of its own employees (which generated some interesting result including about the management team), the department was to hold an ambitious working meeting among its command staff to decide how to proceed next with the design of the plan before going to the Public Safety Committee. The meeting was to take place in November but the tragic killing of Officer Ryan Bonaminio caused it to be postponed until just recently.

But what happened after that is that the department suspended the further development of the Strategic Plan pending the completion of the rewriting of its own mission statement and purposes. It turned out that members of the department's leadership had attended a retreat and had discussed the necessity of this task, saying that it was long overdue. The whole retreat and rewriting mission statements, objectives and goals seems to be taking the city by wildfire lately, beginning with some of its boards and commissions. But the department's been busy meeting with and soliciting input from its employees on what its mission statement and objectives should look like.

It's not clear at this point when the Strategic Plan first planned in early 2010 will see its completion let alone its implementation but it's hoped that it doesn't fall by the wayside...once again.

CPRC Continues Commissioner Turnover into 2011

[CPRC Commissioner Peter Hubbard was one of the incumbents ousted by the city council earlier this month]

The Community Police Review Commission said goodbye to three of its commissioners though only two of them were in attendance. Chair Brian Pearcy termed out after eight years and Chani Beeman along with Peter Hubbard were not reappointed by the city council and mayor earlier this month.

They became the first two commissioners to ever be denied reappointed and coincidentally or not they became the first two ever called in to be reinterviewed before being considered for reappointment. Hubbard failed to be reappointed when he fell one requisite vote short in the first round of "city-wide" voting.

Beeman who despite a nearly perfect attendance record, a fairly strong work ethic and giving the most comprehensive if frank interview failed to come even close. One councilman defended his voting record to people unhappy with her ouster by claiming truthfully that he had voted for her in each round where she was in contention. The voting record of another councilman sparked some immediate dynamic changes in his respective council race.

Manager Frank Hauptmann took a very strong role in areas of the commission's operation including the training that commissioners will receive including when they are appointed as well as averring that the annual report will be done next time in accordance to guidelines that place its completion at the end of each March. His stance on issues is a counterpoint to his predecessor Kevin Rogan and was noticeable immediately as he's been given open access to the police department by Diaz as well. Not to mention new D.A. Paul Zellerbach's receptiveness to meet with key players involved in addressing the delayed investigations and reviews of all parties tied to officer-involved deaths.

Still Hauptmann got a taste of the continued dysfunction of the CPRC during some agenda items last meeting when the commission spun its wheels further on some basic issues.

But challenges await for the commission which recently celebrated its 10th year anniversary not through a planned workshop that was aborted and put on ice in January but with the awareness that many problems still plague it, not to mention the intrigue surrounding one commissioner that may or may not erupt in 2011. Also it remains to be seen what's the future of Commissioner John Brandriff as that won't be known until Election 2011 is over for the seventh ward.

All three new members of the CPRC pending live scans of course attended the most recent meeting, all sitting together so someone's been working in the background because that's never happened before in the commission's history.

Quakes Strike Christchurch, Kill over 140 People

This week was marred by the sudden series of severe quakes that struck Christchurch, New Zealand during the lunch hour on Feb. 22. The major quake, an aftershock of a 7.1 quake in September was 6.3 but only six miles away from the center of the city, two miles deep and it generated a ground acceleration force of 2 G, which makes it one of the strongest quakes ever recorded in terms of those forces. It's believed to be from a newly discovered fault that experienced increased stress buildup stemming from the September quake and an aftershock pattern that migrated eastward from that quake's epicenter (about 20-30 miles away) closer to Christchurch. But it's very worrisome to scientists including those in California due to the sequencing of major earthquakes on separate faults (as in the 1992 Landers/Big Bear quake and the 1992 Ferndale/Cape Mendocino/Petrolia, California sequence) and the fact that it's clear that even many modern "earthquake safe" buildings weren't designed to withstand G forces in the 2.0 range.

It's not clear if Christchurch has seen the end or even the worst of its current seismic activity given that there might be many unmapped fault lines under the city stemming from the collision of two tectonic plates. So much remains to be discovered and figured out about the relationships between different faults and fault zones but what is now known is that relieving stress on one fault might dangerously increase it on another.

Christchurch is a city on the South Island near the Eastern coast of the Pacific Ocean. It's about the size of Riverside, with 350,000 people now and it's followed a similar population pattern as Riverside in the past 10-20 years. It's an older city and about half of the buildings are of unreinforced masonry which is usually destroyed easily by earthquakes. Many buildings were new as New Zealand has increased its building standards and is third in the world behind the United States and Japan in earthquake safety. An older sister lives in Christchurch, raised her family there and still resides in a suburb of Christchurch near the beach. I've been there several times and am familiar with the city's layout so it's been jarring to see the photos and news coverage of heavily damaged or demolished buildings and streets in Christchurch, Lytteleton and Sumner where I've been.

The first quake caused major damage mostly to the city's older interior and the infrastructure particularly water and sewer systems. The city had been in the process of demolishing buildings and rebuilding but had opted to wait until the worst of the aftershock sequences had passed. The aftershocks associated with the original Christchurch quake have been atypically numerous and violent. My sister and her family live in a custom built house less than 20 years old and it survived the September quake with some cracks. Many buildings in Riverside including the masonry frontage downtown wouldn't survive a 7.1 earthquake as faced by Christchurch and they won't survive a quake similar to the one that struck on Feb. 22. In fact, when red, orange and green ratings were assigned to various areas of Riverside, downtown's was mostly red and that was for a quake in the 6-7 point range.

If a similar quake with similar dimensions and G forces hit Riverside, would it fare any better? Downtown probably would be severely damaged and the aforementioned library, probably reduced to rubble as would perhaps be the museum, the police administrative headquarters including the communications center in the basement (though it's being relocated to the Magnolia Police Station) and other buildings might be damaged there. Two buildings collapsed after the 1992 Landers earthquake about 80 miles away after all. Something to definitely think about, especially in light of the damage after a series of severe rain storms in December.

