Five before Midnight

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


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Councilman Steve Adams Wrote the Ethics Code

UPDATE: Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz promotes Det. Charlie Payne to sergeant and Officers Trinidad Lomeli and Brian Jones to detective....

The Real Crisis Involving the Riverside Fire Department isn't about Ambulance Contracts

It's about two fire stations but who's looking into that?

[Fire Station #13 in Sycamore Canyon is also collateral that the city's using so it can make bond payments on the Hyatt Hotel to help out a developer but what happens to it and another fire station if the city defaults? What usually happens to collateral in those cases?]

UPDATE: Some reaction to this editorial written condemning Riverside Councilman Rusty Bailey's decision to run for mayor next year as being unpatriotic by forcing the mayoral race into a runoff. Before he submitted his papers, three candidates all current or former council members had announced their intentions to compete for the clearly highly coveted office. So with three candidates running so far with ample time for more to declare their intentions to run, the contest was already almost guaranteed to need to be decided in the November election finals. Runoff elections don't screw up electoral processes, they just extend an election a few months longer. Having runoffs is an important step in a democratic process of elections because declaring a candidate a winner who has less than 50% of the public vote is undemocratic and unpatriotic.

Bailey has as much right to run for mayor as anyone else, certainly anyone else on the dais. While it's disturbing to see sitting elected officials announce their intentions to run so quickly after their reelections to city council, it's not against any law, policy or procedure to do so. He's no less or more qualified than anyone on the dais because all of the candidates who are running (with some exciting latecomers waiting in the wings) will be equally responsible for any financial problems that Riverside faces with coming up with money to pay off over $100 million in bond payments due next year including interest on some downtown projects and ensuring that the general fund remains adequate for paying for the operations and personnel of all the city departments. Issues regarding the city's financial state including financial accountability have dominated the discussions and community input at the city charter review committee meetings as they will continue to do. These issues will also likely dominate the discourse and debates of the mayoral election next year. The number one question of the mayoral debates should be, who running will push for a five year forensic audit of all the city's finances, both expenditures and revenues including bonds, loans and property transfers between entities.

Last week, it came to light that the city had co-mingled redevelopment money agency with money in the general fund, even noting it on financial documents. Naughty naughty. One serious problem with co-mingling RDA funds with the general fund is it leaves the public unable to determine exactly how many dollars exists in either funding source.

Which is kind of the point. Just like when City Hall takes police asset forfeiture funds for a 15% allowable use (which was questionable at best) and drops it in the general fund (even though co-mingling or supplanting a funding source for law enforcement, i.e. the general fund is prohibited) with no paper trail made public of what happened after it was placed in that fund meaning where it was actually spent. Unless it's on post-its.

The odds aren't really strong on any of the three candidates taking this bold step. The true disgrace isn't that Bailey's running for mayor because that's his right to do so. It's the fact that the city will not conduct a five year outside forensic audit of its financial records going back to about 2005 and the operations and transactions of its Redevelopment Agency. It will not call in the State Controller's office to do so. It doesn't take much from City Hall, just a phone call. Any one of the three council members running for office could make that phone call.

So even if this blog did endorse and accept money from political candidates like other publications do for any reason, so far it would have to say no endorsement.

Riverside City Council Votes 7-0 to postpone the coronation of Mayor Ron Loveridge's name on the City Hall building until Oct. 25 after Councilman Paul Davis offered up a substitute motion. Davis and Councilwoman Nancy Hart who seconded that motion said they had received emails with complaints about the process.

UPDATE: Riverside Police Officers' Association President Cliff Mason is up for reelection later this year but is someone else in the union leadership thinking of running against him? Issues arising including contract negotiations and the two-tier pension system as the RPOA is the last employee association to be negotiating with the city management on this issue. There's several candidates considering runs for the top office and the process should sort itself out by the time of the union's general meeting this autumn.

In the meantime, Chief Sergio Diaz allegedly shows up at the law enforcement fights in Corona sharing a table with former Interim Police Chief John DeLaRosa...

There's a proposal to continue the public hearing on the franchise application for Mission Ambulance that was scheduled for 3pm on Oct. 4 by the city council. The three members of the Public Safety Committee recommended it be denied and the chair of that committee, Councilman Chris MacArthur allegedly has close ties to a high level employee of American Medical Response who spoke at that meeting.

But then this is a story that began over 20 years ago about an ambulance company, three individuals including one still on the dais and an ordinance that might not be constitutional that was passed so this company could make a fortune.

Now amid alleged threats of pulling funding away from the Riverside Fire Department by AMR's manager, Peter Hubbard, another ambulance franchise is trying to get a contract in Riverside.

To be continued....

Here is the 1990 ordinance passed by City Council for the contract services Goodhew Ambulance Services which later merged with American Medical Response. It's signed by then Mayor Terry Frizzel.

