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June 20, 2014

Peloton Sprint Finish

You've probably never been here. Someone attached action cams (could be GoPro; I can't say) on two bicycles (one forward, one rearward) in the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse. You get to see the final 2:48, as the peloton launches itself into the full speed crush for the finish line. Fear not; there are no accidents this time.

Filed under Cycling | permalink | June 20, 2014 at 06:50 PM | Comments (0)

Long Jump

Guerlain Chicherit goes for the record of the longest car jump: 101 meters, using a very modified Mini. His car and personnel are well-festooned with GoPro cameras set to maximum frames/second, so there's a lot of excellent slow-motion when the car is airborne and landing.

Filed under Automotive,GoPro,Photography | permalink | June 20, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

DUI Arrest For That Early Morning Traffic Accident

CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT

Daniel Bressler, Chief of Police

***PRESS RELEASE***

DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT: Traffic Collision – Case # 1406D-0886

On 6-5-14 there was a head on traffic collision on Palm Drive at Camino Campanero in Desert Hot Springs at approximately 5:15 AM. The driver and sole occupant of a vehicle traveling southbound on Palm Drive, swerved into the northbound lanes and collided with the other vehicle which had a driver and two passengers. There was one fatality and two persons severely injured and still hospitalized. Through further investigation it was determined the driver of the vehicle who was the cause of the collision driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Today, 6-19-14, the driver who caused the collision, Monica Benavidez, was released from the hospital. She was immediately arrested and booked into the Riverside County Jail in Banning and is facing charges of homicide and DUI causing great bodily injury.

Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation please contact the Desert Hot Springs Police Department and ask to speak with Detective Larry Essex. (760) 329-6411 ext 322. Email: lessex@dhspd.com Citizens can also call Valley Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-7867.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | permalink | June 20, 2014 at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2014

It's Official

Nevada is celebrating its sesquicentennial and they've put together a list of all the official events for this year-long celebration. Nothing says "Silver State" more than events like the Elko County Fair And Horse Races, or the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival, or that most Silver of official Silver State Sesquicentennial events: Burning Man. It's as Nevada as Hoss Cartwright.

Nevada 150th - Burning Man

Filed under Burning Man,History | permalink | June 19, 2014 at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2014

A Change At Apple

Has Apple ever before now introduced a cheaper, less powerful version of a computer? They have now. The newest iMac is $200 cheaper at $1,099. It's been reduced from the 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz to the 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz.

You can compare iMac models here. The hard drive is cut from 1Tb to 500GB (for $50 they'll upgrade it to 1TB).

Filed under Shopping,Technology | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

More Begging For Those Special Rights

In Texas a judge has ruled that the birth certificates of two half brothers cannot include the names of the biological fathers. In most states (I would say all states, but maybe Texas is different) if a man comes forward at the birth of a baby to identify himself as the father and the mother agrees that's the father, then the authorities are delighted to put the father's name on there. It imposes genuine legal obligations on the father which might keep the kid off welfare rolls in the future (if Texas has welfare rolls).

But not in Texas, because, those two fathers of the two half brothers went and got themselves married to each other in another state, and while Texas doesn't recognize anybody's same-sex marriage, they can certainly recognize a Homer-sexual when they need to.

The men contracted with a surrogate mother and each fertilized an egg. The surrogate mother carried both so they could be born as fraternal twins. Now only the mother's name is on the birth certificate. What each father wants is to have his own name on his own biological son's birth certificate - which would be a no-brainer in any other part of the world than Texas - and each wants his husband's name on there as father too. The adoption of your spouse's child is not much of a big deal anywhere but Texas.

Temporary workaround for other expectant Texas fathers is to make sure the mother delivers in a neighboring state. New Mexico is quite nice.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

How Big Is It?

Allstate insurance is now marketing itself to those men with, you know, really big..."hands."

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon has introduced its Fire Phone.

I've watched the videos and read down the long page of features and it sure seems to do a lot of nice stuff. If only it had some way that you could make it connect to another device at a great distance so that you could, I guess, talk or sump'n to the person who has that other device. That'd be neat, but I guess that's some crazy futuristic thing we have to wait for.

Here's the product announcement video. The contrast between the excitement level of an Amazon audience and an Apple audience is really striking.

The phone appears at the 14-minute mark.

Filed under Shopping,Technology | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

Funding The Visitor Center

Letter in support of funding the Visitor Center
Here's a letter from Scott White, President and CEO of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, to Mayor Sanchez in support of continued funding for the Visitor Center
.

GREATER palm springs convention & visitors bureau

June 17,2014

Adam Sanchez, Mayor
City of Desert Hot Springs
65-950 Pierson Blvd.
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

Re: Support for Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce operation of the Visitors Center

Dear Mayor Sanchez,

On behalf of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), I am writing to you in support of the continuation for contracted services of the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce as they pertain to the operation of the Desert Hot Springs Visitors Center.

In the two and a half years that the Chamber of Commerce has been operating the Visitors Center, they have served more than 32,000 visitors. Our 2013 Economic Impact Study estimates that 55% of all visitors are overnight visitors who spend an average of $500 per visit while day visitors spend $257 per visit. That means that overnight visitors who experienced the Desert Hot Springs Visitors Center spent $8.8 million dollars in the destination while day visitors contributed an additional $3.7 million. It is essential that these visitors continue to have a great experience in the Visitors Center, making them want to return to the destination after they have learned of all the fun and exciting things there are to do in Greater Palm Springs.

Tourism is the leading industry for Greater Palm Springs, generating over 46,000 jobs, $486 million in state and local taxes and over $5.8 billion in business sales for our economy. Our 2013 Economic Impact Study estimates over 12.2 million people visit the destination for day and overnight trips each year. Many of these visitors rely upon the local visitor centers to provide them with information on the many local attractions, activities, businesses and events. We need effective visitor centers in order to provide visitors with the best possible experience in the destination.

The visitor is an important component for your business community and critical to keeping important tax revenue and jobs in your city.

In conclusion, I would like to recommend that the Desert Hot Springs City Council continue to contract with the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce for management of the city's Visitors Center.

Sincerely,
Scott White
President & CEO

CC: Heather Coladonato, Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce

There are a very few things the city puts money into that turn right around and put money back into the city's coffers.

One is Code Compliance but there's never a guarantee that it makes a profit. The more money it generates in fines, the more pissed off city residents you've got - at least temporarily. When we achieve nirvana here, Code Compliance will have zero income.

Another is the money for tourism promotion that goes to the Hoteliers. But if that's cut from the budget, people will still come here and the spas and hotels will still promote themselves, but at a lesser rate.

The third is the Visitor Center which is owned by the city (well, technically it's in the Redevelopment tangle). Pay to keep it open and the Visitor Center will continue to inform visitors and direct them to places of interest and commerce in the city. Cut it out of the budget and it just closes, sitting there in that prime location, looking just like a Visitor Center, but with locked doors and no lights. The first words from a visitor's mouth at the Visitor Center will no longer be "How do I get to Cabot's?" or "Is there a Mexican restaurant nearby?" Instead it will be something more like "WTF?! What kind of sh*thole town is this?" And away they go to somewhere else. Besides reducing revenue to the city, a closed Visitor Center would become a negative experience for tourists.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 07:43 PM | Comments (7)

A Series Of Poor Decisions

On the bright side, they didn't find any drugs.

Filed under California,Public Safety | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

Last Night's City Council Meeting

Another brief summary from memory.

The City Council meeting last night began with Councilmember McKee adding an urgency item to deal with the $10,000 gift from John Furbee that is contingent upon the reduction of a child's admission price at the Furbee Aquatic Center to $1. The City Council never got to that item before adjourning.

The City Council will meet again (same agenda) on Thursday at 6 PM, despite Judy Shea's request that they not conflict with the meeting that will begin that evening at 5:30 at the Senior Center on the subject of child abuse.

Captain Vest, who would take the title of Chief of Police if we contract with the Sheriff, presented the Sheriff's proposal. I believe that for comparison purposes he was using the staffing expenses of the DHS Police from July 2013, before the big pay cut and subsequent reduction in staff.

Acting Police Chief Neujahr made the presentation for the Police.

I think Thomas Moen is well in the lead for an award for Best Public Comments on the matter of Sheriff vs. Police. Not only does he have the historical knowledge of why and how we created our own PD, but he's very entertaining.

Police Officer Botich made an interesting point when he said that he believed Captain Vest knew his law enforcement business and since Captain Vest was recommending one of the higher levels of service for our public safety, then we should be looking at that level of service instead of the minimum option. The level recommended by Captain Vest would cost in the range of $7.1 million.

It is my suggestion that if one finds oneself reading the very same comment one made to the City Council at an earlier meeting one should consider just sitting down. Such a comment brings nothing new to the conversation and just consumes more time.

The auditor was there to present the Single Audit Report. It's an indication of the state of things that we are getting this report in June for fiscal year July 2012 to June 2013. Audit reports for a fiscal years ending in June are generally wrapped up in October or November. And the Single Audit Report which deals only with federal funds is usually smaller than the full audit. This Single Audit Report, however, turned up a lot of problems (as did the regular audit). The auditor reported that interference from management (Rick Daniels) during their review was so bad that at one point they considered resigning from the process. There was discussion of the formation of an Audit Committee. Finally there was a 3-2 vote to make the Administrative Services Director (Finance Director) a direct hire of the City Council. Ms. Pye and Mr. Matas voted against. Before now the only direct hires were the City Manager and City Attorney. All other personnel report to the City Manager. This change means that the City Manager could not fire the Finance Director. For this to work, the City Council has to more actively oversee the Finance Director. IOW, the Council voted to give itself more work. If the issue of potential politicization of the Finance Director position was discussed, I didn't hear it. It boils down to who you trust more, a City Manager or a City Council. Ms. Pye pointed out that the City Council had direct authority over the City Manager and look how well that turned out.