But no one died, because although it was strong, it was 30 miles away, four miles deep and struck during a time few people were out and about. In contrast the 6.3 (followed by two aftershocks in the 5-6 range) hit six miles away from the center of the city, was only two miles deep and hit at the tail end of the lunch hour. A strong enough force to knock my brother in law right out of his chair and not enough time for many people to get to safety. Many people died when two buildings collapsed including that of the local television station. People who were in a 28 story hotel next door were able to jump off the top floor to the ground when the building leaned. But 2o people died while sightseeing in the spire of the well-known Cathedral and having climbed those steps myself, not much to be able to do if an earthquake strikes suddenly.

Others died on buses from masonry falling and turning them and cars into crumpled metal with people inside. International students at a language school were buried alive in the television building and others were crushed inside restaurants in the malls. Christchurch has malls that stretch for blocks with walkways through the middle of them, with multi-level shops and eateries inside and outside.

Over one-third of the city's buildings face demolition this time around. Many were damaged last September. The death toll is about 145 but that's a conservative estimate as many buildings including the CTV (Canterbury Television) suffered many losses of life. Texts were sent out of many downed buildings including that one asking for help by people buried but most of the texting stopped before rescue operations reached those buildings.

The 6.3 leveled buildings that had previous damage and those that hadn't. My sister's home and those of most of her relatives and friends were severely damaged this time around and many people's houses will have to be rebuilt. My sister's home was built in 1991 including during the harsh winter (and the seasons are reversed) when she was nine months pregnant and I had gone there to help her before and after my niece's birth with her two kids. One of the biggest topics was the fate of custom ordered floor tiles and whether they were the right color but eventually that got all sorted out.

Electricity has been restore fairly quickly in both quakes but the restoration of water and sewer lines takes quite a bit longer. Last time out, trains brought in tankers filled with water for city residents. But in some areas including where my sister's family live, flooding hit the streets as a result of water from broken pipes and sewer lines and other sources, along with silt was forced up to the surface by the quake's movement.

No drinking water around but plenty on the streets. Students from University of Canterbury showed up enmasse to clean up some of the affected streets even as raw sewage spewed into the Avon River that goes through the area by the university where crew teams practice.

Many more people wanted to leave the city this time soon after it happened as the future on what the prime minister called "New Zealand's darkest day" seems uncertain. In Christchurch, hubs were set off housing offices to process paperwork and disperse financial aid and compensation for rebuilding houses but it's a bit disconcerting to be processing what's similar to FEMA funding for moderate damage and then have a quake that wipes out your house...and that's what happened to many people this time. Those hubs provided jobs for city residents in an economy that like most of the rest of the world's had been in recession.

But people rallied together to help each other as Christchurch residents tend to be easy going, resilient and very generous in spirit.

My sister was actually visiting my nephew in Australia close to the region hit by devastating flooding recently so wasn't there when it happened. She had family that had moved there after missing the September quake. After finding out she and her family were safe, thanks to Facebook and other resources for finding out what happened to my friends there including those who worked and ate in the severely damaged areas. It's sad to see the destruction of the buildings especially coming on the heels of the September quake and when people in the city were starting to get their feet back on the ground only to have the ground knocked out from them again even worse.

But it's clear that the damage of quakes will impact Christchurch for quite a period of time, spurring the economy by offering construction jobs as was seen in areas of the southern United States after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Also in danger, is the hosting of the World Cup later this year for Rugby in stadiums that weren't heavily damaged but face heavy soil liquidification. Of course talk of relocating the World Cup is a fighting word to most people in Christchurch so never say never.

[Bridge Street after the 7.1 Christchurch quake]

[Suburb flooded through water and silt being forced to the surface by force of the earthquake. My sister's area looks a lot like this.]

Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake:

Strength: 6.3

Epicenter: 6 miles away from the center of Christchurch

Depth: 2-3 miles beneath the surface

Ground acceleration forces: 2G (1994 Northridge quake: 1.7G, Haiti, 0.5 G)

The hidden danger of even the most modern buildings in earthquakes given that at many of the buildings that collapsed in the Christchurch were modern buildings.

Portions of South Brighton, an outer neighborhood near the coastline and the estuary were under water.

Public Meeting

Tuesday, March 1 at 2pm and 6:30 pm, the Riverside City Council will meet to discuss this agenda. As you might notice, the agendas have been getting a bit shorter lately.

The danger of solar flares is getting more attention from scientists due to things like computers, satellites and cell phones.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Election 2011: Let the Games Begin

UPDATE: Major quake hits Christchurch, New Zealand...65 killed at's safe but their home was badly damaged as was most the city.

[The borders of Sedgwick River which will be offering white water rafting and canoeing soon]

[A car navigates through Sedgwick River, the boundary between the second and third city council wards]

Sedgwick River returned and these photos were emailed to City Manager Brad Hudson, Public Works Director Siobhan Foster and Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Rusty Bailey whose wards are on opposite sides of this river. One day later, construction crews were out at the site digging up dirt and rubble and conducting repairs.

Every day students attending two schools including Poly High School walk to school and are left to find a route through or around this river anytime it rains more than a few drops. One councilman said that the city is exploring the use of FEMA money to repair the street and storm drain.

The Ghost of Councils Past Returns?

The latest news or rumors going around was that in Riverside, former Ward One Councilman Dom Betro who was defeated by current incumbent, Mike Gardner in 2007 has risen from the ashes to take out papers for the current election. That did turn out to be the case and according to City Clerk Colleen Nichols (who's also the incoming president of the International Association of City Clerks), he did show up Friday morning to pick up his papers at City Hall. Gardner raised the salient point that taking out papers doesn't mean that someone has decided to run as it's only the beginning steps of the process. But rumors had been heavy in recent days that Betro's been making the rounds of soliciting the necessary funds to run for reelection and calling old supporters of his to tell him that he's back in business.

His problem is that some members of his camp have moved on to support other candidates in Election 2011. So he's going to be left scrambling for supporters and even most of the developers who funded his campaign in 2007 are short of money to donate due to the implosion of the construction and new housing markets including in the Inland Empire. One of the city's employment unions has already endorsed Gardner and at least one other historically has endorsed only incumbents. Betro's campaign war chest was much larger than Gardner's in the last election, not that it mattered when the votes were counted and recounted.

