Monday, August 19, 2019

• Speech Highlights: Sheriff Chad Bianco

One of the recurring items on my calendar is the monthly Southwest California Legislative Council meeting (commonly known as The Ledge Meeting)

Its key members belong to the various local chambers of commerce: Temecula, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and of course Murrieta/Wildomar.

The mission is to discuss legislation that is wending its way through Sacramento, and to either support or oppose key bills that will have an impact on business.

There are also periodic guest speakers, and the most recent guest was our Sheriff, Chad Bianco.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.
He spoke for about half an hour, and I was so energized by his remarks that I couldn't wait to share my favorite highlights from it with you. I'll transcribe them in the order that they came. He's quite the engaging speaker. (No wonder why he defeated the incumbent 58-41)

His opening thoughts
• My vision is that the Sheriff's Department will address quality of life issues. 

• Community oriented policing, you have to be involved with the community in order to know what the community [issues are]. We are pushing a complete different way of doing business onto our deputies. They get out, they talk to residents, they talk to business owners and they find out what the needs are, and they report that back to us.

• Social media is fantastic. We're actively —completely redoing our social media to engage with the public and we're getting tons of information so we know what areas need attention.

• My only limitation right now is personnel. Throughout the campaign I ran on the premise that we were being mismanaged. Both fiscally and personnel wise. The way we staffed and the way we spent our money was —I believe we should have been doing better. When I took over, I realized that I had severely underestimated how bad it really was. Our staffing was to a point where we were borderline failing. To where we would have had to ask other agencies for help. 

• We had 119 deputies assigned to the unincorporated areas of the county. We were supposed to have, and we had the money for, 300. We were roughly a third of staffing.

• The benchmark of staffing, and I will never use this because I think it was a flawed system to begin with [where] the government came up with 1 deputy per 1000, that's the benchmark. The Board of Supervisors, their goal for us is 0.75. We're supposed to be at 0.75 [officers] per 1000 residents. When I took over we were at 0.41. We had the money, we just were not hiring. 

• In the first three months of the year I hired more deputies than were [hired] in all of last year.

• Our academies are maxed out. We are mandated by post that we can only have 80 people in an academy [class]. They give us a 10% leeway so we get 88.

• It's basically a numbers game. It's how fast can I get people here. I can't really make a huge difference with all of the things I want to do until I get the bodies to do it. I don't need the money to do it —I have the money to do it. It will be three years of me hiring as many people as I possibly can before I'll have to ask for more money. That's how short staffed we are.

• About 86% of our budget is staffing [...] When I started we were 256 deputies and 400 correctional deputies short, but I have the money for them —that's the good part for me, now all I have to do is hire them.

• If you know anybody that wants to work for the Sheriff's Department, we seriously are hiring every position you can think of in the department. 

New Jail in Indio
• The jail is a fiasco [...] When I came on in January they told me that the jail was going to open in April-ish, and they actually said, "April-ish". Then it went to June-ish, then it went to August-ish, then into September-ish, and now we will be lucky if it opens by January.... ish, and it'll probably be later than that.

• When the jail opens, it'll be fantastic because it'll give us 1600 beds that we don't have, but it'll more than likely be at the beginning of next year. We have the staffing right now to open the initial phase. 

• It makes it a little more difficult because it's in Indio, because no one wants to commute to Indio or move to Indio. That's another one of those government things, they can see the perfect spot in [the] center part of Cabazon, where they were going to build it, and political pressure made them go to Indio, and now we can't find staff that wants to work in Indio. 

• Marijuana is illegal to grow in the county of Riverside. If you are growing marijuana, I hope you don't have more than 24 plants if there's two of you with medical marijuana cards. Otherwise you're growing too much marijuana.

• One person, with six plants, that's what's legal. Bottomline, State of California, County of Riverside, one person can have six plants. If you are smoking all the marijuana you can generate from six marijuana plants, you're not functioning anyway (laughter from the crowd), because all you're doing is sitting around, stoned (more laughter).

