Category Archives: Public Policy

Break Ins Reported, Crime Stats Necessary

We’ve had another burglary in our neighborhood, the second that I know of in the last two months.  This happened earlier this week during the day.  A house on Watkins Dr., near Nisbet,  had its front door kicked in.
Police think there were at least two people involved, one as a look out and another who went into the house.  This would be speculation as there are no witnesses.  Luckily only a few valuables were taken and there was little vandalism. It could have been much worse.
There was a break in on Valencia Hills a few weeks ago.  A side garage door was forced open, tools and personal possessions were taken.
Two homes on Quail Rd. were burglarized in daylight as well. Valuables were taken.
Please report to the Police any suspicious activities and certainly any thefts.  The Police who responded to the first break ins,  said there were no records of other problems in the area.  Either the break ins are going unreported or there is a breakdown in communication between the police and the community.
If  thefts are taking place, the Police need to know so they can step up patrols.
Please talk to your neighbors and lets be good eyes and ears for each other.
This post is only going to reach a limited number of our community.  Please tell your neighbors in case they are not on the email list.
Pass on the University Neighborhood web site information:

County Nutrition Program Growing

Riverside County wants to enroll 9,000 women, children

11:10 PM PST on Monday, February 14, 2011

By LORA HINES
The Press-Enterprise

A troubled economy and double-digit unemployment have boosted the number of low-income women and children in the federal nutrition program in Riverside County by about 23 percent since 2006.

And Riverside County Public Health Department officials believe another 9,000 people qualify for help.

Enrollment in Riverside County’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has grown from about 70,800 participants in the 2006 fiscal year to almost 87,000 now, county Public Health Department records show.

Despite the increase, officials say they have room for thousands more women and children throughout the county.

“There is a large need for assistance in our area,” said Gayle Hoxter, Riverside County’s public health program chief, adding that caseloads in Moreno Valley grew from about 9,500 to more than 13,000 in five years. “We’re seeing families who we have never seen before.”

In San Bernardino County, three nonprofit organizations have been contracted to add four WIC centers throughout the county to add more clients. The county Department of Public Health operates 17 centers and serves 84,400 people.

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Rodrigo Peña / Special to The Press-Enterprise
Health educator Eldaa Rivera stresses the benefits of exercise at a WIC center in Moreno Valley.

“We are actually able to pull back some of the staff that are being forced to travel to the more remote areas and concentrate them more heavily in the areas where we continue to have a strong presence,” said county spokesman David Wert, especially in San Bernardino, Victorville and Fontana.

WIC is best known for vouchers that participants receive to exchange for food, such as milk, eggs, cereal, fruits and vegetables. The program also provides breastfeeding and health education and might link people to other county public health services, including family planning, immunizations and dental care.

The monthly vouchers are worth $50 to $60 and go to pregnant women and women with children younger than 6 years old who qualify.

Single, unemployed parents with a child younger than age 6 often qualify for WIC, even if they receive the maximum amount of unemployment benefits, Hoxter said.

Maribel Martinez said she enrolled in WIC after she lost her job last year. She and her 3-year-old son, Noah, recently attended a health education class at a Moreno Valley WIC clinic as she waited to receive her vouchers. Martinez, 35, said she could have qualified for the program while she was working as a medical assistant, but was too proud to seek help.

“A lot of people feel like it’s part of (food stamps),” she said. “I was one of those people.”

Laurie True, executive director of the California WIC Association, said Riverside County’s WIC program is growing because there are many more people these days in Martinez’s situation living in the Inland area. True’s nonprofit organization lobbies on behalf of WIC directors and programs statewide.

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Rodrigo Peña / Special to The Press-Enterprise
Health services assistant Jessika Morrow, left, leads a group in “Simon Says” at the WIC center in Moreno Valley as an example of a fun activity that gets people to exercise.

“The high need in the Inland is very different than some of the coast counties,” she said. “The need is really great.”