By a vote of 4-1 (Mr. Matas voted against) the July 5 fireworks event was made a city-sponsored event, which saves the event the cost of the permit. It's going to be out at the shopping center at Little Morongo and Mission Lakes. Mr. Matas objected to having a city-sponsored event at a facility that had not yet paid its DIF, had no certificate of occupancy and no business license. The Fire Department still has to give its stamp of approval before the event can proceed.

I wonder if that shopping center would be a good location for a marijuana dispensary. Put one dispensary and one fast food restaurant on the site and watch the sales tax pour in.

The Council started to discuss the first item on the Administrative Calendar which was a lease deal with Borrego for the Health & Wellness Center, but it was quickly discovered that the copy of the lease in the agenda packet was the wrong lease, so none (or few) of the City Council members had reviewed the correct lease. The vote was put off, even though the deadline was midnight. Attorney Quintanilla assured the Council that all would be fine.

At 11:10 the City Council had voted to adjourn when the time reached 11:30. With less than five minutes to go they took up the question of travel expenses to the League of Cities Conference in September. Since the city will not be paying the money to renew its membership in the League, it makes no sense to reimburse travel expenses to its conference. This was denied by a 5-0 vote.

Adjourned until Thursday at 6 PM.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | June 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Comments (5)

June 17, 2014

11:10 PM

11:10 PM and the City Council has just finished the consent calendar and they've now voted to adjourn at 11:30. Ten more items on the agenda, including the budget.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | June 17, 2014 at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

DHS Public Safety Commission - June 12, 2014

Public Comment

Pamela Berry wanted to know how many lawsuits had been filed against the Police Department since its founding, and the results of those lawsuits. She also said that some DHS Police Officers have tried to get jobs elsewhere since the paycut. "But failed to do so due to issues of their own choosing, doing. So now we still have them because they can't get a job elsewhere." She said there are upset people on her street because the "dog Nazis are out." She said there was a May 29 article the Desert Sun that she hadn't read that the Commissioners might want to read.

Dean Gray said he is not a convicted felon. His home is now a fortess. He is armed to protect himself. Public safety is bankrupt. The Police Officers cannot do the job.

Herb Moon from Rancho Del Oro said that at 65827 Avenida Pico the sidewalk has buckled. He has gone to Public Works and the Engineering Department and Code Enforcement. He said Public Works should fix it, but they say they have no money. He thinks the money should come out of the Landscape and Lighting fees. The Finance Department said there is $42,000 in that fund.

ERICA

ERICA is the digital radio system shared by DHS Police and other cities in the valley. It's an 800 MHz system. The original price tag when ERICA was created was $15 million to $18 million. The cites in ERICA spread those payments out over 15 years. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said it's a great system. It's got hundreds of channels and is expandable. The Desert Hot Springs share of that cost is $134,000 to finance the system. On top of that are usage fees. This brought the total cost last year up to $218,000. This year the total cost will be about $234,000. No matter what may happen with a Sheriff's contract, the $134,000 chunk of that bill will continue to be paid by the city until 2024.

Commissioner Stephens asked what would happen if DHS simply didn't pay it for a year or two. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said the other cities could resort to a civil suit to get the money.

Commissioner Lavy asked how we might approach the other cities to make the fees more fair. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said the city had signed a contract, so it would be nearly impossible to renegotiate it - especially since it would potentially raise the cost for the other cities.

Vice Chair Meyer asked the Acting Police Chief to clarify that only the $134,000 was the same for every city. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said no, every city pays the same grand total: $234,000 this year.

Nicole Vandal asked if the ERICA contract was signed under the umbrella of CVAG. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said it was not. It's a joint powers agreement. Ms. Vandal that perhaps we could go through CVAG to get their help in negotiating with the other cities in ERICA.

Animal Control

In May 60 stray dogs were picked up. There were 55 stray cats and 34 owner turn-ins. Officer Huffman said those cat numbers are "huge" for a city as small as DHS. The 34 turn-ins came from one residence.

Mr. Lavy asked why Officer Huffman brought no budget information. He was asked for it two months ago. Mr. Lavy said he had come without any budget information for six months. [The discrepancy between those two figures was not explained.] The issue was "overlooked" last month when the people who really deal with Animal Control's budget were in front of the Commission.

This seemed to be a very important matter for at least a couple of Commissioners, so I am at a loss as to why they overlooked their opportunity a month earlier.

Mr. Lavy said the three-year contract with Animal Control was signed in January 2012. Then there is the recent contract approval in September 2013 that was retroactive to July 1, 2013. He wanted to know why the city is being charge for operation and maintenance of Animal Control vehicles. Officer Huffman said that charge is standard in all of their contracts. Mr. Lavy asked how much overtime had been used to date. Officer Huffman said he didn't have that information.

Mr. Lavy asked what has been done to advise the public about the current license canvassing program. Officer Huffman said a press release was sent out on May 28 or 29 that was reported in the Desert Sun. He said KESQ and possible KMIR reported on it too.

The press release mentions Indio only, not Desert Hot Springs. You can download the press release here.

Mr. Lavy asked if any more clinics had been scheduled. Officer Huffman said he was not aware of any.

Pamela Berry came to the podium to ask when microchipping became mandatory. [The answer is September 2013.] She said that if there's a mandate "you better step up and help this poor community pay for it."

Animal Samaritans next door to Animal Control in Thousand Palms charges $25 to microchip your pet.

Mr. Meyer said county contracts usually include a mileage fee as well as the vehicle maintenance fee. He asked if the Animal Control contract had a mileage fee. Officer Huffman said he would have to get back to him with that information.

Mr. Meyer said he thought it was not fair for Officer Huffman's supervisors to send him. He said the supervisors should be at every meeting of the Public Safety Commission.

Mr. Lavy said the contract had no provision for vehicle maintenance.

Here's what I found in the Animal Control contract:

4. Provision of Vehicles and Radio Equipment: COUNTY shall provide animal control vehicle(s) with the appropriate animal control boxes mounted on the truck chassis and with an air conditioning unit mounted on the animal control truck boxes for use to provide contract services. The COUNTY shall equip fuel and maintain said vehicles.

Chair Bowman interrupted saying that the City Council has never passed the Animal Control budget through the Public Safety Commission. But that moving forward "we want that to happen."

Mr. Lavy asked Officer Huffman to have his superiors come up with a plan to cut Animal Control down to one officer. Officer Huffman said he would forward that information.

Fire

Call volume this year is up 3.5%.

Mr. Lavy said he was concerned about the cost of utilities used by the Fire Department as shown in the budget. Chief Tomlinson said the figures are based on use the prior year. He pointed out that the fire station is open 24 hours every day of the year and they are very cognizant of their light and water usage.

Code Compliance

During the month of May, the Code Compliance Division completed 469 inspections and responded to 219 service requests. This resulted in the issuance of 162 notices of violations and 49 citations totaling $14,900.00. A total of 15 demand for payments letters were issued for $17,998.84. The total payments received for administrative citations for the month comes to $132,873.04.

We collected a total of 543 signs from the public right of way, as well as 39 tires, 17 mattresses, 7 couches, 5 chairs, 5 televisions, 1 door and 2 headboards.

The total amount billed by AndersonPenna for the period of April 26th through May 30th is $60,730.50, bringing the total to $505,583.75 with $1,697,638.25 remaining on the total contract.

They have revised the wording on the notices of violation to "Courtesy Notice of Violation."

Commissioner Stephens asked about a figure in the written report from Code Compliance: "Amount of Administrative Citations Received $523,690.40." She said we seem to have gotten a number different from that the night before at the City Council meeting. Officer Williams said the $523,690.40 is for fiscal year to date and "I don't know how they report their numbers." But he suggested the figures from the Finance Department probably included the "tax payments as well, from last year's tax levy." Ms. Stephens asked him to verify that this was money received in this fiscal year. He said he believed it was.

"It's a little higher than what we heard last night," Ms. Stephens said, "so I'm a little bit confused." Officer Williams said he would have Al address it. That would be Al Brady from Andersonpenna. Mr. Brady came to the podium and said he was jumping out of his chair the night before as he listened to the City Council meeting. Mr. Brady said that he believed that the money that comes in via the tax rolls are included under tax assessments, not being attributed to Code. Ms. Stephens asked if the figure given the night before was $375,000. Mr. Brady confirmed that it was. Ms Stephens said the difference of a couple hundred-thousand dollars could make a big difference in what the city decides.

Mr. Brady said that if Code Compliance is cut, revenue from Code Compliance will drop in proportion to that.

Mr. Lavy asked Mr. Brady to explain the city's options on receivership of abandoned properties. Mr. Brady said that there are some properties where all remedies are exhausted but the owner refuses or is unable to bring the property into compliance. In the past this has been a very expensive undertaking because attorneys wanted their payment up front. But now there are attorneys that are willing to wait for payment "on the back end" Mr. Brady said. A court would give the city the power to make repairs to the property, then sell the property. The proceeds are used to pay off any debt owed the city, then pay the attorney. If there's any money left, it goes to the former owner of the property. Mr. Brady said that in some cases the cost of receivership exceeds the total value that could ever be gotten from selling the land. So each property must be evaluated on an individual basis to see if receivership is a good way to go.

Mr. Meyer commended Mr. Brady on the fact that they have brought in volunteers to assist with Code Compliance. Mr. Meyer noticed there is one citation issued for every seven inspections and that there is one notice of violation for every four inspections. [This fiscal year there have been 4,955 inspections, 666 citations and 1,354 notices of violation.] He asked if this indicated the people were complying voluntarily before a citation had to be issued. Mr. Brady said that was correct.

Mr. Brady said that under the prior Code Enforcement firm the fees and fines were over a million dollars. "One of the things that we were tasked with when we came on board was trying to be a little more community friendly, and I think we've achieved that with our numbers." Current revenue is not nearly as high as with the previous company, but more matters are being resolved. In addition, the prior company was charging the city $785,000/year. The bill for Andersonpenna will come to around $550,000 this fiscal year. The budget was for $720,000. He said the figure of $850,000 given by the Finance Director the night before included some of the other operating costs that are associated with the program. The vehicles, for example, are city-owned and therefore a city expense.

