Five before Midnight

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


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Will Heads Roll in City Hall Amid the Mayor's Race?

UPDATE: Riverside Oversight Board to hold first meeting this week on Thursday, March 15 at 1pm to discuss this agenda.

The board membership consists of the following people:

Mayor Ron Loveridge of Riverside

Robyn DeHoog, Development employee, Riverside

John Tavaglione Board of Supervisors, Riverside County

Larry Paulson, Riverside County

Charles Krieger Riverside County Flood Control

Mike Fine Riverside Office of Education Chancellor of Community Colleges

Fine was the first member appointed on Jan. 30 while the two mayors were appointed on Feb. 9 and everyone else on Feb. 28. This Board was set up to address all the obligations resulting from the dissolution of the city's Redevelopment Agency. This meeting is open to the public and includes public comment.

Flashing Police Lights on Motor Vehicles in Riverside? City Attorney Gregory Priamos responds.

[Denied ever equipping his city issued vehicle with any emergency lighting]

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

As for city officials outside of the police department using such lights, Priamos said, he doesn’t have them on his car.

“It was a myth that started some time ago with the former city manager and former assistant city manager,” Priamos said. In 2007 and 2008, they and five other city officials had “cold plates,” untraceable tags that are supposed to be reserved only for law-enforcement vehicles, on their cars.

“They never had emergency red and blue lights,” Priamos said.

Riverside Police Department's new
Strategic Plan. In the wake of an interesting ripple in the Riverside Police Administrators' Association elections...

And will a charity foundation need to be set up by the residents of River City to pay for the relocation of the vitally important emergency dispatch center?

[So much activity, only four walls to contain it]

Hopefully this guy's on retainer

And Coming Soon: The next installment of the ongoing serial, It's a Mad, Mad World at Orange Street Station. In this next episode, Chief Sergio Diaz adds to his "naughty" list as he's unveiling the Strategic Plan while the dispatch unit still remains in limbo and there's still so much to pack up at the office before the eviction date.

First the city won't talk about it now official state State Controller John Chiang's two month audit of state bonds is "routine".

But why did the Press Enterprise put information about This complaint filed by a former deputy city attorney in the 14th paragraph?

Does this behavior involving RDA funding look familiar? This article about Montebello created an incredible sense of deja vu.








More labor Unrest at the County from one of CEO Brad Hudson's "reorganizations".


The Finance Division's management vacates its offices to go attend an unspecified conference until Monday March 5.

In the Mayor's Walkable City,

Damned if you do; Damned if you don't

[One of two construction projects that blocks pedestrian access on the south side of University Avenue at Lime]

[The construction project that blocks pedestrian access on the north side of University near Lime and on the other side, the sidewalk leads straight into the construction site for Citrus Towers]


Guess Who's Coming to City Hall (but not for dinner)?

[These three men huddled with City Manager Scott Barber after the city council meeting, suddenly in a rush to discuss city business after the grueling three hour session]

Guess Who's Coming to Riverside City Hall Next Month? State Controller John Chiang is sending a team of auditors to occupy City Hall to check the books. when this announcement was made at the city council meeting, city council members giggled, some sighed but at the end of the meeting, Mayor Ron Loveridge, Councilman Steve Adams rushed to speak with City Attorney Gregory Priamos and City Manager Scott Barber. What could be so pressing that they all needed to talk to "staff" at once?

Coming Up...The Price of Doing Business (as usual) in River City

Hundreds of people were initially expected to take park in the peace march from Bordwell Park to Patterson Park in the Eastside in response to the fatal shooting of Larenz Simmons, 14. But after NPC East Area Commander Andy Flores cautioned against the march in the wake of a non-fatal shooting on Chicago and University yesterday, many stayed away. That it might not too unsafe to march in the heart of the Eastside's Patterson Park.

Still about 100 people showed up or joined the march to Patterson park where civic leaders including Mayor Ron Loveridge, Councilman Andrew Melendrez and Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster showed up to provide support.