[Graffiti left adjacent to the Citrus Tower Project. The symbol is a well known Neo-Nazi symbol.]

Councilman Rusty Bailey joins the Riverside mayoral race set for next year. He'd taken papers a while ago but now he's finally filed them, joining other candidates, Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Mike Gardner and former Councilman Ed Adksion.

The application by Mission Ambulance Services to provide Basic Life Support care and transport comes to the city council on Tuesday. Rumor is that it's been scheduled for 3pm. which is of course when few people can attend city council meetings. When the ambulance company tried to change it to the evening session, that was vetoed by those who set the meeting agendas.

Many questions have risen about the city's refusal to grant a second franchise a Basic Life Support contract and the ordinance that prohibits any competition that might hinder American Medical Response's ability to make a profit in what the company calls, its "Fort Knox" Riverside which puts $10o million in the coffers of the parent company, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Company in Colorado.

[While still on the dais, Mayor Ron Loveridge is the subject of a proposed item on the discussion calendar to name the City Hall building after him.]

Why can't they discuss this item at the night session? Because on the discussion calendar, they actually have a proposal to rename City Hall, the Ronald O. Loveridge Building.

[Riverside Councilwoman Nancy Hart heads the Finance Committee but apparently had no idea where the allocated funding for her legislative field representative was being spent until just recently. ]

Another issue heating up involves the city council legislative field representatives who after being made by the city council into city employees earn $80,000 a year including benefits. Not bad for positions that don't go through the open and competitive hiring process and there's no process at all in terms of what happens when the council members who hire them have left office. Also, Councilwoman Nancy Hart at a recent meeting claimed she had no knowledge that her allocated money for a representative was along with Melendrez' being spent to pay the salary of a Development Department employee to serve in that capacity for both of them. Now Melendrez is saying he had no knowledge of that either. So where's the money?

Riverside City Council and Mayor Ron Loveridge Appoint Claudia Smith to fill the Ward Four Vacancy on the Community Police Review Commission

Public Safety Committee Recommends that Ambulance Franchise Application be Denied

[The Public Safety Committee Meeting played to a packed house of elected officials, department heads, city staff and several ambulance companies including applicant, Mission.]

[Standing room only inside the Mayor Ceremonial Chamber during the Public Safety Committee meeting]

Was Fire Chief Steve Earley Given an ultimatum by AMR?

Was he told by AMR that paramedic training funds that were tied into the $1.2 million AMR paid City Hall to add two minutes to its ALS response times would be lost if AMR lost its BLS monopoly even though they are already contractually guaranteed?

Who told an elected official not to "interfere"?

Were applicants told not to bother submitting complaint or rebuttal letters for the city's "investigation"?

What's really behind this city monopoly to the point that the city would lose money to keep it?


Pure CACA....... I guess she got an abortion........BUT STILL IS PURE KA-KA... CA-CA.....

Five Before Ka-Ka

-----fan letter at Inland Empire Craigslist that's really not anonymous....thanks to tips and seriously, Adams needs to find better friends...or fans. This one anonymous poster alone has seen three of his candidates of choice, all heavily favored in their bids, leave office after the votes were counted and they lost.

[Councilman Steve Adams (center) allegedly claimed to have drafted the city's ethics code on some campaign literature]

This year is still very much an election year in Riverside even though most of the elections had been decided. Still in contention is the city council seat in Ward Seven which is held by Steve Adams. He's faced with Community Police Review Commissioner John Brandriff in a runoff election to be held in November and it's already proven to be quite contentious. Here are their campaign Web sites including where they stand on local issues.

Re-elect Steve Adams for City Council

John Brandriff for Ward 7

Of course there's lots of campaign flyers and mailers going around in that ward too including one where Adams and Brandriff resound again on these issues. Adams is at an advantage as the incumbent because he can talk about what he's done as a city council member. Of course he's at a disadvantage because he can also be found wanting for what he's done or not done in that same position he's held since 2003. But what's interesting about talking about accomplishments is that invariably incumbents on the city council always act as if they single-handedly did everything even though they are members of a legislative body on equal standing with everyone else on the dais.

Adams does that a bit in his list of accomplishments here. He's right about the parks being renovated and about the railroad crossings and community center though those projects along with others in the Riverside Renaissance along with Redevelopment came at the price of a $4.4 billion debt. Because when you spend more money than you have and borrow the rest, that's what happens, you incur debt which has to be paid starting with this autumn and really hitting the ground between January and June of 2012. Because over 60% of Renaissance's expenses were paid for by bonds or other borrowed money. And isn't it interesting that former City Manager Brad Hudson found another job up north just six months before the payment due notices start hitting the city in earnest?

[Did Former City Manager and Redevelopment "guru" Brad Hudson check out of Riverside just in time?]