Mr. Lavy asked if there was a policy and procedures manual yet. Mr. Brady said no, that it would have been his job to write that manual, but in order to cut the cost of their contract with the city Andersonpenna deducted Mr. Brady from the budget for DHS. Any work he does for the city now is free. Writing a policy and procedures manual would be time-consuming and he's expensive. The total cost to the city for a manual could be in the neighborhood of $100,000. As an example of some of the free work Mr. Brady does he said he went to Seal Beach to serve a property owner with a citation. That property owner had claimed to be living outside the country. The property in question is the one on the northeast corner of Palm and Pierson. On the day of this meeting Mr. Brady met with the real estate agent who represents the property owner in order to get into the property to make repairs.

Mr. Lavy said that Mr. Brady has also spent countless hours on the phone with him. And they spent 6 or 7 hours one day driving throughout the city addressing issues. Mr. Lavy said he appreciates Mr. Brady's time and efforts and educating Mr. Lavy.

Mr. Lavy asked when we could expect full compliance at Vista Hacienda. Officer Williams said the majority of violations have been corrected. The owner has started working with Planning to get the project restarted. They were given until June 17 to submit their paperwork. The deadline to deal with outstanding code violations is the same, June 17.

Mr. Lavy asked about a tree at the 7-Eleven on Pierson. Officer Williams said the it's a city tree and the city doesn't have the money to fix it. Mr. Lavy said the tree top has fallen out.

Mr. Lavy asked about the auto repair place just north of KFC on Palm Drive. "The junk yard," Mr. Lavy termed it. Officer Williams said they are working with that property owner. Most of the deadlines for that place fell between June 11 and 13, so Mr. Williams said he would get back to Mr. Lavy with the outcomes next week.

Mr. Lavy asked about the "Miracle Springs junk yard." Officer Williams said their deadline was also between June 11 and 13 and he would get back to him on that.

Mr. Lavy asked if we still get weekly updates from the county as to the locations of parolees. Officer Williams said the city has not gotten that in more than two years..."or at least Code has not gotten that in over two years."

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said the Police are not getting that either, but they are working with Parole to get that.

Police

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said that there have been 140 serious crimes this year, compared with 139 this time last year. Response times are still "optimal," he said.

Mr. Meyer noted that there 479 officer-initiated contacts in April and that in May that jumped up to 619. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said that as manpower has risen, the officer-initiated contacts have risen likewise. April was the low month. Some trainees have been brought on board. Part of their training is showing them how to work the street and to see what areas of the city have problems. This generates more officer-initiated contacts.

Mr. Eastman noted that reports are being written at about the same rate. There were 209 criminal reports in May, which is the highest since January.

Public Safety Budget

Chair Bowman said that the Sheriff's proposal was given to the Public Safety Commission only this week by the city attorney. He said the role of the Commission was to provide the City Council with as much relevant information as possible, but the final decision, as always, is the Council's. He said that in the decade he has sat on the Public Safety Commission he has seen a number of Police Chiefs. He's seen the department when it was sparse and when it was large. But no matter how many uniformed officers we have on the streets, they are never idle. If we had 40 Police Officers or 40 Sheriff's Deputies they would all be busy. Crime in DHS is hyper-normal, he said. The question is what level of service do the citizens want and what can we afford. He said our Police work hard and any Deputies would work equally hard.

Commissioner Stephens asked Acting Police Chief Neujahr if there is absolutely no where else that the Police can cut their budget. She's a long time Police "rah-rah," she said. She has raised money for DHS. She went to the Agua caliente's and "opened a door that had never been opened, with Adam Sanchez." If we go with the Sheriff, we would have to get rid of Cathedral City dispatch as well. She has had to argue with dispatch. Dispatch has asked her "Are you sure those people don't belong on your street?" when Ms. Stephens called in to report two teenagers going down her street with backpacks and rolling suitcases. "Why do you think they're up to no good? dispatch asked.

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said there are a number of issues, from time to time. Dispatch sometimes doesn't listen to DHS Police, requiring them to repeat their message over and over. Dispatch's contract is up for renewal at the end of this month. If it is not renewed, then it becomes a month-to-month deal. But the price goes up to $1.2 million to $1.4 million, whether we sign a new contract or not.

The Acting Police Chief explained that dispatch is a lifeline to officers in the field in addition to being the person who answers when you dial 911. A dispatch center is called a "PSAP" (Public Safety Answering Point). PSAPs are managed by the State of California. He said there's a small tax listed on your phone bill that goes to support PSAPs. If DHS went with its own dispatch center, they would negotiate with the state to get some of that money, which could be used to put in a console and and phones. It will not pay for personnel or radios. All we need is a radio, a telephone and a computer. We the computer database used by other agencies, we have the computer, we have the radio frequencies. "It would not be difficult" to start our own dispatch center, he said. He checked salaries for dispatchers throughout the Coachella Valley. Picking a number in the "middle of the bottom end" of the range of salaries means we would pay $20 to $25/hour. We could have 24 hour coverage and double coverage during peak times. It would cost us about $450,000 to $475,000 for the staff. That's total cost, including benefits. Hooking up and wiring could cost as much as $200,000. The money from the state would cover everything else. Total cost to the city in the first year: no more than $700,000 which is at least $500,000 less than we would pay Cathedral City for a year of dispatch.

Vice Chair Meyer said the situation with Cathedral City dispatch illustrates the problem with contracting out. You lose control of your costs. He said he had some experiences with dispatch that were similar to Ms. Stephens'. They've asked him "Are you sure you're in the city?" When he assured them he was, they wanted to know how he knew he was in the city. He would tell them he had lived here 26 years and that he used to be a patrolman here. Dispatch would ask him if he was sure.

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said he had estimated all the costs of setting up our own dispatch high, so there could be no unpleasant surprises. He said there is already an officer on staff who is qualified and willing to be a dispatch supervisor.

Mr. Meyer said that the reason we lost dispatch before was that we didn't pay a competitive wage.

Mr. Lavy said he also had some issues with dispatch. He said that he and Detective Henson researched one call that Mr. Lavy had asked about last month. It said the response time was 45 minutes. They found out the DHS Police responded in only 8 minutes after the call was passed on to them. He asked Acting Police Chief Neujahr to elaborate.

The Acting Police Chief said he had read the logs and listened to the radio traffic. In the original phone call the victim said "My garage was broken into" and he provided his address. However, the victim did not tell the dispatcher that this was a crime in progress! Another line rang at dispatch and the dispatcher put the victim on hold. When the dispatcher came back the victim had hung up. The Acting Police Chief said the usual practice is to call back to find out if the victim is all right. But the dispatcher did not call back. At the same time there are two physical fights and a domestic violence call happening in DHS. Person crimes always get a higher priority than property crimes. The dispatcher held the call as these other higher priority events were dealt with. Then a burglar alarm call came into dispatch from the victim's address. The dispatcher seems to have assumed that the victim accidentally triggered the alarm. The victim eventually called back to ask where the Police were. Now he said "I'm being robbed!" The dispatcher explained to the victim that he was not being "robbed," he was being "burglarized." The victim said he didn't care about the fine points of English, but just wanted the cops to come. The dispatcher insisted he must use the correct terminology. Finally, the dispatcher passes the call along to the DHS Police and they respond.

By the time our Police got there, the burglar (who is not a robber) had gotten away. No one was hurt.

Mr. Meyer asked if we have a dedicated dispatcher. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said our contract says we get a dedicated dispatcher. But in fact, when things get busy our dispatcher goes off to help someone else.

Dean Gray came up to comment. He said if Measure F had passed this would be a completely different situation. He said that Councilmember Matas, Yvonne Parks and Dot Reed campaigned against Measure F.

I'd like to see some evidence that Scott Matas actually campaigned against Measure F. He said he would not campaign against it and I never saw any evidence of him campaigning. Certainly his photo never graced any of those lying mailings from the IETA.

Nicole Vandal came up to ask if when the Cathedral City contract goes month to month, would it be at the higher price. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said he expected it would be. Ms. Vandal suggested that if our high school kids were sufficiently techie or if there were a trade school around, they might be recruited to do the installation of equipment for a dispatch center.

Pamela Berry asked if we kept the Police Department, what are we going to do about the POA lawsuit. "How can we do both?" she asked. "We can't keep a Police force with a lawsuit against us."

I don't know how the lawsuit will end up being resolved, but I'm pretty sure that if we contract with the Sheriff, the POA will have no motivation to drop the lawsuit.

Thomas Moen said he thinks we have a vested interest in keeping our Police Department. He was on the blue ribbon committee that set up the Police Department in the 1990s. On Flag Day, June 14, 1997 there was a parade of DHS Police-to-be. On July 1, 1997, the new Police Department went live. He said the contracts with the Sheriff always started out low. Then they discover that we needed this and we needed that, all at additional cost. "This is not business; this is government! Government has never been run in a business-like way." You can't run the government like a business. "Remember," he said," that's not a black and white contract. It's government. And the Sheriff's office is bigger than anything we can think of." We have control with our local Police. When the Sheriff is here, they'll listen if they want to.

DHS Police Officer Rick Botich came to the podium. He said that once a contract is signed with the Sheriff, we lose control. With our local Police there is some control. The Police can be asked to come to the table and discuss things. He and some of his fellow POA members have made contact with some of the contract cities. They all said the Deputies were good police, but they also said they had lost a realm of control. The inflation increases must be paid. The contract cities can't reduce the contract. He suggested that one could look at Eastvale or Coachella where they've had recent problems with the contract cost. Eastvale started with a contract for $2.5 million. Now it's $6.3 million after only a couple of years.