So Betro's left with the task of rebuilding and he's got an uphill climb even while he's allegedly tapping into at least one political campaign. One would think that Betro would have joined onto this campaign and played a vital role in stumping for a candidate who politically isn't much different than he has been. But instead he's doing what he does and that's launching his own campaign or at the very least testing those waters to see how warm the temperature is before diving right back in.

But for Yeager, she faces some difficulties as the Betro brigade is allegedly trying to tap into past loyalties of people involved in her campaign and don't be surprised if there are attempts to even derail it to pull over the machine to the Betro camp in the new few weeks. There might be quite a bit of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes before the final lineup of candidates for Ward One in Election 2011 is truly known. But Yeager's mettle might be tested before the election season even formally begins.

After all the lineup's not final until the last papers are filed with Nicol's office. And quite a bit of strategy plays into the decision of when to announce candidacies, when to pull papers and when to file, a lot of watching and waiting to see who's going to file first when often the people that are being watched by those waiting in the wings are often doing the same thing.

One elected official said that candidates who challenge incumbents should pull out papers first to put it out there in the open their intentions but of course that's a strategy advantageous to incumbents.

And in the election process in terms of candidates, it's every one out for themselves in what have traditionally been some heated contests to determine who will win a four year lease to hold office at City Hall from the voters and whose lease won't be renewed and instead will be receiving an eviction notice. Some election cycle or some reelection bids by incumbents pass quietly and aren't very eventful while others turn into dog fights and some of those battles start even before the filing date and go up the final rounds of elections in November and even past that as happened with two wards that were contested in 2007 including the first ward.

Maybe Betro's argument for coming back is that he only lost the 2007 by six votes. But the hard truth is that if he had been a successful councilman, then he would have received over 50% of the votes in the preliminary round that ended that June. Instead, he captured less than that portion of the vote and had to go into a runoff with Gardner that autumn. What happened to him in the 2007 election year just doesn't bode well for his chances of success this time around.

Because usually when voters in a district or ward or at large election pink slip a politician then that's usually goodbye. Former President Grover Cleveland did it by his second term of office in 1892 after losing reelection in 1888 but he had actually won the popular vote in 1888 but lost the electoral vote.

Current governor Jerry Brown was reelected nearly 30 years after his second term was finished but hadn't lost a gubernatorial election (though he lost other elections).

So it happens, it's just pretty rare. But would it work for Betro?

For him to win in 2011, he would have to recoup his base from the 2007 and add a portion of voters dissatisfied with Gardner's stint on the council. Can he do it? It's too early to determine but what brought him back into the fray was the same quality that ultimately caused his defeat and that's his attitude. After all, Betro stormed out of at least one forum in a huff, had an ethics complaint filed against him for allegedly threatening a leader of Save-Riverside by telling him he should pray he loses the election and basically losing his cool in public including on the dais. Some say he's learned from his missteps but his reentry into a race and apparent efforts to pull support away from the Yeager campaign would seem to belie that.

Some of his handling of issues have caused him problems during the last cycle including Tesquesquite Park (which he became interested in belatedly in the election cycle) and the impact of threatened eminent domain in down which benefited at least one developer that he received campaign contributions from, not to mention his spearheading the infamous July 2005 motion that when passed, ended the ability of city residents to pull items from the consent calendar for discussion. For a politician who claimed to be about public participation when he first ran that appeared to many people to be quite a turnabout. And Betro had ridden into office after one of the most excitement packed and some say inspirational campaigns in recent history yet some of those who had worked on that campaign were later left supporting other candidates only four years later. But no one squandered a greater opportunity so greatly except perhaps for former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco who parlayed an uncontested election bid into a very stormy single term in office becoming the first in that office to be voted out in modern history.

It was Betro's office to lose and he pretty much gave it away.

Also running is Dvonne Pitruzzello, so the race for the first ward is off to a very interesting and exciting start and it will be interesting to see how it plays out especially once the filing deadline has passed and everyone knows who's really running. The campaigns, the public forums and for the incumbents, their dais behavior will be very revealing about how the candidacies stack up during the process that four wards will be undergoing this year.

In the last two election cycles, issues such as eminent domain, city parks, the Community Police Review Commission, DHL-Gate and the public utilities multi-tiered electricity rate structure all played pivotal roles.

This time around, DHL is dust in terms of its domestic service, the city's seen new parks but not Tesquesquite, the issues with public utilities will deepen and the CPRC already has influenced the shape of at least one city council race.

But there are four other wards and two of them, those currently represented by Councilmen Rusty Bailey and Chris MacArthur haven't seen anyone file yet. A large chunk of people who recruited and then later stumped for Bailey have shaken their heads at the direction he's gone off in and are still searching for another candidate and there are no candidates so far emerging in Ward Five which traditionally is one of the toughest to figure politically.

Ward Seven reelected Steve Adams back in 2007 by about a dozen votes, over former councilwoman and mayor, Terry Frizzel who he outspent by at least 20 to 1. There's murmurs that she is considering running again but nothing definite. John Brandriff who's served on both the Human Relations Commission and the CPRC has been campaigning for months in preparation of taking Adams on beginning in June's mail in election. He's hoping to mirror the successful campaign that was launched by Councilman Paul Davis in 2009 when he defeated incumbent Frank Schiavone. The election for the "gateway to Riverside"as it's often called by Adams could get very interesting in a hurry.

So as the filing period has opened, the city council races for the odd-numbered wards are beginning to shape up though it's still quite early in the candidacy race.

Hopefully what will not be seen are what were called "election deployments" involving employees of city departments including the police department where employees were transferred from where they were assigned to wards of those running for office in order to make them look like they were "tough on crime". Police Chief Sergio Diaz and his chain of command are more than capable of figuring out the best places to assign officers and hopefully the city officials who run for reelection will remember that.

