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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Transparency in a Non-Transparent World

UPDATE: Shakeup in the newly unveiled Community Services Division? Supervising Sergeant reassigned to patrol.

April Fool's Day approaches, the week the handful of new hires show up for work, will the one who was allegedly arrested on March 18 be among them? And when the old clashes with the new in Orange Street who will win?

UPDATE: Riverside/San Bernardino are #1 in the country for worsening economy.

Unemployment rate: 13.9%
Mortgages 90-plus days delinquent: 8.21% of loans
12-month home price forecast: 1% increase
2011 net migration projection: 4,110 residents leaving
2011 Job growth projection: 0.69% increase

[The Riverside Police Department's Community Services Division poses for a picture after the media discussion]

[Lt. Guy Toussaint who heads the division after beating out about 13 other lieutenants for the spot speaks to the audience]

[Riverside Police Department officers listening to the presentation for the media]

First of all, I have to apologize to Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz because I had circulated an invite by the police department to the grand opening of the Community Services Division in the police department. It's an exciting event in the police department that it's decided to revamp the division that was shut down by former Chief Russ Leach several years ago when former Lt. Tim Bacon was at its helm. In fact a couple of officers now serving on it, were assigned to it back then before it was dismantled and pieces of it were umbrellaed during different lieutenants in Special Operations. It's a great development that Diaz brought back the citizen academy and especially Crime-Free Multi-Housing which is under Officer (and sergeant's list candidate) Celeste Neiman. Why not have a community open house for a community-oriented policing division? Hopefully if yesterday's open house wasn't it, one will be forthcoming soon in different facilities within the Neighborhood Policing Centers. Because if the return of this division is something to celebrate, then the wealth should be spread outward.

Some of those people that received notice decided to attend because yes, there are people out there who were keen on finding out what had been brought back. But then it turned out in what Diaz called a "miscommunication", it was really an open house for the press rather than a "community open forum". I was happy to be invited though now looking back, I wonder if my inclusion was in itself a "miscommunication". because other bloggers apparently weren't included and I hope no one got dressed down over it afterward. And sitting next to NBC, a sizable contingent including editors from the Press Enterprise (but not La Prensa) and Inland Empire Magazine (but not Inland Empire Weekly), I'm somewhat different than what they represent. And so are others out there, they'll be out there writing and reporting on issues whether they're officially recognized by a city agency or not, it's always been that way throughout history. And alternate media has survived and thrived in many places whether officially recognized by city agencies or even cities themselves or not, it's something that sends most of them in a different direction. Even as larger media outlets struggle to staff their operations and even to survive. Check out either the Press Enterprise or the Los Angeles Times lately? How do they compare to just several years ago in content and size including advertising? And did anyone know that Mary Parks from Channel 4 had said that Comcast bought NBC and it is now NBC Local? All their logos on their vehicles, to their business cards had to be redone. It was interesting to see the Inland Empire Magazine courted because they mostly write on politics and Riverside's business and social scene at the highest levels of both. That might be a reflection of the desire of the police department to reach out further into the corners of the business community not covered by the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce.

Diaz tried to facilitate a discussion with the press and after the statements about proper attribution and professionalism, it became an interesting dialogue but it was clear that the concerns of the other news media was somewhat different because they're largely staffed (even the dwindling Press Enterprise) and very visual in the case of television media. Other media are more interested in how the city's law enforcement operates on a different level than immediate responses to crises. Some of us aren't worried about being caught on the wrong side of a barricade situation that's just arisen because everyone knows that the alternate media go where the public go and the larger media get special credentials anyway to go where they were that are issued by the agencies themselves. That's how it always worked including in Los Angeles where Diaz came from and they should just admit that rather than claiming differently. And Los Angeles is ripe with many media outlets literally in the hundreds which is much more common in larger urban areas than in smaller ones like Riverside.

Diaz said that no employee of his would be punished for any statement he made about the media as long as the employee put his name on it which many a police chief has said but what often happens in other agencies is that while this is said, internally these people are searched for in attempts to root them out from coast to coast. Sometimes words can translate to actions and sometimes they don't as history again has shown. At the same time, Diaz brought the issue of training from everyone to watch commanders to the public information officers. But sometimes situations emerge that as every media outlet person in that room knew, when people don't give their names. And if the department really had ever welcomed transparency and didn't punish people who were concerned about wrongdoings, then history might have played out differently. But even with the reality that it wasn't like that, Diaz should remember one thing.

His own career path was greatly impacted by what did play out instead during most of 2010. The city owes a debt to individuals who came forward period, with allegations of misconduct however they did which turned out to be the truth because the city and department in their official capacities weren't being honest with the people who pay to be served by both. Unless we all missed the press release from either about what had happened before their phones started ringing off the hooks on Feb. 9. And let's see, those few who put their names to what they said, they were dealt with by the department's management and the city in a not so nice way, they sued, the city settled and they're retired. They're not employed by the department nor the city anymore and the evidence pointed towards their name attribution as being one of the main reasons why most of them are gone. The management could have looked at that coming in and said, that's horrible to treat people that way, let's change our culture to be more...transparent when bad things are done by those trusted to make decisions which impact every employee there and the public as well. But what happened at least initially, their claims were viewed as being frivolous and too many cases were settled too soon.

The point that they should go to trial is a valid point by Diaz and I agree with it, but because the court process increases transparency over what is being sued over which the city and its legal staffing knows very well...not because the claims themselves are frivolous. But it's more likely that the city settles the lawsuits because it doesn't want this transparency that the civil court system brings, rather than because they're truly frivolous. Because if you compare and contrast the claims and lawsuits filed, there were common denominators with all of them. It's a very specific area of the department that's being sued over, not really as much the agency as a whole.

