The issue du jour is if the voters should designate our appointed City Attorney, Gary Geuss, as the “City Prosecutor” with the primary responsibility of prosecuting state misdemeanors within the city limits? (At the same time the City Attorney’s Office will also be moving to the City’s newly purchased $40 million Wells Fargo Building (aka, Mission Square to some) to rent from our public utilities department. Need more space of course.) In order to grant these additional duties, the City Charter would have to be changed, and hence, the public vote.
The conundrum is that of accountability. While the District Attorney’s Office is an elected position accountable to the taxpayers, the City Attorney is not an elected position, accountable only to the Council. Question is, “Is this a scenario ripe for abuse?” This is a department that was just found to be seeking outside legal services with no contracts and no approval from our Council, that ended up costing taxpayers millions.
Regardless, the city of Riverside is leading the charge in demanding these prosecutorial duties, and it appears they will not take ‘no’ for an answer from District Attorney, Mike Hestrin. In response, the City proposes to place the matter to the voters this June, with a measure tagged, “The Riverside Criminal Prosecution and Crime Reduction Measure.” If voters approve the change, the city attorney will prosecute offenses such as assault, prostitution, commercial burglary, animal cruelty, graffiti, child abuse and domestic violence. In light of the historical track record of our City Attorney’s Office the residents in Riverside find that there is still something missing from this story, and continue to question the actions taken to date.
Thirty Miles and Mayoral Candidate Vivian Moreno invited Councilman Mike Soubirous to bring the Citizens of Riverside his “VOTE YES” position.
Councilman Mike Soubirous Says Yes!
The Riverside City Council’s decision to place a proposed City Charter amendment on the ballot was simple. The council believed there was merit to the idea of allowing the Riverside City Attorney the power to prosecute Misdemeanor violations that occur within the City of Riverside. Putting the issue directly before the voters makes sense. Because ultimately they must decide if a Charter amendment is to be approved or denied.
We can debate the merits of the proposal all day long, but at the end of the day it comes down to this: Is it worth doing or not.? Are we better off having the City Attorney’s office handling Misdemeanors or keeping things the way they are – with the County District Attorney handling all crimes? If so, put it to the voters. Let them decide.
This debate should not be about personalities. It’s not about District Attorney Mike Hestrin or City Attorney Gary Geuss. It’s about Riverside. It’s about the people of Riverside. Should we enhance or build upon what the District Attorney’s office currently provides to us, or should we keep what we have?
Every day, councilmembers field concerns from residents and business owners complaining about everyday quality of life issues such as panhandling, street thugs, homeless, prostitution, graffiti, vandalism and more. We have pushed our police department to do more and more to combat these concerns. They counter back to us that many of these cases are not being prosecuted. They have provided written proof of these claims.
Our cops are getting discouraged. They work hard, write lengthy reports, only to have the case rejected, pled to a lesser charge or other disposition simply because there is just not enough Deputy District Attorneys to handle the huge caseloads. How discouraging is that?
It’s not District Attorney Mike Hestrin’s fault. He’s elected and tasked with running the District Attorney’s office, but there is a catch. The County CEO sets Mr. Hestrin’s budget and the County Board of Supervisors approves that budget. In the end, Mr. Hestrin must do all he can to stretch that allotted money. Typically, it starts with prosecuting the serious Felonies, then the lesser Felonies. After the Felonies, the prosecution of serious Misdemeanors and finally, the lesser Misdemeanors.
He does a great job with what limited resources he’s given.
The Deputy DA’s work hard and are often underpaid. They work long hours and have high caseloads.
Funds are limited. Riverside County is yet again reporting money problems, cuts are on the way including furloughs and layoffs. This will severely impact the DA’s office and their ability to adequately cover the county’s needs and the needs of the many cities within the county. Even if county revenues were to increase, there are many higher priority needs the county must work on. First is increasing jail space, along with the current plans to expand the County Medical Center and more.
