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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Price of Doing Business as Usual in River City

UPDATE: City Manager Scott Barber to create his very own blog! And a camera man accosted by another blogger at City Hall....after he talks about some early morning visit to the finance director....stay tuned....

Joseph "Pepe" William Morris

Jan.7, 1959-March 27, 2012

Son, Father, cousin and brother

Rest in Peace.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

---George Washington

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

---Frederick Douglass

"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

As more employees find themselves moved to the Public Utilities department in recent weeks, along comes another form of city layoffs? And why does the hole that the city's digging for itself keep getting larger?

UPDATE: All of Riverside's wards will undergo redistricting in the next several months. All three proposed maps of redistricting are available in this report

[This remarkable building has housed employees including an auditing team from the State Controller's office and has also borne witness to some interesting confrontations]

Leave town for a week and come back to find that it was quite an eventful week in River City, a bustling metropolis in the midst of the Inland Empire where there's never a dull moment. But apparently there was a bit of ruckus and controversy over decorum at the most recent city council meeting. Police chiefs going up to speakers afterward and calling them "anti-police" and telling them that they don't like them or hate them and people exceeding time limits and criticizing the city government. Legislative aides allegedly calling city residents "idiots" at meetings were federally elected politicians are guests of honor. While city residents are being scolded in various circles close to the power structure of City Hall for their behavior at the dais, there's a deafening silence on the conduct of those that they're addressing and some of the people who work for them.

Oh my!

Perhaps both issues need further examination by anyone that's truly concerned about what's going on inside the halls of government including the city council chambers. If there's decorum at the dais that needs to be addressed, then both sides of it need to be addressed.

First of all, there are a few things that almost everyone at the podium isn't doing at least not yet. They are not calling women that they disagree with or who criticize the city's actions "tramps" or "bitches" in any public forum. And they probably won't be doing so in the future either. They are not posting derogatory, sexist cartoons about them either. So breathe a sigh of relief about that before moving onward.

Well except for the legislative aide who allegedly once turned to two military personnel at a city council meeting and said about one female city resident, "there's the biggest bitch around" in front of witnesses. One of them wrote a letter to the city council member who employed this individual and no action was taken. It's unfortunate that this was allowed to happen because anyone engaging in this type of behavior puts the city in a bad light by doing so because he or she represents the city. But then the latest round of alleged behavior by this same legislative aide led to his boss, one of the city council members making the rounds with quick apologies. That's a start but if you have an employee behaving in this fashion in public or when interfacing with individuals doing business with the city then it's because you have given him permission to do so, tacit or otherwise. If your aide is calling or referring to people as "bitches" or "idiots" that's a reflection on the elected official she or she represents.

So far people aren't calling people on the dais derogatory names like tramps, bitches and the like or making derogatory comments about how they're dressed. No one currently serving on the dais in an elected position is calling anyone tramps, bitches or the like at least not in public. On that level, most people are actually quite civil or at least consistent in their behavior on both sides of the dais. Some people are not on either side of the dais.

But what people who have criticized the city on its actions have learned, is that they'll be subjected to being called derogatory and often sexist names (because for whatever reason most of them are female) and some of the inquiries that I get from readers is whether or not the same thing will happen to them if they speak out by expressing concerns and even criticisms. Will they be called a "bitch" or "tramp" online by someone stumping for the city or will they be harassed as a result? These are hard questions to answer some times. You don't want to discourage individuals from redressing their government but you have to be realistic too and take precautions to prepare for what's not an easy road.

In fact, just bringing up this part of it puts anyone who does so at risk of more harassment and I can start counting down the minutes until I hear from someone that so-and-so has called me or some other woman a bitch, tramp or said I or someone else needs to be gotten rid of. You criticize the city government, that's just what happens to you unfortunately. If you're a woman who does so, then that's another point against you because there's many more derogatory names to call a woman than a man. What can you say, some individuals seem to know most or all of them and then they try to give you lessons in civility.