Diaz might still be either back in his old police department or enjoying retirement or taking on some other challenging endeavor. He probably wouldn't be in Riverside assigned with the task of leading a police department which had seen troublesome times into a better future. Pretty ironic as well.

One of the reasons why the department has had issues in the area of public information is because it didn't know whether to assign that job to a civilian employee as a job position or assign it to officers who already had full plates or a variety of officers at one time to apparently rotate that responsibility according to their schedules. Remember Steve Frasher, the civilian public information officer/adjutant to the chief? He was pretty much the first employee the city laid off and after that, it went to then Sgt. Jaybee Brennan who was the adjutant and also assigned to the then existing audit and compliance panel which was shrinking. She was shipped out to field operations under some rearranging done by then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa and then Capt. Mike Blakely which seemed as much strategic as anything else. Because you don't ship supervisors out to field operations to fill vacancies and then replace them with other individuals already in that division which of course results in a zero net gain in terms of filling those same supervisor vacancies.

That's when the public information officer position fell by the wayside for a brief period until Brennan while still in field operations was given some of her old job responsibilities back in connection with the reemerging Strategic Plan and the tragic death of Officer Ryan Bonaminio necessitating a public information officer. And the current assignment of public information reporting responsibilities to the Community Services Division is Diaz' mark on the service which provides a conduit between the department and the media.

Diaz gave out phone numbers for contacts including to dispatch and to watch commanders and said he was "promiscuous" about giving out his own cell phone number which yes, the larger media do have that number. He was asked about public records accessibility and the role of the department and City Attorney Gregory Priamos in that and it's pretty interesting if someone disturbing how Priamos has been able to play such a hefty role in the micromanagement of the police department with Hudson and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis also doing that as well. Diaz purportedly had been involved in distancing his relationship with Priamos which if true, can't have the city attorney doing anything but bristling in disapproval.

But while the meeting that I might or might not have inadvertently crashed while interesting seemed a bit more ironic than perhaps intended. All of the management team except for a vacationing Deputy Chief Mike Blakely attended as did three out of four of the area commanders. But among the management team, one of the captains in attendance had been the center of some disturbing allegations earlier that week stemming from an incident that allegedly involved one of the department's new hires who was to be sworn in as an officer. It was interesting to hear the word "transparency" mentioned perhaps a dozen times by Diaz as being department-wide and others with that elephant in the room. If transparency had existed, the other media outlets would have been aware of just how ironic that meeting proved to be.

But then again if the department had been so transparent, would one of those captains who attended been sitting in the room surrounded by media during an open house? It's be a good guess that the answer would be not.

At any rate, an enlightening and interesting event.

Californians Aware and their police record accessibility audits which led to this overall assessment. Several done within the state include grades assigned to the police department. Unfortunately Riverside's department didn't get very high grades in its own audits.

Judge: RPD Doesn't Have to Rehire Fired Probational Officer

But is the RPD Facing Another Situation Involving a New Hire?

[With one former probational officer trying to get his job back and another recent hire perhaps struggling to keep his, it's been a busy week for Riverside Chief Sergio Diaz who has decide whether one of his newly hired officers will be joining the department next week.]

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued a tentative ruling that Riverside doesn't have to rehire former Riverside Police Department Officer Jose Nazario. Nazario if you remember was fired by the department while still a probational officer after the NCIS showed up to arrest him while investigating him on charges of war crimes committed while he was stationed as a U.S. Marine in Fallujah, Iraq. He was later indicted on manslaughter charges by a federal grand jury.

This situation involving Nazario that's been going on since he was terminated several years ago and then later acquitted on those charges at trial ironically continues to play out as the police department allegedly had to deal with another more recent situation involving one of its hires before that individual was to be sworn into his officer position by the police chief. How that situation was apparently handled in the immediate days after an alleged incident involving that new hire has raised some questions.

The city claimed in its filings that it didn't rehire Nazario due to a 2008 temporary restraining order related to domestic violence action by his wife. That information was uncovered during his background check as part of his reapplication process which covered the period of time between his firing and his reapplication for an officer position. The city also argued that comments that Nazario made during federally wiretapped phone conversations brought the issue up of whether or not he was fit to work as an officer. Some of those comments were that working for the RPD was like "Cops", beating the shit out of criminals and coming up with a reason to arrest them after the fact. It's a unique circumstance indeed that's not encountered much about comments made to a military sergeant (who was essentially trying to "sting" him) would be caught on a wire tap and later received by a Wall Street Journal reporter. He wrote an article that the police department was also interviewed for in terms of its response to the taped comments. So what began as what was believed to be a private conversation winds up having excerpts from it quoted in a nationally circulated publication.

The Wall Street Journal, the second largest circulating newspaper in the country wrote about his comments about working at the police department. Nazario presents his reasons for making the comments about being a police officer. However, it places his employers in a very difficult position of having to make a decision about how to address them, because they didn't reflect well on Riverside. What do you do when you have an officer who says that he beats the crap out of people and then makes up a reason to take them to jail after the fact? Many people in Riverside have expressed concerned about what's called "contempt of cop" so if you have a Riverside officer making comments in that direction, it leaves the agency with the unenviable task of explaining them or explaining them away.

It could be just machismo or being intoxicated (and Nazario said he had been drinking) that produced them but the agency and the public has no way of knowing that for sure unless the department investigates them to find out whether while employed, Nazario engaged in that behavior as he said or he didn't and just was acting what same say is macho. The city said that the department investigated his comments and found no evidence that he had ever acted on them.