• We know that the majority of the marijuana that is being grown in Riverside County is being shipped back east. It's simple math. If they were growing it for a legitimate co-op dispensary it's [worth] about $800 per pound. If they take it back east and sell, it where it's illegal, they can get $5000 a pound.

• In county areas, if you have a plastic greenhouse next to you (pregnant pause) that is not for daisies. Everyone of those greenhouses, more than likely, contain marijuana, and if you've got a greenhouse, that fits more than 6 plants.
Seems like more than six plants to me.
• Part of my goal is to rid Riverside County of illegal marijuana growth. [...] It destroys quality of life, it destroys the environment. We were on a grow about two weeks ago [...] we were on a 100 acre parcel, in the hills [...] it was an outdoor grow, one of the few outdoor grows that are out there. We had to hike up and down these hills while we were pulling the plants. We were there for about three hours. [We didn't see] one rabbit, not one mouse, not one bird, not one anything. It was completely void of wildlife. If you've ever been up there, you know that's not the norm.

• When you walk out through the hills anywhere around here, there are animals all over the place. They (the growers) are killing everything because they (the animals) eat the marijuana. [They] kill the rabbits, which in turn kills the coyotes, the bobcats, the hawks. Then everything else dies off that has anything to do with that food chain. 
Illegal outdoor grow recently busted up.
• We recently started targeted enforcements, zero tolerance enforcements. So far we've done a small one in Lakeland Village, a small one in San Jacinto, and a large one in Woodcrest/Perris, and a large one last week in Moreno Valley. I can promise you that we're coming to a neighborhood near you because people do it everywhere in the county.

• While the state has decriminalized drug use, I can tell you that the absolute majority, if not all, of what I deal with has to do with drugs. Whether it's gangs, it has to do with drugs. If it's domestic violence, usually deals with some type of alcohol and or drugs. All theft is about drugs. The homeless issue, is about drugs. Everything is about drugs.  Drugs are our problem. I don't know if you know or if you care, but I'm telling you 'drugs are our problem'. 

• 'It's only a misdemeanor', I don't care. 'They're going to get out of jail', I don't care, I'll take them back to jail. They can do life, weekends at a time. When they get out, we'll take them back. They'll get out, we'll take them back. Crime is an opportunistic event. Criminals go places where they can commit crime and they can get away with it. If they don't think they're going to get away with it, they don't do it. Our goal is to inconvenience them enough that they would leave, or stop. (Joke time coming) I will get every city police chief on board with me, and we will make all of the criminals move to San Bernardino County (the group gave a hearty laugh at that).

• The mentality that I bring to this job is don't ever tell me I can't do something. Don't tell me I can't fix something. Don't tell me I can't make a difference, because I'm just going to show you that I can. The easy answer is, "There's nothing we can do." You've heard for the last ten years, "There's nothing we can do. It's not our fault. There's nothing I can do, it's the Board of Supervisors. It's the voters' fault. It's the Governor's fault. It's everybody's fault."

• I will never be a victim, and I believe that if I'm not helping you, it is my fault. 

• I'm not going to say because some city council members, some Board of Supervisors, some politicians want —for whatever reason— [a] big hands off approach to the homeless. Everybody's afraid of the homeless, apparently they want to end up like Orange County, and that's not me. I really, honestly believe —I know that about 80%, or so, maybe even more, the homeless that we deal with choose to be there. They're not going to take housing. They're not going to take assistance. They're not going to want medical care. They are there because that's the lifestyle they choose. And why? Because you guys keep giving them money, so they stay. As long as you keep giving them money, they're going to stay. 

• Legitimately there are some that are homeless. Whether it be domestic violence. Whether it be they're just down on their luck. Some legitimately are in severe need of mental health care.

• No matter what, when you have a problem with a homeless person, whether it be someone with mental health problems, someone asking for money, or blocking an entrance to a business. We are first responders and we're the ones that go out there first. If it's not something we can deal with criminally, because that's our job, then we leave. Nothing we can do. If they're mentally ill, that's not the job of a deputy, to deal with a mentally ill person. 

