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Riverside Convention Center Remodel Leaves Main Street Struggling

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By Rory O’Sullivan

Small shops along downtown Riverside’s Main Street have begun tightening their belts a little more and searching for ways to increase revenue while the 18-month long renovation and expansion of the Riverside Convention Center is still underway. The project that began last July has taken a financial toll on the restaurants, novelty stores, beauty shops and consignment stores that many who rely on downtown pedestrian traffic to keep them in the black.

Robert Bratton, owner of Gram's Mission Barbeque Palace, located directly across from the convention center said during its remodeling and closing he has lost about $300 to $400 dollars every single day.

The slow down in business has him looking for private investments to stay in business. “That’s what got me so scared to death,” said Bratton.

“It’s one thing after another,” said Wendie Monrroy owner of Wendie Monrroy on Main. The store sells many things from fragrances, to dishes, to furniture, as well as handmade items by local artists.

Like Bratton she has experienced similar financial losses.

Last year, even MetroRiverside LLC, the developer of the Hyatt Palace filed a claim against the City of Riverside and its redevelopment agency alleging that the closing and renovation of the convention center has impacted the hotel’s prime source of business.

Debbi Guthrie, Sr. Vice President of Raincross Hospitality Corporation, which is contracted to manage the convention center is sympathetic to businesses on Main Street, but the payoff will be worth it.

“There is a buzz everywhere about the fresh new venue,” said Guthrie. “We are receiving a record number of inquiries and meeting planners and organizations across the country and internationally.”

She said the convention center will be able to hold at minimum of 1,500 additional people. There are technological upgrades that will allow them to attract more corporate and association clients.

The Riverside Convention Bureau has been “active” resulting in her securing the filming of the ABC television show “Splash” bringing $330,000 in revenue to Riverside City College and helping fill hotels and restaurants in Riverside during this production time.

Janice Penner of Riverside Downtown Partnership said, “most of the lost business is being offset by projects like “Splash.” “The Riverside Convention and Visitors Bureau has been continually marketing Riverside as a site for conferences and conventions,” said Penner.

Bratton and Monrroy are feeling the pain now but expect it to be better once the remodeling is complete.

“I expect it to be better once it’s done,” said Bratton before adding, “I need help now.”

Monrroy’s husband Arthur said Wendie needs additional help now as well.

“There’s no way, shape, or form they'll support us,” said Arthur.

Airport Developer Scot Spencer Charged, Arrested on Conspiracy and Perjury Charges

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SAN BERNARDINO – Former airport developer Scot Spencer and one of his investors Felice G. Luciano was formally charged by San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos of multiple counts of conspiracy and perjury in connection with the development of the San Bernardino International Airport (SBIA) and related companies. Luciano classified as a co-conspirator is currently at large and wanted by law enforcement officials while Spencer was booked and charged.

“Thanks to the hard work of our investigators and partners at the FBI, we were able to take another step towards weeding out corruption in the county of San Bernardino,” District Attorney Michael Ramos said. “If you conspire to commit a crime against the citizens of this county, you will face serious consequences and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The complaint alleges five felonies: Counts 1 and 2 include allegations that Spencer and Luciano conspired to commit the crime of Grand Theft (PC 487(a)) and presenting False Documents to Be Used in Evidence (PC 134). Spencer was also charged with two counts of Perjury Under Oath (PC 118) and one count of Preparing False Documentary Evidence (PC 134).

If convicted on all counts, both Spencer and Luciano face five years in state prison. A warrant of arrest was obtained Friday for Spencer and bail was set in the amount of $1,000,000. Spencer was arrested by District Attorney Investigators Sunday in Boca Raton, Florida.

Spencer, who was tasked with redeveloping the former Norton Air Force Base, is a convicted felon who previously served time in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud.

The investigation was handled by members of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are both part of the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force (IRCTF), a special joint corruption task force set up in 2010 to address corruption allegations surfacing in San Bernardino County. The task force includes the district attorney's office, the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office and the California attorney general's office.

The criminal investigation is continuing.

County Board Recognizes Classified Employees of the Year

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SAN BERNARDINO – This year’s five Classified Employees of the Year for schools and districts in San Bernardino County will be honored by the County Board of Education at its meeting on April 1.

The five recipients represent more than 18,500 classified workers across the county’s 33 school districts and more than 530 schools.

“Classified staff are critical to our schools being safe and functional every day so that students have facilities that promote academic achievement,” County Superintendent Gary Thomas said. “I want to be the first to congratulate this year’s recipients for the work they do for their schools and districts.”