That needed to be done for the public and for everyone else Nazario works with as well . Because what do you do when a colleague or former colleague makes comments like that which become public and you're not out doing that behavior yourself? How is that going to affect how people view you and your agency? Because officers are so heavily identified by symbolism including badges, marked police cars, uniforms and guns. Comments like the ones he made, fair or not are going to have a detrimental impact on the policing agency that employs those who make them because of the nature of law enforcement, policing powers and the always evolving issue of public trust in both of those things.

It was written in this blog last year that Nazario hadn't passed his re-background exam and his domestic restraining order back in New York where he had lived came to light. That's a disqualifier in many cases for people who are applying in law enforcement for good reason. Part of a background exam is looking into the candidate's relationships including with spouses or other significant others. Including how the dynamics of the relationship worked out including disagreements and arguments, as this provides some clues about how this candidate will interact with the public in some very stressful and trying situations as well as colleagues. Domestic violence is more common in those in law enforcement. The blog, Behind the Blue Wall documents many of the cases that have taken place.

While felonies automatically disqualify candidates for obvious reasons, misdemeanors don't although what are called crimes of moral turpitude do and some are in that level. Domestic Violence is a disqualifer at the hiring level and has been an issue addressed by many different law enforcement agencies to varying degrees though only about 45% of police departments even have written policies addressing inhouse domestic violence.

It's hard not to look at Nazario especially in hindsight and not see quite a few red flags go up that appeared to in the city's claims have impacted its decision whether or not to rehire him. In his case, some of the red flags came to light in rather unusual ways but that doesn't change the fact that they arose. Did the police department ever expect that it would have to respond to the Wall Street Journal on his comments? Probably not, but it did have to do that.

Nazario had that and the domestic violence situations working against him as a re-candidate. Although he inadvertently had given the city a way out of a situation that also involved the allegations made against him by the NCIS and later turned into indictments by the grand jury. The Press Enterprise article mentioned how the police department had investigated the allegations involving war crimes against Nazario (that he was acquitted at trial) and sustained them though it's not clear at all how it could do that. After all, a great underlying weakness of the federal case against him was the scantness of evidence because his colleagues including a sergeant who had tried to sting him as well as one who had "confessed" during a polygraph interview both recanted later on and no physical or forensic evidence was ever uncovered.

But the city said it had nothing to do with it although of course it did, because why do an independent administrative investigation of a military related incident that very well could have happened though it could never be proven. Admittedly the standard of proof would be far lower for an administrative investigation of alleged misconduct including criminal misconduct than the criminal conviction at trial would require but it's interesting that the department and city went that route and then later denied its importance in its own findings.

But Nazario had red flags which the vast majority of those hired in Riverside as officers haven't had so it's not too difficult to understand the great reluctance to hire him back into the department. Screening and testing officers for positions is very critical but difficult including whether with people going to the academy or who are lateraling for other agencies. It's one of the most critical jobs that there is to protect the public, the police officers in an agency and also reduce civil liability. There's no shortcuts to it nor should there ever be in any situation. Current Community Police Review Commission manager Frank Hauptmann actually has a lot of good information to provide on this issue having been Maywood Police Department's final chief and trying to rewrite the very troubling hiring policy over in that city which was a large contributing factor to lawsuits filed against the self-insured city that might bankrupt it.

Because Maywood police officers, many who were fired from other agencies, released from probation and/or arrested were involved in just about every allegation of misconduct imaginable from beating or tasing handcuffed individuals to committing sexual assault under the color of authority. The city council proved that it was a major part of the problem by voting in two acting chiefs with records of criminal convictions and firings. Riverside's not Maywood anymore than it's Bell but it's always important to remember that one way to prevent a Maywood is to through a department's screening process for its officers before hiring.

But while this played out with Nazario, another situation involving a newer hire who hadn't apparently been even sworn in played out. Allegedly last Friday, March 18, an individual newly hired by the department to fill an officer position was involved in an altercation in Corona that involved being intoxicated and getting into a fight in public. He was arrested along with several other individuals by officers from Corona Police Department which contacted one of the police captains in Riverside's own department, who happened to be his father. Concerns were raised in several areas including the notification process between Corona's department and that in Riverside as whether or not attempts were made by this captain to dilute or eliminate any paper trail involving any arrest. Although allegedly the watch commander in Corona nixed an early release from jail for the captain's son and the others arrested with them when asked to do that for the new hire.

Nothing has been filed in the Riverside Superior Courts in connection with the individual and Corona Police Department hasn't returned contacts with its watch commanders division.

This individual was also allegedly hired by the department after problems in another law enforcement agency in Orange County which released him from probation a month before his academy graduation (but he did graduate as a non-hire) and then concerns were raised about whether or not any issues involving him were overlooked during the hiring and screening process in Riverside because he was a captain's son. One can look at that and hope it's not true but if it is, then it needs to be immediately addressed and yes, if an individual is certainly not in control of themselves enough to avoid an arrest before being sworn in to a position that carries out arrests as part of enforcing the law then that person needs to be fired even if he were the chief's son. Because for one thing, the vast majority of police officers employed and many hired, don't go out getting drunk and getting into public fights and some of those who get cut because those who do get hired instead for whatever reason, don't engage in that behavior either. Doing that raises the questions of anger management, impulse control and how will that behavior translate on the job. Will it endanger the public, endanger an officer or officers or cost the city major millions in a lawsuit down the road? The police department actually fired a non-probational officer in January 2011 who'd been in a bar fight and then allegedly wasn't honest to investigators who interviewed him as part of an investigation.