Simmons was shot at as he fled two allegedly Latino men in or near a car on Georgia Street near Kansas and was hit by one gunshot to the head among the half dozen fired. He was hospitalized in critical condition on life support allegedly so that his organs can be donated.

Also unconfirmed reports of police activity at Riverside Poly High School yesterday. His family will be posting information on a trust that will be set up to help pay for funeral costs.

"What do you have to do, keep him inside the house because he's Black?" ---One marcher about her son

We need to come together for change. We all bleed the same blood and it’s red. This has to stop.

---Sonia Stewart-Watson, Simmons' aunt

[Mayoral Candidate Ed Adkison hits the Friday Morning Club on the candidate trail]

Riverside needs more jobs, more business friendly permit practices

Mayor's office needs less spending money, staffing but more power over budgetary spending The contracts given by the city to a former police chief's ex-wife might have shown "nepotism" And what was with that "quadruple flip" involving the Citrus Tower, Best, Best and Krieger, Public Utilities and the police station downtown?

To be continued...

The following blog posting is not endorsed by either the City of Riverside or the Riverside Police Department. No one who's "anyone" in Riverside reads this blog


Their spouses do.

Never a Dull Moment at the "Hall of Debt" as Turbulence Grows...after the "theft" of Redevelopment by "black hatted" Governor Jerry Brown
while the eight self-appointed white knights are left to create an exit strategy

[The Riverside Public Information Department films Councilman (and mayoral candidate) Mike Gardner in front of City Hall]

Who will inherit the Crown as King of Riverside?

[An adage by a very old politician near City Hall that wasn't well liked by the previous city manager]

I ran into Aurora Chavez who told me of her intent to enter into the current mayoral race and she's the latest candidate to declare intent to run in what's turning out to be a rather interesting crop of mayoral candidates. Chavez has issued her campaign paperwork, one of three candidates so far to do so since the filing date officially opened.

You've got politicians needing to remember what it's like to be normal folks and normal folks figuring out how to navigate a system ruled by politicians and that's a win-win situation for those who love to view candidate debates before casting votes. Hopefully, there will be at least one mayoral debate that's truly open to public attendance and doesn't cost major bucks to access or require membership in one of the city's "insider" organizations like the Greater Chambers of Commerce or Riverside Downtown Partnership (which surprise, surprise just elected a Best, Best and Krieger attorney on its board) for example. I was thinking there were just too many past and current politicians running and it's nice to see the more ordinary folks get involved from Dvonne Pitruzzello to Peter Benavidez to Bryan D. Pelkowski and now Chavez. Now it's time to hear everyone get together and discuss and debate the issues facing this city.

The mayoral seat pays more than the more powerful city council positions and has a larger staff that's able to enjoy merit increases even as employees are laid off in other city departments or don't have increases in pay or benefits including public safety employees. It's deliberately left weak under the current city council/city manager system since the 1920s where the city elected a Ku Klux Klan member as mayor who then created a huge financial scandal at the same time the then police chief was busted for public intoxication.

No I didn't make that up. A city resident who researches the history related that tale at an early Charter Review Committee meeting. But you'd think they were giving out the keys to the Holy Grail considering the number of current political officials who's jumped on board the mayoral train while still holding city council seats. In fact, two members of the dais club declared candidacy not long after their reelections to city council, including one who told the Press Enterprise Editorial Board, no he would not run for mayor.

But something about the siren call every four years (give or take an abbreviated mayoral cycle) and you have a group of people already on the dais showing up announcing their candidacy because it's the mandate or will of the people because of electoral victories.

Well not exactly. Actually all these voters thought they were electing or reelecting city councilmen to represent them at City Hall not simply voting for them to focus on that office for a year or two before campaigning for a "higher" seat.

But anyway there are three council members running for the seat.

[Councilman Mike Gardner (l.) after disembarking from his boat]

[Councilman Andrew Melendrez gets ready to set sail]

Councilman Rusty Bailey back in earlier times

And of course one former councilman who declined to run for reelection during 2007 for his seat but has reappeared on the political canvas to run for mayor.