It just makes no sense that a city that's great would need or want that kind of defense of it in its name. Any defense of something truly positive would be done filled with accounts of all the good things, calling someone a tramp or an idiot would be the last thing on that person's mind.

But apparently Riverside does need that because of what's been brought to light through the use of public documents provided by the city about some of its more questionable operations. Riverside's got many wonderful people in it but it's got many people who are very concerned about what's going on inside it. They worry about the recessions, about budget costs, about crime and the future financing of public safety, and of libraries and parks. Repairs of streets, sidewalks, sewers and utility systems that they can afford to pay to use including many people on limited incomes.

But many of them aren't willing to speak out because they see what happens when you do. I received over 50 calls and emails in response to when a derogatory cartoon appeared of me online and I was called a "tramp". The number one question I'm asked, is how can you speak out when they're are people "defending" the city who do things like that? I get some comments and emails about the behavior of city residents at meetings but many more about whether or not the city council cares about the issues being addressed because for the most part, only silence greets those addressing the dais.

Some of that is due to limitations placed on elected officials under the Brown Act (not to mention the city attorney's rather unique interpretation of it) as to what or how much they can say on an issue raised not on the agenda, but not all of it. There's no state law written yet that prohibits an elected official from saying that they care about an issue or will direct research to be done on it.

But what some of these defenders of the city don't realize that when they defend the city by engaging in this uncivil and even sometimes threatening conduct, they're making the city look bad while they're claiming that it's doing great. By doing this, all these individuals are doing is essentially providing the best argument that maybe the situation with the city's not so great after all. Else why would its supporters need to call people "idiots", "bitches" or "tramps" in the first place? No, if it comes to that then the city's not doing as great as it claims. If it's harassing and retaliating against its employees who exercise their consciences, it's not doing as great as it claims. If it's harassing and retaliating against its labor unions or being unfair to them in collective bargaining, then it's not doing as great as it claims. And all of these things have taken place in the All American City.

The concerns that people engaging in speaking in front of city governments and facing harassment is a strong one and not just in Riverside.

One posting I wrote about all the harassment and threats I've received got 15,000 hits in one day and wound up with 40,000 within a week on just that article mostly from visitors outside the city and the state because these types of issues with public speaking resonate with so many people because of all the issues including with the recession and cuts in spending that are taking place in every government from coast to coast.

It's too bad some of those who speak on behalf of the city against those who criticize its practices can't say the same of their own conduct so before any of them judge others on their civility at the podium, perhaps they should examine their own actions first. And that leads to the issue on a larger scale. That there are those who address elected officials and there are those elected officials who are being addressed engaging in the communication process. And the video taken of city council members only captures part of the story.

It captures how those at the dais behave for better or worse. It doesn't cover the conduct that takes place on the dais at least not most of the time except when a particular person sitting on it is speaking. Consequently there's a lot going on up there that most viewers don't see. That might change in the future as more efforts will be made to try to film the city council members from the perspective of what those sitting in the audience actually see. And perhaps this footage could be uploaded to YouTube so that people who want to get a better sense of the overall picture can view both video provided by the city of the meetings and video of the city council and mayor's conduct on the dais.

All of the focus on the dais and from City Hall's public relations team has been on the conduct of the city residents who speak. It's true that people should be respectful at the dais, not call people names and should speak within their time frame. If they are coming to the dais with an issue that affects them that can't be crammed in a three minute time frame, then who ever is leading the meeting should direct the appropriate member of the city council staff to address their concern or assign one of their city employees they oversee to do so. That would great help communications during public comment if that simple thing was done more often instead of just a select few determined solely by the mayor or mayor pro tem.

Many people do just that but the problem is there are those who equate criticizing the city even on a consistent basis with rudeness and that's not the same thing at all. After all, you can be critical of the city and the way it operates and be very civil, speaking within three minutes. If people are being rude, being harassing and calling people names, then that needs to be addressed but a simple way of doing that is when you speak, is to talk about actions by people.