All this mention of incurred debt brings up the next issue where Adams along with others have claimed that they "balanced" the city's budget winding up with $43 million in reserve (which is broken down into different assorted funds) and a million or so "surplus". They boasted how they avoided the massive budgetary losses of other major cities. Well, that's only sort of true, because Riverside didn't actually balance its budget at all, it simply transferred about $33 million from the Riverside Public Utilities to "balance" the budget. The other cities that had budgets in the "red" either didn't have their own utility companies or they opted out of using their monies to balance their budgets. It wasn't shocking reading city documentation that this transfer had been made to help balance the general fund because the city can take up to 11% of the money made by utilities for the general fund but that it was woven into some major feat by Hudson and the city government.

Riverside Public Utilities is the city's cash cow after all. But it's got some protection from being totally reamed by the city because the city's charter has placed a cap on the amount of money that can be used by the city but watch out folks, because the city's charter is under "review" this year for any amendments to be brought to the voters next year. One of the rumored amendments is to increase that percentage from 11% to 15% and that makes it seem more like design and less like an exercise that the former head of utilities, Tom Evans (who donates to several city officials' election campaigns) was the unilateral choice to head the committee over a former city council member, Maureen Kane.

But it's critical for the city to start getting more money out of its cash cow and the city residents' company to start paying off the debt incurred by the Renaissance and there's two ways to do that. The first would be to increase the percentage from the current 11% to 15% or even higher to increase the monies received by the city that way. The other is to increase the rates and fees of the utilities including electricity and water. And guess what, the figures being banted around the past several years on the electrical side, you wouldn't believe, up to 60 percent increases once the current "freeze" on rates ends. The water side might be a bit more complicated and currently is a bone of contention in several different venues now. Also, city residents are likely to face increased fees for sewer use (which are included in the utility bills though sewers are under Public Works) because the city's got to replenish that fund with more monies because essentially the city uses the utility and sewer funds like this ATM machine below. Even though the city's sewer ordinance prohibits the use of sewer funds for non-sewer purposes even as interfund loans. Let alone as inter-agency loans which is what happens when the Redevelopment Agency borrows money from the city's coffers or vice versa because the RDA is not part of the city, but is or was a state agency.

Still the city does it anyway presumably on advice from its legal counsel.

[The city's utility and sewer funds are very much like this ATM machine also at City Hall]

Adams states that he refused to take a pay raise but the issue of a pay raise was never introduced because everyone on the dais knew it would be political suicide to do that while things like step pay were frozen, positions were left frozen and vacant and everyone else it seemed but the city council was undergoing "pension reform". And while several unions led by the Riverside Firefighters' Association underwent a two-tier pension restructuring, no one on the city council including Adams offered to undergo similar or any reform of the city council's own pension plan. Some of us aren't even sure why elected officials get pensions simply for serving five years or longer on the dais. But nobody "led by example", the truth was no one on the dais was stupid enough to try to push for a pay raise in the midst of a recession of which Riverside and the Inland Empire were ground zero.

And no one pushed for salary cuts like elected officials have done in other cities either including Adams. Something to think about considering that the police department for example hasn't hired a civilian employee outside of dispatch in over four years because it can't afford to do so. Yet, the city council members get legislative aides that make nearly $50,000 a year. Tells residents a lot through action or inaction which employees matter more than others.

He might be an "advocate" for jobs but the truth is, Riverside's seen very few jobs and has an official unemployment rate over 14%. There's fewer jobless overall because the pool's getting smaller from people leaving the area not because there's more jobs. And despite what the city government tells you, the Redevelopment Agencies have brought no net jobs to Riverside and this is according to the statistics that the city itself sends to Sacramento so is that the truth or is Riverside's City Hall simply not passing along accurate information in these reports. In fact, some of the projects might have cost jobs, one example being the construction of the Hyatt Hotel (which will probably be owned by the city in several years) has begun and not long after that, at least 30-40 employees including a long-time chef were laid off from the Marriott Hotel across the street. Over a dozen businesses have left or been forced out of the downtown area with the causes being the recession, upheaval caused by the renovation of the pedestrian mall and likely also the city's attempts to manage or mismanage its own buildings in the downtown mall.

The latest casualty will likely be the Phood restaurant which is rumored to be heading on out before the end of the year on the heels of Toad in the Hole which didn't last in that same spot despite receiving free rent from the city. But then small businesses have been a huge casuality in Riverside, including the Scuba shop owned by Mark and Doreen Johnson that's located near the Magnolia Avenue Grade Separation. The lawsuit filed against this couple by the city's on the city council meeting agenda this week. They were successful until the city sought an easement on their property line near the entrance to their business which is now closed. They had a water pipe put on their property by the city which violated the requirements being too close to the concrete placed on top of it by several inches, meaning that the pipe could fracture easily if cars drove into their parking lot on top of it. They are one of many frustrated businesses in that area of the city, whose dreams became nightmares due to the way the grade separation was handled. No bailout for them unlike the Lucky Greek restaurant which at least had some powerful players and campaign donors (for Councilman Rusty Bailey's coffers, all important if he runs for either city mayor or county supervisor next year).