The City of Riverside is not unhappy with the DA’s office. We understand what obstacles our District Attorney faces. We simply hope to have the power – as a Charter City – to enhance what the D.A.’s office does. We are looking at our quality of life needs now, 5 years out and 20 years from now.
The City Council is simply offering a proposal to the people as a direct response to resident’s demands that we do more to curb the negative issues and problems facing our city each day.
This proposal will cost money to implement. Is it worth the investment? It’s up to the voters to decide. More information will be provided at upcoming community meetings and on ballot statements.
If the people of Riverside believe the City Prosecutor Program is the answer to the problems they complain about, they will pass the Charter amendment. If they don’t believe this will help, then it won’t pass. It’s that simple.
This is nothing revolutionary – many cities in California prosecute their own city’s Misdemeanors. It just hasn’t been done in Riverside County yet. So far, most seem very satisfied with their City Prosecutor Programs. These programs have been in place for many decades. Cities like Los Angeles, Anaheim, Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Santa Monica and many others.
The city’s plan for a Neighborhood Prosecutor Program calls for having city attorney prosecutors working closely with our police officers and detectives. Finding solutions to problems and doing what it takes to best mitigate those problems. Not just prosecution and jail, but getting to the root of the problems.
This is something the District Attorney’s office can’t adequately provide due to limited funding imposed by the county. There are just too many cities competing for the same level of prosecution of their Misdemeanor cases as we would like to have in Riverside.
Having our own city prosecutors allows Riverside the ability to focus on those crimes and issues that affect us each day. These are problems that hurt Riverside’s ability to recruit and keep businesses here. These problems affect our property values and our everyday way of life.
Our resident’s have demanded we tackle these issues to the best of our ability. We have this tool available for us to use. It’s up to our residents to choose if they want to pay for this tool and use it to the maximum benefit of those living and investing in Riverside.
Mayoral Candidate 2016 Vivian Moreno Says NO :
Vote Vivian Moreno Mayor Riverside 2016……. Bringing the real issues and truth to the public
I found this quote from a local Oakland newspaper:…According to Russo’s “make city government more accountable, more transparent and more effective.” However, a closer inspection reveals that these are no more than hollow words to veil their failed promises, brokerage of white collar crime, advocating of racism, selective prosecution and white class privilege!
CITY OF RIVERSIDE: NEEDS MO’ MONEY…. WILL THE CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE BE BROKERS OF WHITE COLLAR CRIME UNDER THE GUISE OF THE HOMELESS AND PANHANDLING? VOTE NO TO GROWING EVEN BIGGER GOVERNMENT AND THE CONTINUATION OF ABUSE IN THE CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.
Most likely in June, the voters of Riverside will be decide by ballot measure whether to add a new government-run program to City Hall’s ever-expanding arsenal. It will be called something like the Neighborhood Law Corp (NLC) under the City Attorney’s Office. Mr. City Attorney, Gary Geuss, stated the Neighborhood Law Corp program will cost the taxpayers $2.5 million, while our District Attorney, Mike Hestrin, says more like $5 million. Geuss geusstimates $750,000 to $1 million in fines and fees will go back into the city’s coffers per year. I believe it will bring in closer to 2 million, if not more. And where will this money come from? Residents and businesses, but of course.
If you go to any of the community meetings that address this new program, the message coming from City Hall is, “your altruistic government will have more CONTROL over the homeless, panhandling, and prostitution.” Well … common sense will tell you that the homeless and panhandlers are not going to be paying a cool million in fines and fees. So where will it come from? You guessed it – from us! The real CONTROL will be over whomever can pay the fines.
Another real concern we have with this program, is that we are growing our government at an unsustainable rate. We will be adding 17 new employees, 12 of whom will be Lawyers, as part of the NLC Program. We already have 13 Attorneys, this will take us to a grand total of 25 Attorneys hired by the city of Riverside.
