In the United States of America our democracy is built on the premise “…of the people, by the people and for the people.” Thus we elect our fellow citizens to do our bidding when setting policies on behalf of the public. A large number of our elected officials who seek office do so with every intention of being objective and fair when they take the oath of office. However, some officials’ good intentions and vision become clouded based on campaign contributions once the election is over. That is okay when no rules or laws are broken but when their decisions or actions become tainted or appear tainted the public has a right to seek clarity on those decisions to maintain the integrity of our governmental institutions.
Having said that, we have a situation brewing in the City of Moreno Valley that, in my opinion, has reached the point where outside legal government agencies need to be brought in to clear the air on various decisions taken by the city’s elected officials. It appears from the excellent investigative reporting by the Press Enterprise journalist Duane W. Gang that such an investigation by the state’s Attorney General, local District Attorney, or county Grand Jury would be in order.
It was reported in a 2010 Press Enterprise article that Iddo Benzeevi, a developer in Moreno Valley, has given at least $425,000 to help elect council members to the Moreno Valley City Council and contributed substantial other monies to defeat incumbents and city measures that were not in his business interest.
On one occasion, council members, of which Iddo had given campaign contributions, were publicly cautioned that it is against state law to approve building permits that do not have maps. This approval was for one of Iddo’s projects. In that instance, the city council went against their appointed planning commissioners’ recommendation and approved Iddo’s project anyway.
It was also reported that Iddo was a part of the decision to select the newly appointed city manager who is now in support of giving the developer exclusive rights. In another report Iddo gave the city $250,000 to hire staff members to work in the planning department so his plans could move at rapid speed for approval. Now that is enough for the citizens to be suspicious of the decisions being made in favor of his development projects. And it is also reported that Iddo did buy some property for the Moreno Valley City School District and this is a good thing, but it is also reported that he now wants that to be given as a credit towards something else.
I know the city leadership is eager to bring employment opportunities to help decrease the unemployment numbers in the area, but I would caution them to not break the law, bend the rules, or sell the city to the highest bidder. Any city government that would reduce itself to the person with the deepest pockets is on the brink of undermining the very foundation of our government. Instead of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” it becomes “of the developer, by the developer and for the developer.” When that happens the people always lose.
So what should the people do? I would recommend they write letters to the Riverside County Grand Jury, Paul Zellerbach, Riverside County District Attorney and State Attorney General Kamala Harris and ask for an investigation. These city officials need to be questioned under oath to see if their acceptance of financial support from this developer or any developer has any influence on their decisions on any project. All city employees in the planning department who had anything to do with the building permits should be asked the same questions as well as planning commissioners.
I am not saying that anyone has done anything wrong, but as we’ve seen in the City of Bell, these actions as reported and documented do not pass the smell test of being completely ethical or transparent. In this way the citizens of Moreno Valley can have the assurance that their elected officials have their best interest in mind in all decisions.
Riverside Charter Committee Does not Reflect City’s Population
One of the staples of Riverside City is the diversity of its people as so often talked about by city leaders and written about in its literature. It is like red beans and rice to the people of Louisiana, like collards greens and sweet potato pie to Black Americans and refried beans to Latinos, yet the elected officials decided that not one Latino, Black or Asian should be on the Charter Review Committee. Now mind you regardless of the educational level or income status of either group these foods are still a part of their menus.
Mind you Whites make up only 34% of the city’s population, while they want 100% of them to write up the governing rule that every one must play by. He who makes the rules are the one in charge and tell the others how to live, where to go, what time to come in, how to behave, where and what to eat, you get the picture.
Now I am not advocating some type of equal representation but at least two Latinos, one African American and one Asian should be on the committee.
If the truth be told of Police Chief Keith Kilmer Retiring
In my opinion, if the truth could be told, Kilmer is retiring because of the political jockeying of elected officials at city hall. Any time you have a city attorney always challenging every one and some council member demanding non-essential reports and micro-managing or second guessing the chief over police officers, what do you expect? Kilmer was good for the city and will be sorely missed.