• We're coming up with a program, we're starting it in Moreno Valley where they've already been doing it, and we have a mental health clinician that's riding along with the deputy. If any of the deputies on that shift come into a call service where someone needs mental care, that unit, and that clinician are going to handle that call. That clinician ends up handling everything and the deputies go back to work, and we go on about our business. Then the county can help those legitimate homeless people that need help. I believe that's the best way to do it, I'm all for that, because there are legitimately are people that need help. If they don't need help, we're going to help them with the gun, and the badge and the handcuffs, and we'll deal with them afterwards. 

• We're really working on the homeless situation. We know it's a problem everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's Temecula, Corona, Palm Desert, Indian Wells. Even the most affluent places that we have still have a homeless issue. 

• It's not a crime to be homeless, but it is a crime, still, to be on drugs, it's a crime to be in possession of drugs, it's a crime to have stolen property —even if it's a shopping cart. That shopping cart is stolen and now I can go contact that person. We're dealing with it as quickly and as [seriously] as we can. I wish we could do it everywhere at the same time, but that's where we are. As soon as I have full staffing, within that year and a half to two years, we will be doing it all day long, in every community that we serve. Until then, we have to target certain areas. We're not going to tell you where we're targeting because that kind of defeats the purpose. 

Public Safety
• I want Riverside county to be a known as one of the safest places in the country to live. I want to be a part of making that happen. We're going to be doing everything we possibly can.

• You're never going to get a political answer from me, it's either yes or no. Ask anything that you want. I answer social media constantly. Be prepared for the answer, because it's going to be the answer and it might not be the one that you want to hear, and it gets me in trouble sometimes, but oh well.

Rising Costs
• The contract cities' costs will decrease. They've substantially gone up over the last several years, and honestly, we really don't know why. My administration, we really don't know why. We were able to get it down to barely over 2% increase, it was supposed to be projected to be 6% or 7%. Just in six months we were able to keep it down to 2%. I believe if we'd had a full year we'd have gotten it down to a decrease, instead of even breaking even. 

CCW (concealed carry weapon permit)
• CCW's, throughout the campaign, was a huge issue. Everywhere I went that's what everyone wanted to know about. We completely redid our CCW program. How we do business is completely online. What used to take two years before I took office in January, is now —the fastest we've done it is seventeen days. 

• I've said "no" to a lot of people. I'm not just giving them out. I'm not cutting corners so everybody can have one. If you don't deserve one or if you shouldn't have one you're not going to get one. If you are a good law abiding citizen and you want one, then you're going to get one.

• We went from, what the previous sheriff had, 3 people in the entire county that were authorized to do the training, we now have 14. 

Closing Remarks
• We have a lot of work to do in the next several years, but trust me, we can't wait to make a difference. I really do believe I'm here to make sure I serve you. This has absolutely nothing to do with me, it's about you and I'm just in a place that I can make people happy.
Sheriff Bianco has a very good natured way of getting his points across.
I've heard Sheriff Bianco speak twice now. The first time was in January when he hadn't been in office a month. Now eight months into his first term and I can see things getting done with his no nonsense approach. 

I'm proud to say that I voted for him, and am happy that our top cop in Riverside County has a solid can do attitude. 
•                •                •

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all.
– Abraham Lincoln

Wildomar Rap would like to point out that Honest Abe said nothing about blogs.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

• City Council Meeting August 2019

The meeting started with presentations. The first was by EVMWD and how they're going to jack up the rates by another 3.2%.
Red arrow is the previous bill, the green arrow is the new and improved, king size bill.
Reality is, it's all but a done deal. There is a provision (which is nothing more than Sacramento based false hope) known as Prop 218. The theory is, if 50% of the ratepayers protest, then the rate increase will be halted. 

Remember, 50% is referring to EVMWD ratepayers.

Pro Tip: There is only ONE ratepayer per household. 

That means if you're married, it's a waste of time to send in separate letters from both spouses. 

