Town hall meeting at Panorama Village provides answers
■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
On Saturday, a town hall meeting was held in the auditorium of Panorama Village in Hemet. Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa both moderated and answered questions posed by a room filled with taxpayers anxious to have their worries addressed.
Mayor Krupa brought along Lt. Glen Brock, head of the Hemet Police Department’s Traffic Bureau and recently-appointed public information officer for the department. Councilman Andrew Kotyuk represented San Jacinto. He spoke about the Mid-County Parkway and other transportation issues. There will be another story on that. (For clarity, LK is Mayor Krupa. GB is Lt. Brock.)
But first to the mayor and police lieutenant’s responses on behalf of the city of Hemet:
Question 1: A four way stop sign is needed for safety at Mayberry and Palm, a very dangerous corner. Years of complaints to the city have accomplished nothing for our residents. When will the city act?
GB Answer: Stop sign requests need to be submitted to the Engineering and Traffic commissions. The Police Department cannot arbitrarily put up signs. A lot of work goes into adding or taking away any traffic devices on public roads; any changes we make will have some type of effect on traffic. Hopefully it is the effect you want, slowing down traffic. We encourage you to go to a Traffic Commission meeting and see if you can bring up the issue.
Q 2: Huge trucks are driving from Lyon and/or Palm, down Mayberry, even though they are restricted in weight. What can Hemet do to enforce the law?
GB Answer: After Sept. 23, HPD’s Sgt. Miller started helping the Traffic Bureau part time on that very subject. We can’t be out there all of the time, but if you see trucks on roads where they are prohibited, please contact us; we’ll keep an eye out to ensure violators are properly cited.
Q 3: Mayberry Avenue is a race track. Stop signs are ignored at Panorama Village. Can speed bumps be installed?
GB Answer: Again, like stop signs, request for speed bumps must come through the Traffic Commission. A personal appearance at those meetings gets plenty of attention. Since Sept. 28, our motor officers have received four separate directives detailing that area for enforcement.
LK Answer: There are many reasons to have them and just as many not to have them. A big issue is emergency vehicles and the damage speed bumps can cause. So we have to look carefully where a speed bump does go in. Our Traffic Bureau ceased operation back in 2012 or 2013 when cuts were being made due to the economic downturn. We now have reauthorized a Traffic Bureau headed up by Lt. Brock. I have personally observed officers out on their motorcycles. So if you get a ticket, the city of Hemet thanks you. Another thing, if you send an email to the commission, email it to as many people in city government that might be involved. The more people you reach, the better chance you have of bending an ear.
Q 4: Can cameras be installed to catch speeders?
GB Answer: Great question. You’ve probably heard about red light cameras being installed in other areas to reduce speeding. Research determined that the cameras sometimes cause accidents rather than prevent them. Hemet decided against that option.
Q 5: Does the city of Hemet or county of Riverside receive payment for sending parolees or homeless to Hemet? Also, do we pay any money to get rid of them?
LK Answer: No on both counts. Vista has a program called Solutions for Change that is a 1,000-day program designed to get people back on their feet. The city of Hemet endorses Solutions for Change. Don’t get off the bus in Hemet because you are not welcome unless you enter that program. In certain instances funding from local nonprofits is available for a bus ticket back home. First, however, contact is made wherever “home” is to ensure there will be someone there to welcome them and provide shelter and assurances that they will not be back on our doorstep again. We are not in the business of shoving them off on another community. The program’s goal is help people regain self-sufficiency.
Q 6: If a person is arrested for violating a restraining order, why is he or she back on the streets the next day doing the same thing all over again?
GB Answer: Our prison system is over capacity. Part of this goes back to AB 109. When someone is arrested for violating a restraining order or other misdemeanor, and if there is no jail space, they may post bond. So, can they be back on the street again? Yes, and if they violate the order, we will arrest them again. We bring them in one day at a time. That’s exactly what we do.
Q 7: What is the status of Metrolink coming to Hemet?
LK Answer: A station will be located on the empty lot north of Simpson Center, with development around it similar to the Perris Train Station, an area that previously was very depressed. The city of Perris worked to attract development and encouraged public/private relationships, and it worked. Look at what they have accomplished. Because the city of Hemet owns the land, it’s less costly to the taxpayer to develop. I envision coffee shops and restaurants, plus affordable housing like low-income and senior apartments. The City Council two meetings ago approved the Riverside Transportation Agency to go forward with that location. Before we go on, I would like Lt. Brock to comment on AB 109, Prop 47, Prop 57 and their relationship to crime.
GB Answer: Actually it is all related to the reduction of non-violent criminal offenses to misdemeanors and criminal realignment which overcrowds our jails and allows for early releases of non-violent criminals.
Q 8: When will we see results from Measure U?
LK Answer: We already have. The Hemet Fire Department added a battalion chief and is adding more personnel; we’ve made improvements to our fire stations that provide safety for our firefighters. The Police Department’s Traffic Division is being funded to make improvements. The ROCS Team is being activated. This all deals with the quality of life, crime and the homeless. We have added a number of police officers trained by other departments, which further saves taxpayers money.
Q 9: How can we be involved?