The grade separations are really necessary but people including business owners wonder why the city didn't have a better, more organized plan going into the process especially given the head time. That and the fact that the Eastside was denied the grade separation on Third Street in its own area (but then their projects often get sidelines or canceled often at the blessing of their elected representative) have generated concerns and questions. But then not everybody outside of the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce believes that Riverside is all that friendly to small businesses which when allowed to exist and thrive provide the bulk of the sales tax revenue in any city's economy not to mention jobs.

Not to mention what the bottle necked traffic has done for emergency vehicles. The property inspector Mark Wolf told me that the impacted area is only about 800 feet but it took a police car with a code three siren about a minute to get through that section and then the police car narrowly avoided a collision with another vehicle because it was forced to navigate a left turn from the right lane and the other car in the middle going straight couldn't see it. An ambulance that drove by not long after that was also stuck and the cars nearby were forced onto a closed shoulder to try to give it room to pass, nearly knocking over a sign. This situation with the grade separation is set in place until at least Thanksgiving.

Then there's this section on Adams' campaign promises:

Steve Adams made City Hall listen to the needs of the community and worked to hold our local government accountable to the people it serves.

No offense but it's not safe to drink liquids near a computer when reading this statement. How did Adams do this? By seconding a motion sponsored by Dom Betro several years ago to ban anyone but elected officials and city staff from pulling items from the consent calendar for discussion? That action facilitated many questionable actions taken by the city council including the March 8 ordinance passed by that body which allowed the city to transfer 189 of its properties from the RDA to the city not long after hearing that Governor Jerry Brown planned to shut down those agencies. None of them received a public hearing or any process accountable or transparent to the city's residents and how did Adams vote on that ordinance as part of a laundry list of items on the consent calendar that day?

How did Adams fight for an accountable government when he said that elected officials shouldn't be held accountable under the 24/7 provision but only during certain hours of service? He finally changed his mind about that probably after testing the public opinion in his ward.

Adams has his strengths mainly in the work he's done with transportation issues (even though the city and county's bus system doesn't stay open and running any later than does the downtown area) and for some of the stands he's taken on important issues. But accountability and transparency, just aren't his strong suits. His negative treatment of two police associations when they refused to endorse him in his last election are duly noted as well, and how much of a role did his treatment involving two former lieutenants from the leadership of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association factor into the financial settlements paid behind closed doors for lawsuits filed by them? How does union intimidation if that's what he engaged in including allegedly influencing promotions recommended by former Chief Russ Leach actually foster accountability and transparency?

But the statement's still interesting because City Hall has yet to even admit that it needs to "work" at making itself more accountable to city residents. Yet many residents of this city knows that it needs to do exactly that including many residents in Ward Seven which far from being the "gateway" of the city (which everyone else knows is supposed to be downtown), is having difficulties bridging the distance including physical between it and City Hall.

To protect homeowners, Steve Adams made it illegal for the City to take a person’s home by the power of eminent domain to give the land to a developer.

This provision's not clear either because it's still legal for the city to do this, in fact the city did that to help the Press Enterprise secure its new mostly empty building. But then wait a minute because he's using different language here. The original action was to pass a statement of the city council's commitment to not use residents' homes for private development of enterprises and now he's saying that they won't hand over people's homes to developers. He didn't change the law let alone single handedly because laws are much more difficult to change or revoke than it would be for the city council to simply vote to no longer refuse to take people's homes under Eminent Domain for private interests including those of developers. It was done partly to protect the rights of homeowners but mostly because a controversial decision by a higher court on the issue several years ago fostered a dialogue on whether or not Eminent Domain should be used in this way with most people saying no, it shouldn't.

But before you start handing out accolades to Adams or any single elected official for making it "illegal" to do this, remember this episode of Riverside history involving an artist named Ken Stansbury and a group he belonged to called Riversiders for Property Rights. Remember how they tried to participate in the democratic process by circulating a petition to city residents to put an initiative on the ballot involving this very same issue? They wanted Riversiders to vote and decide for ourselves whether or not seizing property including homes for private developers should be illegal. But we never got the chance because the city council including Adams voted to have their legal eagles including from Best, Best and Krieger file what amounted to a SLAPP suit against him and his organization to stop them from collecting signatures. The "or else" part of not stopping would be that they'd be forced to pay the city's own legal fees, which is the heart of a SLAPP suit's threats and then they told these folks they were only using financial and legal intimidation against them for their own good.

The case was fought, the city didn't wind up charging the organization or Stansbury with the fees because it didn't have to do that. It achieved its purpose of shutting that whole initiative process down. Probably because it saw what happened in other cities when similar initiatives hit the ballot including in Anaheim. The voters passed them overwhelmingly, thus truly making it illegal for eminent domain to be used for private interests. The initiative applied both to private homes and businesses because as many business owners know, the two are intimately connected. You lose your business due to eminent domain including because relocation hurts you much more than it helps you, your house will soon follow due to foreclosure or other reasons.