Hopefully, it will be a good election process and hopefully the election results will be both accurate but also tabulated and released in a more timely manner than in prior elections. The Riverside County's Voters' Registrar will be doing the voting tabulation but will be closely supervised by Nicol. As you know, the previous Registrar, Barbara Dunmore was fired but then replaced by an employee who filled a similar position in San Bernardino County who had released its own election results only slightly quicker than Riverside County.

As far as endorsements, this blogger will leave that to the experts in that area because frankly it's a pretty arduous and often ruthless process and it's sheer madness for most people to engage in it unless they have to do so. It's silly when incumbents on the dais issue blanket endorsements to each other, which makes the city council either seem like a country club or a high school playground. Not to mention that dais endorsements make very little difference in an election turnout as both the 2007 and 2009 election cycles have shown. In fact it's not clear whether any type of endorsement issued by any group or media outlet really makes any difference at all in how people vote.

What does is the door to door, person to person campaigning, that's the difference most often between winning an election or losing it. Candidates who won in 2007 and 2009 including four new individuals won based on that quality in at least three cases. Candidates who overestimated their name recognition or that the money spent by itself would be enough tended to be issued pink slips.

Though most of the ones who lost had that boosted greatly by an anti-incumbent sentiment which was a fallout of the GASS/BASS quartets. Will the city council's relative silence during the upheaval that erupted last year from scandals coming to light help or hurt those up for reelection?

It's up to the individual ward's voters to elect their own representatives and they should be supported in that effort. The candidates should educate the public on the issues and engage in ethical campaigns and avoid mudslinging, including that which took place in past campaigns. No punishing people including city employees and union members who don't endorse or vote for you. No taking any high ranking police employees to out of town restaurants to "clear the air" in order for them to get promoted by their police chief.

City residents should register to vote if they haven't already as there's still time and cast their votes as part of the democratic process and one of the most important rights they have as citizens and as residents of this city. It makes more sense to endorse participation in the election and voting process by city residents rather than to endorse particular candidates. And of course watching the election unfold and the games to commence.

Some city council candidate Web sites are the following: was a past domain for the Betro campaign but isn't in use

Mike Gardner's Web site

Marisa Yeager's Facebook page

John Brandriff for Ward Seven

Michael Williams Company local business that organizes fund raising for some candidates

Chris MacArthur's domain which might be for sale.

City Hall Stacks its Charter Review Committee

Blast from the Past?

Former Councilwoman Maureen Kane among those interviewed for a spot on the Charter Review Committee

Mayor Ron Loveridge(l.) and Councilman Rusty Bailey listen to the responses to their questions from candidates being interviewed for the Charter Review Committee

The members of the Charter Review Committee are the following and who voted for them:

Tom Evans (chair): Gardner, Bailey, Davis, McArthur, Hart, Adams, Loveridge

David A. St. Pierre: Gardner, Davis, Hart, Adams, Loveridge

Sharon Tyrrell: Melendrez, Davis, MacArthur, Adams, Loveridge

Wendel W. Tucker: Gardner, Bailey, Davis, MacArthur, Adams, Loveridge

Michelle Ouellete: Melendrez, Bailey, Davis, MacArthur, Hart, Adams, Loveridge

Montgomery Van Wart: Gardner, Melendrez, Bailey, Hart, Adams, Loveridge

Michael D. Pope: Gardner, Melendrez, Bailey, MacArthur, Hart, Adams

Maureen Kane: Gardner, Bailey, Davis, MacArthur, Loveridge

Damein R. O'Farrell: Gardner, Melendrez, Davis, MacArthur/Hart(second vote) Loveridge


Brent W. Lee
Diane Medina

(More information to Come)

Watching the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge interview a roster of candidates to appoint nine individuals and two alternates to the Charter Review Committee was an interesting exercise which took hours to complete. But at the end of the day, the committee consisted of representatives of the following:

Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce

Best, Best and Krieger

Former interim city management

City Council

In other words, business as usual.

And for the most point mainly individuals who came in and called council members and the mayor by their first names, talked about the last time they had met with them or saw them at some event, all but one said they had read the city charter, yet most couldn't or didn't answer substantive comment about its content and the racial makeup of the panel was entirely White in a city that is about 37% comprised from that racial group. Not surprising since about 90% of the candidates were heavily tied in with the city and the city's social and political network just isn't reflective of the diversity of the city which currently is majority minority like much of the rest of California.

And nearly every candidate interviewed and most of the ones chosen said they didn't bring agendas which is usually a sign that they have one because those who don't usually don't see any reason to protest otherwise. It's one of those committee assignments that does tend to attract people with agendas because it's addressing the city's Constitution and proposing or denying recommendations to have the voters amend it. And that's not just a number of the candidates but those doing the appointments as well.

Like with the CPRC appointment process, candidates were added to the interview pool presumably by other elected officials after the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee had made its own selections for interview.

The city council picked eight of the same candidates in the first round of voting(which goes to show how stacked it was) and there was some discussion of the ninth person to be appointed and the two alternates. And then it appointed the chair rather than allowed the members of the committee to do that which shows that from the start, the process of charter review is going to be rather regimented and controlled by City Hall. The city officials not surprisingly picked former interim city manager, Tom Evans which surprised some individuals when they found out believing that as a former council member, Kane had the edge as in the past.

The charter committee will begin its rather lengthy and arduous process of studying the charter (as if most of them read it, very few of them did in depth), soliciting public input, hearing presentations and ultimately discussing and voting on the recommended initiatives to be heard and voted on by the city government.

And if it's anything like last time, it will be a very interesting, twisting and turning process filled with more intrigue than you can imagine would be involved on what looks like on the surface to be a rather droll process.

If it seems like yesterday since the last review of the charter, time just flies by quickly but it's actually a slightly shorter than 10 year cycle because of the whole process is scheduled in accordance with the mayoral election cycle and the voters tweaked with that process in a recent election putting the next mayoral election in 2012 and not 2013.

What remains to be seen is whether there will be any recommendations to "tweak"the charter as some candidates interviewed thought might be necessary or whether any major rewriting will take place. Loveridge brought up as his question about whether or not those interviewed believed that the city council elections should be decided by ward or somewhere in that wording is an agenda attached.