Eastvale incorporated October 1, 2010, so I would assume that's when their contract with the Sheriff began. The difference between $2.5 million and $6.3 million is $3.8 million. That's an increase of 152% over no more than 3½ years.

The proposed contract with the Sheriff has a built-in 5% annual increase, he said. At that rate, the cost of the Sheriff will exceed the cost of the Police [using their current budget figures, I imagine] even if you give the Police a 3% increase each year. Most of the contract cities they contacted said they would be unable to get out of the Sheriff's contract and form their own Police department if they wanted to.

Mr. Lavy asked the Acting Police Chief how long it would take to set up our own dispatch. Personnel would have to meet standards set by POST. From application through testing would take at least 45 days.

Mr. Eastman said he heard at the previous night's City Council meeting that the difference between the Sheriff's proposal and the Police budget was about $735,000. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said the actual PD budget is $6.5 million. When you add in other expenses in the city budget that are affected by the PD's budget, the total comes up to $6.9 million. He said the amount of the Sheriff's proposal is a "hard" number, i.e., not an estimate. On the city side everything is fluid until the final budget is approved.

Mr. Bowman asked "what if" the City Council asked the PD to target $6 million, or $5.75 million. The Acting Police Chief said that was the direction he received after the City Council meeting the night before: a plan to match the Sheriff's proposal. He said one challenge is that the Sheriff's Department is huge. When they buy paper they buy in bulk and save money. Mr. Bowman said "If you were told to live within a $5.5 million budget, you would find a way to do it." The Acting Police Chief's response was "Exactly."

Acting Police Chief Neujahr explained that this is the essence of local control. The City Council has total, final control over the PD budget. When they give the PD a budget, the PD lives within that budget. But if a contract is signed with the Sheriff...or Cathedral City dispatch, that control is lost.

Mr. Eastman asked if the POA would be willing to go back to the table and talk about this. Acting Police Chief Neujahr said that he was not a member of the POA, but based on the comments of POA members at the previous night's City Council meeting he would say that it is very important to the POA as an organization as well as personally, that the PD succeed. He said the officers don't want to go to other cities. They want to work here.

Ms. Stephens said she had dissected the Sheriff's proposal and it works out to about 3.3 officers per shift and 16.4 assigned to the streets. But when she looked at "Option 1, Minimum Deployment" she didn't see some of the stuff we already have. She asked about CSI. How is that paid for? The proposal lists only CSOs. Do we pay extra for CSI?

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said the PD is molded to fit the community needs as they see them. We have one of the best CSIs. If there is the need for for a CSI, the Sheriff's contract would provide for that...if the need occurred between 8 AM and 5 PM. Outside of those times it would be overtime, an additional expense that the city would have to pay for. Everything we would need for law enforcement would be available to us from the Sheriff's Department...at a cost.

Ms. Stephens noted the $200,000 for OT in the Sheriff's proposal and said it was "ridiculously low." If we exceed $200,000 the city pays the extra charge. Acting Police Chief Neujahr predicted that the OT figure would be the first overrun if we contracted with the Sheriff.

Ms. Stephens said that in the past she has seen OT amounts of $300,000 to $500,000.

Acting Police Chief Neujahr pointed out that a difference between the Sheriff's contract and the PD is that the Sheriff's contract doesn't offer staffing, it offers hours of service. We get 80 hours of patrol time. If they use less, we pay less. If they use more, we pay more.

Ms. Stephens asked how many cars would be rolling around under the Sheriff's proposal. The Acting Police Chief said the Sheriff works a 4/10 schedule. There are times in the schedule where there would be 4 or 5 on duty and other times when there would be only 2. He said crime in DHS "happens all the time," so the PD uses a different schedule. The PD has pretty "flat" deployment (meaning about the same number of officers) all day long.

Mr. Meyer said he had been the POA president when the PD disbanded and he participated in those negotiations. When the city brought the PD back in 1997, Mr. Meyer was working here part of the time as a Deputy. "You guys did the best you could, but you were not ready for it, and they were horrible." But now he likes what he sees, and he likes what they do. He's happy with them. A few years ago when he was Chief of Police in a couple of cities and the DHS PD was having some problems, he might have said the Sheriff was the way to go. But that was a time when "everyone had money." He would be able to go to a City Council and tell them their increase that year was only 4%, not 5%, and the City Council would think that was wonderful. But no one can just throw money at a contract now. Palm Desert may begin to consider going to their own PD because of a recent 7% increase. Their contract is $25 million or $30 million.

The problem is we're trying to compare apples to oranges, Mr. Meyer said. Officers to Deputies. Contract rates to people. We don't really know what's happening in our own PD "but that's not saying a negative thing." We've had problems. We probably still have problems. But does anyone really know what the problem is, he asked. Having been on both sides, he says this is a "conundrum." He teaches this in college and describes it as a "mess."

"Do you sign away your ability to control the money?" Mr. Meyer asked. "One, you don't have any money right now." But when you don't have the money, is that the right time to sign away your rights to control what litte money you have? Are we willing to pay a 3% to 7% increase every year. If, after the first year, the increase is only 3% that's $180,000 more. This is the minimum contract, so we could now lower our level of service to save money. The Deputies themselves make up 75% to 80% of the cost of the Sheriff's Department. If the Board of Supervisors votes for a 5% pay raise for the Deputies, our price goes up 5%. Following that scenario, our cost increase in the 2nd hypothetical year would be $309,000, raising the cost is at $6.5 million.

Mr. Meyer said he didn't think this was the right time to make the decision. This is the right time to collect information. It's the time to hire a neutral party who can be trusted (by all sides) who isn't tainted by politics. A paid professional who looks at the city's needs, how the PD works, how the Sheriff works, what's good or bad on both sides. Basically, bringing it down to an apples to apples comparison.

"Some people say we've got to do this right now." But Mr. Meyer said every time in his 30 years of government work that he's seen a decision that has to be made right now, that's a bad decision. He said some of the best advice he ever got was that if someone tells you that you have to make a decision right now, tell them "Call me tomorrow." It's always bad to make an emotional, uninformed, uneducated decision; especially when it's the biggest part of our budget and the most important thing. With the Sheriff you just call them up and say "We're ready to contract" and in 90 days they implement. The Sheriff's Department has a $35 million budget deficit. They're down 250 to 300 positions, a quarter of their staff. He said we will not have full staffing. He was authorized 125 Deputies. If he actually got more than 100 "it was Christmas that day." The positive thing, Mr. Meyer said, is that OT is not billed at the full $149 rate. It's usually $100 to $110, because they don't have to pay some other Deputy's benefits.

The extra $400,000 that gets tacked on top of the PD's operational budget (raising $6.5 million to $6.9 million) would get tacked on to the expense of the Sheriff as well, raising their total budget cost to $6.2 or $6.3 million.

If you take the PD's $6.9 million and subtract $500,000 saved by having our own dispatch, the number comes to $6.4 million. Mr. Meyer said that if we stay with the PD we can control our own money without subjecting ourselves to an annual increase of 3% to 7%. He said Palm Desert budgeted for a 2% increase. The catch is that at the end of the fiscal year the Sheriff's Department comes to the city with the actual cost of providing service for year. The city gets billed for the difference, and the percentage of increase is calculated based on the new higher, actual cost. Every city pays the same rates (dollars/hour) to the Sheriff Department, regardless of size. But Desert Hot Springs PD has a huge amount of OT, Mr. Meyer said, which will raise the cost of the Sheriff's contract above its nominal price.

How to do an apples to apples comparison where everyone believes the analysis? A neutral party needs to be found; a professional consulting company. He asked "Would you rather spend $25,000 to $50,000 to get the right information, or lock yourself into a contract and pay millions of dollars extra in about five to ten years, or continue with the Police Department who maybe—I'm not trying to beat on you guys—but maybe you are running totally inefficient, don't know what the hell you're doing and you're costing the city money." Don't make this an emotional, political decision, he advised. Make it based on knowledge. "Get a neutral."

He said that for the City of La Quinta the Sheriff's Department was a wonderful gift. They have a low crime rate, high income/capita, the city has a lot of money in the bank. "Contracting worked perfectly for them because they could afford it." DHS doesn't have that margin of error, he said. The Deputies will respond to calls and do a "wonderful job." Their CSI is second to none. "Service on the street will be fine." So he wouldn't worry about the quality of service, but he would worry about what happens to our money. "Once you jump off that cliff, there's no going back." He advised to wait six months, get somebody neutral in, get some answers. "Make a decision from a position of power and knowledge, not from a position of emotion and politics."

Commissioner Lavy addressed the several DHS Police who were in attendance. "I want you all to know how much I appreciate your putting your lives on the line each and every day that you walk into the city." He asked the officers to show him "by a nod, raising of your hand, your finger, whatever" if they were willing to make some concessions. He asked about three:

  1. Go to your union and have them rescind this lawsuit so that we don't waste any more money on legal fees
  2. We need to immediately discontinue the use of vehicles being driven home
  3. If the city is not able to give you a raise in the next two to three years, are you willing to stick by us until the city can afford to give you a much deserved increase in compensation?

Officer Botich said that he thought the union and its members would be willing to discuss all those items, but it would be hard to give him an answer without conferring among themselves.

Acting Police Chief Neujahr said as of this day the Police had 24 of its 27 positions filled. But when staffing was lower it was more critical. The Police need to have immediate backup available. If they have their car, a Police Officer could respond from home or wherever they are when needed. As we get closer to a full staff there won't be a need for that. But right now we need it.

Mr. Eastman asked if the Police have any new personnel in the pipeline. Acting Chief Neujahr said the Department has one Sergeant position and three patrol positions in the works. Thirty candidates will be interviewed next week. He said he expects staffing to be at 100% next month. The Police budget that we're talking about covers 100% staffing.