The problem with this ongoing situation is that people watching the meetings online or at home only are able to view the conduct of those addressing the city council at the dais during public comment and not the behavior of those on the dais while city residents are trying to address them. It's likely that if more people were aware of how some council members on the dais were behaving, then criticism would be aimed at those who appear at the podium of course, but also those sitting on the dais as well. That's why it might be useful to create a video project that captures city council meetings from the view of the audience with the camera aimed at the dais. This has been useful in other cities at curbing some poor conduct by elected officials towards city residents in a relatively short time of the footage being aired online.

While it's important that speakers are respectful to the city government, it's a two way street and frankly some of the behaviors of those sitting on the dais need some adjustment. Council members and mayors holding side bar conversations while members of the public are speaking, Councilwoman Nancy Hart interrupting speakers with her own commentary which reduces the time they have available to complete their comments and Councilman Steve Adams marching out of his seat when public comment takes place. But any video taping of what happens on the dais will also capture the positive and attentive listening behavior of those council members who aren't engaging in poor conduct. It will also allow those viewing it to see that there are elected officials who do know how to behave themselves on the dais.

City council members and the mayor should also be mindful that most speakers especially those not close to the mayor only have three minutes to speak and every time they speak in sidebar with each other or make faces, they're showing just how much respect they have not just for individual speakers and the brief time allotted them but for their own elected positions and respective wards. Every time Adams leaves his seat only during public comment periods and Hart grumbles while someone's speaking, they are basically giving the finger to being a city council member and to every resident in the wards that they represent on the dais.

And while other people on the dais have criticized public speakers saying they must be dealt with, they've done little or nothing to even talk to their dais mates about their own conduct on the dais. After all, when two council members are in side bar and another is walking out while someone's speaking, the rest of the city council members sitting there look kind of silly themselves because they are condoning what is also discourteous comments from their peers.

And that is also one reason why so few city residents trust the ability of the city council to decide ethics complaint filed against their colleagues. It's not being "anti-establishment" (a cliche if there ever was one)it's having watched them over a period of time to see how they monitor their own conduct and those of their dais mates when they step over the line. After all, how much effort would it really take to tell Adams (rather than leave it to his campaign manager) it's better to stay in his seat and not bolt out of the chambers when public comment starts like he did recently when it came time to receive public comment on the down scaled plans to renovate the downtown library.

[Councilman Steve Adams shows off his own courtesy and professionalism on the dais by leaving it during public comment including on the discussion item on the future of the downtown library]

[Councilman Rusty Bailey hasn't fallen asleep on the dais at a city council meeting yet and actually appears attentive for the most part]

But sometimes it shows up on camera as well as it did with Adams at least once. Quite a few people watched the meeting where Councilman Steve Adams was caught on video walking out during public comment or that rare shot where Adams and Hart are chatting while public comment has just taken place. They ask why these council members are behaving in this fashion and do they do it when the cameras aren't looking.

A Study in Contrasts

[Councilwoman Nancy Hart loves to engage in side bar conversations with Adams, make faces at speakers and even tell them to "move" out of Riverside when they address the council whereas Councilman Paul Davis is quite attentive when people are speaking.]

Also there will be future reports and report cards on elected officials sitting on the dais and their behavior during public meetings.

Police Department Releases Its Strategic Plan
And the City Renames a Park

The Riverside Police Department finally presented its 2010-2015 Strategic Plan. At least to the public and to the city council. But much of the police department hadn't yet seen it in its final form. Anyway, it's definitely worth reading though if you're having trouble with the Flash Shock Wave format there is a hard version now that's just made the rounds of the police department. One narrative of the history of the creation of this Strategic Plan since about 2009 can be found in the archives of this blog. It was presented by the police department's management to the city council and mayor last week and it appeared to have gone very well. That was also the meeting where the decision was made to rename Tesquesquite Park, Ryan Bonaminio Park at the Tequesquite Arroyo.

