Archive for the ‘City of Riverside’ Category

John Russo, Zorro, champion of the underdog and defender of the common man; or low-down outlaw and notorious gang leader?

As we at TMC wax nostalgic over the passing of the largest tax increase in the history of the City of Riverside just over a year ago, we pass along these gems, proving once again: the more things change, the more they stay the same in the ole’ River City…

Exhibit A, Councilman Mike Soubirous, 11/30/2017, a year after the passage of Measure Z:

As a 2013 candidate for Council I was against the GFT (Measure A). Mostly out of principle because I thought that the City should not have to rely upon the GFT to make ends meet. At the time, being an outsider (not on the Council) not knowing our City’s true financial status, I believed that if we needed that transfer that much we must be in bad shape financially. After the former City management team left and newly hired City Manager John Russo and his staff came on board, it was discovered that the City was about $11.5 million in the hole (or $11-1/2 million less than what Council had been told we had). In order to balance the budget Council immediately implemented 4% across-the-board cuts to all departments/services (June, 2016). We also discovered additional bond debt that was kept somewhat quiet.  We were headed down the path toward bankruptcy had we not taken the immediate budget cutting action!

The residents/voters saw the Council initiated reforms and pledges to pay down debts, raise our dwindling reserves (from 15% to 20% – actually at the time down to 13%) while balancing key infrastructure and public safety needs. So the residents voted to approve Measure Z. Since May, 2015,the City Council and Executive Management team has promoted an openness, transparency track and have been improving the City’s economic development/building & safety/planning business model (more business friendly) customer service oriented position. Things are headed in the right direction! Problem is, the economy is not growing very fast (tax revenue) and is staying somewhat flat. Flat is better than trending down, but means we will probably have to impose ANOTHER 4% across-the-board cuts this June (2018) to again balance the budget. This is good for taxpayers as our City is becoming financially leaner and leaner. Doing more with way less. But not so good for those who want City services right now or five minutes ago. So by cutting back on the GFT at this point would mean imposing more than the upcoming anticipated 4% across-the-board cuts to all departments and services. Most who voted for the Measure Z (1 cent per dollar sales tax) did so to keep or advance City owned tree trimming, road paving, hiring of more police and some infrastructure projects in place or actually (finally) catching-up.



Exhibit B, City Manager John Russo and sidekick Natasha Fatale Marianna Marysheva, 4/23/16, seven months or so before the vote on Measure Z:

The city’s new administration has spent several months working to institute the kind of fiscal discipline required to generate healthy and sustainable budgets well into the future. This process has been difficult at times for everyone involved. A $1 million surplus projected for fiscal year 2015-16 – built on the type of budgeting we should no longer allow – has morphed into a shortfall of about $8 million. This shortfall, if not corrected with sustainable ongoing measures, will result in a $10-12 million budget hole in fiscal year 2016-17.

Unfortunately, some perennial critics of the city have confused the cure (early diagnosis of future budget challenges) with the disease (a negative imbalance between ongoing expenses and ongoing revenue). These folks have been frightening some Riversiders by proclaiming loudly that the city faces imminent bankruptcy.

Let us state unequivocally that the city of Riverside is not going bankrupt; in fact, the city could have continued on its prior path for many years without suffering financial doom. But we believe that our standard should be higher than the very “low bar” of “just don’t go bankrupt.” We are committed to a rational budget in which ongoing revenue meets ongoing expenses, and long-term capital needs, like road repair and tree trimming, are properly covered.

As Riverside moves through weeks of introducing, refining and, ultimately, approving a budget for fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, there will be some bumps in the road. Residents and business owners may hear things that make them uncomfortable, and perhaps even a bit nervous about Riverside’s financial health. But as we work through this difficult process, please keep in mind that Riverside is in good financial condition overall, and that this process is only going to make that even stronger.



So who are we to believe regarding the financial condition of the City of Riverside in 2016?  Staff prior to the passage of the Measure Z ballot measure, a $50+ million new annual sales tax; or an elected official afterwards?  Well neither, of course!  Butttttttttt, neither were technically (fingers crossed) lying either…the key word being “imminent” when it came to the timing of bankruptcy.

Staff and the Council knew back in early 2016 (and looooong before that for some of them) that the City had been hiding its true liabilities off-balance-sheet for years.  Trouble was, the cows were soon to be returning to the barn, where they was no hay. We’ll even give you TMC’s version of proof of this knowledge: former Finance Director Brent Mason was scapegoated fired within months of Assistant City Manager Marysheva arrived on the scene.  Given the tremendous leeway the City has traditionally afforded other overpaid, hack executive employees caught with their pants down hands in the cookie jar, so they could either “retire” or “seek better opportunities,” while staying on the City payroll for much greater time periods, we must conclude Mr. Mason did something fairly egregious to merit his ignoble departure.  Marysheva described it at the time as, “The city has a history of unbalanced budgets, but those imbalances have been disguised,” while ex-City Councilman Paul Davis described it more in layman terms: “cooking the books”.