Chair Bowman said the PD was birthed by the citizens of the city when we were fed up with crime and the lack of response from the Sheriff. In 2009 the citizens voted overwhelmingly to increase the utility users tax from 5% to 7% in order to keep and enlarge the PD. In 2010 the parcel tax was extended, but not increased. "It was clear that just moving it forward would result in a million-dollars/year deficit for public safety." So it's no surprise that we are $4 million in the hole now. "Meanwhile, we had an exuberant City Manager who found money and we had a Police Chief who was given that money to increase the Department." People were happy. Crime was dropping.

"Finally, in 2013 the over-optimistic revenue projections of city staff were revealed to be just what they were: overly optimistic."

The citizens birth the PD because it's what they wanted and even Measure F got more than 62% of the vote. "The people were saying 'We want our Police.'" If the Police have issues, those are solved by managing it better. Not by getting rid of it completely. "If the PD has to go, I believe the City Council should bring it to a vote of the citizens who birth the Department."

Until then, he proposed to craft a recommendation to the City Council that they adjust the PD to meet the Sheriff's bid in terms of dollars for the time it takes to get a neutral analysis. "Or, for City Council to tell Martín, who's our City Manager, to find a head that can do it."

Commission Stephens said she had mixed emotions about the comments made my one City Council member the night before. Mayor Pro Tem Betts said the Public Safety Commission needs to come in with a balanced budget, she said. "It is not our job," she continued, "we are not professionals in the police enforcement world ... to do that." But she agreed with what Mr. Bowman said. If we are able to get the PD budget in line the Sheriff's proposal "we've done our job." If we can resolve this part of the puzzle, then the City Council can make the other cuts on other things, because it can't all come from one little piece. She said she does support an increase in the sales tax because the city needs more revenue. She doesn't like the idea of committing to a 5-year contract. The DHS Police Officers "get it; they understand." She said we've worked too hard to lose the Police Officers we have.

Mr. Bowman said he didn't want the Commission to get into a tax discussion, but that their simple recommendation should be that the City Council should tell the PD to get to the level they want it to get to. But, he said, the City Council should not disband the PD, because the people created the PD, not the City Council.

Vice Chair Meyer had written down the motion as they tried to formulate it: "Direct the Police Department to craft a budget proposal to meet the contract number provided by the Sheriff's Department contract proposal. Said proposal to include the conversion to our own dispatch services. And to do this in conjunction with the hiring of a consulting firm to provide us a professional evaluation of our current Police Department operations and conduct a comparison of service and cost of the Police Department and the RSO proposal."

"To 'meet' or 'match'?" Mr. Lavy asked. Mr. Bowman said whether the word is "meet" or "match," they are talking about the dollar amount because he didn't want to get into the "slice and dice" of trying to equate hours to personnel. Mr. Meyer said the part about the neutral consultant takes care of that, removing the PD and the Sheriff out of that.

Mr. Lavy said that by "match" he meant we have 27 officers, not the hours. He wants the recommended 27 officers. Mr. Meyer said that gets into the "apples and oranges." The Sheriff says we're going to get a Lieutenant. "You don't; you're going to share a Lieutenant." They say we'll get three detectives. "You're not; you're going to get the time for three detectives, maybe you're going to share those detectives with other things." Mr. Lavy said he is concerned to have officers on patrol, not administrative positions.

Mr. Bowman said it was significant that the citizens started the PD. If it's disbanded, it should be the citizens who do that, not the City Council. The Commission is offering the City Council guidance on how to make the PD work within our financial constraints.

Ms. Stephens said she expected the Council to say that a consultant would take too long. But there's nothing that says the budget is set in stone. We can make immediate cuts, but she doesn't want to commit to the Sheriff's contract until a neutral consultant looks at it. Mr. Bowman said that after the City Council looks at it, they should put it to the vote of the people.

Mr. Bowman said he loves DHS and he thinks the Council and citizens love DHS. He is tired of people telling DHS what to do. "Let us control our own fate," he said. He said he probably calls dispatch every other week and he wants to ask "Why are you treating me like this?" It's because they're not us. "The mentality is, Desert Hot Springs is just Desert Hot Springs, who cares."

Mr. Bowman asked to add to the end of the motion "That you would then bring to a vote of the citizens whether to keep or disband the PD."

Mr. Lavy asked if the PD meets the Sheriff's contract offer, is there any need to hire a consultant.

Mr. Meyer said you hear various opinions and various numbers; the POA has an opinion; the Chief has an opinion; every Council member has an opinion. "That's what America's about." But this is a time when we need facts. One person with one set of facts who's talked to all the involved parties. "When they walk away they don't have any dog in the fight."

Mr. Bowman said he didn't want anything lost in translation from here to the City Council. "Because we had another thing that was sort of lost in translation." [He refers to the Code Compliance report on partly developed properties with code violations that was sent to the Council, but the explanation of why it was sent to the Council didn't get there.] He asked how he could see the motion in writing from the clerk. Jerryl Soriano said he would send a draft to each Commissioner.

Ms. Stephens asked if the Commission was okay with the Code budget, Animal budget, the Fire budget. Mr. Bowman said the Commission didn't have the data on those services and Council had not asked the Commission to weigh in on those; that it was the Police budget that the Council was causing "heartburn." Ms. Stephens said she was concerned about the revenue numbers for Code. "We need to make sure they know we think those numbers are wrong." Mr. Bowman suggested they discuss that issue after voting on the motion on the floor.

Motion approved 5-0.

The agreement between Mr. Bowman and Mr. Soriano was that Mr. Soriano would send a copy of the approved motion to each Commissioner and allow them 24 hours to get back to him with corrections.

Ms. Stephens said we don't know if Code is revenue neutral. Mr. Meyer suggested that the concept that Andersonpenna's numbers are right and the Finance Directors numbers are right, the difference is only that the Finance Department counts the numbers in two places. Mr. Meyer said he trusts the Finance Director to provide good numbers. Mr. Brady from Andersonpenna said he believes Code Compliance is revenue neutral. He said that when first arrived the staff under Rick Daniels was estimated $1.4 million in revenue from Code Compliance. Chief Singer advised that the numbers would be closer to $700,000, which Mr. Brady thought was much more reasonable. Mr. Lavy said the Finance Director needs to provide a clear picture of the true revenue amount from Code. Mr. Brady said that if you cut Code and the revenue drops equally, then you've saved nothing. Ms. Stephens said the City Council needs accurate figures to make a decision.

Mr. Meyer suggested crafting a motion to direct staff to look at this issue and see if there is any way to break out from our tax assessment numbers any money that's collected. Then that would get us to the truth. He said the other public safety entities, Animal Control and Fire, are provided under contract with the county and there's nothing to be done about those numbers. Here Chief Tomlinson said that Fire always comes in under budget by about $50,000.

Mr. Bowman asked for a motion from Mr. Lavy. Mr. Lavy said staff should accurately show the revenue from Code Enforcement. Mr. Bowman said the goal is to let Council know that they may not see the whole picture. Mr. Brady said that if Finance is projecting revenue of $375,000 he'd like to see how they came up with that number, because this year they hit $375,000 at mid-year. Ms. Stephens suggested a motion to ask Finance staff to get with Andersonpenna and go over their numbers and Finance Department's numbers and find out where the discrepancy is. Mr. Lavy said that the Commission should also direct staff to supply the Commission with a copy of the contract with Andersonpenna.

Mr. Brady said Andersonpenna has charged the same billing rate for a decade. There's an increase in the third year of this contract, but he is going back to Andersonpenna to ask them to keep the rates flat.

Ms. Stephens restated her motion as "We would like the Finance staff to get together with Andersonpenna and find out where the discrepancy is in the revenue numbers." Approved 5-0.

Commissioner Remarks

Vice Chair Meyer asked that the subject of marijuana dispensaries be added to the next agenda.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | permalink | June 17, 2014 at 03:14 PM | Comments (1)

The Next Step In Selfies

The Hexo+ has a Kickstarter that is rather over-subscribed. Their goal was $50,000 and they've gotten $486,686 at this point.

My first thought when I heard of this was about possible uses in law enforcement or in some adventurous invasions of privacy by rude people. Imagine how much you could irritate an ex by having one of these copters follow them in public. But I forgot that people's own egos are bigger than their desire to irritate exes. Videos of ones self will be more popular. Set this thing to focus on you and you've got your own little airborne robot to follow you around as you play. Then you can upload your video to Facebook and get likes.

Technically, I wonder what sort of object avoidance it has. When you're running amongst the trees, can it detect and avoid low-hanging branches?

If this project comes to fruition, I expect it won't be too long before someone using it experiences a life-changing disaster (snow cliff collapses, parachute doesn't open, whatever) and we will get a video of the disaster shot from 20 feet away by the imperturbable Hexo+ copter, rather than the spinning wild video we currently get when someone tumbles down a mountainside.

Will you be able to make it follow animals or inanimate objects like cars? It's got a top speed of 45 MPH. Imagine getting this thing to follow a herd of wild horses, or a pod of dolphins.

Filed under GoPro,Photography,Technology | permalink | June 17, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2014

LA WNBR Photos

image from dudo6el28sqqp.cloudfront.net
The LAist has a selection of photos from yesterday's World Naked Bike Ride in Los Angeles
including the photo above that shows a man who swings both ways: GoPro and Sony action cams. Maybe he was making an A/B comparison video. But that's a Hero2, so probably not.

The photos are NSFW and not pixellated. Lots of complete nudity.

Filed under Cycling,GoPro,Naturism-Nudism,Photography | permalink | June 16, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2014

Mt. San Jacinto

Aerial view of Mount San Jacinto
Photo by Michael Rymer.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Photography | permalink | June 15, 2014 at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2014

DHS Public Safety Commission - May 8, 2014

Chair Jeff Bowman was absent from this meeting of the DHS Public Safety Commission.

Public Comments

Nicole Vandal said her real name is Elaine Claremont. She talked about Anna Matthews, saying she had been out of touch for a few days. She said the Commission should get a written report from the police about Ms. Matthews. She also suggested that one particular police officer should work to help Ms. Matthews.