[The city council voted 6-0 to rename a local park after him]

The decision generated some controversy as it proceeded from a subcommittee to the full city council. Two things needed to be considered and that was that it followed the established criteria and procedure for naming or renaming a city park and that it be done with consideration and respect to how supporters of the park felt on its renaming. The city did appear to follow the appropriate process for the renaming and the name is a compromise between those who supported naming it after the officer and those who wanted to respect its original history. At the end of the day, people are going to call the park different names of their choice. When he was alive from what I knew of him, Bonaminio was one of the most unassuming of people, always seeming to be cheerful but more committed to what was being done to help others rather than himself. That same attitude of his should be adopted by the city towards the park that now bears his name.

There will be people who call it the "Ryan Bonaminio" Park and those who call it Tequesquite Park as abbreviations of its longer name just like they do with most other things in Riverside.

Other parks had been named after deceased Officers Phil Trust, Dennis Doty and Doug Jacobs. And other monuments had been built for officers including a fountain for the late officers, Leonard Christiansen and Paul Teel although during its renovation, one widow had said she wished the money spent could go to youth programs. The family of Claire Connelly were very interested in scholarships for youth and established a scholarship for education which is fitting for a young woman who overcame many obstacles to go into law enforcement.

Bonaminio's last actions as a police officer and his final moments lived were inside one of the city's parks, Fairmount and people have asked why that park wasn't renamed after him. One person said wouldn't that send a bolder statement of reclaiming the park where he lost his life?

What is really important more than the naming of a park is its future. So now that the city has renamed the city park to recognize the service of a police officer who lost his life and the natural history of the area, what is it going to do to develop it as a park that can be accessed by the city's residents? So many promises have been made about this particular park and more than one campaign was built on it yet it appears to have become enmeshed in a quagmire for the past couple of the years as the city's financial resources become more and more strapped. If the park is going to be part of Bonaminio's legacy what kind will it be and who will work to build it?

So what happens next? Are the same politicians going to be as committed to building the park and realizing its full potential as they were regarding what to call it? After all, the city's admitting that its financial situation might stall some projects including with this park. So naming or renaming a city park is only part of the story with most the rest of it including its future not being told. But hopefully the decision to name it both after a police officer and recognizing its local history will serve as a greater impetus than has been shown in the past to actually help create a better park that recognizes and utilizes all of its considerable resources.

Chief Sergio Diaz to A City Resident:

"I don't like you" "I hate you...I hate them..."

(and I wasn't even in the room)

Chief Sergio Diaz appeared for several items at the city council meeting that took place on March 6 and some controversy resulted based on comments he made to Karen Wright and about other women in attendance at the city council meeting. Witnesses said that he approached Wright during a break in the meeting and started screaming at her or addressing her in a loud voice. Among the things reported by witnesses was that he said she shouldn't be allowed to talk, that he didn't like her, he hated her and he gestured to a group of other women saying he hated them too.


Witnesses reported feeling intimidated by his conduct and I first heard about it via emails and phone calls while out of town. It was dismaying to hear the accounts but I wasn't too surprised because I've known for over a year that Diaz doesn't like me at all and it's not like it was the first alleged incident reported by an individual who he disliked. Not to say whether or not it was exactly as portrayed but the reported behavior seems to have been reported by different individuals. But I've found some of his behavior puzzling mostly because I've never seen it in a police chief or a member of police management before. Is it common for them to behave in such a fashion? Maybe it's a trend across the industry that will become more clear with further research involving police chiefs. But maybe it's not.

Other reports came in from people who said they had incidents involving him that show a more volatile side of his personality. Together with the relations of stories about more positive encounters with the police chief, it paints a very complex picture of the highest ranking officer in the Riverside Police Department.