LK Answer: Join the volunteer forces! There are many opportunities for volunteers within city departments. Two, for instance, are the Hemet Public Library and the Police Department volunteer corps. The city’s website is a good source of information about the city, its opportunities and the issues. City Council meetings are also a good place to present issues and receive information about your city government and how it is working for your benefit.
Q 10: Can city parks be legally closed at a specific time each evening? If yes, can the police enforce the hours? Weston Park has become a gathering place for criminals and hookers at night.
LK Answer: Weston Park, like most of our non-gated parks, is open from 6 a.m. to dusk, except Mondays when it is closed for maintenance. We are aware that it is literally impossible, other than a 24-hour watch, to keep people out of the park when it is closed. That is true with any park that is not fenced and gated. Plans are in the works to brighten the place up at night, which should help reduce after hours loitering.
Question 11: Are other cities in a 30-mile radius having the same criminal activity as Hemet?
LK Answer: Homelessness and crime are not special to Hemet. Those issues haunt every city and every police department. Citizen involvement is a great deterrent. If you see a crime being committed, report it to the police. If it is of a violent nature, call 911. The best way to curb crime is a good relationship between the community and its government, which includes the police, fire and other departments.
Q 12: Is it true Hemet Police don’t arrest violators because there is no jail in our city?
GB Answer: No; the city of Hemet has a five-cell holding area where those under arrest are held for transfer to one of the county facilities.
Q 13: Your Chronicle Reporter – There is a pot shop on the northeast corner of Mayberry Avenue and State Street with a green neon cross and neon “open” signs in the window. It’s open all hours and is doing big business. It was previously closed down but has since reopened. What does the city do to the landlord that allows that? A fine must be costly.
LK Answer: I’m familiar with that location. The first time, we went to the property owner and said there is an illegal establishment on your property. We had no idea that a pot shop was going in there. At that time the owner shut it down voluntarily. This time anybody can see the neon signs and we are taking action. We are going to court and there is a monetary penalty for the property owner, a monetary penalty for the tenant and I am suggesting to our City Council that we vote to increase that particular nuisance ordinance penalty from $1,000 a day to $10,000 a day, because every single time, under the current ordinance, they walk into City Hall, plop down $10,000 and proceed with business as usual. They are doing a business that can afford that [type of fine]. They go back and repeat the process all over again and on and on.
GB Answer: Things are still murky after the voters passed Proposition 64. The [Riverside County] District Attorney’s office is still wondering how we will be working. All players are currently at the table, trying to figure the best way forward. The city does what it can to shut them down. It isn’t always effective. We shut them down one day, they reopen the next.
Q 14: Your Chronicle Reporter – San Jacinto, as well as other communities, are mopping up on the marijuana money pouring into their coffers. Why hasn’t Hemet taken advantage of that potential income? Perhaps we wouldn’t have needed Measure U. Everybody seems to want in except Hemet; San Jacinto has already expanded from six to 16 locations.
LK Answer: That’s a very good question. Back in 2010 or 2011 our council decided to take a very proactive stance against marijuana. We had plenty of discussions and we were extremely successful in going to court because our ordinances for zoning were written so they would stand any legal test. Now, go forward to Prop. 64 and the vote of the people. These are all things that we have to vote on because Proposition 218 says that you will not implement any tax on people without their consent and there is taxpayer money involved with regulating marijuana dispensaries. Measure U was brought about because of Prop 218. The voters must agree to any tax increase. You, the taxpayers of this community, will have to vote on a tax increase for marijuana if the city decides to go forward and do this.
There are two sides to this. One of the issues is have the people vote for a national tax levy of “x” percent. Coachella, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Adelanto and several other cities have adopted it. Cathedral City was one of the more aggressive cities to adopt the issue. They were considering as much as a 100 percent tax on the sales of marijuana, but they backed off and I don’t know where they ended up. The distributors and the retailers are willing to pay and the people purchasing it are willing to pay. So whatever your philosophical views are – good bad or ugly – regarding marijuana, the bottom line is it is going to take taxpayer dollars to enforce, no matter what the city of Hemet decides to do. Are we going to continue on our present path? Say yes or absolutely no. No dispensaries, no growth, no nothing. However, we’ve determined it will cost taxpayers at least $25,000 for every establishment we attempt to close down. So now we have to look at this as a business position, not a philosophical one. Do we want to allow growth, dispensaries? Either or both? What are we going to do?
The Council is going to take the matter into consideration; we are discussing it. The truth is it has to go on ballot to be decided by the people whether we want to accept it, reject it or whatever they decide. Should the city of Hemet vote a tax measure proclaiming a tax on these establishments if we allow them to come to town? It is a business decision at this point with me. I see all these people streaming in and out of pot shops in town, and if you watch you will see these are not all street people. All ages and social levels are buying. The state of California is setting their rules and regulations, which are pretty well-defined. If you have been convicted of [running] an illegal pot shop prior to this law taking effect in January, then you will not be licensed ever in the state of California. This will be an interesting discussion to have at City Council and I look forward to having your input.
Mayor Krupa told me that she looks forward to more town hall meetings because it brings her closer to the people she represents and that she always wants public input to the decisions made by the Hemet City Council. She received a well-deserved round of applause.