[Former Councilman Ed Adkison (r.) saying goodbye to an outgoing Brad Hudson at his rooftop soiree]

An ex-city council member, Ed Adkison is also running even as the Jurupa Extension project came back for discussion not to mention the rebirth of that rather interesting land swap involving contaminated properties, golf courses and Friends of the Airport coming back in a manner of speaking on the city council agenda as part of the Jurupa Extension project.

Hopefully more will jump into the election, the more the merrier! And let the debates begin!

Resources so far for the Mayoral election with more to be added:

Ed Adkison for Mayor

Mike for Mayor (Facebook)

Andrew Melendrez for Mayor (Facebook)

Rusty Bailey for Mayor

Michael Williams Company (political fundraising event site)

City Clerk Twitters (including updates on election candidates filings)

Dan Bernstein to be Flogged at City Hall

(Only figuratively speaking so far)

[The Old Guard at City Hall is most displeased with Mr. Bernstein]

This wasn't long after Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein acted like a naughty boy with this rift on the Riverside Renaissance and the ridiculous revisionist history already associated with this era that cost the city over $2.1 billion with at least 60% of that funding borrowed or bonded.

Yes, some projects that improved the city infrastructure were needed but others involving questionable and high-risk projects for private developers should never had been part of the Renaissance. They certainly haven't done anything to help pay for it when they were built or purchased for renovation.

I sat in the interviews for the city's Board and Commission interviews with the city council and mayor and watched them rip this column apart. Mayor Ron Loveridge called it "the worst column ever" and "mean spirited" bemoaning Bernstein's lack of ability to "connect the dots" and understand what happened when Redevelopment Agencies went away. Councilman and mayoral candidate, Mike Gardner called it "slanted" and Councilman Steve Adams just said what else was new when it came to Bernstein targeting him for some criticism. Bernstein had brought up Adams' peculiar habit of walking out during public comment either in general or on particular agenda items which he did during discussion of the future of the downtown city library.

[Councilman Steve Adams empty chair, which tells you it's public comment time]

It might not put me on the blogroll at City Hall's seventh floor to say this nor will it get me invited to many campaign fundraisers either. But I agreed with Bernstein's column and considered it one of his bravest in recent years. Oops, did I just get removed from the invite list for the mayoral ball or the Fox Theater Dancing with the Stars gala for saying that? But then why hang out with a bunch of politicians and their monied supporters at some party while Rome burns?

Even if it's doing a slow burn.

The city council continued to grumble a bit over Bernstein's fiery column at the last city council meeting and so have their supporters some who say that Bernstein's just against redevelopment because his bosses who publish the struggling publication are against it in their editorial board. Ergo it's just biased propaganda against the government or something like that. This might indeed be completely accurate and the case, that Bernstein's nothing but a hired hack, a mouthpiece for his anti-redevelopment bosses.

Except for one thing. The Press Enterprise is a beneficiary of Redevelopment and thanks in part to it, got a brand new office building (that's apparently mostly empty but that's another story). It's a beneficiary in other ways through its complicated relationship with City Hall and its relationship with Redevelopment Agencies is much more complicated than suggested in its editorials which mostly question its implementation not the original intent of their creation and existence.

There's an important difference between that stance and that the powers that be there hate redevelopment period. That was clearly indicated by an interview that publisher, Ron Redford when he was interviewed by the mayor and city council as part of the Charter Review Committee process but was soundly rejected. He didn't take a hard stance against redevelopment or even redevelopment agencies but questioned and softly criticized the implementation of these agencies not just by Riverside but other cities as well. Criticism only equates opposition to redevelopment to those who were the strongest supporters of Redevelopment Agencies.

With a global economy struggling to crawl out of a recession and both the federal and state counties taking every dime they can get to attempt to reduce their huge deficits, the county and cities are simply on the bottom of the food chain. But when it comes to the issue of Redevelopment Agencies, the cities and counties were already in deep trouble long before that evil dastardly Governor Jerry Brown even thought of undoing redevelopment agencies in an attempt to solve the state's budget problems. Riverside was already carrying over $1 billion in debt just from the RDA.