Paul Tapia spoke next. He said he was speaking on the behalf of a lady who was in attendance and for three other people who were not present. Mr. Tapia is a retired DHS Police Officer. He also spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He served in Iraq. He got a Master's degree in education. He handed the clerk documents relating to the four people he was working with. He said last couple of times he's been in DHS it was despicable. He sees gang members and felons everywhere. He saw half a dozen gang members at Stater Bros. He saw five gang members near the Carl May this evening. "What's going on? Where's the pro-active work in the PD?" he asked. He said he understands the Police are understaffed. He said he's neither pro-Sheriff nor pro-PD, but he hopes the city keeps the PD. In the last several months he's gotten 37 calls for service as a private investigator "because the Police have refused to give them service or refused to give them Police reports." He said the four individuals he represented are four examples of this. "That is not only pathetic, it is insane," he said.

He then began to describe the situation of the lady he represented who was present with him. She was shopping at Stater Bros. and walked away leaving her purse at the cashier's counter. The next customer in line grabbed the wallet while the cashier was not looking and his it in her own basket. He has this on video. The victim called dispatch who told her nothing could be done for her and suggested she report her credit cards stolen. She came to the Police station and was told the same thing. Then she called Mr. Tapia He called other people. "People called the City Manager three times." [This was late April so the City Manager at that time was Martín Magaña.] "That's the only she got a report." Her report came from a Reserve Officer. Mr. Tapia said that couldn't be done unless he was a Level 1 Reserve Officer. The report said, in part, "closed pending further leads." The manager of Stater Bros. had a CD with video on it for the Police. Mr. Tapia investigated. "She gave a copy of license. Her license, the suspect, she turned it in." He said the Police have not talked to Stater Bros. He said the Commission should be looking into "stuff like this - 37 phone calls in the last several months." When this lady had called dispatch she had been told it was not an emergency.

He then started to speak about the other three people he represented, but Vice Chair Meyer interrupted him because he didn't see those people present. He said that if they were not present he would not allow Mr. Tapia to speak on their behalf, because they need to be present to know what he is saying. Mr. Tapia asked if he could wrap up what he had to say. Mr. Meyer said he had already used 7½ minutes. Mr. Tapia asked if he didn't think it was necessary for the citizens of DHS to know what is going on. Mr. Meyer said he did, but that he must follow the rules as established. Mr. Tapia said he had asked the City Clerk who told him it was possible. "So which is it, yes or no?"

"It's no," Mr. Meyer answered. City Clerk Soriano clarified that it was only possible to do it if the people were present.

Mr. Meyer said "Thank you, but I think your time is done." Mr. Tapia said that he had the reports with him if anyone wanted to see them and continued talking for 17 seconds after he was told to stop.

Later in the meeting the Commissioners observed that the paperwork given them by Mr. Tapia was unredacted and included identifying and personal information that should not have been shared with the Commissioners, so they passed them on to Jim Henson who was sitting in for Chief Bressler that night.

Ward Kendall spoke about the 5th Street Trailer Park, where he has lived for one year. There is excessive garbage, broken glass, discarded televisions, mattresses and more that the owners allow to accumulate. Large numbers of unleashed, unregistered, unfenced dogs roam freely. They harass the tenants. The manager and owner refuse to do anything to fix that. Two months ago a pit bull attacked and killed another pit bull. It was witnessed by at least a dozen people, including children. There is excessive speeding in the trailer park. There are no speed bumps and no speed limit signs, despite the presence of many small children. The owner and manager have refused to do anything about that. There is not set of basic safety rules for the trailer park. He has requested such a list and has volunteered to create it himself in both English and Spanish. The owner and manager refuse to do so and will not explain why.

Debbie Robertsen lives on Buena Vista. She was robbed on April 7. It took the Police almost two hours to show up and they didn't bring a property form. Since then she has been to the Police station at least twice and called them. Her neighbor has relevant information, but the Police never talked to the neighbor. When she calls the Police to get a complain form she gets excuses such as being told she should talk to a watch commander. She said she understands that the city has no money and is trying to raise taxes, "but two hours to take a report and not getting back to people who are having problems, that's just rude."

She said she saw a Code Compliance officer coming out from between her neighbors' houses. She tried to speak to him but "he took off like he was robbing somebody." She called City Hall and asked if that person did work for the city "and they said 'no'." When she saw the truck a week later she observed that the seal on the side did say it was the city's. He refused to talk to her again. On April 8 she got a notice from code enforcement saying she had to clean up all the trash on the side of her house. They also told her should not park on an unpaved surface. She is worried about her car being broken into, so she parks it close to the house and that means parking off-pavement. She thought that going between houses and taking pictures is an invasion of privacy.

Commissioner Stephens suggested she leave her name and number with Sgt. Henson.

Animal Control

David Stevens said he wanted to learn more about the situation. On April 25 he received a citation for $819 from Animal Control for his two dogs saying they were unlicensed, unvaccinated, not spayed or neutered, and not microchipped. The citation, however, referenced Indio not Desert Hot Springs. The citation was written on the property owner who is not Mr. Stevens. He rents. If the renter lets it slide, it would end up being a problem for the property owner. His dogs are actually spayed/neutered. He doesn't think microchipping is necessary and he didn't want to microchip them, but he did it. He owns a house on Buena Vista, but he rents and lives on Fourth Street. He can't afford this. "This whole thing was handled horribly." His father lives on Buena Vista next door to the house he owns. He didn't get any notice for his dog. His ex-wife has two dogs and was never cited. "I applaud Riverside County for doing this. I really do," he said. He held up a copy of a notice and said if it had been on his door he would have taken care of it. But instead he got a different notice and he had to $50 in late fees. He never knew there was a law about licensing and vaccinating dogs. He had a dog for 16 years and never licensed her. No veterinarian, police officer or animal control officer ever said anything to him about it. He wondered if he was singled out because his rented house looks nice. He's talked to several people who don't have the money to license a dog. His dogs are now in 100% compliance. He said it was not good business to fine him without trying to get any information in addition to simply hearing two dogs barking.

Glen Aaron Stevens spoke next. He's lived here for 32 years and is amazed this is being enforced without any public information being disseminated. He's had several dogs and no one at any time has said there's a requirement for a dog license. He went to the Animal Control website and he said the only requirement listed there is that the dog must be vaccinated.

Here's the Animal Control website. On the front page it says "The licensing of dogs is required." If you click "Read more" you go to a page where it also says microchipping is required. And then it says this:

Any dog found not to be rabies vaccinated, licensed, or microchipped, will be cited for a spay or neuter violation in accordance with Riverside County Ordinance 6..08.120, Mandatory Spay/Neuter. In addition, in compliance with Ordinance 921, any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Stafford Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, any of these breeds so as to be identifiable as partially of one or more of these breeds will require a proof of spay or neuter certificate as a prerequisite of renewing your pet's license.

That's pretty confusing. "Will be cited" should probably be "may be cited." If you want to search for the cited ordinance (there is no link provided), you'll have to take that extra dot out of the reference. Riverside County Ordinance 6.08.120 can be read here. The text quoted above could be misread to mean that only Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Stafford Terrier" breeds must be spayed/neutered. What the quote really means is that as long as your dog is not cited for being unlicensed, unvaccinated or unmicrochipped, then Animal Control will not cite the dog for not being spayed/neutered UNLESS the dog is "identifiable as partially of one or more of these breeds" Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Stafford Terrier. If your dog is one of those breeds, then you must provide proof it has been fixed in order to get a license. There are exemptions for breeders, law enforcement, and assistance dogs.

Mr. Stevens pointed out the citation said that if the violations were corrected within 20 days, then you're clear. His son took care of it in less than 20 days, but he was still charged a late fee. He suggested that a better way of spending the money that's being used to have officers go door to door would be to offer free or low cost spaying/neutering and to provide information about licensing to owners who bring their dogs in for the surgery. A mailer should have been sent to every house before doing inspections. He said the way this was conducted was ridiculous.

Riverside County Chief Veterinarian Allan Drusys was present. Mark Sigmund, principal accountant for Animal Control was there as well. And Frank Corvino, Deputy Director, Riverside County Department of Animal Services was present too and spoke first. In April 59 stray dogs were taken, along with 64 stray cats and 5 stray "others." 349 licenses were issued in April.

Dr. Drusys said the requirement for vaccination and licensing has been a California law since some time in the 1950s. This is not a new requirement in any county. Mandatory microchipping and the secondary spay/neuter enforcement ordinance were new a few years ago. "Secondary" means the dog owner will not be cited for having an unfixed dog, unless there is also another violation (not licensed, not vaccinated, or not microchipped).

Animal Control is finding that irresponsible owners tend to be in violation of all four requirements. This is true in all jurisdictions, not just DHS.

Dr. Drusys explained the process the Animal Control officers go through that results in citations. If they knock on your door while you are not home and they hear dogs, they check their database to see if they have a record of any dogs licensed at that address. If they have no record, then they write up citations for violations of all four requirements for each dog they think they can count by listening to the barking. The citation is written to the property owner and affixed to the door of the residence. In this case Animal Control will not attempt to determine who owns the dogs or whether the dogs are already in their database, but at a different address. It is up to the dog owner to come in and prove the county was wrong in their citations.

They will also write citations if they can see the dog and its breed does not match the breed on record at that address.

One can readily see the problem, although Riverside County Animal Control seems to be unable to discern it. Without making an attempt to verify that a law has been broken, Animal Control writes up a citation and waits for someone to come in and prove them wrong.

If the resident is at home, then the Animal Control officers do talk to them and try to resolve all the issues.

All the citations are correctable. The ordinance and ticket say the owner has 20 days to correct it, but in practice it's actually 30 days.

But if the dog is not licensed, there is a $25/year late fee for that. Even if the owner corrects all violations, they will still have to pay that late fee.