It's been proposed in the past including by one ex-council member that at least the run off elections of ward seats be voted on city-wide. So it will be interesting to watch to see who exactly if anyone will nudge the charter committee towards considering "tweaking" with the current city council election process. And whether as happened last time, there will be attempts by Loveridge to push for initiatives on the ballot which expand the currently rather limited mayoral powers in the current council/management system of government. Last time, Loveridge tried to push for an initiative which would have given the mayor the power to appoint all the chairs of the city council sub-committees. But this time, if he's truly a "lame duck"mayor (and never say never with Loveridge) then how will that impact his involvement in the process

That initiative was sent to the ballot with all the recommended charter initiatives but was among those that failed to pass muster with the voters.

Separate and Unequal?

North High School Lacks Parity with Other RUSD High Schools

In recent months, more people in Riverside have gotten involved with the push for John W. North High School to have athletic facilities on parity with those enjoyed by other high schools in the same school district. The Riverside Unified School District board as a majority has apparently voted against parity or haven't voted for it although some school board members are sympathetic. But the greatest audacity is to say that North High School Football players can just play their games at RCC if they don't have an appropriate venue while the aquatic program at Riverside Poly High School in a wealthier area was given a swimming pool facility instead of being told to do their swimming at RCC's new aquatics center.

Once again, schools are separate and but they're not equal even though the highest grade point average among athletes in high school was apparently found at North High School. But then look at community centers and how they compare from one neighborhood to the next as well. Not to mention the selling out of both the Eastside and the University neighborhoods behind closed doors at City Hall recently and other places when it came to getting money for the Third Street grade separation project (now off the list) and the so-called placements of "quiet zones"including one near Longfellow Elementary School in the Eastside. One elected official said well, there's one at Highland and Hyatt...well that's great for those places but what about Longfellow....

Loveridge once said, as the Eastside goes, so does Riverside, not sure he meant it quite like this or maybe he did.

But there's been a lot of support building for North High to receive equitable athletic facilities as those enjoyed by other local high schools and it continues to build, something the RUSD school board should keep in mind.

Donna Doty-Michalka and Robert Michalka wrote this excellent op-ed article about the disparate treatment that North High School has received in terms of the upgrading of its athletic facilities.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board vetoes the take home car policy for Riverside's elected officials. So did most people that I've talked to in the past six months.

A Corona Police Department lieutenant files a lawsuit alleging retaliation for reporting another officer for misconduct.

Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council will be meeting at City Hall and discussing this
agenda and if you've been paying attention, you'll notice how short the agendas have been getting recent weeks.

Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission is meeting at City Hall in the council chambers to discuss this agenda.

Fridays at 10 am-11:30 a.m. The Friday Morning Club meets at the Janet Goeske Center on 5257 Sierra Street ( at Streeter Ave.)

Here's a list of their scheduled guest speakers.

Attend RUSD Board Meeting in Support Equality for Riverside North HS campaign.

Tuesday, February 22 ยท 5:30pm - 8:30pm
6735 Magnolia Avenue in Riverside
Between Arlington and Central Ave

Riverside North Equality

Request for funding parity with all other RUSD high school campuses!

Invite and seek support from Poly and ML King High School students, staff, parents and alumni.

Some Board Members want to make this as an issue between the high schools, when parity will benefit all. "A rising tide lifts all boats"

Please distribute widely:
Email account : Support Equality for Riverside North HS
Facebook : Riverside North Equality

The Students of John W. North need your support!

A state of the arts school is suffering! Time and neglect have taken its toll, yet it still manages to achieve great accomplishments. The question is how much longer can this continue? A visit to newer and existing RUSD school campuses will demonstrate how much neglect has deteriorated North s facilities. It is time to bring the school facilities, including its athletics infrastructure, in tandem with its great scholastic achievements. It is time to bring John W. North to parity with all RUSD campuses!

A recent development related to improvements of the school athletic infrastructures, funded from Measure B funds, highlighted how far behind John W. North is in comparison to other RUSD schools. When requesting parity in the distribution of funds to improve their athletic infrastructure, the RUSD Board rejected North s request. This negative response galvanized John W. North s committed community to request that ALL the school needs be met! Our school not only needs improvement to its athletic infrastructure but equally to its teaching facilities as well. However, we must now focus on the issue at hand: immediate approval to the improvement of our athletic infrastructure; but rest assured that we will demand improvement to our teaching infrastructure too.

What is needed from RUSD now? To get a fair share of the pie, the RUSD Board must:

1. Approve North s request presented to them on October 4, 2010 to increase the bleacher s capacity in the track and field area to 3,400 seats, and provide for press box, competitive lighting and additional concession/restroom building.

2. Establish a committee, including community members, to discuss and determine the investments necessary to bring John W. North to full equivalency with all RUSD schools.

What do we need from the community? To help us achieve our goals we need you to:

1. Attend next RUSD Board meeting on Tuesday, February 22 at 5:30 PM at Riverside Adult Continuation School located at 6735 Magnolia Avenue in Riverside .

2. Spread the word among your neighbors and friends about North s goals and the need for support.

3. If possible, to speak at the RUSD Board meeting.

4. Write letters to the editor of Press-Enterprise supporting North s request.

5. Email and call RUSD members asking them to approve North s request (;;;;; phone calls to 951.788.71.35).


P.I.E. ( People Initiating Equality)

Main Contacts:
Mary Figueroa 951-317-2648
Armando Gonzalez-Caban 951-788-1682
Francisco Sola 951-780-7206

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The House That City Hall Built: Election 2011 Begins

UPDATE: Don Betro, city council incumbents take out papers this morning according to City Hall

UPDATE: Is former Councilman Dom Betro preparing to take out papers in the Ward One Council race....and if so, how will this impact the race overall and the campaign of challenger Marisa Yeager?

To be continued...

"Sir, who ran the city of Bell?" a prosecutor asked him Tuesday.

"In my opinion, Mr. Robert Rizzo," Velez answered, naming Bell's former city administrator. "Everything had to go through Mr. Robert Rizzo."