Riverside County officials also have been aggressive in expanding WIC to as many people as it can to get as much money as possible, True said. True’s association tracks local WIC programs to ensure they serve as many people as they can to avoid grant reductions.

The state must spend at least 97 percent of the money it receives or risk getting less money the following year.

DIFFERENT DIRECTION

San Bernardino County officials a couple of years ago moved in a different direction.

The county Public Health Department has capped WIC enrollment at its 17 centers at 84,400 since fiscal year 2009. Officials decided to allow three private nonprofit agencies to open four WIC clinics to absorb new participants.

“That decision was based on the large unmet need in the county, and the fact that the (county) program, with the slowdown in hiring and the geographic nature of the county, could not possibly meet all the need in the county,” Wert said. “Another factor was that WIC was not fully funding all costs related to administration of the program.”

Wert didn’t know how much the county spends on overhead costs for support services or how much more it would have cost the county to expand the program.

The county received an estimated $12.7 million in federal WIC money this fiscal year, up from about $8.5 million in fiscal year 2006 when it had about 73,400 participants.

“What we are discovering … is that for this type of program, community-based providers can do it cheaper,” Wert said.

thankful for help

Dozens of women and their children on a recent morning filled Moreno Valley’s Heacock Street WIC center to attend mandatory health education classes and counseling sessions and pick up vouchers.

Health educator Eldaa Rivera stressed the importance of physical activity to groups of women and children who gathered in her classroom. She led a brief game of “Simon Says” to encourage them to exercise with their children before the group left with their vouchers.

Alejandra Aguirre participated in the class with her 4-year-old daughter, Yvette. Aguirre, a stay-at-home mother of four children, said she started the WIC program 10 years ago during her first pregnancy.

“It makes a big difference to help feed your family,” she said, adding that the vouchers help stretch her family’s money.

“I have a sister-in-law who I finally made get an appointment to enroll in the program. My brother is unemployed. It would at least help them get something in the refrigerator.”

Reach Lora Hines at 951-368-9444 or lhines@PE.com

WIC FUNDING

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an estimated $7.6 billion WIC budget and has operated the WIC program nationwide since 1972. However, the program could lose about $760 million if Congress passes a Republican budget cut proposal.

California receives an estimated $1 billion annually for WIC. The money is distributed to 84 agencies that operate local programs throughout the state.

Riverside County Department of Public Health operates 17 clinics and receives $14.8 million in federal WIC money, up from nearly $7.7 million in fiscal year 2006. The county spends about $1.5 million for support services to run the program.

San Bernardino County Department of Public Health operates 17 WIC centers and receives about $12.7 million in federal WIC money.

RELATED

ON THE WEB

Riverside County Department of Public Health’s WIC outreach

San Bernardino County Department of Public Health’s WIC

It Didn’t All Start With Bell

Using L.A. suburbs’ government to enrich the few is nothing new. An educator points to the perfectly legal redevelopment projects in City of Industry that siphoned tax dollars and made some men rich.

September 10, 2010|Hector Tobar

Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo worked the system to get himself an annual paycheck of nearly $800,000. He lent $300,000 in city funds to a local car dealership that later went defunct.

That might seem like a lot of money. But half a century ago, some very astute men in another L.A. suburb — the City of Industry — helped invent a system that uses local governments to siphon away billions of our tax dollars. Much of it ends up in private hands. And it’s perfectly legal.

It’s called redevelopment.

“We’re talking $4 billion to $6 billion each year that could be used to fund police officers, firefighters and community colleges,” said Victor Valle, chairman of the ethnic studies department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and author of a new book that explores the seamy underside of California small-town government.

Redevelopment funds are state tax dollars allocated to city governments. They’re supposed to be used to fight urban blight — and sometimes they are. But just as often, Valle argues, they’re spent on subsidies to the developers of strip malls, privately owned parking lots, warehouses and sports stadiums.

In Industry, a very few men got rich by selling property to the city and putting “redevelopment” projects on these vacant pastures that had never been developed in the first place.