Backgrounds and psychological evaluations are done for a reason and that's precisely to screen out this type of behavior whenever at all possible. Here, it has apparently become possible. If Diaz is dealing with these issues, it's got to be one of the tougher parts of being a chief but it's important too. He doesn't strike the public as being a person who would tolerate that kind of behavior and if he's got a member of his management team who crossed the line in handling that type of incident with his son, then he needs to address that as well. He's the boss and he's got to send the message loud and clear to his management team, all of them that he's an engaged chief (which he appears to be, in sharp contrast to his predecessor) and he's going to hold all of their feet to the fire if they opt to engage in behavior which frankly probably reaped benefits for them in the past, perhaps at the expense of others besides themselves. This is how the majority of this management team rose up to the management level in the first place. By getting the stilettos out and undercutting each other at every turn.

If he doesn't do that, then incidents like this one will continue to take place on his watch. Because anyone who engages in naughty behavior will believe he's not watching. And it's going to take watching until the management team receives the message loud and clear through action that its members have to behave themselves even when they're not being watched. Diaz definitely should have the capability to do this very well and most people in the community and inside his agency probably would expect him to do that and support those efforts to move the agency forward down a healthier path than it had been on for the past few years.

A department that advertises to hire and employ the "best of the best" as its motto deserves no less.

Governmental Affairs Committee Recommends Expansion of Charter Review Body

[The Statement of Inclusiveness posted outside the Mayor's Ceremonial Chamber where the special Governmental Affairs Meeting took place]

[The Governmental Affairs Committee hears comments as about 20 people attended the special meeting on the composition of the Charter Review Committee]

The Governmental Affairs Committee held a special meeting on Tuesday, March 22 at 1 pm. to discuss whether or not to add members to the Charter Review Committee which was selected by the city council and had already met twice. As soon as the selection process was completed, the city council had appointed a committee that was only comprised of White city residents in a city where that racial group comprises about 39% of the city's population according to older census data. It apparently went unnoticed by most of the city council until the Group sent a letter out that addressed this issue and challenged the city on its recruitment and selection process. What the city council and mayor had done was stacked the committee with quite a few of their own peer group including former city council members (currently working for Mayor Ron Loveridge), a former interim city manager, a current partner at the city's choice firm, Best, Best and Krieger (which someone pointed out was a conflict of interest). It's left many people watching trying to figure out what the agenda is going into the process.

Mayor Ron Loveridge during the interview process for this committee had asked each candidate if they supported the ward election system or whether that process should go city-wide. A past council member or two had proposed to have at least run offs between candidates go citywide but the mayor's apparently trying to take it a step forward. Creating a city-wide system would kill grass roots campaigns which have dominated the past few election cycles bringing the likes of Councilmen Paul Davis, Mike Gardner and even Andrew Melendrez onto the dais.

[Would grassroot campaigns like those that brought in Councilman Paul Davis (r.) be eliminated by changing the election of city council members city-wide?]

So yes, it was pretty clear even in the interview process that there is at least one agenda surfacing already and remember Loveridge in particular has been involved in this process, with his push last time out in 2003-04 to get an initiative on the ballot that would give the mayor the ability to pick the chair of all the city council subcommittees. Loveridge apparently wanted to go further than that and have it so he could pick the members of the subcommittees as well but the whole thing fell apart because even though the initiative made it on the ballot, voters rejected it.

[Even though he claims to essentially be a lame duck mayor, Loveridge is always a pivotal one to watch for behind the scene action involving Charter Review. After all, he already got his point man, Tom Evans in as chair.]

What other agendas might emerge is always very interesting with this critical process with either tinkering with the city's constitution or leaving it alone but one area to watch, Riverside Public Utilities which has vexed City Hall only because the city wants more of its hefty dollars in the general fund to be spent by it. Currently it's about 11% cap on doing that, will voters be asked to increase that in the future? Stay tuned.

One candidate for Ward One, Dom Betro has discovered Twitter. He's running on the platform that among other things, he brought current City Manager Brad Hudson to Riverside and is the only one who can handle him. That's interesting because the move to recruit Hudson began even before Hudson was out job hunting during his stint in the county and one former councilman let it slip that this recruitment started a year before Hudson's hiring which meant uh oh, his predecessor George Carvalho was still employed.

If Betro was alluding to the whole guns, badges and cold plates scandals, well he'd better remember that those scandals happened in 2005-2007, when Betro was actually still holding his council seat. So if Hudson needed "strong management" then, who was providing it? And is it really the best way to endorse a city management employee's skills by saying he needs strong management anyway?

Betro did run interference for Hudson at least once in 2006 when Hudson didn't carry out a directive on the police department's Strategic Plan

Councilman Chris MacArthur to face Election not Appointment

[Councilman Chris MacArthur will have to be reelected by the voters]

The city council put an item on the meeting agenda on March 22 that would determine whether or not Councilman Chris MacArthur would face an election in the fifth ward or be appointed by his colleagues on the dais. Due to the fact that he was the only declared entry in the June mail in election, state law required that the city council and mayor place the item on a public meeting agenda.

MacArthur didn't choose to participate in the discussion and vote although City Attorney Gregory Priamos said that he could do so. He said he didn't think it was appropriate and didn't cmoment on whether he thought he should be appointed or elected for another term of office. After he left the room, citing budget constraints, Councilman Steve Adams proposed a motion to save the city $55,000 by canceling the election and having MacArthur reappointed by them.

