Category Archives: Public Policy

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

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

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.



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 (, 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 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 ( 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%.



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.”



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.

Homeless Outreach Center Resources

It was just a few short months ago we were talking about cooling centers to beat the heat. Now it’s extremely cold and even more dangerous for our homeless population. Here’s some information to pass on to those who may be in need.

If you are currently homeless, know someone in need of help or need assistance with a homeless situation in Riverside, please call :


or email:

Monday – Friday, 6 a .m. – 9 p.m.

Service connections include:
• Housing Referrals • MedicaI Services
• Employment Referrals • Psychological Issues
• CA Identifications • Bus Rides Home
• Social Security Benefits • Other Services
• Substance Abuse (Please Ask!)
Treatment Placements

Police Commit to Community Outreach

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Contact: Lt. Guy Toussaint, Community Services Bureau
Phone: 951-826-5902
Contact: Assistant Chief Christopher O. Vicino
Phone: 951-826-5522

Police Commit to Community Outreach

Riverside, California – Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz is pleased to
announce the creation of the Community Services Bureau (CSB) to
strengthen the relationship between the community and the police
department. The CSB will provide a proactive and innovative approach to
problem solving, personal safety and crime prevention. The Bureau will be
under the command of Lieutenant Guy Toussaint and will report directly to
Assistant Chief Christopher Vicino.
“Community Policing is not a goal in and of itself; the purpose of Community
Policing is to help achieve a safer and more livable city. The CSB has been
tasked with developing and delivering Riverside Police Department programs
to enhance our Community Policing efforts thereby making our
neighborhoods safer and better” said Chief Sergio Diaz.
Personnel in the CSB will coordinate the Police Department’s community
programs including the Citizen’s Academy, Crime Free Multi-Housing,
Neighborhood and Business Watch, Teen 2 Teen, Traffic Education, the
Volunteer Unit and Youth Court. In addition, several new programs are in the
planning stages including a Teen Internship Program and a Police Mentor
The CSB will coordinate and track all community programs, facilitate media
events, and assist staff in other divisions with community measures. The
Bureau will be managed by Sergeant Dan Warren and Supervisor Karen
Haverkamp and is staffed with five Police Officers and three Police Service
For more information about the Community Services Bureau or the programs
offered, contact Supervisor Karen Haverkamp at 951-826-5644 or

Bay Area Gas Blast Lessons For Riverside?

In case you’ve forgotten about the gas line explosion last September in San Bruno, the one where a ruptured gas line fueled a blaze that killed at least four people and destroyed more than 35 houses. The explosion, which led to a wind-driven fire, I bring it up as we near the close of public comments for the Perris Valley Metrolink Line. We have our own high pressure jet fuel line running through an arroyo next to Hyatt Elementary School.

It’s up to us to ask the hard questions. The people in San Bruno relied on PG&E and it didn’t work out as planned.

It’s not as if there are bad guys running around trying to cause havoc. We have been underfunding infrastructure upgrades for decades. Thinking that we’ll take care of the problem later and classifying it as deferred maintenance has real world impacts. Sometimes devastating.

Unfortunately these breakdowns aren’t confined to old installations. The 215 overpass is having problems with concrete falling to Spruce Street below. This project was state of the art and remains a modern marvel of engineering. Let’s hope it’s an enduring one, in the sense of providing superb service rather than an ongoing closure and repair cycle.

It’s always some individual who makes the decision to forgo a safety precaution in an attempt to save time or make more money.  BP oil spill, West Virginia mine explosion ring any bells?

With the recent rains, it’s a wonder the tracks didn’t wash out in Islander Park. There was no drainage provided for all the water and tons of silt came pouring off the mountain.

Take a look at the video of Islander Park after the recent rains. Maybe back filling the track bed is cheaper than providing for drainage, but as taxpayers, and residents adjacent to this project, our concerns and comments have been relevant and legitimate.

The Perris Valley Line  has not fully addressed foreseeable long term health and safety impacts. Claiming there is “no significant impact” because of added cost or time avoids the issue.

That’s why it remains critical that you make your comments by Jan 6th.

Riverside Among World’s Most Livable Cities

Well no kidding! I’ve always thought so. How about you? Nice to know the rest of the world is taking notice.  Seizing Our Destiny looks a lot like a City Of Our Dreams – right now!

I do find it ironic that on the same day our livability gets proclaimed, we’re requesting a halt to medical marijuana dispensaries? I would think that the ‘holistic approach’ would include more leadership in the area of health outcomes for everyone.  Particularly in view of the statistics from our school districts. Creating the conditions for positive health impacts for our neighbors is our best shot at actually living in one of the world’s most livable cities.