It wasn’t stealing. But it was public money — our money — spent at the service of the few. And those monies are still flowing to developers up and down the state. These business concerns, in turn, feed the political system with their big campaign contributions.

California redevelopment agencies have their origins in a 1950s state law and in the political culture that dominated California during its suburban boom. Valle’s new book, “City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California,” describes the birth of this culture in Industry.

Founded in 1957, the City of Industry has never had more than 800 residents. But in the late 20th century it received hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax dollars redirected for redevelopment.

By the 1970s, Valle writes, “Industry was no longer just a city; it was now a huge redevelopment mill, the largest in California, perhaps the nation.” A few men and their families got rich.

Riverside Has Never Looked Or Been Better In Mayor Loveride’s Eyes

08:42 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By RON LOVERIDGE

Too many recent news accounts have focused on doubts about whether City Hall is transparent, and whether it is a place of special favors and privileges (“Official nonsense,” Our Views, July 11; “Riverside hit and miss in filling public records requests,” July 14; “Riverside top officials pay up for gun accessories, four years later,” July 16).

As mayor, I am committed to a City Hall that is open and transparent. City Hall must see all officials, elected and appointed, as public servants accountable not only to the laws and rules of the city, but also to the highest standards of public service.

I take pride in exceptional city projects and services across Riverside. Unlike most cities in California, we balanced our general fund budget while retaining a reserve of about $40 million. At the same time, we’ve continued to fund key initiatives in building parks, enhancing green goals, focusing on being a smart city, and fostering our commitment to being the City of Arts & Innovation.

Riverside is a safe city, and will be safer with the leadership of our new police chief, Sergio Diaz. We have developed many national best practices that have been recognized and honored in the state and in the nation, such as for our 311 “One Call Does It All” and our “Neighborhood Livability Program.” Drawing on a 30-year perspective at City Hall, I believe our current department heads and basic services are the best ever. Residents and visitors alike emphasize, the city has never looked better! In brief, City Hall has many great stories to tell.

But mistakes have been made. And they are being corrected — lessons learned. Rather than trying to “hunker down,” we must strive to do better. Speaking for the City Council, I commit the city to a timely response to public record requests. We now have a procedure that will log in and monitor all such requests. Special prerogatives for top officials — mayor, council, city manager or police chief — must not be the way we do business.

In 2010, let’s make the promise of Riverside’s economic strategic plan “Seizing Our Destiny” a reality. Success depends on our working together. This plan charts an extraordinary process for defining and shaping our future as a great city in which to live, learn, work, raise a family, play and visit. Let’s do it.

And it is my pledge that as we seize our destiny, City Hall will be open and transparent for all of us.

Ron Loveridge is the mayor of Riverside.

Legally Poisoned

There’s a rule about losing weight that everyone who is successful, obeys. It’s called “if you track it, it moves”. In other words, if you don’t measure something, you won’t know if you’ve lost weight or not.

Our cost based risk assessment for chemicals contrasts with Europe where the focus is on health based risk assessment.

We get to experience the added costs and impacts from increased risk exposure  from products, processes or policies calculated to be cheaper to litigate than eliminate.

Europe insists products, processes and policies promote health outcomes based on health risk assessments. They also have better health outcomes in many categories.  Coincidence? Or do you really get what you measure for?

Final Touches To Ethics Code

By ALICIA ROBINSON
The Press-Enterprise

As soon as next week, sharing an ethics concern about a Riverside city official will be as simple as using the city website to fill out an online form.

The new form, the way complaints are handled, and the deadline for filing them came out of several months of deliberation and a last-minute tug-of-war by the City Council. Taken together, they’re the most significant revisions made to the city’s ethics code since it was written in 2005.

A voter-approved provision in the city charter says the city must have an ethics code. The code describes expected behavior for Riverside’s elected officials and appointed members of boards and commissions.

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Anyone who believes an official has violated the guidelines can file a complaint, with the council ultimately deciding whether to censure an elected official or remove an appointed one.