But the real truth would have to wait until 2017 because Harold Hill John Russo had a tremendous idea at the time and just the right strategy to pull it off.  And that hustle plan was the Wells Fargo Wagon Measure Z good folks.  And along the way he would seduce one spinster librarian loner Councilman and perhaps fool the whole town into believing his shipoopi.  But that fine story is for another day…but with a twist we’ll bet you didn’t see coming!  Then you may have been caught with your pants down in River City.

Instead of hustlers and charlatans, put your faith in Thirty Miles of Corruption, who last time we checked received no income or favors from any local government source: we predicted years ago that the City would run out of money by 2016 …  and as they like to say at the Goeske Center, “B-I-N-G-O!” (another pyrrhic victory…hooray!)

Long-time readers will remember how we and our band of, “perennial critics,” trudged over to council chambers week after week after week to warn of impending financial collapse, and our dear “leaders” (gulp) only response was to call us crazy or deranged.  As the old adage goes: if you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger.  And so who’s crazy now?  With gargantuan unpaid pension liabilities, fully-leveraged assets with bonds that need to be paid, and skyrocketing taxes, fees and rates … yep, there’s still going to be plenty of trouble; right here in the ole’ River City.  More to come.

Brent Mason, Recycled Trash Sent to San Bernardino


Tuesday’s City Council meeting ended with Riverside City Council passing permit parking within the vicinity of the park entrance way of Mt. Rubidoux.  Councilman Mike Gardner listened to the opinions of community residents, then himself speaking of the pros and cons, then passing permit parking with a review in  6 months.  Whats the solution, sometimes you have to pave a little bit of paradise and just build a parking lot.  There is no doubt that  Mt. Rubidoux will continue to be a destination point for many who live outside of the Riverside vincinity, but it is also our gem to the  community.  A parking lot would be the only solution, instead of having visitors park further away from the entrance.  But another hidden issue regards to the passing of restricted parking is the increase in Latino people who have been utilizing the park withing the last two years.  To some residents this has been the real issue, and to others within that community, it has eluded to the issue and tone of racism, which has allegedly been relayed to Councilman Mike Gardner.   But I digress, ever read city parking signs?  You read them, but still somehow get a ticket because you missed something.  My solution, is taking the properties as shown from 9th Sreet to 10th Street by eminent domain or by purchasing, would allow the city to acquire the land to give to the community and its visitors a place to park so they can enjoy the park, and not scaring them away and making people angry with ridiculous tickets.  We saw this phenomenon with the installation of parking meters into the downtown Riverside area in early 2000 by then Councilman Dom Betro, and currently merchants in Ventura, CA who are also experiencing lower customer visits with newly installed city parking meters.

UPDATE: 06/19/2011: Sunday:

We all pay for the streets, yet only SOME people are allowed to park on them.  That’s just totally asinine!      -Daves Not Here, comment from the PE

MT. RUBIDOUX- The parking conundrum has always been a firey issue.  Public parking already paid for by taxpayers, taken back by government for the benefit of a few?  Or does the city need the parking fine money to pay for the mounting debt that will come due, July 1, 2012.  Therefore the question is, do we hit residents and visitors with $41.00 tickets?  Further, why would one move to the country and complain about the roosters?  The parking issue continues all over the city,  but now the city is nickeling and diming visitors, not to mention residents, with parking tickets and code enforcement violations.  For example,  the issue in the Woodstreets regarding street cleaning signs, and residents being hit with $41 dollar tickets.  Now , if you pay for a landscaper by the month, and you tell him not to show, he still gets paid, but he doesn’t penalize you for not utilizing him.  Well the city does.  As taxpayers we pay for street cleaning, if we decide to park our car in front of home, shouldn’t we not get ticketed for using that service that day?  People maintain the front curb in front of the sidewalk without thinking that the city owns it, should we in turn send part of landscaping bill to the city to be reimbursed for  maintaining it?  Or after a windy day, should we charge the city for not picking up the broken tree and palm branches left on the street?  Left for the Residents to do the job themselves?  These are issues Councilman Mike Gardner will have to deal with appropriately in his new term.  Of course one of the suggestions regarding the Mt. Rubidoux parking was to take the properties closest to the entry way to the main entrance, this may not be a very popular suggestion, but in the long term would provide a solution to the parking problem we experience.  As Mt. Rubidoux continues to be drawing attraction when people visit our city, this would allow them a good experience.