That seemed to get some support judging by the nodding of the heads and then Councilman Rusty Bailey said that it didn't really work with him because he thought that it was important to have an election and not bypass that process though he valued the contributions of his colleagues. That also led to some nodding heads on the dais. So the city council changed the motion and ultimately voted 6-0 (by MacArthur abstaining) to hold the election and uphold democracy. City Clerk when prompted had said that the eligibility period for write in ballots extended into May which several elected officials said they didn't know.

So the city council and mayor made the appropriate decision to hold an election, as they did in the previous three times since 1965, when only one candidate filed for a city council seat. The money's already been allocated and democracy doesn't have a price tag.

Medal of Valor

[Officer Ryan Bonamineo received the Medal of Valor from the American Legion which also honored Officers Jesse Castro and Silvio Macias. Earl Ellis Green who's been charged in his murder was scheduled for a preliminary hearing.]

[The Sedgwick River crested at least half a foot or higher after the last rain storm sent it over its banks once again]

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Friday, March 18, 2011

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

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

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

More to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---Pearl S. Buck

Riverside's Response to Sendai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

Zip Code: 92501 (downtown Riverside)

Closest Plants and Their Distance

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

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

Election 2011: Let the Games Begin

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

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

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

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

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

Ward 1:

Dom Betro

Michael Gardner

Dvonne Pitruzzello

Marisa Valdez Yeager

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ward Three:

Rusty Bailey

James Harold Davis

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

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

Ward Five:

Chris MacArthur

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

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

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

Ward Seven:

Steve Adams

John Brandriff

Terry Frizzel

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

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

Drop the Take Home Cars Already

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Councilman Paul Davis is surrendering his city-owned vehicle.

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

Police Department to Sponsor Open House

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

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

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

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

Local Organization Cites Lack of Diversity on Charter Review Committee

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

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

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

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

Member #3 (shakes head) ----

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

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

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

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

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

Melendrez Faces Heat; Quiet Zones Added to Eastside

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

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

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

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

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

Public Meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Never a Dull Moment in River City

"We're Not Running Away"

---Michiko Otsuki


'As a worker at Tepco and a member of the Fukushima No. 2 reactor team, I was dealing with the crisis at the scene until yesterday (Monday).'

'In the midst of the tsunami alarm (last Friday), at 3am in the night when we couldn't even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death,' she said.

'The machine that cools the reactor is just by the ocean, and it was wrecked by the tsunami. Everyone worked desperately to try and restore it. Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work.

'There are many who haven't gotten in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard.'

Battling On

'Please remember that. I want this message to reach even just one more person. Everyone at the power plant is battling on, without running away.

'To all the residents (around the plant) who have been alarmed and worried, I am truly, deeply sorry.

'I am writing my name down, knowing I will be abused and hurt because of this. There are people working to protect all of you, even in exchange for their own lives.

'Watching my co-workers putting their lives on the line without a second thought in this situation, I'm proud to be a member of Tepco, and a member of the team behind Fukushima No. 2 reactor.

'I hope to return to the plant and work on the restoration of the reactor.'

Sendai Relief fund: $42,447.37

Rescue Relief Rebuild

The Sendai Committee met yesterday to discuss steps to take in responding to the emergency situation in Sendai. Ted Honcharik of Fuel Relief Fund has left for Sendai to transport generators and fuel that will be purchased before as was done in Haiti after the earthquake there.

A skeleton crew of workers are fighting to prevent a total meltdown at various reactors at Fukushima and are getting police to fire a water cannon at one of the pools that stores spent rods (which is probably the most problematic situation besides that at Reactor 2). The U.S. has sent nuclear energy experts to Japan and monitors to Hawaii and the California coastline.

The risk to the western U.S. is viewed as minimal at this point.

For more information from the State Department of Health: (916) 341-3947

The committee says that some people more close to the center of Sendai (i.e. downtown and City Hall) have responded to check in that they're doing okay. Areas outlying near the coast still are not responding. The entire delta region by the coast was hit by the tsunami with miles/kilometers reach inland different depending on the location in proximity to the epicenter of the now 9.0 quake. The local university was heavily damaged by the quake and is inaccessible. At least one museum survived in pretty good shape and individuals at the Metropolitan Museum downtown (which is undergoing seismic retrofitting) might consider sending a delegation to help with any needed work on the museums in Sendai later on.

Electricity, water and other infrastructure issues are still serious problems in the area as is phones. Still many sizable aftershocks. The real time maps show the aftershock activity is moving south through the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan.

[City residents and community leaders pack the Mayor's Ceremonial room during a meeting on responding to the earthquake and tsunami in Sendai]

****Sendai's Mayor Katsuhiko Umehara and his staff and the member of Sendai's IRC are all accounted for but not sure about members of the Orange Club. A lot of uncertainty about whether people are deceased, or missing due to evacuations or lack of ability to communicate as mobile phones and internet were down. Sendai City Hall did email Riverside about what was happening there.

***Riverside's Urban Search and Rescue Team is currently fifth on the list for deployment but maybe be prioritized higher. Designated primary responders from Los Angeles deployed from March Air Reserve Base on Saturday with supplies and have reached a town up in Northern Japan impacted by earthquake and tsunami damage. USAR Teams from Mexico (and Acapulco is also Sendai's Sister City) and Christchurch, New Zealand have reached Sendai. Ironically the USAR team based on Japan had been deployed to Christchurch to help them with their Feb. 22 6.3 earthquake when the 8.9 quake happened off the shore of Sendai.