I've heard his nickname for me is the "Fucking blogger" among others but then that's how he appears to feel about most of those who are critical in any form whatsoever of actions in the department. I had heard accounts of the rather volatile interactions and relations of members of the highest levels of police management and what of people yelling at each other and using profane language up at the top? What is with that? Is that what people in upper management in law enforcement agencies normally do? Intrigued, I've started surveying former and current police chiefs on this issue because some of the incidents described have been puzzling. But it's difficult to understand how cursing and screaming at the top if that's what is going on can possibly be healthy for the operations of a law enforcement agency.

Other city residents troubled by encounters they had with him or after hearing about negative things he'd said about them including to elected officials. I heard a couple of conversations he had talking extremely negative about a community organization and its members to two elected officials at City Hall before a meeting and found that disturbing. Obviously an issue had arisen between him and a community organization that upset him and it could have been rightfully so. But usually in cases like that, a police management team and the organization meet together to iron through it or they agree to disagree, they usually don't talk so negatively about each other to public officials. Because burning bridges with community organizations can create difficulty for the police department when it needs that community organization further down the line to deal with a civic crisis. Most chiefs are astute enough not to learn about that the hard way.

Diaz has expressed his displeasure about bloggers in general and mine in particular in different venues. He's of course entitled to his opinion. If he doesn't like me, that's fine but if there's a pattern of behavior that goes beyond just one person, that's more disturbing.

But to have a tirade in public if that's what took place (and both the Community Police Review Commission and City Manager Scott Barber have received complaints), that is very disturbing conduct from any management employee let alone a police chief. It reflects poorly on the police department and the city even if it's done in "defense" of either or both. Because when you're a police chief wearing the uniform, the badge, shield and stars of the Riverside Police Department, you're representing it for better or worse and that's based on your professional conduct. It's also not a good example to set for a department of civilian and sworn employees who are expected including by their chief to adhere to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct while wearing the uniform. If you're defending a position in an argument or disagreement with another person, there's many more effective and professional ways to do so than ranting in public.

There's many examples of great behavior inside the department and some that's less than that and the department says that it deals promptly and professionally with less than stellar conduct. But what does it say if the same chief that rightfully requires his officers to adhere to a strict code of conduct (as stated in the "core values" in the Strategic Plan on page 10), doesn't adhere to the same code himself? Because if what people said happened really happened in public, then that begs the concern and question about what's happening in less than public venues inside the department. If an incident like what was reported at the city council meeting last week happened, then it generates greater concern about what's going on inside the very insulated police department away from the public. Is it a wrong assumption to wonder if it's the same inside its walls there or even worse?

A police chief has less latitude to make personalized comments about hating people because of his position of authority, legal powers and public trust. How does it respect any of these things if you engage in conduct that's the opposite? And does it even make sense to attempt to address someone else's behavior by engaging in hostile behavior yourself? Diaz' reasons for feeling the way that he did might make sense and might be understandable but if he engages in behavior akin to a meltdown, it makes it difficult to get to that point of understanding. Not to mention that any type of behavior like that reported by multiple eyewitnesses at the meeting (not to mention by others reporting other incidents) puts the city at risk of civil liability.

The city and department had just gone through a crisis of confidence with the prior police chief, Russ Leach and his decision to drink to the point of severe intoxication and then get behind the wheel of his car while carrying his gun. The car factored more in his situation than the firearm though the two police officers who initially stopped him expressed concerns about both according to the dash cam video taken of the incident. What was sorely needed was a chief who could lead the department out of a crisis situation and work with others in the city, department and community to build a better agency.

In surveys, both community members and police employees listed accountability, ethics and integrity as some of those most important values that they held in the department and believed should be emphasized in the Strategic Plan. That shouldn't come to anyone's surprise because of the damaging impact that the behavior of those in upper management including that which became public had on other employees and how they were viewed by members of a furious public. After all, the majority of the upper management could be retired out to pasture while those who still remained had to deal with the aftermath of the behavior of those who were gone.