But if Adams had been truly the champion he claimed to be, he would have fought for the fundamental democratic right for Stansbury and his organization to undergo the petitioning process rather than vote to shut it down. Then again Adams like other elected officials had campaign donors who most definitely would have been unhappy if such an initiative ever made it on the ballot and passed as it probably would have. The city council apparently believed that they couldn't even take that risk so it used city monies on the eve of a recession to try to shut it down.

Steve also made City officials more accountable. He voted to create Riverside’s Code of Ethics for the City Council and the City’s Commissions. For greater transparency, Steve supported putting City Councilmembers campaign and personal finance disclosures on the City’s website for public examination.

It's true that Adams voted for the Code of Ethics but its creation and implementation had already been overwhelmingly mandated by the voters as part of a charter amendment process in November 2004 so it's not like the city council had a choice. They did have a choice with what kind of Code of Ethics would be created and the city council went for the weakest, most toothless process they could possibly create and still call it an ethics code without being sued for misuse of language. Look at what happened to the process including with the complaint system. Did you know that Adams himself was the first person to be charged with an alleged ethical violation not long after the process was implemented for calling people who spoke at a city council meeting liars and that they were lying. That complaint was also the first to circumvent the process by City Attorney Gregory Priamos (who's employed by Adams and the rest of the city council) by being labeled a "second party" complaint even though at the time there was no such language whatsoever in the Code's ordinance and resolution prohibiting such complaints from being filed.

Why did Priamos initiate such an avoidance tactic in what would be practice later on, but first became precedent in this case?

Because his employers including Adams likely told him so. But what's interesting is that on a campaign flyer, Adams allegedly went further than that by claiming that he wrote the ethics code. No, he didn't do that. He voted along with the rest of the city council to approve a diluted version of what it originally was envisioned as being. But after watching the follies of 2010, 2011 and especially next year, it's not difficult to understand why strengthening the ethics code is not exactly a priority for the sitting city council. They did take measures led by a minority which turned majority out of political necessity for several people to make sure it operated as it had already been written but not much to enhance it. So no, no one on the city council actually wrote it.

He's endorsed by many politicians including the majority of the city council and Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

Here are Adams' promises and they all sound good but some of them were made eight years ago including bringing more jobs to Riverside and the city's lost jobs and not just because of what's happened at the state and federal governmental levels.

Control City Spending and Fight New Taxes

Instead of raising taxes on residents, Steve Adams has always believed it is important to control the City’s spending. He has never raised taxes on his constituents and he never will.

Steve will only vote for balanced budgets and will insist that the City continue to follow the financially smart policies that have protected vital city services and funded the Riverside Renaissance without raising taxes.

A great idea but not going to be true because some projects like the downtown library were originally Riverside Renaissance projects but are going to be primarily funded through local taxes including Measure C which is being placed on the ballot in November for continuation of what was intended to be a short-term tax for new buildings. And Riverside Renaissance wasn't funded as much on taxes but on funding sources which will still cost the city's residents money including repayment of the 60% of the funding of Renaissance that was done on borrowed money including the purchase of bonds. This money will be ultimately paid for by city residents, not through taxes perhaps but through increases in the rates and fees set for the Public Utilities services including water and electricity as well as the addition of new sewer fees. These discussions have already been taking place at City Hall on raising utility rates including one that took place two days after the city council voted to cement that four way land swap involving an office tower, a law firm and two city divisions at its meeting. So what will happen when those on fixed incomes including many elderly and/or disabled folks including those in Adams' wards pay the price for Renaissance through higher utility costs? Will it impact how they can keep themselves cool during Riverside's hottest months when utility bills traditionally increase for customers? Will Adams be sponsoring transportation for the shutins to the city's "cooling centers"?

There's creating and raising taxes and there is increasing utility rates including electrical up to 60% (and yes, this was discussed in inhouse meetings within the past year or so)and increasing sewer fees even as the sewer systems continue to deteriorate further. But what's an ancient sewer line when you've got properties to buy for a developer in the downtown area and need money?

Ensure City Hall is Accountable to the People

Steve Adams has always believed that public service is a public trust. Steve will fight for the people to be heard by the City Council and oppose any effort to limit any residents Freedom of Speech in city matters.

Steve has never taken a pay raise while serving as our representative on the City Council. He also is leading by example by cutting his own compensation by 10% during these challenging economic times

That's interesting coming from an elected representative who 1) seconded a motion by former councilman Dom Betro (another elected official with a short memory on this action) to limit the pulling of items from the consent calendar (where the bulk of the monies are spent) to city officials and staff and 2) helped Priamos set the precedent with the very first ethics complaint ever filed to divert it away from the established process.