*****Ted Honcharik ifrom Fuel Relief Fund is leaving for Japan in several days hopefully with $50,000 to purchase fuel over there to distribute for free up around Sendai. As you know, Sendai is currently out of food, potable water in many places and nearly out of fuel.

His contact information is:

phone: 951-233-0283

Fax: 951-680-1993


****Riverside and Riverside's International Relations Committee is setting up an electronic donation fund for checks and hopefully pay pal in the upcoming days at City Hall 3900 Main St. or call Mayor Ron Loveridge's office at 951-826-5551

***Several fund raising events are also planned including a possible MLK Jr. band concert at the Fox Theater in Riverside around March 31.

Sendai monument near Riverside City Hall

[The 1998 Sister City teams for the Sendai Half Marathon before the race including Riverside's delegation]

UPDATE: 8.8 quake strikes North-Eastern Japan off coast trigger tsunamis. The quake hit about 60 miles east of Riverside's Sister City Sendai which faced major tsunami damage.

Sendai hit by 10 foot wave. Damage "devastating, at least 300 dead"

Two Riverside city officials said that they will ask city to respond. Mayor Ron Loveridge's office says city is "working" on coordinating its response to the disaster. Riverside to send urban rescue team to Sendai.

Riverside officials said they are discussing how best to aid Sendai and may help create a local donation fund. For now they are directing residents to the American Red Cross, which is taking donations online at or by calling 888-831-8031.

I had the fortunate experience of traveling to Sendai, Japan in 1998 with other runners, coaches and trainers on the Riverside delegation entered in the Sendai Half Marathon. Other sister cities came from France, Mexico, China, Belarus and Dallas Texas also participated. From the moment we landed at Sendai International Airport (the only delegation to fly directly to the city), to the moment we departed, the people of Sendai were the most gracious hosts and very friendly and they hold Riverside in very high esteem. Riverside and its people do not have a bigger fan club in this entire planet than in Sendai. In front of City Hall, there's the Raincross symbol and there is a very descriptive diorama of Riverside's downtown in one of the museums.

Sendai was devastated by the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami with at least 300 dead so far and many more missing. Many of the images of the tsunami going through the coastal area shown on TV are of Sendai including its fishing community as one of the area's main industries is fishing.

Riverside Councilmen Mike Gardner, Rusty Bailey and Chris MacArthur have so far responded to emails requesting that Riverside respond to this crisis impacting its Sister City. Since 1957, the two cities have been in this relationship, the longest still active such relationship in the world. Riverside needs to be a "sister" and engage in sending assistance and aid to Sendai and hopefully will along with the International Council of Riverside send its support.

An interesting article on the Feb. 22 Christchurch, New Zealand which discusses the ground acceleration forces that made it nearly impossible for most buildings even those built to higher earthquake standards to survive intact.

Riverside fifth on national list for failed job recovery which kind of shows that even with redevelopment agencies, they couldn't spark new jobs.

[Former Councilman and current mayoral candidate Ed Adkison represents his company at the Finance Committee meeting on business tax enforcement]

Retire RPD Detective Takes Legal Action

Former Riverside Police Department Det. Chris Lanzillo who left the department last year allegedly took legal action against Police Chief Sergio Diaz and City Manager Brad Hudson in the wake of comments that Diaz made to the Press Enterprise about Lanzillo’s termination and resultant lawsuit that he filed against the city, department and employees including former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa and current Deputy Chief Mike Blakely.

That lawsuit settled last year overturned Lanzillo’s termination and he was medically retired and received a financial settlement and back pay minus a week’s suspension. It had alleged that former Riverside Police Officers’ Association President Chris Lanzillo was the subject of an investigation in connection with a training session and terminated after he had verbally confronted DeLaRosa during one of the management team’s roll call bull sessions after the Feb. 8, 2010 DUI incident involving the former police chief. DeLaRosa had shown up at roll call sessions often with the entire management team in tow to rally the officers to stick together as “one big family” and not to talk to the bloggers or the press.

Lanzillo allegedly then had said that the handling of the DUI incident should have been done differently and asked DeLaRosa why he had waited over 30 hours to hand the investigation to the California Highway Patrol. Not long after that, a supervisor who had not attended the training and witnessed the incident filed a complaint and the incident was investigated involving insensitive comments in a diversity training class. Lanzillo had allegedly said he made similar comments in the past and the department investigated several years back and no one recalled it so he was allegedly given a notice of intent of termination for lying. If that’s truly the case of how the events unfolded, then that’s got to be one of the most bizarre terminations ever…at least in recent history. For admitting that you made a racial comment several years earlier…and because no one can remember it, recollect it or perhaps don’t want to be asked by investigators why if they heard it they never reported it and then being investigated for that, firing an employee. It's bizarre in the face of other employees who were caught making racial comments and were given other jobs inside the city's employment after leaving the police department.

And leaving the final decision to another employee who allegedly also received a notice of intent to terminate around the same time or even the same day as Lanzillo and how was a subject officer in the most publicized internal investigation of the year…who incidentally had been publicly challenged by Lanzillo who asked the same questions that City Hall and investigators should have been asking DeLaRosa.

Almost as bizarre as having a subject officer on the year’s most publicized internal investigation present or involved in the interrogation of a “witness” officer in that same case simply because he was acting chief at the time. If it had been a criminal investigation would you have the suspect of the crime be present during the interview of a witness? Of course not. No, this might not have been as serious as a criminal investigation but the two share some similar reasons as why it might not be prudent to have the subject person in the same vicinity as a witness during an interrogation to gain information for an investigation.