But what a lot of people wanted was a chief who played fair and didn't play favorite. The "team" politics that had impacted the department for over five years had created so much turmoil within the department and had proven to be very destructive to those caught in the middle of them. Is that the type of police chief that they received? That's a question that's still being asked and answered. Diaz came into the Riverside Police Department with some strong recommendations from his last haunt, Los Angeles ranging from the ACLU to his own ranks. But so far, that deputy chief from the LAPD hasn't materialized into the police chief here or maybe that's what has happened.

He's got some good ideas and visions involving community policing and hopefully how to integrate it within the department. He's revitalized programs that had nearly died on the vine due to a failed effort to decentralize community policing in the department back in 2007. It's too bad that there's not more of that type of management style from him but some of the more fundamental aspects of it seem to be tripping him up including holding those closest to him accountable. Maybe because in actuality, Diaz came into the department without any experience being a police chief. He had management responsibilities inside one of the largest police agencies in the country but still, there were aspects that go along with being a police chief, mine fields to navigate through that he's clearly never encountered before during his career.

If he had, he would have already learned the important lesson of not ranting in public while wearing a uniform from the agency you represent. Being a police chief requires having the thickest of skins and police work is one area that teaches you how to develop one. But if that's the case, then why is Diaz in actuality so thin skinned? How can one woman or a group of them set him off in such a fashion? In public, there's been several reported incidents of him challenging city residents most often women in front of other people that left those individuals feeling intimidated and upset.

When it comes to issues of accountability, some troubling incidents that took place involving individuals in upper supervision and management came to light. Behavior which would get lower ranking officers investigated for in the past seemed to be dismissed in the ranks above them, which is somewhat backwards in that the higher ranks should face a higher standard of accountability than those below them. Simply because that's what goes part and parcel with a ranking system based on hierarchy or what's called a chain of command. After all, what would the officer who got fired for lying during an investigation of a bar fight have to say about a higher ranking officer not even investigated for assaulting another officer off-duty? What of one lieutenant who gets investigated for driving his police chief home from a DUI incident but a captain does not for allegedly trying to get a watch commander in another police department to release his son from a holding tank without a booking trail?

Diaz' boss, City Manager Scott Barber (who's more hands off the department than his predecessor Brad Hudson who hired Diaz through an interview panel that was double blinded)
has complaints coming into his office against Diaz and to at least one person, Community Police Review Commission Manager Frank Hauptmann has allegedly offered to mediate a meeting with Diaz. But why would anyone need to mediate any kind of meeting with the police chief, a job that by its definition requires a thick skin?

But wait a minute on ex-police chief from Maywood no less offering to mediate at a meeting involving another one? Well Dorothy we're not in Kansas anymore.

[City Manager Scott Barber is the person who's looking into at least one complaint against Diaz with three others deciding whether they'll make appointments too]

Of course this is coming from someone who's probably the first or one of the first to go on his "naughty" list. But it'd be nice to see more of the police chief who has instituted some good ideas into action in the department and less of the volatile one who seems to go up in flames in "defense" of a department that needs much better from him than that.

Does this behavior involving RDA funding look familiar? This article created an incredible sense of deja vu. This city was Montebello and it wound up getting investigated because it didn't submit its financial reports to the State Controller's office on time.

Riverside's Oversight Board Meets

Mayor Ron Loveridge and County Supervisor John Tavaglione "appoint" each other Chair and Vice Chair of the Board

[The Oversight Board convened for its first meeting to divvy up the assets, debts and other obligations of the former Redevelopment Agency]

[Mayor Ron Loveridge's legacy apparently will include an audit by the State Controller's office but at least he's the chair of the Oversight Board.]

Safe in Whose Arms?

Will Public Safety Get Stiffed in This Redevelopment Mess?