The state created these Agencies and thus can decide their fate even if that's dissolution. The State Supreme Court backed the state's power to do it as it should. It didn't completely support the state's powers over the Agencies, it also compromised by supporting the local cities and counties' powers to avoid regulation of certain monies by the state. Also a balanced and sound ruling on the part of the state's highest court. It didn't favor one party against the others, it was the cities and counties that doomed Redevelopment Agencies through their unwillingness to compromise and take an all or nothing approach when they filed their lawsuits in response to two different and partly contradictory bills put out by the state's legislative houses.

California Supreme Court's page on the Redevelopment Agency case.

It's very disingenuous of anyone including elected officials to assume that the Press Enterprise is the only one with a slanted view of Redevelopment Agencies and not wonder the same about the city government which has benefited much more from the existence of Redevelopment Agencies than any person or entity. After all, when signs go up, it's their names that are part of the marquees even if all they did was cast a vote or two on a particular project, rather than the names of those who actually physically brought it together and built it. Private developers who benefited from their relationships with RDAs then turned around and donated to political campaigns of those on the dais at the time their deals went through.

But face it, if Riverside the city had been using the Redevelopment Agency in an appropriate manner, then there wouldn't have been such mad scrambling in the past year to transfer funds, loans and properties back and forth between the city, the RDA and back again not to mention all the inter-fund hopping. that's happening so fast and furious in the past year, it'll make your head spin. Loans to buy properties on Market Street starting with workman's compensation funds then utility funds, then short-term sewer fund loans, then longer termed sewer fund loans. Fire stations and libraries put up for collateral as Riverside pays off the bonds instead of the developer on the Hyatt Hotel. About 149 properties being rushed from the RDA's ownership to the city in anticipation of the RDA deadline date, July 1, 2011. Of course as that deadline approached, the movement of at least money started going from the city back to the RDA which had possessed it only months earlier. Money tied up in loans otherwise known as "unenforceable obligations" might be gone for good including $20 million in loans from the city's sewer fund.

The dilapidated downtown library watches as its $64 million rehaul becomes a $19 million renovation job which is discussed and applauded at city council without anyone realizing that one facet of it remained undiscussed. That being how would the city pay for it. The answer being of course that the city won't, the city residents will through another ballot initiative involving another parcel tax. But who wants to break that news during a mayoral election that probably will last until November?

But how can the city fork over $19 million when it hasn't even come up with the funds to relocate and renovate its emergency dispatch unit (which somehow wound up as an RDA project even though it's not covered by the criteria) which will face losing its current spot when the lease on Orange Street Station expires on Dec. 31, 2012 instead of in 2017. Yes, the unit definitely has to move out of that crumbling building but it has to have the funds to have its new home at Magnolia Police Center renovated to enable it to serve its purpose. It's great to see Police Chief Sergio Diaz much more enthused about relocating the dispatch center out of Orange Street than he appeared to be at a public forum at Orange Terrace Community Center in the autumn of 2010. A former dispatcher addressed the issue and was treated rather dismissively by Diaz as a complainer saying we're not moving the unit into "a new red bricked building."

So it appears that after being flush for years and "balancing its budget" last year (albeit thanks to a hefty and timely transfer from the city's public utilities monies), the city's running a bit dry. If you can't come up with a measly million bucks and change to fund an emergency dispatch center, then your coffers are in trouble. Call the currently in limbo dispatch center the canary in the mine in this whole financial quagmire. It's not an optional or luxury budget item, but a necessary one so where's the cash?

Not one person in City Hall on the dais or in the finance department including its head, Paul Sundeen can answer the question of how it's going to be funded.