Just another reason on a stack of them not to have all that much faith in Hudson’s “independent” and “sweeping” (the surface) investigation. Just another reason on a stack of them not to have all that much faith in Hudson’s “independent” and “sweeping” (the surface) investigation.

When discussing Lanzillo, Diaz had said that he had “done very bad things” without specifying what they were to the press and Lanzillo had been concerned about that because any prospective employer or other person could do a search on the internet and see the comments by a police chief and think he had done something like child molestation or a serious crime.

This incident allegedly had taken place after Diaz and Lanzillo had an emotionally charged verbal altercation outside one of the police facilities over the lawsuit. After the comments were made, one of the leaders of the RPOA contacted Diaz and asked what was up with that and Diaz allegedly told him he got emotional and it was a mistake.

The city has the option of deciding how to handle it and whether or not to litigate it to trial. Diaz had raised an important point in the Press Enterprise about how too many lawsuits have been settled by the city (which is now self-insured after having had a carrier at one time) rather than taken to trial. I agree with his point although my reasoning might be somewhat different. The city settles for two reasons, to preserve its civil liability or to minimize the risks and to prevent publicity of the surrounding issues in lawsuits. It’s hard to buy the city’s argument that it settles to save litigation costs after seeing how aggressively it’s litigated and fought several labor lawsuits include those filed by a group of Black city employees in 1997 and Officer Roger Sutton’s filed in 2000 and tried by a civil jury in 2005. But then Diaz also allegedly has been working to minimize City Attorney Gregory Priamos' historic micromanagement of the police department which if so is a hopeful and long overdue development in that troublesome area.

There's this pattern of events that was relayed in an earlier Press Enterprise article.

Those officers only file lawsuits or claims when they get in trouble. That’s an interesting point but what would make an interesting study in contrasts is how those numbers that align with his contention stack up against officers who file complaints that are handled inhouse (and not known publicly), then get into “trouble” and then file more public claims and lawsuits alleging mistreatment or misconduct including retaliation. Add in officers who have very little prior contact with complaints or internal investigations initiated against them who suddenly have multiple complaints open or investigations open against them after complaints of mistreatment or misconduct or those who after they file complaints may know or not know that meetings have been called between individuals at Orange Street administrative offices and the department’s Internal Affairs Divisions on discussing those officers soon after they file grievances, claims or lawsuits.

Then provide stats on how many cases are settled, how many go to trial and what the end results are in both cases including average payouts per settlement and/or trial verdicts. All of this together would make for a very interesting sociological study or research paper, maybe a thesis for a doctorate as to what the outcomes would be and any conclusions which could be reached.

The Charter Review Committee Gets Ready To Meet

The Charter Committee is set to already start meeting and all the various agendas that are contingent on charter changes will start popping up for “discussion” at these meetings. One of those will no doubt be the future of the city’s only business, Riverside Public Utilities as there’s serious discussions taking place in different venues about trying to push for an initiative which will increase the percentage of funding which can be taken from RPU to pay for the city’s bills. The problem is that RPU has its own expenses like any company would to pay out of its monies made and one of the debates out there hands down is how much money that RPU has that’s really being spent by the city for outside expenditures.

If you’ve ever wondered how Riverside Renaissance is going to be funded, this can be a critical development to follow. Because people act as if the Renaissance has been paid for and news flash, a lot of it is deferred payment not actual payment and since Riverside’s not making enough money on sales tax and property taxes which are recession-sensitive, how else will these bonds or other forms of deferred payment be done? And will the RPU be liable to shifting a larger percentage of its earned money to do this and pay for other outside expenses? If it passes the muster of the city’s voters, how will this impact them? The answer to that is easy, higher rates for water and electricity (which after the “freeze”, you might have to buckle your seat belts at some of the rate hikes that have been proposed) because how else will RPU make the money to offset a higher payout to the city to spend? Money comes from some resource and the bulk of the Renaissance will likely wind up on the backs of the residents in ways not exacted yet.

But remember when the city council passed and then revoked (because they were election-sensitive) that mult-tier hike that counted amps instead of actual kilowatts used? And the uproar that followed which pressured some council members who were facing elections to back peddle?

What adds a lot of intrigue to this discussion will be the fact that the city council and mayor quickly appointed Tom Evans to the chair position of the Charter Review Committee. Evans is currently an elected official serving on the local water board, was interim city manager before Hudson’s arrival and his expertise was of course, RPU which he oversaw for four years before his appointment in the interim management position. If eking out a larger piece of RPU earnings comes to the committee, how will Evans react?

Stay tuned to see this situation as it pans out, whether it does now or not with RPU, City Hall and the city residents. Because what is ultimately decided could really impact and hit home that the costs of the $2 billion plus Renaissance haven’t even begun to come out of your pockets. Yes, there are definite advantages to having a municipal public utilities entity but it takes responsibility on the parts of the stake holders including city residents to keep an eye on what’s happening and to voice concerns about it too including the charter review process in connection with a valued resource.

CPRC Hold Another Wacky Election

Elects Chair, Vice-Chair

[The CPRC members minus one in Missouri conducted their annual elections]

The Community Police Review Commission engaged in its annual exercise of holding its election for chair and vice-chair. All of the members showed up including the three new members, to conduct the special meeting and to elect their new officers, except for Robert Slawsby who appeared via conference call in Missouri. Rogalio Morales was absent for a short period and missed the first round of elections for both chair and vice-chair.

For chair, Commissioner Ken Rotker nominated outgoing vice-chair Art Santore for chair and Commissioner John Brandriff nominated Dale Roberts. The voting broke down with Santore, Slawsby, Rotker, Ralph Johnson and Robin Jackson voting for Santore who had the five votes necessary to win. Roberts received votes from Brandriff, herself and Jane Adams.