On the City Council Agenda for Tuesday May 09, 2011, it appears we have another request by Albert Webb and Associates requesting an increase in funding via the infamous “change order”.   This is in lieu of multiple allegations by city employees in a PE article two weeks ago involving favoritism by City Manager, Bradley J. Hudson.  What stood out, was that Chief Financial Officer, Paul Sundeen stated that Webb was only selected for 2 projects out of 22 over a 2 year period.  Yes there are a lot of two’s, but when you multiply them geometrically they become this.  I don’t know if it’s my visual impairment or just a little bit of “fuzzy math”, but you will find more than 2 projects over a 2 year period.  We took years 2008-2009, WEBB20082009    To be fair, take for instance 2008 and look 06/02/2008.  There are 12 payouts on the same day; why couldn’t the city just make one check, well we aren’t quite sure.  I understand they could be all be from twelve new individual projects which makes accounting sense, or one past project with twelve change orders (when vendors ask for more money), or several projects with change orders.

The recommended total budget according to this City Memorandum is as follows:

$352,000.00        Webb environmental consulting services

35,210.00        10% Consultant Contingency

24,750.00        Legal Fees

31,435.00        Planning, Fish and Game Fees

15,000.00        Misc. Postage, advertising, printing and mailing

    50,000.00        Staff administration to support the environmental review

$508,495.00        Project Budget Cost

($200,000.00)       Less additional amount approved by Council August 11, 2009

$308,495.00       Additional appropriation required

The key, is that they are claiming no fiscal impact to the General Fund.  Though they would like to finance this cost through funds available in the 2011 Unprogrammed Taxable Bond Account No. 9854800-440446.  This would be like using a credit card to fund the needed requested amounts.  Simply, the taxpayer would have to pay for this in higher property taxes at a later time, not to mention the additional interest.

This has also been brought to you by the usual suspects who are working hard to protect and serve the community at large:

Submitted by: newly christened Tina English, Interim Development Director

Certified to as the availability of funds: Paul C. Sundeen, Assistant City Manager/CFO/ Treasurer

Approved by:  newly christened Deanna Lorson, Assistant City Manager for  Bradley J. Hudson, City  Manager, because the assistant usually takes the fall in case something goes wrong.

..and of course the whole thing seems up to par with the City Attorney, Greg P. Priamos, otherwise we’ll just call Best, Best & Krieger for a consult.

It appears they already received 200K back in August of 2009, what did we get for this?  I hope it was at least a couple of signature pens and a notebook, but I digress.  But I don’t know that as of yet, but I do know they will be at City Council  requesting an additional $308,495.00 to help them do what they know best, continuing to figure what’s best for the Riverside Library with the additional of cost for legal fees, postage, printing, and of course we have to throw in fish and game fees.  What, you didn’t know about the deer hunting and trout fishing within the library.  Planning what you are going to hunt or fish for is one thing, but how much are Fish and Game Fees anyway?,  I can tell you they are not, anywhere near that amount.     Well the jokes on you as well as myself, the taxpayer if this passes, to the extent of $31,435.00 for planning and fish and game fees.   Hopefully will get a few more pens and a couple more cool notebooks this time.

UPDATE: May 10, 2011:  Without community imput, City Council unanimously passed Albert Webbs and Associates request for additional appropriations of $308,495.00  Matt Webb, president of the engineering firm denies charges brought about by Deputy Attorney, Raychele Sterling.  But it appears that sometimes doing the right thing can be the wrong thing, which appears to be the undefinable position the City of Riverside is taking.   Now Raychele Sterling remains on administrative leave.  But many our a little closer in blood lines than we think in River City.  It appears that Councilman Chris MacArthur and Matt Webb are distant cousins!  OK, it’s a stretch, they are not technically, but it’s been cleared by City Attorney Greg Priamos, all by himself and without a BB & K consult,  that there is no conflict of interest.  It further appears that Chris MacArthur’s aunt was adopted by Matt Webb’s grandparents when she was five.  But still no conflict.  Matt Webb acknowledges that he has known Chris for decades. I don’t doubt it considering the close family relationship.  But according to a Press Enterprise article regarding favoritism Matthew Webb, stated that he is a Riverside native with ties to local officials.  He has known council members William “Rusty” Bailey and Chris Mac Arthur for decades and is friends with Hudson.  In my opinion good ol’ boys and cronyism begans with close family ties, and I don’t mean by blood lines.  But what is important, we haven’t heard from City Council why the additional appropriation was awarded and needed by Albert Webb and Associates, and without the scrutiny the council ususally imposes on others requesting the same. 