[The Fate of Riverside Police Department's administrative headquarters lies in the decision made by the Oversight Board regarding its proposed future home that is currently bond indebted.]



The Oversight Board for Riverside will be meeting on Thursday, March 15 at 1pm inside the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall. Its role is to tackle the process of dissolving the Redevelopment Agency and determining who will pay for what in terms of obligations, enforceable and otherwise. It's hard to imagine a more stacked Oversight Board than the one appointed but at any rate, there's an appellate process through both the Department of Finance and the State Controller's office.

The board membership consists of the following people:

Mayor Ron Loveridge of Riverside

Mayor Robyn DeHoog

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.

This first agenda is pretty stacked with information on what will be discussed including the logistics of the meetings. And the selection of the chair and vice chair turned out to be stacked itself. Mayor Ron Loveridge who used up one of his two board appointments to appoint himself was (surprise, surprise) nominated by Riverside County Supervisor (and Congressional candidate) John Tavaglione to be chair of the committee. Loveridge returned the favor and then nominated the supervisor as vice-chair. Murmurs from other members served as votes supporting both appointments. They discussed some items on the agenda, first item up for a vote was to insure that the California Tower which the ground level is controlled by Riverside can fill its vacancies. Never mind that over 16 businesses including many in city-owned and managed buildings downtown have left or been forced out or that some of those that remain are tens of thousands of dollars behind in their rents, this is still the city's main concern above all others.

But what of the police dispatch center? What will happen to its funding that is needed to move it well before the eviction of the police department from Orange Street Station at the end of 2012?

Asst. Finance Director Scot Catlett provided a very detailed and informative response to public record inquiries about the financing strategy for the dispatch center and so it'll be posted here to provide an explanation as to what's going on with the city's dispatch center.

The project was originally to have been funded by Redevelopment Agency bond proceeds currently on hand. As you know, under AB1X 26 the Redevelopment Agency was dissolved. Criteria were established in the bill defining what is and is not an "enforceable obligation". In the simplest terms, if a contract wasn't executed for construction prior to a certain date then the project is not an enforceable obligation. In this case, the project was in the planning stages and therefore no construction contract that could be deemed an enforceable obligation was present.

That being said, there is still a possibility that the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency can fund the project. The 2007 RDA bond proceeds that we have on hand are not 100% allocated to enforceable obligations. The remainder of the unspent bond proceeds cannot be used to call (pay off) bonds and reduce the Agency's debt because the bonds have a standard call provision with an earliest call date 10 years following issuance. We are therefore hopeful that the Successor Agency Oversight Board and the State Department of Finance will allow us to utilize unspent bond proceeds for the dispatch center relocation project rather than seeing the proceeds sit idle until the bonds can be called in 2017. This is a complex legal issue as the impacts of AB1X 26 and how it interfaces with the regulations impacting the bond issuance are not clear, so the situation will continue to evolve over the next few months.

Once we place this question before the Successor Agency Oversight Board and obtain a ruling that is confirmed by the State Department of Finance, we would proceed with the project using the bond proceeds if the answer is good news or evaluate alternative funding scenarios if the answer is bad news. Until we have this question addressed by the Successor Agency Oversight Board, finalizing the funding plan for the project is on hold.

I hope that this clears up your questions about the project and makes clear where we are at the moment and how we got here. If I can answer any additional questions, please let me know.

Mr. Catlett is correct in that it could be very complicated legally. Some have said that this whole process could result in threatening or actual litigation being filed in connection with various items that go before the Oversight Boards now springing up all over the state. And if lawsuits threaten to snarl or even tie up the process of deciding the future of assets, debts and obligations, then will that increase the time these items spend in limbo? And what of cases like the dispatch center where the clock is ticking?