Mr. City Attorney, Gary Geuss, came here from the City of L.A. They have 4 million residents and 16 attorneys that handle their “Neighborhood Program”, or one attorney per 250,000 citizens. Riverside wants 12 Attorneys, and that would be 1 attorney per 25,000 Citizens. In L.A. up until 2014, they only had 4 Attorneys on this program, that’s one attorney for 1 million citizens. In Oakland, California, where our very clever City Manager, John Russo, hatched this program in 2002, they have three Attorneys for about 400,300 Citizens. That’s one Attorney for 133,000 Citizens. I just don’t get it. In fact, like all too often in the good ole’ River City, perhaps the real reason they want to hire more attorneys has just not been revealed to us.
City Councilman, Mike Soubirous, Mike Gardner, Chris MacArthur, and Jim Perry all voted YES to place the city prosecutor measure on the June 2016 ballot. Paul Davis said he wanted this program eventually, but voted NO; John Burnard wanted to increase the Police Department, so he also voted NO; Andy Melendrez just said NO, but the vote passed and unless some last minute deal is reached with the D.A., this sucker’s going to the people (at a nice tidy cost of $80k just to put it on the ballot) to decide.
At the Council meeting it was brought up by Raincross Group man-about-town, Tom Evans, that the City wasn’t even following their own Charter and that the Council should form a Charter Review Committee and vet this issue with the public. Once the committee finds consensus on the best way to go about implementing a city prosecutor’s office, they make a recommendation to the Council “to ask” the voters for final approval. The Council decided to ignore that option (hey, I thought they valued public input? Lol.)
There have been a total of two hours that I’m aware of spent informing the public on this very important issue. I have attended two community meetings and one City Council meeting when the issue of changing the Charter to take prosecutorial powers for misdemeanors away from the District Attorney’s office, and give them to the City Attorney’s office. At the community meetings I attended, this was hailed as a Neighborhood Law Corp. program and will address livability issues as the homeless, pan handling and prostitution. At the City Council meeting, the message changed a bit. It seems the city of Riverside also wants to be the power brokers for white collar crime, code enforcement cases, bad landlords, liquor stores, seedy businesses, unruly bars and restaurants, and or anything else they can think of. Is this the start of more legal abuses in the city of Riverside City Attorney’s office? If history is any predictor of the future…ABSOLUTELY!
At the February City Council meeting where the vote took place, there was a diverse group in attendance: the local activists, the whistleblower employees, a representative from the District Attorney’s Office, the League of Women Voters, the Raincross Group, and a couple of Chamber of Commerce members. With a group like that there is almost always disagreement, but with this vote everyone was opposed – it was almost unanimous. That evening 95% of the public said NO! The City Council voted to approve the ballot measure against all the concerns of the public.
I also feel it’s important to add that the District Attorney of Riverside County is an elected position, whereby this person is directly accountable to the public. The City Attorney, whom City staff and elected want to usurp the D.A. is an appointed position, who is only accountable to the City Council. Is the public set up for abuse? Who will the public go to if there is a grievance? How do you replace 4 of the 7 members of the Council if you don’t like the way our City Attorney uses his new prosecutorial powers? You can’t, and that’s a big problem. Our personal liberties are being threatened.
Now you have to ask yourself, is our honeymooning City Manager, John Russo, just running the city of Riverside on autopilot. He brings us the Sunshine Ordinance, the 2-year Budget, and our new favorite Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen (absolutely fabulous honey), and now the Neighborhood Law Corp. Let’s take a look at June 8th, 2011, article “Russo’s Next Big Challenge”:
“Russo also is seeking to make Alameda’s city government more user-friendly, a task he’ll delegate to Alex Nguyen, who will follow him over from Oakland. Nguyen headed Russo’s Neighborhood Law Corps, a groundbreaking program that allowed Oakland residents to access his office to solve quality-of-life issues, taking on slum lords, liquor stores, and other blight. Russo, however, was quick to say that people won’t always be happy with the solutions he proposes for Alameda. ‘Real decisions mean real disappointments,’ he warned”
Queue later photo of the drama behind this program in Oakland. The public is ANGRY over potential fraud in the Neighborhood Law Corp program:
Who is really behind this new Neighborhood Law Corp. program? City Attorney Geuss stated this program was A#1, top of the list, king of the hill, A nummmmmber ooooooooone, top priority of the Council. In fact, Geuss stated he was instructed by our electeds to begin implementing this program immediately after he was hired. We wonder why the public and press just found out about it if it was so important and being worked on for almost a year?