About a week after allegations of favoritism hit the City of Riverside, a breaking release by the PE are allegations of improprieties claimed by fired city employee Sean Gill with regard to how city contracts were handled.  It has also been alleged by other indivduals, that the city of Riverside has a close relationship with PE, to the extent of having a worthy opinion before a story is released, as in the case of Chief Russel Leach DUI.  Regardless the suite claims that city officials gave millions in contracts without the contracts going out to bid.  Again the city is denying this claim, but I’ll tell you, it sounding alot like that old bug a boo we’d like to keep under the matt, “Favoritism”.  OK I said it.    But what is quite intriguing and diabolical is that the Riverside City Council was quite aware of this activity with regard to contracts not going out for public bid, this “in an effort to increase their political allies”.   Wow, quite blatent.  None the less, it is shameful time in the City of Riverside, when the atmosphere of trust is non existent toward elected and appointed government officials, that this makes the community have to take another step back.   It is also quite coincidental that Sean Gill’s comment completely disappeared from the comment section of the PE’s article Riverside: City Officials Dispute Favoritism Claims.  Evidently Sean Gill’s comment was as follows, taken from the Five Before Midnight Blogspot:

The city fired me when I tried to make people aware of their corruption. Its been going on for years. Brad Hudson, Siobhan Foster and Tom Boyd all deserve to be fired for their corruption along with half of the city council. People think Bell is corrupt, I hope they keep digging into the City of Riverside. If Ed becomes mayor, wait and see how much more work his firm receives.

—Sean Gill, to Press Enterprise comments

Again, this leaves the City of Riverside scrambling at damage control with the usual response, this time from Supervising Deputy City Attorney Jeb Brown, “We think that the case doesn’t have any merit and we look forward to defending it”.  I’ll bet you do Jeb.  This after Deputy City Attorney Raychele Sterling stated in a email to City Council,  that several city employees told her they were directed to give work to specific firms by superiors.  According to Chief Finance Officer Paul Sundeen the city has retained an outside law firm to do an independent investigation.  An investigation upon themselves? Any guesses on what this independent investigation will cover? Any wagers?  Well, we all agree that mishandling of contracts without bids cost the taxpayer in benefits they expect, and the taxpayer shouldn’t have to be hit with the cost due to the incompetance and quite possibly, fraud, of these city officials.  Besides contracts, I’m also thinking how many law suites have been settled out of court by the City of Riverside in order to cirmcumvent the limelight, but at what cost?  This is another investigation we need to dig into.  But again, we invite to hear from any elected or appointed official, the city of riverside’s side of the story.  We encourage you to comment.

UPDATE: FRIDAY MAY 20, 2011:  RIVERSIDE DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY RAYCHELE STERLING FIRED!  The reason why the community of Riverside have become complacent to city news, is the type of third world politics displayed by elected and appointed officials within the walls of  City Hall.  Again, the city fires another employee in what appears for no other reason but doing the right thing.  But interesting enough, the City Hall offers her 6 months of paid administrative, yes, 6 months, to go away find another job and probably just be quiet.  You’ll never see this type of offer in the private sector.  But again the city is at a loss of words, especially when the taxpayer should be informed.  In the name of accountability and transparency we receive such responses  as,  “She was an at-will employee sitting at the pleasure of the city attorney, and … I determined that the termination of that agreement was in the best interests of the city”, as stated by City Attorney Greg Priamos.  But no firm reason as to the termination, and we may never know.   Possibly, if you have something on the city, you may receive one of Greg Priamo’s Iron Fisted Gag Orders, which is probably like having your mouth sutured before they place the duck tape on.  Greg, How much is this law suit going to cost the taxpayer?  Will you hire, contract or request assistance from Best, Best & Krieger and possibly good ol Ex Riverside County District Attorney Grover C. Trask?   …And since we do so much business with B,B&K is there any validity to the rumor that they may be taking one of the floors at City Hall?  …And Brad, How much is your ongoing investigation on yourself going to cost the taxpayer?  Not to mention, the cost of institutional memory ?  Hudson has requested an outside investigation to the allegations of favoritism of himself, so he hired Rancho Cucamonga-based law firm Cihigoyenetche Grossberg Clouse to do the investigation which ultimately may take a month.  But it gets stranger, one of the partners of the law firm Brad Hudson retained to investigate the email claims, is also a motivational speaker who specializes in magic,  and is the author of three critically acclaimed and bestselling books, “The Vitruvian Square: A Handbook of Divination Discoveries,” “The Masks of Tarot,” and “Bauta: Betraying the Face of Illusion,” in addition to his oracle/divination cards, “The Deck of Shadows.” This partner specializes in magic, thought-reading, and divination (Tarot, oracle cards, palmistry, astrology, and numerology).  I guess my question to the City of Riverside is, does this get paid through the taxpayer or the other side.  But this may be a good thing in Brad’s world, Cihigoyenetche Grossberg Clouse may be just the thing to take this investigation that one step beyond.