Still, it's difficult to take anything at face value from the dais because most of the city council members seemed ill-prepared to discuss anything of substance on the RDAs except that they gotta have them. And they create jobs only if they did that, why is Riverside reporting none of these jobs to Sacramento in its annual reports on its RDA? Pretty sad state considering that the city council members get paid an additional stipend per meeting to act as a state agency while bringing their own city or ward oriented interests into the meeting.

But the dissolution of Redevelopment Agencies have provided City Hall with a convenient scapegoat to blame for its financial problems which for the large part are of its own making. They can collectively point the finger at Brown and the evil state of California and blame it for its own poor decision making and lack of fundamental ability when creating Riverside Renaissance that periods of plenty are often followed by periods of famine. Booms are followed by busts, what goes up comes down and so forth. The recession and the collapse of both the housing market and the entire new construction industry (so vital, too much so in fact to the region) led to the end of the Renaissance just as a few spoilsports at its unveiling party at the Municipal Auditorium had predicted.

It's the city council during the past decade and Mayor Ron Loveridge who brought a whole wall of debt on the city's finances that is beginning to show itself. The layoffs have taken place in the sewer division and projects are being abandoned even if not related to the RDA dissolution. Employee unions are being told that the financial state of the city's worse than being presented and to agree to open up pension negotiations in 2013 if the city's financial situation worsens. It seems like some folks at City Hall in management positions do know all too well what the future likely holds.

Why is that? Because the hundreds of millions in bond payments come up due starting in 2012 and going into 2013.

Latest update of the Enforceable Obligation Payment Schedule. Nearly $140 million of the total $1.7 billion tied to the dissolution of the RDA are coming up due. Pretty sobering even though it states that there is no fiscal obligation associated with the report, at least that part of it's still free. The tragic part of it is if the city hadn't done exactly what was criticized in RDAs which was overextend itself in bonds and debts, this payment schedule wouldn't be nearly as formidable. This isn't the big bad state robbing Riverside, this is Riverside borrowing against its own future and leaving the city residents including those in future generations to be saddled with this enormous debt. The city has a general fund that won't be seeing as much property and sales tax revenue. It has an alleged $40 million reserve and about $350,000,000 money in its investment portfolio with Merill Lynch.

As you can see, not much movement of the money so far but then the RDAs spent part of the fiscal year being "stayed" by the state courts.

The above schedule is for this fiscal year which still leaves 2013 which will see more of the same. This is not all the city's debt just its RDA enforceable obligation debt.

City Hall needs to stop blaming all its financial woes on the state since it's responsible for most of them due in large part from the elected leadership's decision to opt out of the financial accountability part of their job. Look at the fuss that arose just to get something on the ballot that would allow the city's voters to decide whether or not the internal auditor should report to the city council. Interestingly the two city council members most vehemently opposed to that initiative were also the most opposed to expanding the city's ethics code. Not a coincidence as it turns out.

The city government made its decision actively or through passive means to hand off its job as financial overseers, a form of checks and balance off to "staff" and now we're all paying for it. They and their supporters will continue to point fingers at and blame the state while the city's residents likely will start seeing higher utility bills sooner rather than later.

Brad Hudson Continues His Spending Spree:

This Time It's Sound Proofing Toys

Meanwhile up in Sacramento County CEO Brad Hudson is continuing to expand his new fan base by purchasing sound masking gear to not be overheard while the Sacramento Bee declares that he needs a reality check. Tell those of us in Riverside who didn't ride his gravy train what we don't know.

But here's this poll on whether or not Hudson's blown his allowance. Hopefully the county's not foolish to give him one that's tens of millions of dollars of city funds. But his tenure there's still young.

[Brad just went out and bought himself some sound proofing equipment charging it to his nearly broke county]

[Heir apparent, but without as much money to play with as Brad what's a city manager in River City to do?]

In the meantime, current city manager, Scott Barber who allegedly was Hudson's designated heir to the spot has to figure out how to scrape up funding to pay the city's bills. What's noticeable is what's not getting done. Street lights burn out (or have wiring ripped up to sell for scrap) sometimes darkening a block or longer and streets erode even as aging pipes beneath them bubble to the surface creating new streams in their urban environments. Sewage smells permeate the air in several spots including by a major park.

