The following updates were provided by Riverside County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. District 1 encompasses the cities of Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, most of the City of Riverside, and several unincorporated communities.
COVID BoomerangJust when we thought Riverside County had finally reached the goal post to drop down and stay in the Red Tier, the testing and infection numbers went the wrong way, causing the state to put us back into the Purple penalty box. Compared to our neighbors, we are right about in the middle, doing better than San Bernardino and Imperial Counties, a little better than LA County (who never made it into Red Tier), and worse than San Diego and Orange Counties.
Since LA has been more aggressive than we have in enforcement, and OC has been more hands-off, it is easy to speculate that like everything else, demographics (poverty, age, ethnic disparities) have a lot to do with who is successful (or not) fighting COVID.
Shortly after the state announced our rollback and shutdowns, they also announced that they would be providing counties likes ours with education and enforcement resources from the California Office of Emergency Services, Consumer Services, Labor Agency, Food & Agriculture Department, plus 30 agents from ABC sweeping across the county last week.
Based on the future testing and evaluation time frames set by the state, my unscientific guesstimate is that we could remain in Purple roughly up through Thanksgiving. The good news is that overall California is doing much better than most states in keeping the virus and death numbers low. The bad news, our unemployment numbers and economic impacts are off the charts.
Telecommuting StudyThe concept of having some employees work from home is nothing new to the private sector, but not so common in the government sector, at least until COVID arrived from China. Riverside County jumped on the bandwagon with roughly 7,000 of its 20,000 employees utilizing some form of telecommuting this year.
Telecommuting can help with reducing the need for office space, desks, phones, computers, and employee parking spaces, and it can also help (a little) with traffic congestion. One of the notable downsides can be customer contact or public access. The inability of members of the public to directly speak with a human resulted in our office receiving a barrage of complaints over citizens being unable to talk to someone either at the counter or on the phone when attempting to contact some county departments.
In fact, there were times that my staff could not even reach someone to pass along the complaints from the public. For the most part, those stumbles (embarrassments) have been cleared up, and several agencies are reporting that their employees are more productive than ever before working remotely, without the distractions of the office environment.
Now we are dealing with the ongoing sticky issues of making sure work is actually being performed at home, which employees could or should utilize telecommuting, what if they want to work out-of-state, and how will employee evaluations be done. Answering those questions will determine whether this newfound support for telecommuting will continue post-COVID.
The Curse of the False Alarm OrdinanceI know it is a week late for a spooky Halloween story but listen to this one. A few years ago, we learned about the incredible impact of false alarms on our public safety departments. In 2016, the sheriff had 15,172 alarm calls in unincorporated areas, of which only 37 were determined to be legitimate and 13,461 were responded to but found to be false. The other 1674 were canceled before any officers arrived on the scene.
That is a lot of wasted time for our first responders, so I brought an ordinance to the board in 2018 to disincentivize those who repeated alarm offenders, in an effort to reduce the number of false alarm calls and free up the sheriff and fire department to respond to real emergencies.
The Ordinance was supposed to come back in September of 2018, but then we had fires that caused delays. Then, we had floods that caused delays. Then, there were flowers — Poppies! Then, we all got COVID delayed. Long story short, two and a half years later, we still have no ordinance to vote on.
Even stranger, when doing the research for the ordinance, we found that the board had previously voted in December 2012 to enact a false alarm ordinance, and it was never seen again. Was it the international burglar alarm cartel making it disappear? Another series of unfortunate disasters and delays? Hopefully, we can overcome this curse and have it before the board by the end of this year.
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