But if Adams is really serious about this, ahem pledge, he could boldly take it one step further and say that he's leading the charge to rescind the motion that he seconded back then and restore the consent calendar back to the people who finance the expenditures crammed on it. That of course won't happen with some excuse attached because of all the campaign promises ever made by successful candidates, the one to "re-examine that vote" is probably the one most forgotten after election. Not one single candidate who ever included that in their platform or promises ever actually followed through with it. And that's not likely to ever change until it becomes clear to the city residents that the decisions which led to the "financial ruin" that Adams said Riverside avoided (without saying it was through a handy bailout by Public Utilities) were firmly made on the backs of the consent calendars.

Sorry but Adams receives a "needs improvement" score in this category but perhaps if he wins reelection, he can put some more effort into this critical area (which he rightly points out as such) next term.

The above has been a review of the incumbent Adams's platform, promises and other interesting factoids in his campaign. Coming up will be a blog posting addressing those of his challenger, Brandriff's. Rest assured, they will be looked at with the same cynical, pragmatic eye because it's really hard to even look at the newcomers to the process in any different way because it's all the same party once they reach the dais anyway.

But Brandriff's position and stance will be different because he's not an incumbent, he didn't "do" anything positive or negative on the city council because he didn't serve on it. But even as a newcomer, he's faced with the burden of okay, so what will you do when you get elected that is all that much different or will make a difference especially when the city dives headlong into its financial crisis in June 2012? Will you truly be a different voice or more of the same, go along, to get along crowd whose decision making will come to a head next year?

Adams has been endorsed by other publications including the Truth Publication. This blog doesn't despite what some think endorse political candidates because it really doesn't matter what I think about politicians, it's up to individual voters to research those running in their wards, to go to forums and yes, to read campaign literature provided online but with a healthy grain of salt. Most important, register to vote and VOTE! But indeed the "facts" do speak for themselves, as does Adams' portfolio including actions he actively chose to take to limit public participation and to restrict language in the same ethics code he "wrote". Just like it states that he had issues where he was stronger and more effective as an elected representative like transportation and graffiti abatement for example. But the restrictions are all on the public record, all accessible to the public and the "truth" that no one wants to cover, be it the Press Enterprise or anyone else. Candidate and former Councilman Dom Betro even claimed he was against the move to pull items off the consent calendar during his campaign when he in fact proposed the motion to do just that while in office. The minute record proving that was posted on this site during the election.

On the other hand, I can also say that I'm not taking any campaign money through expenditures to the tune of over $1,000 (according to campaign statements) statements either to advertise for incumbents. Adams didn't pay me a dime for anything. Neither did Brandriff. It's much more useful to focus on their actions as elected leaders or whether they're even up to the task than to pick one over the other and this blog wouldn't take or accept money for any purpose from candidates incumbents or otherwise because there's a fine line between advertising for candidates and endorsing them especially when it's mostly the endorsed candidates who get the advertising.

I don't hang around politicians and pal around with them or socialize with them. In fact most of them probably think I'm a nuisance which they're entitled to think particularly since some of them don't like criticism or even a close look being taken of their voting actions at all. It's good because when you write about politics and those who practice it, it's good to maintain that distance from them. There's enough publications and media out there that don't look more closely at these "portfolios".

I'll leave it to other publications including the Press Enterprise (which implemented changes on its site to restrict comments on mainly Riverside-based articles) and The Truth which does paid advertising mainly for incumbents to involve themselves in the election process because they're better at it. The articles on the incumbent candidates published were very well written and impressively laid out but it would have been nice to see the challengers afforded similar care and treatment because they were well done. But endorsements are a sticky affair especially when finances are involved in the media. I'd rather just focus on the issues.

As far as city employees, the city has a very professional and talented workforce at most every level and the work that's done on less and less impresses me greatly. They're concerned and courteous when you have concerns and questions and they often work even when many people are asleep or in bad weather. Personally I think they deserve a monument because many of them have to fill in for positions vacated years ago, most are working on expired contracts and reporting problems in City Hall exacts a very high cost on them.

I don't get the red carpet treatment by City Hall when looking into issues but having worked in alternative media for over 10 years, you learn to try your best anyway and I don't expect it certainly not on the more difficult issues covered. City Hall isn't going to hand you the golden key on the "truth that everyone else hides". But these issues impact city residents too as well as the city's workforce. A Raychelle Sterling, Sean Gill, Darryl Hurt, Tim Bacon and others for example affects us all in many different ways as surely as it impacts those who find out that the "truth" can have a very high cost indeed.

And the biggest test is in the next few months when the bigger promissory notes on Riverside Renaissance come due for payment.

I will just advertise that people in Ward Seven need to go out and exercise their hard-won right in a democratic republic to vote for their elected representative. Don't sit this one or stay at home. VOTE!