---Los Angeles Times

[Riverside City Hall has lost some old faces, gained some new as it faces another election cycle]

[The police administrative headquarters in downtown has a new chief's name]

The Press Enterprise reflects on the year since the DUI incident involving former Police Chief Russ Leach. There's no ulterior motive to it, as it's common for the initial anniversaries of watershed events to be recalled and remembered. Some people are upset that the newspaper did this but then again some people are upset that the newspaper or any other media outlets reported last year on major events going on in Riverside. They blamed the media for what happened when in actuality, it was those who engaged in the behaviors who were responsible for bringing major turmoil to the city. But what's important after finishing up one of Riverside's most turbulent years in recent memory is what's been learned from it, what steps have been taken to ensure there's not a repeat and how can the city and the police department head in the direction where they need to go? Just the basic credo of learning from your history or being doomed to repeat it. The lessons that Riverside learns in the wake of controversial or critical incidents are too costly for repeats and the police department underwent two major upheavals since 1998 including one stipulated judgment with the state. Some powerful individuals there and in the city did actions and made decisions which adversely impacted those who worked beneath them including those who had serious misgivings long before 2010 even started. Those decisions when they came to light impacted how many residents have trust in the city's government.

So I'm not one of those folks who's up in arms simply because the newspaper did an anniversary article and blaming the reporter, Alicia Robinson is just silly because she probably got the assignment from her editor anyway. And the things that unfolded, did so because a dam broke and once that happens, trying to stop the flood is just about impossible until the waters recede on their own.

The newspaper worked very hard during the first few days that became weeks after what had transpired on Feb. 8. 2010 which was its job. What was it supposed to do when it got information, pretend it didn't happen? That's a decision that can't be understood until you're the one who's making it, understanding that careers might crash, elections might be impacted and people might have a variety of strong reactions because of something being brought to light. But others on the canvas risked far more than that, as is often the case when addressing serious misconduct, or even criminal behavior because this city doesn't reward those who expose its sins after all. It usually punishes them first and then pays out in litigation costs including settlements later down the line.

And does it make these individuals the most popular in town? No...more than likely not they wouldn't win popularity contests which themselves don't matter after high school compared to doing what is right even if it's unpopular.

And through a lot of chaos and confusion, which is nearly always the case when incidents that are covered up on some level come to light suddenly and there are attempts to scramble around and pull the tarp down over them or to draw attention away by saying, don't look at the man behind the curtain. And you have to ask yourself what would life be like now if these things had happened but no one ever knew? The one thing that is true is that the city and police department wouldn't be better off for the secrets being kept.

The incident came to light after it became clear that there were attempts to keep it under wraps. The decision to turn the investigation over to the California Highway Patrol only came after the phones were burning off the hook at both the police department and City Hall. In fact, as most people know now there was no investigating done in the first 36 hours. And once City Hall had gotten wind of it, not much going on there either except to figure out ways to not let the public know what had happened. Most of the year, it was odd to watch the city government which for the most part seemed to especially the mayor live in a different plane than most everyone else, as if nothing had been happening at all. One of the city government's direct employees gets tied up in some behavior that's investigated by an outside agency and nothing but silence when it's in crises like the past year's when a city's residents know if there's strong leadership or whether it's lacking.

Frankly, the city didn't factor that there were people who didn't agree with what was being done. And what some people who are upset at the coverage and the retrospect don't realize is that it might be difficult to have to read the material and have your perceptions of your city government challenged and tested, but it's another to have to deal with it when it's around you and to know that despite the fact that most people aren't engaging in questionable behavior, more people pay the consequences for it than for those who actually engage in it. Especially considering much of the time most of those in positions of upper management can rather effectively insulate themselves from all accountability and transparency too. And remember, this is the government that runs the city and yet when incidents like some of the ones that were covered last year come to light, people wonder if they really know their city governments.

The issues that came to light in such a major way had been brewing inside the police department and City Hall going back to at least 2005 and they came to light in some cases several years after they took place. Why? Because when City Hall management knew what was taking place, it didn't issue press releases saying oh by the way, we're cold plating vehicles illegally or manufacturing flat badges despite the admonition from both the State Attorney General's and Riverside County District Attorney's offices prohibiting those very practices. And then when they finally came to light, individuals who were caught up in the messes including Councilman Steve Adams (who had a cold plated car) dismissed them as "old news". When in actuality, a more accurate term would be "buried news".

This incident and its aftermath destroyed some careers and caused some departures from this city and a lot of upset about what had happened.

By the time these scandals came to light, they had already attracted the attention of the State Attorney General's criminal division which engaged in correspondence with the police department even as the leadership of both police associations were engaged in trying to find out more information through California Public Records Act requests about attempts by some individuals at City Hall to equip their city-issued cars with police equipment including police pursuit tires, radios and flashing lights. Incidentally, none of the three police employees who led the two unions are employed by the city, all of them retired last year after settling three lawsuits filed by them alleging discriminatory action and retaliation they faced from police management and City Hall for engaging in these activities.

One employee, Det. Chris Lanzillo who was president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association in 2008-09 was fired within three months of challenging then Acting Police Chief John DeLaRosa in a roll call bull session. Two lieutenants who held leadership positions in the Riverside Police Administrators' Association, Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon retired at top captain's level (including retroactive pay at this level) after settling their lawsuits on the eve of trial in April 2010. But then DeLaRosa's stint as acting police chief became a bit shaky after it was revealed that his cell phone records were tied to the Feb. 8 incident involving former Chief Russ Leach. He ultimately retired in July 2010.

A lot of distrust from communities in both the police department and City Hall largely for the actions of a few but if it weren't for the actions of some folks out there, this incident in all likelihood would have never come to light. Unless I'm mistaken and it was Mayor Ron Loveridge's intention when his office was tipped off by an anonymous phone call to hold a press conference revealing what had happened on the steps of City Hall. Even after it did happen and all these changes came about, he didn't even mention any of it in his State of the City address.