To me, Prop 218 is an exercise in futility. Please don't mishear me, I encourage you to participate in the process and send in your protest letter, but just keep in mind that there won't even be 1% that write in, much less 50%.
Police Quarterly Update (10:45 mark of video)
key takeaway is that with the new approach to trespassing and panhandling the arrests have gone up over the last couple of months.
An average of 45-50 calls for service per day.
Also, in July, the first month of our motorcycle officer, 270 citations were written out... were you one of them?
It was said that "a lot" of the citations were issued to non Wildomar residents.
There was also a Fire Department update and a Library Update (easy to find in the video below).

At the 18:10 mark of the video Councilmember Bridgette Moore asks about weed abatement in the city. There is no image, but the audio is worth listening to. 
We discussed that today, we had a meeting [with staff] and had a lot of good talking points. I think there is definitely some options through the State Fire Marshal office, Cal Fire, and State and Riverside County, and of course your code enforcement. I think next year we'll have a multi pronged/faceted attack on it. It's not horrible, but with the amount of rain we had [this past season] we had more than normal grass growth and weeds. Also community outreach, as far as letting the public know "Hey, it's time to cut your weeds." This year was just one of those years.  
  —Wildomar Battalion Chief John Crater

The fifth presentation was for the city's finance department. 
Mayor Marsha Swanson with Finance Director James Riley and Finance Manager Robert Howell.
Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement Award.
2.1 Store America GPA/Zone Change
(This item begins around the 40:30 mark of the video below)

This has been wending its way through planning and city council for awhile now. It's an item that is still active, so I'm only comfortable giving a very brief overview.

This is about an older storage place, formerly Wildomar Storage, on Mission Trail. The new owners desire to remodel the whole place. Problem is, it's in the wrong zone according to the general plan.
A look at the new and improved building design.
The applicant has been working with staff to alleviate the issue of "losing retail zoning" in the General Plan by working with the city to help replace the 3.5 acres in another part of the city.  
For a more complete understanding of this, please refer to the video.
Fun personal note: 

I'm still getting the hang of how an official meeting is run where "motions" and "seconds" are part of nearly every item. After throwing in my two cents, Councilmember Ben Benoit gave me one of those time to take off the training wheels looks, and encouraged me make the motion for Item 2.1.

In my haste I made a broad motion to approve 2.1... without taking into account that there were two different options to choose from. Our city attorney reminded me that there were two possibilities, but in the end I finally figured it out and made the proper motion. ☺

That bit of levity starts at the 46:10 mark of the video.
2.2 Waste Management Rate Increase

It's not my intention of giving this item short shrift, but there is somewhat of an anticlimactic feel to this since we just did the CR&R rate hike a couple of short months ago. The reason why this wasn't taken care of all at once is that the city has two different waste hauler contracts. 

The eastside of the freeway is serviced by WM, and the westside is taken care of by CR&R, and the contracts don't coincide on the same dates. 

The rates will be going up more (but not higher) than they did for the CR&R customers because it's not just a simple rate increase in many cases. Many areas that WM services don't currently have complete, three can per week, service that is common in the rest of the city.

In those cases, there will be the usual increase that is tied to the consumer price index, but then an additional increase, to cover the cost of parity, for others... especially those that live in the more established parts of The Farm.

Now both sides of the freeway will be getting the same service at the same rates

One public speaker spoke about the rates going from about $20 per month to roughly $28 per month. That is a big difference to absorb all at once. This was addressed by Councilmember Ben Benoit.

"This has come forward after a very long process, a bit of a difficult process, but in the last [...] couple of months, Waste Management has been working very well with us. There were lot's of different issues, probably one of the first franchise subcommittee meetings we had here we had people coming in with certain issues, especially with the green waste bins. 

I'm happy to see that we're finally fixing that issue. I know it's a burden but, Calrecycle would tell us, as a city, if we didn't have green waste bins across our city that they would start fining us up to $10K or $15K per day. [...] They overlooked it for a few years, and the last year or two we said, "We're working on it, so please don't fine us yet." 

If we were to deny this today, and not get those green waste bins out, we would be on the hook, from the state, and having to pay that. 