The city reinvents itself nearly on a weekly basis and subsidizes both developers and restaurant owners to get them to do business here and then leaves the quagmire of trying to set up shop here for mere mortals to struggle to navigate through. But what it doesn't realize is that if you commit yourself to your infrastructure, from public safety to streets, to parks and libraries and partner successfully with school districts and neighborhood organizations, it helps create cities that attract people including business owners just because it becomes known as a great place to do business and relocate them.

But Riverside just doesn't do it that way. It's subsidized developers, paid off their bonds, provided collateral for them using city owned buildings and even in at least one case paid for a developer's demolition fees. It's prioritized public works projects based on the whims of elected officials running for election (using "change orders" (read blank checks) on prior projects for funding) and sometimes has circumvented very important steps of the process. But Public Works has always seemed to be one of the most precarious of city departments to be employed in going way back and continuing today. From Code Enforcement employees being bullied and exiled to tin shacks storing toxic chemicals in the corporate yard to punishing whistle blowers on questionable projects. And a clearly stressed out Public Works Director Tom Boyd (from some questions at the podium) at the last city council meeting as his boss' bosses allowed him to pick and choose which of the public's many questions about his department he wanted to answer. Only he didn't want to answer most of the questions on the sewer system.

Let alone the sewer bonds or sewer fund.

But back to infrastructure issues, here are some typical examples of problems cropping up in the city to be addressed, nothing extraordinary and will they be within an average time frame or even at all?

[Riverside Public Works Director Tom Boyd chilling with Senator Barbara Boxer]

Let's look at Central Avenue. The part of the street that joins Canyon Crest up to the 215 freeway. Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, an amazing natural park that's seen its own attempts to usurp its open space is bordering an area that is inundated with sewage odors due to venting from an aging sewer line. That renders about 100 feet of it nearly unnavigable unless you cover your nose. More recently, rancid smelling water has begun to bubble out of the street both near the east entrance of the park and near the central divider.

During Riverside Renaissance, some streets were fixed for aesthetic reasons, i.e. land scaping and then ripped up again to repair infrastructure like plumbing and sewer lines underneath them.

[This sewer or bad smelling water leak appeared on Central near Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and in several other sections of the street. Notice all the patchwork done on where the leak's bubbling]

What's interesting about this section of Central isn't just the leaks which basically come from either water or sewage seeking out means to egress to the surface through cracked areas, but how much patchwork has been done. Just in the area of this leak there were three separate patch jobs, the most recent being in October 2011. Large sections of the street almost look like they were patched up or replaced and some of the cracked areas look newer than others.

311 and Riverside Public Utilities were notified of this leak on Feb. 22. In past years, the city responded to leaking pipes within 1-2 days.

Another aspect of the same area of the city are the burned out or nonfunctional street lights. Sometimes entire block long stretches or longer no longer have working lights and they remain this way for some time with no visible construction taking place that might require power to be cut off for a duration.

This stretch is going up the hill on Chicago above Andulka Park. About six lights were not working at that time. Some lights are taken out of service because thieves break into them and rip out live wires for the metal to sell at scrap markets. If a light's been broken this way, rewiring the cables can take at least a week.

Sometimes it can take up to nine months for a street light to be replaced but it has also been done in less than a week.

[What's missing in this photo are working street lights. On this section of Chicago near Rustin, about six of them were not working.]

When I tried to send an email on the problem with the leaking street, I tried to access Smart Riverside near City Hall. Nothing happened when I tried to load a few pages and I wasn't too surprised because alert users notified me of problems downtown. In contrast, it worked quite well in the neighboring RCC area with good connectivity.

Further testing in the downtown area inside and around City Hall showed that while the Access Points are powered and broadcasting, there's no viable internet connectivity. Ping testing showed that the assigned IP4 address pings clearly but results were negative (with 100% packet loss) for the DHCP server as well as the network's two domain servers. It connects with the computer, goes to limited connectivity for a while (indicating problems with the server assigning an IP address even though the server's broadcasting its appropriate SSID) and then goes to a strong signal and connectivity only without the connectivity.