Covered up both inside the department by upper management there as well as inside City Hall. It's important at an anniversary to look back at that contentious year and ask questions, like where are we now, what lessons have we learned and how do we plan to move forward both as a police department and a city.That retrospective process can be a very positive experience and cathartic for those involved particularly those who suffered because of what happened. Learn from your history or be doomed to repeat it as they say. It's not clear which direction Riverside has headed in, but after sitting and witnessing what's been going on during the board and commission appointments, it's a bit like deja vu.

The publication confirmed that Leon Phillips was still a lieutenant through the department which was interesting because it had been receiving press releases from Phillips and interviewing him while he held this rank for the past six months. Apparently Phillips contested his demotion in the city manager's office and won, getting a written reprimand and an agreement to not work with one of the members of the management team until his retirement. Sgt. Frank Orta medically retired after writing a police report on the "filed" traffic incident and has put this incident behind him not talking about it very much, a source said.

The copy of the report provided by City Hall wasn't signed but the real one was by former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel. The report is what made it clear that there was some sort of perhaps loosely designed plan to engage in giving preferential treatment and to keep that fact hidden from the public. In all, the police department lost its chief, Russ Leach and both Esquivel and asst. chief John DeLaRosa who didn't go to the scene during that incident and the information he provided in his CHP interview that he didn't know that Leach was intoxicated was contradicted by the interviews of three other officers who were at the scene who all said they had passed along their strong suspicions to DeLaRosa via their cell phones. Records for city issued cell phones were released by City Hall for the officers at the scene, City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis but were not provided for City Attorney Greg Priamos who claimed attorney/client privilege including apparently for any phone calls he could have been making during the relevant time period on Feb. 8, 2010. Hudson's phone was allegedly turned off while he was touring theaters out of town and it's not clear how he even received notification of the incident that day because the records showed no incoming or outgoing phone calls on his city-issued phone until after about 5:30 pm which apparently made him among the last to know about it.

Despite all these questions and plenty more about City Hall's own actions, the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge gave Hudson their collective blessing to investigate the police department and essentially not investigate himself or DeSantis and then have the work product reviewed by former Riverside County District Attorney and Best, Best and Krieger partner, Grover Trask.

[A page of the police report that helped end two police employee careers]

Cell phones proved to be critical in 2010 for bringing two careers in the city's workforce to their ends and the adage of people living in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones applied to these two employees who were forced out of the ranks either through retirements or other means of departure. It's a bit difficult to criticize or punish one employee for doing something when you're allegedly doing similar yourself.

[He said that most of the problems were in the police department but no one investigated City Hall let alone...City Hall. ]


As to anyone getting special treatment in the future, Hudson said, "I think most of those issues were within the Police Department, and really, we're trusting Chief Diaz" to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The statement above really deserves its very blog posting and it will get one, but it's very disingenuous for Hudson to make this statement. Yes there were issues inside the police department which was investigated by Hudson's office but City Hall itself and its "issues" were not included in any such investigation or included in the hen house to be investigated by the fox. It's ironic that Hudson made a statement like that to the press about a year that saw revelations come to light about how he and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had gone about equipping themselves with flat badges, cold plated cars and firearms purchased from the department in what turned out to be an illegal sale.

[Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' career in Riverside came to an end but apparently not attributed to any public scandal but did it come after the phone call of a former city employee?]

The police department saw major changes including the hiring of a new police chief, Sergio Diaz and two members of his cabinet, both hired at-will, from his own haunt, Los Angeles and also from Pasadena. Asst. Chief Chris Vicino and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer join Deputy Chief Mike Blakely (who had first arrived in Riverside at that rank) who was elevated from the captain's ranks.

The summer saw the abrupt departures of both DeSantis and CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan (who took a job in Los Angeles) and the last straw for DeSantis apparently came out of some other onduty situation apart from his foibles that had preceded it. His position wasn't refilled but Asst. City Manager Belinda Graham apparently is handling all of his work responsibilities. The city after an interview process hired former Maywood Police Chief Frank Hauptmann to be its new CPRC manager. Hauptmann had worked for two police departments before Maywood and while there, had apparently been instrumental in among other things, exposing misconduct of city officials and police department employees in Maywood and later Bell.

In the mix of alleged sinners in those Los Angeles County cities, included city management employees and it's clear those feats preceded him here judging how he's been treated by other city employees around him. He's an interesting mix to the city's cauldron indeed and it remains to be seen how this impacts the dynamic of Riverside's halls of power. Some folks wondered how he managed to get a job here considering the antics of the past year and why a city manager who micromanaged the CPRC through DeSantis would be interested in doing so.

Riverside's not really much like Maywood or Bell but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own share of problematic behaviors that need to be addressed, including the fact that it shared some professional firms including one that conducts independent audits with Bell.

But mostly all of the situations that plague cities and counties begin based on the iceberg theory, that most of what you see isn't most of what is there.

[One of the flat badges City Hall employees had made for themselves]

[The Chrysler 300 sitting in a storage area at Magnolia Police Center has been refurbished but as of yet hasn't been reassigned. No one really wants to drive it.]

[The three newest members of the police department's management team including Chief Sergio Diaz (l.)]

[CPRC Manager Frank Hauptmann had been heavily involved in exposing corruption in Bell and Maywood]

Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise wrote this piece about the criminal investigation of the alleged vandalism by some Riverside Police Department officers of a homeless encampment last summer. The criminal investigation apparently had been completed and was going to the Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach for review but it's not known whether there were any recommendations to charge the involved officers with criminal offenses or not and if so, what they would be.

More Board and Commission Purges Coming?

Planning Commission incumbents to be ousted?

[Councilman Rusty Bailey was just as adrift during the voting process to appoint Community Police Review Commission members voting for different applicants each time]

A lot of people have been talking in different places about what happened during the interviews and selection processes for the Community Police Review Commission on Feb. 4. It was a pretty naked show of how Mayor Ron Loveridge and the city council really view the CPRC that shocked some individuals and not others. At the very least of it, they don't seem to know much about it or understand the work commitment involved. One viewed it as a means of playing politics and another spent the entire voting process trying to figure out which way the political wind was blowing and to keep up with it. Which wasn't possible because assorted political agendas came into collision with one another at the same time.