I know that this is not easy, and it's not something we want to ever do, to burden our residents, but the state requires this stuff. I guess my warning is, is this might not be the end of it unfortunately. 

I'm hearing that we might be seeing other rate increases because of that (recycling demands put on by the state), but for starters we've got to make sure that the city isn't going to start getting fined."
- Councilmember Ben Benoit
3.1 Mandatory Spay, Neuter and Microchipping 
(1:02:30 mark in the video)
This wasn't a controversial item. It was voted in 4-0 (Councilmember Dustin Nigg not in attendance). I've always had my pets altered, and for most family pets there is no useful purpose to keep intact animals. 

There are exemptions for hobby breeders, but for the vast majority of pet owners, it's time to take overpopulation of dogs and cats seriously.
Link to county page
The statistic of "less than 20% of pet owners license their animals" was suggested by public speaker, Kenny Mayes. 

Though I fully support altering pets, and cheerfully voted to have it be the rule in Wildomar, if an overwhelming percentage of people aren't bothered with licensing their pets, I see this to be a feel good measure only, as a similar percentage of scofflaws will undoubtedly be running afoul of this too.

I asked about enforcement and essentially there won't be any proactive enforcement. Think of it like the seatbelt law. Something that will be "enforced" when other issues come to light first. 

The fines for lack of compliance are $50, $150 and $250 for 1st offense, 2nd offense and 3rd offense... but they will work with people that are in the process of complying.

3.3 Palomar/Clinton Keith (1:26:45 mark in the video)
This item discussed additional sidewalks and bike lanes to complete some connectivity on Palomar and Clinton Keith.

This is in reference to grant money from RCTC (Riverside County Transportation Commission) that is specifically for these types of projects. 
The blue dotted line is the proposed sidewalks. The green dotted line is the proposed bike lanes.
Since I've seen comment after comment that suggests people don't understand the process (that you must spend the money according to the grant) I played Devil's Advocate when I asked our City Engineer, Dan York, the following:

Joseph: Can we spend the RCTC money on something else once they give it to us?

Dan: No, we cannot. These are very specific funds for very a specific use. We could have easily not applied for the it and another city would have won the [grant]. This is only specific for these types of things. This is part of the TDA Act, under Senate Bill 821, these are monies that come out every year, they're very specific to safe routes to school, for pedestrians, for bike paths, so that's really the only things this money could be used for.

Even with that clear as crystal I predict that when construction begins on these projects, Facebook will be flooded with, "But why are you building bike lanes and not fixing my street?"

3.5 Stormwater Drainage System Protection (1:33:00 mark in the video)
This should have been called, City of Wildomar protection from overreaching state agency

By the letter of the law you can't even wash your car on your impervious driveway. Actually, that has been verboten for many years now... but who knew? I didn't! 
Don't get the water police angry... you wouldn't like them when they're angry.
You certainly can't wash down your driveways (as if this is still the 1970s), but that also means you can't have your driveway pressure washed if there is going to be any runoff that hits the gutter. 

Those are called "illicit discharges"

Additionally, if you have a pool, you can't drain that without some serious hoop jumping. 

The way I see it, it's another seat belt law/mandatory spay and neuter law/no fireworks law... etc. See the pattern? The law is on the books, but there isn't enforcement. 

I hate those kinds of laws (didn't I already intimate that above?), but that's the kind of crackerjack work we get from unrealistic bureaucrats that are far removed from reality. 

At the same time, if you're producing so much runoff from washing your car, or over watering your lawn, that you can have clothespin regatta races in the gutter all the way down the street... you're doing something wrong. 

That said, the odds that you'll get rung up for washing your car in your driveway are about as remote as the water wasters having gotten a $500 fine during the drought we had. Caveat Emptor.
Could We Have Ignored This?

I asked City Engineer/Public Works Director/Assistant City Manager Dan York what would be the risk of not approving this item.

The answer came back that the city would be out of compliance and we'd be facing fines of $10K per day.