This is a fatal error for the network and indicates one or more antennae on access points that are not working or have gone offline. Since the area impacted is at least four square blocks thus involving at least eight access points, it likely indicates an issue with a larger piece of equipment. The network appears to be functioning quite well around this area.

The city has been notified by different individuals. Under its current contract with the network management, serious outages have to be responded to within 24 hours of notification of problem to vendor. Less serious outages have a 48 hour response time. Repairs can take from a few minutes (resetting offline routers) to 2.5 months (to replace recalled devices in 2010) but usually it's about 1-2 weeks. If you have questions for 311 on Smart Riverside internet, ask for Tina.

[An attempt to load a web site on the city's Smart Riverside location at City Hall in the Council Chambers. A large section of the downtown has been offline for about two weeks.]

The libraries outer building surface has been allowed to deteriorate and its sign was missing a letter as shown here.

[Hopefully now that the downtown library is back on the civic and political radar, this sign has been fixed]

But there's cash or so there was readily available to be loaned out, transferred out or just plain spent on all kinds of projects and that's the city's sewer fund that is comprised of monies paid by city residents billed for commercial and/or residential accounts. Only how much of it's actually spent on anything that actually has to do with sewers? And what are the staffing levels looking like in that division of Public Works lately?

What the Sewer Fund Looks Like

The sewer fee schedules for restaurants came up for vote and in some form, they help some businesses that have been disenfranchised but one question that remains to be answered is the part of the report that ties the fee payments to monies used to expand the Waste Water Treatment Plant which was to be funded at $200 million. And through the purchase of federal bonds geared towards building new sewer infrastructure in our city. About $250 million in those bonds were taken out and so what's happened with that money? And why was this project apparently tens of millions of dollars short?

Then there's the sewer fund which operates like an ATM machine to finance other "projects" by the city through "loans" from it. This has been going on for decades but in the past one, rose to an art form. This sewer fund will receive even greater attention when the city adds new fees on it possibly doubling it fairly soon which will show up on the bills of people who own commercial enterprises and/or live in Riverside. About $20 million in sewer fund monies is tied up in some loans on the RDA side and it remains to be seen whether the city will ever see that money again. The finance department and Sundeen said they intend to vigorously lobby for those funds in front of the Oversight Board.

The Oversight Boards are set up upon dissolution of the RDAS to make decision on remaining assets and obligations. They are selected in different ways including the following:

California State Supreme Court decision on RDAs

Palos Verdes Mayor appoints two to oversight board

Solano Beach accepts applications for oversight board

Desert Hot Springs Blog Ron's Log: City's Oversight Board

California Special District Association

But how much of this sewer fund money will be gone forever if the custodians of the money at City Hall can't get it back? And what of all those $250 million in federal taxable bonds taken out for sewer infrastructure construction?

Ask the people sitting on the dais that question and listen to the crickets chirp away, the tumbleweeds to roll well you get the picture. But the two areas for average city residents to watch are the sewer and the public utilities because of the bills paid into these areas by residents. Watch how much the rates increase in upcoming months and how many fees or taxes are added to bills. Many cities which incurred huge debt who also owned their own utilities raised rates and introduced new fees and taxes to attempt to pay it all off.

Add Riverside to that list, is what is most likely to happen.

Best, Best and Krieger's Paid by Charge Card for $65 million bond "undone" bond deal

[Asst. City Manager of Finance/Chief Financial Officer but no longer City Treasurer Paul Sundeen]

What's Councilman Nancy Hart got to say about the $65 million "undone" bond deal?

As usual, not very much.

Mayoral candidate and citizen auditor Dvonne Pitruzzello presented these documents on how the city paid its law firm of choice Best, Best and Krieger. What's interesting is that if the bond deal was reversed, why was BB&K paid so much money as "bond counsel" because there are rules about this kind of thing including the compensation of attorneys. In the olden days, bond counsel could only be paid if the bonds were sold on the open market which even with the city's version of the transaction didn't take place because it was an inhouse deal once Riverside County balked and ran away from the deal.