There's the obvious question as to how the dispatch center wound up under the RDA umbrella to begin with because it doesn't really qualify as an RDA project under the original intentions that were behind the establishment of RDAs by the state. It's still hard to believe that the city has opted to leave this project in limbo given that the so-called lease with Riverside County for the Orange Street Station originally set to expire in 2017 now will be done by the end of this calendar year. The expiration of the lease was facilitated by a controversial and extremely questionable four way land swap that began with a developer looking for an anchor tenant to provide lease revenue streams for $37.5 million in state bonds he took out on the Citrus Tower. Originally his other downtown project, the Raincross Promenade was to provide this source through leasing the condos out that couldn't be sold. However, very few of the luxury condos even could be leased out so he needed another source.

[More concerns were raised about the construction project of the Citrus Tower as the site was not closed off from pedestrians and there was no signage or access for pedestrians coming into downtown through University and Lime.]

Providing an anchor tenant at the Citrus Tower would help so the city's main outside law firm picked up stakes from where it had camped out at the Wells Fargo Building and moved almost all of its operations there. It's not clear but it doesn't seem likely that the firm, Best, Best and Krieger would have rushed to relocate even further away from the city's legal complex of court facilities as well as City Hall or whether by breaking its lease with the owner of the Wells Fargo Building, the city needed to find an alternative tenant fast to avoid being accused of enticing BB&K out of its lease early (and having to defend itself legally from such allegations would be very expensive).

At any rate, the city's largest department, Public Utilities wound up moving its headquarters from where it sat at Ninth and Orange to the leased property at the Wells Fargo Building. Since there was extensive outside financing of the parking garage where Public Utilities was based to the tune of nearly $2 million annually, it's not clear how that is being paid off now that it can't legally be paid for by Public Utilities operational budget. Since the police department would be moving there, it would seem that those annual payments would have to come out of its budget or the general fund. Of course moving Dispatch there wasn't an option, it was to go to Magnolia Police Center.

But now the public sector's side of the four way property swap might be in limbo and not just involving the police dispatch center. It depends as well on the fate of the parking garage which was paid for by bonds taken out on its construction. If it's constituted as part of the now dissolved Redevelopment Agency then does that mean that its fate must also be decided by the Oversight Board? There's so many issues arising from this situation that have to be answered. One possibility that can't be ignored is that a slew of litigation could result from the Oversight Board's work tying the fate of so many of these projects even further. It's a mess but it's not solely a mess of the state government's making as has been claimed by the city and its PR team.

No, that's akin to what's called propaganda and so far from the truth, which is that both the state budgetary crisis and the city's handling of its RDA have contributed to this crisis. The fact remains that if the RDA had been operated according to its original mission when created not by the city but the state, financially there would still be a hit but there wouldn't be all this chaos and confusion. It's largely because of the choice of projects that were umbrellaed under the RDA including many that were quite questionable including the police dispatch center and quite a few others that have contributed greatly to this quagmire.

The state's actions didn't put some of our public buildings in the process of possibly facing a decision by the Oversight Board. Our city did when it performed highly questionable actions as using them as collateral on bonds that should have been paid off by the private developer on projects like the Hyatt Hotel.

In other words, we as a city built our bed, and now we're lying in it. And so is the very critically important emergency dispatch center. Because they said it could take six months for the process to "evolve" through uncharted waters or the Riverside County Auditor to catch up, and that's six months the dispatch center probably can't waste while those on the board figure out how to pay for it before the Dec. 31, 2012 eviction date.

But anyway, there will now be a public dispatch watch taking place and perhaps it's time to think about setting up a nonprofit foundation to generate the monies to pay for its relocation and renovation since apparently the city's too broke to do so.

This FAQ released by the state's Department of Finance addresses some of the many issues arising from the dissolution of the RDA, the powers of the Oversight Board and Successor Agencies. It's a pretty straight forward, easy to understand explanation to some of the major questions that have arisen during this complicated and drawn out process of divvying up the assets in what's similar to a divorce.

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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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