That part picks up at the 1:42:30 mark of the video.
The city will be working on educational material that will be added to the webpage regarding illicit discharges of water in the near future. 

The first three minutes of the video are dead air, please skip ahead.

•                •                •

To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.
― Albert Camus

Wildomar Rap asks, "What is this 'others' he's talking about?"

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

• Little Free Library/Eagle Scout Project In One

The count of Little Free Libraries (LFL) in Wildomar is now up to seven with the official ribbon cutting at the new Marna O'Brien location. 
The 7th Little Free Library in Wildomar.
This project started about a year ago as Chris Ramos was embarking on his Eagle Scout project. He was looking to hammer out the specifics and met with Parks Manager Daniel Torres several times to ensure that the designs stayed up to a level that would be accepted by the city.
July 2018, taking a look, thinking of the possibilities.
Chris had about twenty different people helping him with this project. His primary fundraising was with a GoFundMe page, family and friends helped out with some fundraisers too. 
Chris Ramos addresses the crowd of about twenty-five people.
In addition to the LFL, he also put in an ADA compliant path to it, planted a sycamore tree, added new bark and some plants. 

I asked what about what learning experiences he got from this project, "It takes longer than you expect, and it takes more money than planned."
Chris Ramos readies the scissors.
Teacher Natalia Rupp has a Little Free Library in her front yard, and has enjoyed watching the LFL idea spread throughout the city, "Book access is really important for students, especially in low income areas. Parts of Wildomar fall into those guidelines, and book ownership increases student's desire to read and desire to seek out books in their age appropriate level and also content appropriate.
The ribbon finally yielded to the oversized scissors.
When they come to a Little Free Library, nobody's telling them [about] rules, there aren't strings attached to those books, they're absolutely free to take home and to enjoy and maybe bring back. I think that's really important [as we] grow more readers in our community."

Chris Ramos confers with Daniel Torres as Scoutmaster (and Dad) Vic Ramos looks on.
Daniel Torres, who worked with Chris on this project, had high praise for him, "Chris did a great job setting up with his community of the boy scouts, got it all done, and did a great job of it."
Natalia Rupp, Chris Ramos and Daniel Torres. I asked these three to be in a photo because, though there are many that were crucial to this project's success, I see these as the key figures that factored in.
Council Member, and parks subcommittee chair, Bridgette Moore said, "We thank Chris for building another free library in our city, especially in the park. The parks bring the community together. You can bring your family down, grab a book, sit on the bench and read a book."
Wildomar city council member Bridgette Moore, teacher and LFL maven Natalia Rupp, project overseer Chris Ramos, Wildomar city council member Joseph "Legs" Morabito, and Parks Manager Daniel Torres.
•                •                •

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.
– George R.R. Martin

A reader of Wildomar Rap rolls their eyes a thousand times... the person that never reads this blog obviously has better things to do.

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Friday, August 9, 2019

• Glow Parade 2019

You may be asking, "What's a glow parade?"

That's what I was asking most of the week leading up to it... but thanks to Heather Donovan and family (the ones who put this all together) I found out it was a fun walk around the neighborhood, in the cool evening air, adorned with glow sticks, as bicyclists lap you a couple of times before the end. ☺
I'm never that good at estimating crowds, but I'm thinking there were more than 50 people that came to participate, and several were in their yards, waving hello, as we walked past them.

Great event flyer.
I hear that this part of Windsong is lights out at Halloween... with a great haunted house. 

That's only 83 days away!

Below are some of the photos. It was good to get a chance to meet more fellow Wildomartinis (Wild-Omarians for others)
The crowd began to arrive a little after 7:30pm.
There were many creative ways glow sticks were fashioned together. 
On the first part of the loop.
I could tell that the bike riders were having a lot of fun.
A lot of caution was being exercised by the participants.
Decorating was a big part of the event.
That's a glow in the dark beach ball being tossed into the air.
A selfie just before we got underway.
•                •                •

A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it. 
– Arthur Baer

Wildomar Rap never tries to climb over your fence, and wouldn't be in a position to smile at you from the other side in the first place.

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