The Forgotten Step Child of the Renaissance

(hint: there's two, a certain park near the downtown area is the other)

[Alas, amid the hustle and bustle of hotel construction and theater ownership downtown, the public library continues to languish]

The city owns a theater that's questionably managed and clearly operating in the red and in a few years, it will likely own its very own hotel if it has to take it as collateral on the massive loans it's giving its developers on the "Obama" bonds taken out on it.

But what about the downtown library? It used to be micromanaged by the "little man in the blue shirt" to the point of shelving books but while the city stumps for the continuation of Measure C funding (by the voters) even though that initiative was meant as a temporary measure (and sorely needs a forensic audit of its expenditures the past five years), Hudson left town before expounding on how his promises to ensure its renovation or reconstruction or whatever weren't to be.

As you can see, even the sign's missing letters and the inside, was spruced up a bit during the spring which happened to coincide with an election cycle but what of its future? The city residents weren't asked if we wanted our cities' monies to be spent getting into the theater ownership business, the soon to be hotel ownership business or the property management business. The city residents weren't asked if they wanted to buy a theater or assume ownership of a hotel if it fails or even to micromanage property leased by businesses downtown. But they have expressed concerns about the library that won't be paid for by a theater that's in the red or a hotel that is entering into a high-risk market.

Tequesquite Park which was the key campaign issue in the summer of 2007 for the two finalists in that election process has had most of its resident-generated plans for improvements sidelined because the city lacks the funds to do them. In the wake of the city government crowing about how it's not facing financial deficits like other cities, but the parks and libraries come in a distant second or third to the city buying theaters and doing land switcheroos so that one developer can satisfy his lease revenue generated payments on $37.5 million of bonds issued on an office building still under construction.

Finance Committee Meets Again

Nancy Hart: Gregory Priamos hired for his "expertise"

[The Finance Committee meets to grapple over issues such as how to deal with delinquent parking tickets and developer fees]

The Finance Committee held another meeting to discuss everything from developer fees (opposed by the Greater Chamber of Commerce) and how to collect several million dollars on delinquent parking tickets. A lot of talk about how to deal with these law breakers and yes, that should be addressed but what about addressing some questionable behavior by themselves including misuse of the city's sewer fund for "interfund loans"? Or alleged misuse of the police department's asset forfeiture fund for expenditures not even involving the police department? Hundreds of thousands paid out in contracts to a former part-time employee who was married to a department head?

The tip of the iceberg, some have said. But what was most interesting about this Finance Committee meeting was when it came to the part where public comment was taken on non-agendized items including the transfer of 189 properties from the RDA to the city. All of this was done en masse using a process that was set up to discourage that practice. Each property fell under the purview of the RDA for different reasons and under different circumstances including the former Swiss Inn on Main and Third Street in the downtown area. That property alone should had its transfer hashed out in a public hearing by itself. But the transfer does what the state warned wasn't to be done, moving property out of the RDA to the city simply to keep assets under the RDA from the state. Even though they were placed there in a different process with full knowledge that they would be state assets, in fact the city now leases space in buildings it had owned including at least two fire stations, two libraries and one downtown public utilities building.

But Chair Councilwoman Nancy Hart got huffy when asked whether it was the right thing to do, was because their legal counsel told them to and she said she'd believe the city attorney over the public which is the council's right but their counsel has made some questionable legal decisions that have too often placed the city's residents on the wrong sides of lawsuits filed against Riverside that have been settled. These include labor lawsuits alleging discrimination and retaliation along with others filed and later settled, so many were "resolved" this way that the city lost its insurance carrier and became "self-insured", a fancy term that simply means the city residents pay for the litigation and payouts.

[Why did City Attorney Gregory Priamos put the city's liability at risk by firing one of his own whistle blowing employees?]

City Attorney Gregory Priamos has advised the city council on what to do with many of these lawsuits as has outside legal counsel which has been contracted (except for Best, Best and Krieger which apparently doesn't use written contracts with the city except...once with its "independent" review of the Russ Leach DUI incident). He also made the decision to fire one of his deputy city attorneys Raychelle Sterling after it became known that she came forward alleging violations of city practices inside at least two city departments. What could be more legally risky for city residents than openly firing a whistle blowing employee, except perhaps keeping Sterling employed given that she had voiced concerns about how the city conducted its business? It must be really annoying to have an employee who actually does that in your office and it's hardly the first time that the city's canned or put on "leave" employees who speak out, raise concerns or even ask questions (and received "vacations" or "beach days" soon after).

Massive civil liability for city residents courtesy of City Hall and Priamos especially if Sterling sues. The city including Priamos will of course call it frivolous and trivial and will claim to fight it vigorously and they will pencil whip her and her attorney for a while with a forest of trees worth of paperwork but in the end, the same legal counsel will be advising the city council and mayor behind closed doors to settle the case's needed to save money incurred by litigation costs. This really isn't an issue at all unless the city believes it would lose the case of trial because if the city wins or if the plaintiff wins a jury award lower than any settlement offer, the city can then turn around and have all its litigation expenses paid for by that plaintiff. It certainly threatens via writing to do this to those who sue it often enough and it wouldn't mislead them right?