So, how did City Manager Russo’s and his trusty sidekick, Nguyen’s foray into prosecuting the public work out after being implemented in Oakland in 2002? They spent way too much money and created a firestorm of D R A M A. There was so much drama that it was a distraction to the City and to the Office of the City Attorney. All we need is more controversy. Was this program the real reason Mr. Russo left the city of Oakland? Maybe. This program may be nothing new to our City Manager or or City Attorney, but I believe the residents and business owners in the city of Riverside have had enough drama for a lifetime.
To hopefully shut the door on the whole idea of a city prosecutor’s office, I point out that City Attorney Geuss continually compares our city to the city of Anaheim, who has an appointed City Prosector. So let’s take a look at these similarities:
Medium Income Anaheim: $62,000
Medium Income Riverside: $32,000
Anaheim PRIVATELY OWNED: Disneyland, the Honda Center, Anaheim Convention Center, Angels Stadium, the Anaheim Resort, numerous hotels, The Platinum Triangle, and really great fireworks every day.
Riverside GOVERNMENT OWNED: Fox Theater, Riverside Convention Center, and really great fireworks three times a year.
Population of Anaheim: 350,000 Out–of-town guests: THOUSANDS every day.
Riverside Population: 300,000 Out -of -town guests: THOUSANDS every year?
Annual Budget Anaheim 1.7 Billion
Annual Budget City of Riverside: 900 Million
Anaheim Prosecution Program 10 Attorneys Sometimes up to 15 Attorneys depending on the cases. I was told of these figures today by the Anaheim prosecutors office.
City of Riverside Prosecution Program wants 12 Attorneys
Apples to apples – Anaheim vs. Riverside – and I say there is NO comparison. Anaheim is unique from all other communities. The comparisons coming from our City Attorney is political rhetoric, and that is why the public is so concerned with this program. Common sense will tell you there is more to the story! (But they ain’t telling you what…you’ll find out later). VOTE NO.
TMC, RATED RIVERSIDE’S REGIONAL COUNTIES MOST, “NEGATIVE,” “RAUNCHY,” “LOW CLASS,” “VISIONS OF GRANDEUR,” “FULL OF B.S.,” “IGNORANT,” “MISGUIDED,” “BULLYISH,” “FILTHY,” “SICK,” “PERVERTED,” “DEFAMATORY,” “STUPID,” “PATHETIC,” “DESPICABLE,” “DISAPPOINTING,” “BELOW THE BELT,” “A NEW LOW,” “SHOCKING,” “OFFENSIVE,” “INAPPROPRIATE,” “HURTFUL,” “MEAN SPIRITED,” “DISTASTEFUL,” “EMBARRASSING,” HORIFFIC,” “SLANDEROUS” “FIT TO BE VIEWED FROM THE REAR” AND
MEZZSPELLED, “MISSPELLED” AND “OPINIONATED” BLOG SITE! YES WE ADMIT WE OUR ALL OF THAT AND MORE, WHICH IN CURRENT TERMS IS KNOWN AS “UNPOLITICALLY CORRECT.” TEMPORARILY BLOCKED BY THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE AT PUBLIC ACCESS SITES WITHIN THE CITY, THEN UNBLOCKED. I GUESS YOU CANNOT DO THAT ACCORDING TO THE ACLU. RATED ONE TWO ONE STAR OUT OF FIVE IN TERMS OF COMMUNITY APPROVAL RATINGS.. … AGAIN, THANK YOU COMMUNITY OF RIVERSIDE AND THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE EMPLOYEE’S FOR YOUR SUPPORT!