This week, the council signed off on changes to the code that designate a panel of board and commission heads to hear complaints, which used to be heard by council members. The changes also more clearly outline complaint procedures and set the deadline to file complaints at six months from the “date of discovery” of an alleged ethics breach, which allows more leeway in case a problem is uncovered months or years later.

That deadline led to a split vote in November, and it caused some consternation at the council’s Tuesday meeting.

Councilman Andy Melendrez proposed removing the deadline completely, but no one seconded that. Then, Councilman Chris Mac Arthur said he was changing his vote to support an earlier recommendation that complaints be filed within six months of the incident they were about, but that motion failed on a split vote.

Finally, the council voted 6-1, with Steve Adams dissenting, to stick with the “date of discovery” language.

“I saw this as an affirmation of the ethics code,” Mayor Ron Loveridge said by phone Friday. “The vote on Tuesday indicated widespread agreement with the ethics code as it was presented.”

Some residents had urged the city to make the code more user-friendly, and they cautioned that having council members hear complaints about each other creates a conflict of interest.

Michael Dunn, a resident who has closely followed the ethics issue, said he’s pleased with the revisions to the code. “It’s been a struggle, but it seems like we’ve made a step in the right direction with all of this,” he said.

A police watchdog group that Dunn co-chairs, the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, may give the new guidelines their first test. Dunn’s wife, Linda, said Friday the group intends to refile a complaint that was rejected in September as untimely because it dealt with events from more than two years ago.

The group has argued that the events weren’t publicly known until recently.

Reach Alicia Robinson at 951-368-9461 or arobinson@PE.com

On a related note, several neighbors have discussed the wisdom of video tapping all committee meetings and streaming them via the web.

The Mayor Wants You to Lose Some Weight

Frustrated with the high cost of health care, a number of communities around the country are taking new steps to push citizens to improve their health. A review of what some cities are doing about it was recently published in the Wall Street Journal.

Some places have set 10-year goals to reach certain marks of good health. In San Francisco, for example, 79% of small children currently are fully immunized by the time they turn 2 years old; the county aims to increase that to 90% by 2020. Other places, like Kern County, Calif., which has one of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in the state, are setting up farmers’ markets and constructing new trails and sidewalks to foster healthier lifestyles.

Kern County Dept. of Public HealthKern County, Calif., has set up farmers’ markets to encourage people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

INFORMED

INFORMED

Helping to encourage the local initiatives are the federal Centers for Disease Control and private health-advocacy groups. They are using the Web and social-networking strategies to raise awareness of local barriers to health, from immunization rates to environmental health hazards. Studies have shown that more than 50% of the determinants of health across a population are related to lifestyle and the environment. As part of the effort, the U.S. government last month issued the Healthy People 2020 goals (healthypeople.gov), setting targets for health indicators that many local communities are expected to adopt.

“Decisions made at the local level to address lifestyle and the environment have the potential to create dramatic change in individual as well as community health status,” says Deryk Van Brunt, president of the Healthy Communities Institute, an organization developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University. Once communities are aware of existing barriers, he says, “they can take concrete action to build a healthier environment.”

Of course, programs aimed at making people healthier have been tried and failed before, as evidenced by the rise in obesity and chronic disease nationwide. The U.S. government currently has recommendations for amounts of physical exercise, but only about 20% of the population is estimated to follow these.

“It took us decades to get into this position of decreased activity and increased obesity and it may take us decades to get out,” says Matt Constantine, public health director for Kern County, Calif. “But if we can try some of these practices that work on a smaller scale in the community, we can become thinner and healthier over time.”

The Healthy Communities Institute tracks more than 100 health and quality-of-life indicators in various counties and regions. It creates websites in partnership with local groups that compare a community’s current health status with targeted levels.

In San Francisco, for example, the website Healthmattersinsf.org offers regular updates on issues such as sexually transmitted diseases and hospital admissions for pediatric asthma. Residents can find health statistics specific to their own neighborhood, such as the hospitalization rate for vaccine-preventable pneumonia and flu by zip code, or track a trend meaningful to their own immediate health concerns, such as city air quality.