Anyway, it's pay now for the lawsuit but since the city's in the right, it'd get all that money and then some back later on. But that's not likely what's happening, the city's more likely settling all these labor lawsuits because it knows it would lose at trial.

And there are two words that probably govern these decisions more than any other.

Roger Sutton.

You know the police officer whose racism lawsuit went to trial and resulted in a $1.64 million jury's verdict not including attorney costs.

So no, city residents, you're not paying these settlements because the city's so sure it'd win and just doesn't want to go there. You're likely paying out because the city knows almost from day one that it'd most likely lose. Otherwise, there'd be no real compelling reason to settle these lawsuits. Diaz, if you are reading this, this is the answer to your very good question you raised earlier on in your tenure about why the city doesn't fight more inhouse lawsuits. And it was a question that did need to be raised but the real answer to it, is one you're not going to like. The solution, is to run your city department without making it a "team" sport. That would be an important step to take to reduce inhouse civil litigation or at least the financial costs incurred by the city.

But it's perplexing after the Sterling matter came to light that the city council once again appears in lockstep in terms of saying there's no problem with that when they mention anything at all.

Where's Greer?

[A rare public sighting of Riverside Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer, the subject of comments and emails from readers about why he's so rarely seen in public during the past six months.]

One of the unsolved mysteries that I'm receiving inquiries about is what's happened to the police department's deputy chief of field operations and investigations Jeffrey Greer who was seen in public a lot during his first six months but not so much lately. Apparently he's not seen much internally either. The first African-American deputy chief in the city's history and he's invisible.

In contrast to his predecessor, Pete Esquivel who was seen much more than the former or even Acting Chief John DeLaRosa for example. Some say he's lying low amid some pyrotechnics involving two other members of Chief Sergio Diaz' cabinet while serving out his three-year "at will" contract.

Greer did well at public meetings, listening attentively to what people including community members had to say and offering his input. But people haven't seen him lately. They have seen Asst. Chief Chris Vicino at meetings often with Diaz who does almost all the talking. Those two men were at a recent awards ceremony involving Officer Gregory Matthews at City Hall which was well attended including by the traffic officers.

But things have been quieter with him than with Vicino and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely which apparently resulted in Vicino having the locks changed on his office door which is in close proximity to that of Blakely's. Vicino's role in implementing changes in the area of administration including that of the Internal Affairs Division investigation and review process including for disciplinary measures had allegedly caused friction with Blakely. Apparently, the chain of command for that process went through Vicino and Greer via the divisional captains and not Blakely as in the past. But if Vicino and Blakely are at a public meeting and they'll usually be on opposite sides of the room from each other.

[Riverside Police Officer Gregory Matthews receives an award at a recent city council meeting]

Officer Gregory Matthews received his award from the City Council and posed for pictures with the traffic division outside afterward. They do a lot of work in one of the most challenging areas of the city's operations but what will happen next June when the city's facing mandatory payments on bonds issued which will mostly be interest payments? How will that impact the city's largest expenditure in its general fund which is public safety including the police departments?

The unions of both departments should be researching the budget now if they aren't already. Otherwise they are in for some rude surprises at the end of the fiscal year.

Public Meetings

Monday, Sept. 19 at 10am, The Public Safety Committee will be meeting to discuss this packed agenda including whether or not to grant another ambulance company a contract to do Basic Life Support services in Riverside.

It's not going to happen. The city actually wrote an ordiance/resolution to ensure that American Medical Response (which donates money into most of their campaigns from its parent corporation in Colorado) has a monopoly on BLS services.

Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 1:30pm, the city council will be meeting to interview candidates for the Ward Four position on the Community Police Review Commission.

Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 3pm and 6:30pm, the Riverside City Council will be meeting to discuss this agenda at its meeting.

At 7pm, a public hearing will be held on the annual review of the code of ethics and complaint process which didn't arouse much discussion when it was first looked at in Governmental Affairs the previous week.

And of course more Redevelopment Agency shuffling.

What is soil liquification?

Vocabulary Term of the Day:

Tortious Interference

Tortious interference, also known as intentional interference with contractual relations, in the common law of tort, occurs when a person intentionally damages the plaintiff's contractual or other business relationships.

Say when Party A and Party B are in a legal contractual agreement like a lease and Party C persuades Party A to say, breach or violate the contractual lease with a property owner and management?

Did the city move Public Utilities to some high-priced real estate office space to avoid a costly lawsuit?

And if the city runs out of money to pay for the high-priced lease space (like they did with other city divisions that were in leased space), where will Utilities go?

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