Light pollution
The Board of Supervisors postponed action on the draft ordinance to control light trespass. The board scheduled a public hearing at its Oct. 15 meeting, but Supervisor John Tavaglione (2nd District), the ordinance’s sponsor, was absent. Another hearing was scheduled for the Nov. 22 meeting.

“Light trespass occurs when light fixtures on one property [project light that] falls across a property line onto another lot or parcel of land or onto a public right-of-way,” Tavaglione wrote in his memorandum to his colleagues. “Light trespass results in a waste of natural resources and at certain levels may jeopardize the health, safety or welfare of Riverside County residents.”

The specific proposed standard reads, “All outdoor [lights] shall be located, adequately shielded, and directed such that no direct light falls outside the parcel of origin, or onto the public right-of-way.”

Before the discussion ended, 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone recommended the consideration of several exemptions. For example, he showed a photograph of workers picking grapes at night. They needed large lights to find the actual grapes.

Stone explained the necessity of harvesting the grapes at the right time, which could include nights, but this activity would violate the proposed ordinance.

His other examples included lights in shopping center and mall parking lots. “Some homeowner associations and community centers have lights for those walking to their cars and for security. I want the ordinance, but worry there are a number of unintended consequences which require a more comprehensive review,” he said to his colleagues.

Specific exemptions, such as required by law enforcement or emergency personnel, authorized by state or federal law, or holidays, will be permitted. Security lighting will be permitted provided it meets the other provisions of the ordinance.

Violators will be fined. First offenses could cost $100. Further violations will go to $500.

County ordinance 655 already regulates some outdoor lighting within 45 miles of Palomar Observatory, but Tavaglione’s proposal would apply throughout the county’s unincorporated areas, including Idyllwild.

Formally known as Riverside County Ordinance 914, whose title is Require Every Convict Occupant Reimburse County Expenses, was authored by 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone. The Board of Supervisors adopted the Ordinance at its Nov. 15 meeting and it takes effect in 30 days.

Its purpose is to collect the costs of incarceration from individuals booked and convicted who serve time in county jails.

The county’s Probation Officer is tasked with assessing individual’s ability to pay the costs and collecting the fees.

Stone received national attention for the proposal. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and various radio stations throughout the country have interviewed him.

When the county executive estimates the next fiscal year budget will begin the year with an $80 million deficit, any additional revenue will help protect employees and services, Stone said. While the board is estimating the ordinance will generate $3 to $5 million, he believes $6 million is a reasonable low estimate. Since county booking fees exceed $450 and 60,000 individuals go through the jail annually, if 25 percent can pay the costs, the county would collect $6 million, Stone said. And that does not include the cost of the jail time, which can be about $140 daily.

“If you do the crime, then you’re going to do the time and you’re going to pay the dime,” Stone said. “We’re going to hold these people accountable, there is no free ride in this county.”

“If we don’t have money for the workforce, we’ll have to retrofit the workforce to be commensurate with the money,” he lamented. Regardless of how much revenue RECORCE generates, it will go into the general fund and thus help offset the county’s deficit.

However, Pamela Wallis, Riverside County Counsel, stressed that the collection of these moneys will be a low priority for the court compared to other debts.

Idyllwild Library
At its Nov. 22 meeting, the Board of Supervisors amended its U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Block grant and authorized $2.5 million for the renovation of the building for the new Idyllwild Library.

Fifteen months ago, at its Aug. 31, 2010 meeting, the Board initially approved $1 million to relocate the library from its current Pinecrest Avenue site to the recently vacated building in Strawberry Plaza.

County budget
At its Nov. 15 meeting, the board agreed that elected officials, managers and employees who are not members of employee bargaining groups will begin paying a portion of their retirement contributions.

The Board decided that more than 1,150 employees not represented by a union will start paying 4 percent of their base pay for pensions on Dec. 1, and then will pay another 4 percent the following year. This might save $14 million over the next few years, according to the board.

The county is also attempting to reach agreement with its employee unions to make the same concession. Unfortunately, negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) broke down and the Board declared an impasse and moved to implement the same provision for members of the county’s second-largest union. On Monday, Nov. 21, SEIU members rejected the county’s proposal.

Supervisors unanimously agreed that they and other employees not represented by a union should pay 8 percent of their base pay toward pension costs. Most non-safety county workers pay 8 percent of pay for their first five years of employment. After that, the county pays employees’ pension costs entirely.

Employees would pay a portion of their own pension costs, 3 percent the first year, an additional 3 percent the second year and another 2 percent in the final year. The county offered a phased plan because paying the full 8 percent immediately could pose a hardship for some employees. County officials estimated the pension change, just among SEIU employees, would save $40 million over three years.

In return, employees would receive a one-time wage increase of 2.7 percent for those who are topped out on the wage scale, and a step increase of 2.7 percent for those still climbing that scale. The increases would cost about $23 million over the life of the contract.