The CDC is working with local jurisdictions on its own Healthy Communities program (not related to the Healthy Communities Institute) to provide funding for various projects. Among these: a program in Pinellas County, Fla., led to a policy requiring after-school programs to provide children with at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. And in Birmingham, Ala., the CDC is working with city planners to convert streets to accommodate all users including pedestrians and cyclists.

Last year, the CDC launched the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (ephtracking.cdc.gov) that offers data on how the environment affects health. It is working with about two dozen states and cities to build local tracking networks for data on chemicals, hazardous substances, and disease risks.

In New York City, the health department worked with the CDC to create its own interactive tracking network that lets users access a wide range of data. A “Rat Portal” on the site allows residents to check on rat-inspection findings for every neighborhood and property in the city. Dan Kass, deputy commissioner for environmental health, says the program has allowed the city to respond more quickly to community complaints about rats.

Another New York project, aimed at monitoring air quality, showed that the city’s affluent Upper East Side has worse air quality than some lower-income areas due to the type of fuel burned in its high-rise buildings, Mr. Kass says.

“People might think air quality is something they can manage with a filter in their home, but it is really determined by broad policies,” says Mr. Kass. “To have true control over your health is not just about what you can do as an individual but what is being done at the community level.”

Getty ImagesAn estimated 26.3% of San Francisco’s adults engage in moderate physical activity. The county would like to boost that number to 30%.

INFORMEDjp

INFORMEDjp

CDC data also has led to some environmental investigations. Sam LeFevre, manager of Utah’s environmental epidemiology program, says the CDC tracking network includes technology that makes it possible to quickly map and analyze disease trends and respond to public health concerns. During 2010, the state conducted 19 investigations using the network, mainly to analyze clusters of high cancer rates in areas surrounding five oil-refining facilities. The study didn’t suggest any evidence of increased relative risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the populations, Mr. LeFevre says. But it did reveal an excess risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at one site. The study concluded that further investigation is needed to identify what specific disease subtype is occurring and whether environmental or occupational exposures have contributed to risk.

Utah also is using the CDC network to look at specific changes in risk for heart disease or birth defects due to air pollution, Mr. LeFevre says. The findings are expected to help policy makers “better assess the true costs or benefits of decisions they are making regarding the environment or health,” he says.

Some programs are aiming to copy what has worked to encourage healthier living in communities around the world. The Beach Cities Health District, near Los Angeles, last month began a pilot program based on an apparently successful prototype that improved health status of residents in Albert Lea, Minn. The district, which includes the municipalities of Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, aims to help residents lead more active, healthier lifestyles and for the community to meet the federal Healthy People 2020 goals, says Lisa Santora, the district’s chief medical officer.

The district plans to invest $1.8 million in the program over the next three years, and Healthways Inc., a company that works with health-coverage plans and employers on health-and-wellness programs, will contribute $3.5 million in funds and services. The program, known as the Healthways/Blue Zones Vitality City initiative, includes creating more safe, accessible walking paths and encouraging families to team up in “walking school buses” rather than driving kids to school. Employers will have access to Healthways’ health-risk-assessment tools and online smoking-cessation programs.

“We can’t just tell people to lose weight and stop smoking and be more active if we aren’t supporting healthy living,” says Dr. Santora. “We have to be innovative and look at the evidence of how to create healthier communities.”

—Email informedpatient@wsj.com.

[informed]

Walkable Cities Key To Vibrant Health

I took a few walks with the mayor over the years, and I think he’s on to something.

According to Walk Score, Riverside scores at 50 out of 100. We can do a lot better than that, especially with the fabulous neighborhoods and trails in Riverside.

Even Hemet is looking at walkable options. If “move it or lose it” is good advice for out of shape residents, it’s seems like it would be good advice for city planners to consider as well.