Vice Chair Meyer and Commissioner Stephens said that the complaints that they are getting are concerned with the way this enforcement campaign is being conducted. Ms. Stephens said she has called Animal Control a number of times about a neighbor who do not take care of their dogs...running loose, no drinking water. Animal Control has cited her daughter for the neighbor's dog because that dog breaks down the fence and roams into her yard. Animal Control had taken photos of her backyard, which Ms. Stephens considered an invasion of privacy.

She talked about the time when the city adopted the regulation trash bins we have now. She said the community was notified first. She said there's no excuse for Animal Control to start knocking on doors with no education campaign. She asked for some fairness in the matter.

Mr. Corvino said press releases were sent out before this enforcement campaign began. He knows of at least one on-camera interview about it.

That may be true, but I've tried Googling to try to find any news about Riverside County animal control that appeared between 6/1/2013 and 2/28/2014 and it comes up zilch, no matter what combination of terms I use. So a press release went out and Mr. Corvino stood in front of a camera, but the information was then either not passed on to the public, or was shared in such an insignificant way that even Google knows nothing about it. Your average working family in DHS would probably be even less aware of it.

Mr. Corvino said some information was supposed to go out from the city as well. I never saw anything and the Animal Control page on the city's website says nothing about it.

He said he doesn't know what more they could have done, short of an amnesty. They did a 6-month amnesty in Indio.

The current contract with Animal Control was approved at the September 17, 2013, City Council meeting. It was retroactive to July 1, 2013. Here's the county proposal and here's the actual contract. The provisions in the contract dealing with the "integrated canine licensing programs" starts on page 9. Some of the provisions:

Field operations consist of traditional door knocking, observing and/or hearing barking dogs and accessing the department's database to determine if licensed dogs reside at that address. LI's [License Inspectors] use a "Post and Go" strategy similar to parking enforcement. Dependent upon the response of the dog owner, the LI may educate the resident in the tenets of pet ownership, issue a citation, or offer compliance solutions in the form of low-cost vaccination and department spay/neuter services.

A one-year "kick-off" program to build your canine licensing revenue base is recommended. The ICLP results in great compliance, provides better public safety, and allows for improved services and sustainability. An amnesty period, where no past penalties or fees are assessed for thirty (30) days is recommended. The softer approach through amnesty allows residents to comply with existing law before enforcement begins. The Council could consider offering existing license rates during the amnesty period and then transition to a new rate structure, recommended as the County's, for future licenses.

Here are the minutes of City Council meeting of 9/17/2013 and if you watch the video you will hear Chief Singer describe the methods by which the License Inspectors will go door-to-door and issue citations. They have been doing it exactly the way Chief Singer described it. You will also hear Dr. Drusys and Mr. Corvino address the City Council and, among other things, said that this program had already been put in place in other cities with good success. They didn't say they had the problems that we're seeing in DHS. They said nothing about the provision in the contract above that suggested consideration of a "one-year 'kick-off' program" or a 30-day amnesty on all past penalties. I suppose they left it up to the city staff or City Council to see that and bring it up if they wanted it. The contract was approved 4-0 with no discussion of the issues that are causing problems now.

At the City Council meeting Mr. Corvino used the same descriptive phrase he did at this Public Safety Commission meeting to describe those who are cited. "These animals are 'un- un- un- un-," meaning unvaccinated, unlicensed, unmicrochipped and unspayed.

Mr. Corvino said that Animal Control will work with anyone who can't afford the money to comply on all four required points with multiple dogs within 30 days. "Fine," he said, "get 'em done a month at a time; fine. You show progress." The citations are held back while Animal Control works with pet owners. "We work deals all the time," he said. But the $25 late fee for not licensing is unavoidable.

He said that they've gotten exactly the same complaints in other cities where they have initiated this program.

Dr. Drusys said that in cities that offered an amnesty for 6 months when kicking off this program, they still got the complaints when the amnesty ended. Those who complained said they were not notified.

I think the fact that they got the same complaints about lack of notification in those cities where amnesties were offered and in Desert Hot Springs means there was inadequate communication and publicity in both cases. This seems to be something Riverside Animal Control doesn't want to acknowledge. They may write something in the contract about publicity by either Animal Control or the city, but they don't evaluate the effectiveness of that publicity or even whether it actually happened or not, before they move ahead with citations. Dr. Drusys blames it on "human nature."

Dr. Drusys said they train their officers not to violate Fourth Amendment rights, so if somebody has real evidence of, for example, officers going into someone's backyard without consent, he would like to see it. "We don't need to violate Fourth Amendment rights because every house we go to and hear or see a dog it's 'un- un- un- un-'."

Commissioner Lavy asked what date the canvassing started. Mr. Corvino said he couldn't give him a date. It took them some time to hire up and train, so canvassing probably didn't start until late January, early February. Mr. Lavy said that at the commission meeting in January, Officer Huffman told them the canvassing had not started yet, "so in that case, you are in violation, first of all, with your contract with the city."

Mr. Lavy didn't explain how they had violated the contract. A copy of the contract presented to the City Council in September 2013 is available here. It was retroactive to July 1, 2013. I don't see any requirement to start the licensing program by any particular date. The part of the contract concerning the "Dog Licensing and the Integrated Canine Licensing Program" begins on page 9 of that PDF.

Mr. Lavy said he had gone over the contract "along with a code from the county." He said there is an amnesty provision in the contract that is not being honored.

Both Mr. Corvino and Dr. Drusys said simultaneously that there is no amnesty in the contract.

The only provision in the contract that I can find about an amnesty says this: "An amnesty period, where no past penalties or fees are assessed for thirty (30) days is recommended." That sounds like a recommendation from the county to the city, leaving it up to the city to decide if they wanted an amnesty. Or possibly the 30 days Animal Control gives someone to get his dog into compliance becomes, in effect, the 30-day amnesty.

Mr. Lavy read this aloud:

The ICLP will allow RCDAS to augment the City's dog licensing program. RCDAS will deploy two full time Ll's within the City and clerical support. A one-year "kick-off" program to build your canine licensing revenue base is recommended. The ICLP results in great compliance, provides better public safety, and allows for improved services and sustainability. An amnesty period, where no past penalties or fees are assessed for thirty days is recommended. The softer approach through amnesty allows residents to comply with existing law before enforcement begins. The Council could consider offering existing license rates during the amnesty period and then transition to a new rate structure, recommended as the County's, for future licenses.

That paragraph is in the county's proposal to the city, not the contract. No matter where it is, it's clear the amnesty is only "recommended" and it's up to the city, not the county, how to deal with it.

Mr. Corvino correctly identified the paragraph as coming from the staff report, not the contract.

Mr. Lavy asked if the county has been "in contact with the city to come up with the things that are in the contract?" Mr. Corvino asked what things he was referring to. Mr. Lavy listed licensing fees, the "post and go strategy,"

Here's what the contract says about "post and go strategy": "LI's use a 'Post and Go' strategy similar to parking enforcement. Dependent upon the response of the dog owner, the LI may educate the resident in the tenets of pet ownership, issue a citation, or offer compliance solutions in the form of low-cost vaccination and department spay/neuter services."

Mr. Corvino said those provisions were presented to the City Council "this time last year." Mr. Lavy said he was at the council meeting when the staff report was given and no one was present from Animal Control.

I searched through City Council agenda packets for 2013. The Animal Control contract came up only twice. First on July 2 the City Council extended the contract for 90 days. It was in the Consent Calendar, so there was no discussion. Then on September 17 the new contract came up for approval. Chief Singer fully and accurately described how the Integrated Canine Licensing Program would work. No amnesties were mentioned. Both Dr. Drusys and Mr. Corvino were there and spoke from the podium for quite a while. Most of the discussion had to do with vicious animals and pitbulls.

Listen to the whole discussion about the Animal Control contract here:

Mr. Lavy asked "What about one-point-one-one 'Issuances of Warnings and Citations'?" After a long pause Mr. Corvino asked "What's the question?" Mr. Lavy asked "How's that being handled?"

Here's the text of that section: "Enforce all appropriate provisions of Riverside COUNTY Code Title 6 including the issuance of warning notices or citations as necessary for violations of the provisions of said Riverside COUNTY Code Title 6, State law or CITY municipal codes."

Mr. Corvino answered said it depends on which part of Animal Control is concerned. Field staff (kennel violations, stray animals, barking dogs, etc.) does it differently from license inspectors who go door to door. The license inspectors are out there writing citations. The field staff impound animals, address neglected animal complaints, etc. They start their day with 20 or 30 addresses to visit.

The licensing officers do not issue warnings before issuing citations.

Mr. Lavy said it didn't sound like Animal Control had been promoting "courteous and efficient service and good public relations." He was quoting from 1.12. He said that Officer Huffman did not inform the Commission of the date of Animal Control's most recent vaccination clinic, even though the Commission had asked him to do so. Dr. Drusys said he came to that clinic which had been advertised as being capped at 200 animals. They started at 9:00 AM and reached 200 animals at 1:00 PM. They took additional cases after 1:00 that were "simple" - that is, if they showed up with the dog. So they exceeded the 200 animal limit.

The county supervisors have authorized money for either a vaccination/microchipping clinic or a spay/neuter clinic. A spay/neuter clinic could handle only 35 or 40 animals.

Vice Chair Meyer said that one of his dogs has been licensed several times, but the other dog has never been licensed. The way it used to work in DHS was you would go to the vet to get the rabies vaccine and you would also pay the vet for the license and get it right there on the spot. At some point that changed, but nobody pointed it out, so Mr. Meyer thought he was paying for a license with every vaccination, but he was not. He saw no mention of the current licensing campaign in the newspaper. Nor did he see it on TV. He said he was very disappointed in the overall concept of the program. "To issue a citation when you hear a dog bark, to me, that just is not right." The lack of a matching address in Animal Control's database is not sufficient reason to issue a citation. Mr. Meyer said a better way to handle the situation when no one is home, but they hear a dog bark, would be to come back when someone is home. Animal Control stereotypes everybody in the community, saying "if we knock on that door and a dog barks and the information isn't on our iPhone, then it's an 'un- un- un- un-'. I personally do not like being called an 'un-'." That's what upsets people. And then they hang a notice on the door that references the City of Indio instead of DHS.

