The Price of Doing Business as Usual in River City
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.
Update: 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
"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.
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.
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.]
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.]
COLLATERAL for HYATT
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.