The balance on the corporate charge card for BB&K is just over $1 million.

The city's Finance Department underwent some changes including this reorganization which places Finance Director Brent Mason in the city's Treasurer position which used to be held by his boss, Asst. City Manager of Finance/Chief Financial Officer Paul Sundeen. Sundeen said that this action was being taken because he was only a part-time employee and Mason was a full-time employee so it was more appropriate for him to hold the position. The Finance Department also kept Jason Al-Imam as its Controller but if voters approve the "language cleaning" charter ballot initiative detailed in his report his position could be eliminated and he'll be relegated to being a mere finance director.

If Al-Imam's name sounds familiar for those in the financial auditing community, there's a Ken Al-Imam who's an independent auditor and partner for Meyer, Hoffman, McCann the city's last outside auditor on contract.

Riverside Police Department and City Recognize K9 Doctor

[The Riverside Police Department K9 Team at its new training facility including its newest member Officer Eric Hibbard who begins his academy training at Adlerhorst International in March]

Dr. Gezbera, a local veterinarian and his staff were recognized by the city council, mayor and Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz for his outstanding work done in taking care of the police K9 officers. That care extends to after the dogs retire when their medical care is taken care without cost. That saved one officer about $1,000 when his dog needed a medical procedure while living with him in retirement.

The city handles the vet bills for the K9 officers whose are cared for out of stipends given to the K9 officers to pay for care of the dogs which are city-owned property and cost about $15,000 apiece. Most of the dogs are purchased overseas by David Reaver who's also known as the "dog whisperer" for his rapport with future K9 officers. They are usually German Shepards or the smaller but very athletic Belgian Malinois and some are assigned to collateral duty as bomb, narcotic or SWAT dogs.

Many are found at kennels and field trials which are very popular in different European countries though recently the department obtained two K9s who had backgrounds in military service including the British Royal Navy.

Reaver selects dogs with particular officers in mind but sometimes purchases dogs that excel who are then brought to the States and assigned to an officer later as happened with one current K9. The officers work with the dogs and make the decision based on experience and observation if the dog is suitable for police work.

Every police officer selected for this special assignment goes to the Adlerhorst training academy with a dog for five days a week, 8-5 for about six weeks. They also do supplemental training both individually and with the rest of their unit on a regular basis. Most officers who want to be future K9 officers undergo "agitator" training at Adlerhorst and then put on the heavy suits to serve as "chew toys" for the K9s during training and in demonstrations including at the annual air show at Riverside Municipal Airport. It can take several years and up to nine or more for an officer who's interested in being a K9 officer to make it into the unit which traditionally has very low turnover with most K9 officers retiring out with a couple being promoted out.

K9s are often purchased out of what's called the Canine Trust Account which receives donations from assorted businesses including Fritz Ford of Riverside. When received, the money is earmarked specifically for the program and those who remain committed to the K9 unit keep close tabs to ensure that which was critical when some time ago a city management employee allegedly tried to put some of this money in the general fund to mingle it with other funds. But it was due to strict diligence by those trying to make sure it was spent appropriately on an important program that this didn't happen. Apparently that sent a message to the individual responsible and it hasn't been done since.

It's important to honor the K9 teams and those who take care of them but one of the best ways to honor them is to ensure that there's strong fiscal accountability at City Hall to ensure that those who donate to it with the best intentions have those gestures treated with respect.

Adlerhorst International has a site that's filled with information for those interested in the K9 program including law enforcement officers of different agencies. And shopping Adlerhorst is shopping Riverside as it's a local business.

[K9 Officer Carat and his partner, Officer Ray Soto before both retired]

The city also declared K9 Carat "surplus property" and gave him to now retired Officer Ray Soto.

Coming Soon:

It's a Mad, Mad World at Orange Street

(and you can never be sure who's listening)

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