No on Measure A: City of Riverside Prosecutor’s Office 2016

No on Measure A: City of Riverside Prosecutor’s Office 2016

The Raincross Group recommends a No Vote on Measure A, which seeks to open a new City of Riverside Prosecutor’s office under the direction of Riverside City Attorney, Gary Geuss.

We join with the League of Women Voters, The Group, Latino Network, The Riverside Police Officers Association, business leaders, members of the legal community, and Councilmembers Burnard, Davis, and Melendrez, in opposing this measure on the June 2016 ballot.

Costs to enact Measure A remain unclear with proponents expecting a $2.5 million annual budget while opponents expect a realistic budget of $12 million when considering infrastructure and surrounding support staff costs. The impartial ballot analysis provided by the city does not contain budget figures. Misdemeanors in Riverside are currently prosecuted the District Attorney who is independently elected and funded by the County of Riverside. Measure A shifts misdemeanor prosecutions to a City Council appointed City Attorney and the costs would be borne entirely by City of Riverside residents.

Why shift prosecuting power to an appointed official with no direct accountability to the public? While the hope is this new prosecutor could more readily address citizen concerns and “quality of life” issues, the fact remains that the police enforce the law and a City Attorney prosecuting misdemeanors is unlikely to reduce crime in Riverside.

Riverside citizens have not been provided enough information on this matter to make a decision. By not following the review process for changes to the City Charter spelled out in the City Charter, Riverside voters have been denied a chance to see case studies, weigh other options, explore the budget impact, or have input on the process.

The Riverside County District Attorney has a high prosecution rate for misdemeanors committed in the City of Riverside. The City Attorney claims local control would increase the prosecution rate of misdemeanors in Riverside. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the City Attorney already has authority to prosecute misdemeanors arising out of violations of the City Municipal Code. Based on court records, the City of Riverside only prosecutes 15% of these cases. On the other hand, the District Attorney’s office already has a 90% misdemeanor prosecution rate for the City of Riverside. By not following the process for City Charter changes, the City has failed to make clear what crimes are not being prosecuted, why they are not, and the cost-benefit analysis of taking on prosecuting misdemeanors by the City Attorney.

Unlike our Riverside City Attorney, our elected District Attorney answers to the people. Coordination between the District Attorney and local law enforcement has worked well for many years. Continued prosecution of misdemeanors by the District Attorney, and not creating a new city bureaucracy, would save taxpayers between $12.5 to $25 million over the next five years. There is no need to create a new expensive bureaucracy in the City of Riverside to duplicate what is already been done successfully and at no cost to the City by the District Attorney.

City management has recently announced a budget deficit of at least $8 million dollars this year and more expected in years to come without service cuts and/or tax increases. While Measure A purports to address “Quality of Life” issues, City Manager, John Russo, city staff has been asked to look at cost saving opportunities while also exploring service cuts.

It is unclear where and how these cuts will be accomplished. While facing an uncertain multi-million dollar deficit and reductions in city services, it is inappropriate to propose a new prosecutor’s office that will cost millions of dollars annually, especially if residents are being denied the necessary information to make an informed choice on the issue.

With the growing cost of pensions and other costs, Riverside needs to eliminate duplication and cut needless spending. This measure would bloat spending instead. Now is not the time to increase spending in Riverside.

During the most recent Riverside Charter Review in 2012, the City Attorney prosecuting misdemeanors was not discussed. Under the existing City Charter, the City Council can call a review panel together at any time to weigh new pressing issues, vet potential solutions, weigh the cost-benefit analysis, and report out back to the council their recommendations.

Riverside voters have the right to understand our current financial situations, what service reductions will occur due to the city’s financial deficit, and to weigh the costs and benefits of this new prosecutor’s office. City residents deserve clarity on these issues before being asked to spend millions of dollars establishing a new bureaucracy in the City Attorney’s office.

The City has failed to provide sufficient information for residents to make an informed decision on this issue. Having the City Attorney prosecute misdemeanors instead of the District Attorney will at the very least cost several million dollars a year to provide a service that currently costs the city nothing. With the City facing multi-million dollar deficits and service cuts, this is not the time to create a new expensive bureaucracy in the City of Riverside.

Vote No on Measure A Riverside Highlights

  • Moves power from elected official to Riverside City Attorney
  • Creating this new office creates new bureaucracy and new line item on the city budget ranging from $2.5 to $12.5 million annually
  • No clear cost-benefit provided
  • No oversight
  • Bloats spending during a time Riverside faces a deficit and likely service cuts

 

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