For vice-chair, Rotker nominated Slawsby and Brandriff nominated Roberts. For that the voting became more complicated, because it resulted in a 4-4 tie. Voting for Slawsby were himself, Rotker, Santore and Johnson while Roberts received votes from herself, Brandriff, Jackson and Adams. There was some legal consultation; most of it outside the ability of the public and several commissioners to even hear let alone to follow what took place. At the end, they decided to table the vote for vice-chair to the next meeting when Morales could attend since the CPRC was not required to appoint a vice-chair at the first meeting in March only a chair.

But then Morales appeared and then there was a debate on whether to table the election or revote for vice chair in hopes of having him serve as the tie breaker. It became clear when Morales was polled for his vote that the election would go to Roberts as everyone voted the same as they had in the prior round and he gave his vote to Roberts.

Never a dull moment with a CPRC election as the whole issue of allowing certain individuals teleconferencing votes in the past and not others not to mention the behind the scenes election several years that took place before March of that year have made it clear that there’s been issues with it electing its officers. But in this particular election year, the most pivotal and important position may actually be that of the vice-chair for reasons that could further to light moving through the calendar year when the makeup of the commission might change on several fronts.

Former Councilman Dom Betro Mixes Up the Facts

During a recent debate by the Greater Democrats of Riverside, two candidates for ward one showed up because only the registered Democrats in that race were allowed to participate. These were former Councilman Dom Betro who lost a squeaker of an election in 2007 and also Marisa Valdez-Yeager who is opposing him and two other candidates. Betro provided some colorful participation by engaging in some commentary. One of his claims was that as a councilman, he didn't push the action to ban city residents from pulling items off the consent calendar which the city council did during a meeting in 2005.

Baloney as one person put it upon hearing his claim at the forum. He most absolutely did push for it when he sponsored the motion that put that issue on the table, and the intent of the motion was to restrict who could pull items from the consent calendar.

At least Betro didn't promise he would "look into" that decision that was made as that's the least adhered to campaign promise made by elected officials so far. No one has looked into it.

But check this minute order from July 12, 2005 yourself. It takes some scrolling down and the agenda item numbers (in this case #55) aren't numbered but you'll find it under City Council Rules of Procedure... and follow the voting columns for the motion, the second and the votes cast by each council member on the right hand side. You'll see that Betro sponsored the motion that included restrictions on the consent calendar. Councilman Steve Adams seconded it, and it passed 6-1 with former Councilman Art Gage the only candidate not voting for it.

So former city council members running for reelection again shouldn't engage in revisionist history. The proof is in this case, the minutes. But Betro in his own unique style did spark up some controversy at the DGR by telling the organization which sponsored his appearance that it had to better police itself apparently against bogus Democrats or those not card-carrying or whatever. He didn't get the endorsement, but said he didnt't want it and then complained later that some of the people who asked questions shouldn't have been allowed to ask them including that embarrassing one about the consent calendar because he wasn't seeking an endorsement.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Employees

Riverside is one of those cities where you never know what’s happening half of the time and it’s easy to miss some of the intrigue that takes place and hence, there’s a section in this blog which deals with the mystery of the missing employees. Occasionally there will be an employee profiled who’s disappeared off the canvas especially if the rest of the city clams up about it.

That’s the case with the abrupt departure of former Homeless coordinator Don Smith who is no longer employed with the city and Human Resources apparently won’t even elaborate to their boss’ bosses about what happened. There have been several employees who have left under confusing or even disturbing circumstances including long-time City Hall employee Howard Field and several in Development and even the city’s Human Resources Department. These employees had a common denominator or two which makes one wonder if one of the city’s exorcised ghosts is resurfacing and will be addressed in future postings.

This one came to light involving Smith because people who worked with the homeless or are interested in those issues tried to contact Smith not too long ago and were unable to do so and couldn’t find out what happened or even who to call instead or if the position will be filled. See, that’s typical of the Riverside canvas, is that employees just have a way of disappearing from it…poof…but whether he was a layoff casualty, took a job elsewhere or something else happened. Or if his position’s been phased out, frozen or it will be filled and what will happen to the system of addressing homeless issues and populations that he oversaw.

It’s not lost that the class of employees with some of the largest institutional memories of this city’s history particularly how it’s run and how it conducts business are the ones that are kind of on phase out lately.

The Unwanted Highway to Hell

City residents veto continuation of Overlook Parkway at Public Hearing

A large group of city residents said we don't want a new highway at a public hearing held to discuss an environmental impact report. The emphasis of the hearing was supposed to be whether or not the gates at Crystal View Terrace and Green Orchard Road which had been the subject of many contentious meetings but the concerns shifted to what people view as an attempt to revive the drive to finish Overlook Parkway which was thwarted by residents of two neighborhoods who stand in the path of that construction some time ago. What's interesting too about this process is that part of the planning on finishing the thoroughfare is to put a grade separation at Madison which some say will be funded by the money that had been earmarked for the higher priority grade separation on Third Street that was recently tanked in some small print without the appropriate public hearing.

It's not paranoia that had people concerned. It's the realization that of the four scenarios, the city actually included finishing this street so someone somewhere in the halls of power are thinking about it. The one that would could pit neighborhoods against each other and potentially bring traffic, and create larger problems in the already vanishing green belt area of the city not to mention what it would do to Victoria Avenue, the only street that seems more like a park than a thoroughfare and one of the nicest spots of the city.

Christchurch, New Zealand to lose World Rugby Cup?

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