This year’s Classified Employees of the Year were nominated by their school districts and selected by a judging panel for the statewide program, which was initiated five years ago. The county winners advance to a California Classified Employees of the Year competition. The state recipients will be announced later in the spring.

SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union is a corporate sponsor for the county awards ceremony, which is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on April 1. The County Board meeting will be held at the San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools’ Brier building, located at 760 E. Brier Drive in San Bernardino.

The county Classified School Employees of the Year, their positions and the schools and/or districts they represent are:

•Franklin Fox, custodian, at Rialto Middle School in the Rialto Unified School District;

•Roberta Huckeba, child nutrition worker, at Chapman Heights Elementary School in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District;

•Debbie Long, clerk, at Chino Hills High School in the Chino Valley Unified School District;

•Gina Loring, library media technician, at Cucamonga Middle School in the Central School District;

•Anita Sida, bilingual aide, at Citrus Elementary School in the Fontana Unified School District;

In the category of Maintenance Operations and Facilities, Fox has spent the past three years at Rialto Middle School and has worked in the district for the past seven years. “Frank is not only an exemplary employee, but most importantly, he has contributed to the success and recognition of Rialto Middle,” wrote Arnie Ayala, principal at the school, in Fox’s nomination. “As our lead custodian, he needs little to no direction when it comes to his responsibilities. Frank has set the bar and will always be the standard.”

For Huckeba, she is the recipient in the category of Child Nutrition. For the past 17 years, she has worked in the Yucaipa-Calimesa district. “Roberta has been a leader in our department for years and a wonderful support for management to educate her peers. I cannot think of a more deserving classified employee than Roberta,” wrote Ann Aguilar, who is the child nutrition director for the district, in the nomination for Huckeba.

In the category of Office and Technical work, Long has been in her position as a clerk at Chino Hills High for the past nine years. “She is able to provide exemplary customer service, and with a smile. She is affectionately known as ‘school mom’ for both students and staff alike,” wrote Principal Jacqueline Perez in her nomination of Long. Added Athletic Director Derek Bub: “Debbie comes to work each day and consistently asks what she can do to help out more in each department.”

For Loring, she was selected as the recipient in the category of Support Services and Security. For the past 18 years, she has worked as a library media technician in the Central School District. Central Superintendent Donna Libutti said Loring is very active in the community of Rancho Cucamonga. “She continually thinks outside the box to seek new ways to support students in all areas including their academic, social and emotional growth and development,” Libutti wrote in her nomination of Loring.

The fifth County Classified Employee of the Year is Sida, who has been a bilingual aide in Fontana for the past 27 years. She was selected in the category of Para-educator and Instructional Assistant. Principal Kevin Tierney of Citrus Elementary said Sida’s insights and experience are valuable assets as a member of the school’s support team. “She takes on a variety of duties with a high level of skill and finesse,” he wrote in Sida’s nomination.

RPU Receives Honors in Annual American Advertising Federation ADDY Awards

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Riverside – Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) received four honors last week in the 2013 Inland Empire Ad Club/American Advertising Federation ADDY Awards competition for advertising and marketing items it created over the past year.

Conducted annually by the American Advertising Federation (the oldest national advertising trade association), the IEAC/AAF ADDY Awards are the first of a three-tier national competition that recognizes creative excellence of all forms of advertising.

RPU, which creates a variety of informative materials each year, received Silver ADDY awards for its Green Action Plan, its 2012 Financial Report, and “Lighting Has Evolved” advertisement.

The utility also received Bronze ADDY recognition for its design of the Riverside Police Department’s “Safe In Our Arms Strategic Plan 2010-2015” report.

Pomona Minister Appointed Bishop of Brazil Ecclestiastical Jurisdiction

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On May 6, 2013 Bishop Terence P. Rhone, pastor of Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Pomona will be honored at a celebratory inaugural banquet for his being appointed as Bishop of the Brazil Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. On November 11, 2012, Dr. Rhone was appointed by COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake.

Dr. Rhone graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1986 Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and he obtained his medical degree from the Western University of Health Sciences in 1990. He is board certified in the disciplines of internal medicine and lung disease and currently practices in Downey, California as an internist and a specialist in lung disease and critical medicine.

For nearly 11 years, Dr. Rhone has served as Pastor of the Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ in Pomona, California. Each year he leads a delegation to the foreign fields of the Republic of the Philippines and Brazil to conduct medical missions and ministry trainings during their annual Auxiliaries In Ministry Convention.

For more information about the Celebratory Inaugural Banquet, please refer to the website at www.cogicbrazilbanquet.com or call Event Chairperson, Mary L. Paige, at (909) 868-0224.

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BVN National News Wire