Mr. Meyer said this was not a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, but is a violation of Sixth Amendment rights to due process.

I think the 14th Amendment comes closer: "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Mr. Meyer said he agrees with the basis of the program, but it's not being carried out in a way that's conducive to voluntary compliance.

Citations in hand, Mr. Meyer made the trip to Thousand Palms where he waited 1½ hours and paid his fees. They told him one dog needed a microchip and they needed proof of vaccination. They told him to get it done and put all the paperwork in an envelope and mail it to them. The next week he had his dog at the vet to get it all done. Everything plus a copy of the receipt for the licenses went into an envelope that was mailed to Thousand Palms. Two weeks later he got two notices. One said his dogs weren't licensed and he owed more money. It was 4:00 PM and he got no answer when he tried to call Animal Control. Hours for phone calls at Thousand Palms run until 7 PM on Thursdays, but it's 4 PM other days. Mr. Meyer, however, was calling the western region office where the hours are 9 to 3. The next day he called between 9 and 3. Someone answered and they told Mr. Meyer he didn't owe any money. He asked about the paperwork that he had mailed. The person at Animal Control said they never got it. She said the western office doesn't know anything about paperwork received in Thousand Palms.

[Oh, if only there were some magic way to transmit information over a long distance!]

They told him to re-send the paperwork. All told at the end Mr. Meyer had put 5½ hours into this which included two trips driving to Thousand Palms. "20 miles at 4 bucks a gallon," he said. Add the fees and vet to that and he spent about $200. "That's probably why nobody registers their dog."

The contract also contains this:

Rabies vaccination certificates are collected from area veterinarians and downloaded into the database after the data has been scrubbed of inconsistencies. Postcard reminders of licensing requirements are automatically generated and mailed to dog owners.

Obviously that's not being followed, or Mr. Meyer would have received several postcard reminders over the years.

Mr. Meyer suggested Animal Control work through Dr. Madsen, the veterinarian.

He asked if the people in the field are supervised. The answer was yes (of course). Mr. Meyer asked them to look at the program again and consider not using a hammer on people. Perhaps a warning notice telling the residents that they will be back in a week. The response to this suggestion was "It doesn't work."

I wanted to ask the question "how do you define 'work'?" I think they mean "getting more dogs into compliance" when they say work. I think Mr. Meyer meant something more like "greater voluntary compliance and fewer people complaining about the process." That's what I would have meant, anyway.

Mr. Meyer said he has seen it work in other programs and that Desert Hot Springs is different from Eastvale and Indio.

Ms. Stephens recalled when the city first rolled out Code Enforcement. She said we had to do the warm and fuzzy and have little meetings at Carl May. Code Enforcement started out with something like Community Policing. If we make people feel their government is working against them they get very agitated.

Mr. Corvino said they were open to any suggestions to ease the rollout of this program. Again Mr. Meyer suggested working with Dr. Madsen.

Dr. Drusys that said that at that point Animal Control had not collected one penny from DHS residents as part of the canvassing project. But that's not counting the $25 late fee if your dog is not licensed.

Fire

At this point in the calendar year of 2013 there had been 1,369 calls for service to the Fire Department. This year there had been only 1,356. This is an improvement, but I don't think we're going to get any refunds from Riverside County Fire for that.

Chief Tomlinson had the list of late responses from American Medical Response ambulances. The ambulances took longer than 10 minutes on 19 calls that were handled by the Skyborne station (#36). There were 24 late responses on calls handled out of the Pierson & West station (#37). The Chief was unable to say which were in the city and which in the county, but generally most (maybe 90%) of the calls at station 36 are in the county while at station 37 most are in the city. AMR is excessively late in the Bermuda Dunes area. (Chief Tomlinson's area of responsibility is generally north of I-10 from Washington Street to Haugen-Lehman). AMR is fined for late calls. The fines are paid annually and can only be used to pay for EMS enhancements. Some of last year's fines were used to buy tablets that can be used by the Fire Department to enter data about medical calls while they are on the scene, rather than having to come back to the station to do it.

The fire inspection program began in March. By the time of this meeting 69 inspections had been performed. Six hood fire suppression systems were found that were past due. Some hadn't been serviced in 8 years. It's supposed to be performed every 6 months. The corporate chain restaurants are doing proper maintenance, but small independent restaurants not so much. A large hotel "out on Hacienda" has an elevator that had not had maintenance performed since 2008. That's supposed to be done annually. They also had a hood suppression system that was out of date. Another large hotel had a fire riser problem. They red-tagged some of the rooms. "A dollar store not Dollar General" in one of the shopping centers had a non-operating fire alarm.

Chief Tomlinson has tried to prepare the way for the fire inspections so he doesn't get a reaction like the one Animal Control has gotten. He's working with the Chamber of Commerce and had a speaking engagement with the Rotary. The Desert Star Weekly ran an article about it.

Moving on to another subject, the Chief said that in 1943 Desert Hot Springs was a one-fire engine town. And it still is today. He presented cost information on adding a medic squad with a paramedic and advanced life support. The city's cost for station 37 would rise from about $1.5 million to about $2.4 million. A difference of about $800,000, when you eliminate the gross rounding of the figures. The Chief called it a baby step on the way to fire station number three for the city.

The response times are measured from the time the call is received to the time patient contact is made.

Mr. Meyer asked about a helicopter that landed at the end of Santa Cruz a few weeks before this meeting at about 7 or 8 PM. He wasn't sure if it was the Sheriff or CHP. Chief Tomlinson didn't know about it.

Code Compliance

Code Compliance collected 503 signs from the public right of way and 59 tires. The total billed by Andersonpenna this fiscal year through April was $444,853.25.

Officer Williams provided a list of unoccupied residences that had been boarded up longer than permitted. This had been requested by the Commission at the previous meeting. I'm sure any DHS resident will recognize some these blighted landmarks. In some cases the owner has died or disappeared. Demolition can cost $20,000 to $30,000 Mr. Meyer said. The final recourse comes if the taxes go unpaid for five years. Then the county can sell the house.

There were 70 "service requests" for vehicles parked off pavement. A "service request" is a complaint, a report from a citizen. About 420 cases have been opened for vehicles parked off pavement. About 30% of the cases are people who refuse to comply. Most of those people are renters, not owners. Some people need to clear space and enlarge their paved area to accommodate their vehicles. Code usually gives them 90 days and then another 90 days if they need it.

Only 40% of your "front yard" can be paved. At the June Planning Commission meeting it was explained that your "front yard" for that purpose is from the part of your house that is closest to the street out to the right of way. Exactly where the line is for the right of way is not always clear, so before you start pouring concrete you need to check with the city about that. And there goes your first 90 days. Draw a line across your front yard that just touches the part of your house that is closest to the street. Behind that line you can pour all the concrete you want. Do the whole yard if you need it. You just have to keep 60% of your "front yard" unpaved. Some people have heard that it's only the front 20 feet of your property that is counted for that 40/60 split. But speak to Mr. Malacoff and you will learn it goes back all the way to your house. But just the very frontmost part of the house.

Commissioner Stephens asked Officer Williams to explain human nature. Of course, she was more specific than that. Officer Williams said he could not explain it.

Most of the signs that are picked up are on Fridays and Saturdays and they are for yard sales.

Commissioner Lavy suggested the the words "Courtesy Notice" be added to the notices of violations so that people are less likely to think they've gotten a citation.

Police

Sergeant Jim Henson was the Police liaison this night. Officer-initiated contacts and traffic stops were down due to the shortage of Police. The short-lived traffic unit ended in April. Response times to emergency calls are still very good. At this date (May 8) there were 20 Police Officers. They hoped to have six new hires by the end of May.

Mr. Meyer asked for a report next month on the status of all the new hires and potential new hires.

Sgt. Henson said he's been with the force for 9 years, so he was here for the "lean times." I'm guessing that was when Anne Marie Gallant cut staff...but maybe there was a leaner time before that. He said "it's not quite that bad right now." New hires are laterals, which helps because they've got experience.

ERICA

The Commission put off this discussion until June.

Final Public Comment

Nicole Vandal seemed to be under the impression that ERICA was the city's Police camera system and was concerned about a possible loss of privacy.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Public Safety | permalink | June 13, 2014 at 10:55 PM | Comments (2)

Overcorrection

Maybe you heard about the Bobby Lee Pearson case in Fresno where the jury was hung, but mistakenly submitted a not guilty verdict. There's no way to change that, so the judge had to release him. Well, let that trouble your sleep no longer. The mistake has been overcorrected by Mr. Pearson's sister's boyfriend.

| permalink | June 13, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

That Volkswagen Concept Is Weak

I mean the concept of using your VW as a GoPro mount. That was so early June 2014.

The new, better idea is an improved remote control device for your GoPro. Up to now you could use either the remote control bought from GoPro or a smartphone or tablet to run your GoPro and see what it sees in real time. The better idea for a remote control? An effin' BMW (or a not quite as effin' Mini). The process still involves an iPhone (they say nothing about Android), but the iPhone is mounted into the BMW's infotainment system "ConnectedDrive." It's been a little while since I sat in a new BMW, but I would guess that being plugged into the onboard system means you can control it with flicks of something on or near the steering wheel or by giving voice commands or perhaps by whistling Bavarian biergarten songs.

Filed under Automotive,GoPro | permalink | June 13, 2014 at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

New European Photo Op

You may be familiar with that fountain with a statue of a little boy pissing in Brussels. It seems to be a popular subject for photographs by those who visit Belgium. Nowa Huta, Poland, has outdone Belgium. One hint before you click that link: Lenin.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)