The impact on city residents regarding the appointment process of CPRC commissioners was nearly immediate. The early impacts seem to be it's vitalized the campaigns of other candidates running in Councilman Mike Gardner's ward including Marisa Yeager who was probably the biggest benificiary so far of what happened on Feb. 4. He had made very good points about how important it was for prospective candidates to know about the time commitment but then refused to vote the ones who clearly had shown that and voted for two that didn't including one who hadn't even originally applied to sit on it. And Gardner knows how critical it is to have individuals serve on it who are truly interested in serving on it enough to apply for it. Did he choose politics over the well being of the commission, well only he can answer that but there's some furor in Ward One over what residents there perceive the answer to be which has made the last week very interesting indeed.

But then again, you didn't walk there with the sentiment that any of the elected officials in that room really cared about the CPRC as anything but a political football and that's a really sad state of affairs. Having to filter through the sheer anger of city residents at what happened tends to wear out one's energy but if some of the elected officials want to politicize the CPRC then that's their decision but they can't then blame city residents who intend to carry that ball they've tossed into the election cycle.

But what happened also fostered discussion in two other wards, those represented by Rusty Bailey and Chris MacArthur where people are still considering runs for political office. Many people believed it provided a powerful lesson in involving themselves with the council candidacy process including political campaigns, that the power plays and politics of City Hall are what run its business rather than the elected officials themselves.

And that's much harder to clean up, but the shock waves at the naked power play of city council members and Loveridge choosing a woman who didn't even apply for the commission until receiving a phone call from City Hall over someone who had done outstanding work during her first term proved to be a wake up call for many people. And not just on the CPRC but also those who applied for reappointment on the Planning Commission or the Board of Public Utilities, the two other commissioners undergoing the "interview" process.

The reinterviewing of incumbent commissioners was the first in the CPRC's history or in that of the other boards and commissions and when some of the incumbents heard belatedly that they were going about the abrupt decision to reinterview incumbents, they saw the writing on the wall. Not that reinterviewing incumbents is in itself bad at all, it can be a very good process but the change to this newer process comes completely without any record of how the change was made, let alone a paper trail of any public discussion or vote on what are pretty significant changes. And if phone calls are going to be made to those who applied for other boards and commissions to be interviewed for the CPRC, then those phone calls should be made to everyone who is in that category rather than a select few.

Actually, the suggestion to reinterview incumbents was allegedly made by a former councilman who didn't win reelection the last time he ran for office but how the process that he had recommended was actually implemented, no one at least outside of City Hall knows the answer to that. And any accountable and transparent process has at least a paper trail that members of the public are informed about, when the changes to the process are made but this one didn't pass that test. But it's really taught a good lesson to those in Riverside who apply for boards and commissions, lessons that the very restrictive screening process by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Board hasn't taught already. That there's really no point in having a great attendance record, putting in more than 40 hours a month of work and being a committed member of a board and commission.

There was not really much in the way of discussion or comments from elected officials about the votes they took which lessened the accountability and transparency of the critical process even further, the appointments they chose and the incumbents they ousted. But there's already talk that the next round of commissioner ousters will take place when they interview and select people to serve on the Planning Commission, viewed as being the city's most influential and powerful on the roster.

That interview and appointment process will take place soon by the city council and mayor and let the games continue because they're off to a great start, but then again the timing for engaging in game playing is perfect at the moment.

City Hall Rethinking the Take Home Car Issue?

It seems that members of the city government might be rethinking the car issue and might want to increase the car allowance instead. Councilman Paul Davis is rethinking the car issuance and perhaps increasing the car allowances. However, Councilman Steve Adams who once had to have his city issued car towed from Newport Beach wants to hold onto his Chrysler 300 saying that it makes him a more involved politician than his predecessors. Whether that's true or not might depend on how you define "involved" meaning that it's whether he's using it to service his constituents or whether he'd been trying to influence the police department's promotional process at its upper management level as had been alleged in the lawsuits filed by former lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt.

[Councilman Paul Davis (r.) is rethinking the assigned car issue while Councilwoman Nancy Hart only drives her city-issued car]

[Councilman and political candidate Steve Adams fully intends to hang on to his city-issued Chrysler 300]

It's really difficult as stated previously to explain the whole philosophy of assigning expensive, gas guzzling vehicles to politicians and high ranking management employees, in some cases fleets of them, while most of the residents in the city have to pay for their own cars and some have lost their cars due to the recession and others don't have cars but rely on public transit. Why do these politicians have to have high end cars like Chrysler 300s and for politicians and City Hall employees to have Crown Victorias and not be assigned more efficient, less expensive vehicles? Actually the latter especially during the periods of economic crises would send better messages that City Hall was aware of the realities of what more ordinary city folks face. Though what would be interesting would be to assign politicians and city management employees bus and/or train tickets to use one day weekly where they have to use the county's bus system or Metrolink to conduct their business.

Not surprisingly Adams wants to hold onto his fancy car which is interesting because it's not known just how many city issued cars have been assigned to him since the process was changed pretty much behind closed doors to issuing vehicles. His statement comparing elected officials to police officers was most likely unintentionally humorous. When his Chrysler 300 might be newer and in better shape than city vehicles including police cars that are out doing the business, that's a sad irony but a bold statement about the priorities of City Hall.

Councilman Rusty Bailey dropped his use of a city vehicle allegedly so there wouldn't be a perception that he used it in his reelection campaign but if he's been polling people in his ward, he'd know that like a lot of city residents, they're just not keen on the idea of city officials being issued shiny vehicles to use for nonbusiness purposes. Just because the city attorney says it's okay to use them for personal trips (as long as this is documented to the IRS), doesn't mean it's the best and most sensible thing to do.

And no, an election day is not the time to find out how the voters really feel on this issue.

A long-time police officer's career comes to a close with the retirement of Richard Dana from being Hemet's police chief. He retired in Riverside as a commander and then went to be police chief in Hemet.

Testimony continues on the Bell corruption case at a preliminary hearing which will determine if the defendants which are most of the former city government and the city manager will stand trial.

Public Meeting

Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council will discuss this agenda.

[Gopher snake wandering down a street in Riverside]

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