The City of Riverside has recently undertaken a crusade to encourage its residents to “Shop Riverside.” A sophisticated media campaign including a glossy mailer, an online video, a discount card and an elaborate website are all part of the effort to “increase your investment in your community and ultimately improve your quality of life.”
The point is well-taken. In this age of cutbacks, budget deficits and slashed services, sales tax revenue is an important source of funding for many of the things we take for granted—tree-trimming, libraries and law enforcement among them.
With such a concerted effort on behalf of the city’s institutions, one would expect that Riverside’s elected officials would be the first to conform to the “Shop Riverside” campaign’s suggestions. But unfortunately, avoiding hypocrisy has never been the forte of politicians.
Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge is currently seeking a fifth term in the city’s highest post. And like all political hopefuls, he is spending dough on mailers, a campaign website, consultants and—of course—signs. And to whom did Mayor Loveridge turn for the printing of these election-era eyesores? Surely to one of the many qualified, affordable print shops in the City of Riverside, right?
So, sir. Some of Loveridge’s lawn signs were printed by COGS South Signs, a print shop based in Santa Ana. Although COGS does not appear anywhere in the Mayor’s campaign disclosure firms, there’s no way to deny it—the signs themselves are printed with the firm’s logo and telephone number, according to The Press-Enterprise’s Dan Bernstein (Loveridge’s responses were lame like: “You hire vendors that make a good product. They’re found in different places. People you’ve done work with in the past, you continue that relationship.”
Curiously, just a few months ago, Loveridge described shopping Riverside as the “most important” part of an overall effort to get the city out if its economic doldrums, during a Jan. 22 “State of the City” speech.
Justin Tracy sees a parallel between these campaign spending decisions and the way the city is run. Tracy, who bills himself as a “reasonable guy,” is the owner of PIP printing in Downtown Riverside. He understands that if a merchant offers a better service or a better price, it makes sense to use that business’ goods or services, even if it is outside the city. “He should task his campaign manager with finding services within the city, but if he does find a better deal outside the city, then he should not let them print the info on the sign!” The decisions about how a campaign’s money is spent naturally fall to the treasurer of the re-election committee, in this case, Jim Dudek. In reference to Loveridge’s negligence in his delegation of authority, Tracy asks, “Isn’t it reflective of the oversight he provides the city in general?”
Tracy doesn’t mind the business going to someone else. But he would’ve appreciated having been able to make a bid in an open process like the one required for government contracts. And the mayor’s expenditures, he offers, should give priority not only to Riverside businesses, but to those businesses in the Downtown core, who pay an extra tax for the prime location.
But signs are not the only expenditures being made beyond city limits. The Loveridge campaign also spent $2,500 with the Burbank-based Gallop Creative, $700 with Corona-based Darin Schemmer and nearly $200 with the Garden Grove-based Visteva, all of whom provided nebulous-sounding “web services,” according to public records. Another hefty chunk of change, $10,000 to be exact, went to a consultant who apparently lives in a tiny metal box in the city of Palm Desert, records show.
This mis-step has not gone unnoticed by Loveridge’s opponent in the race, Art Gage, who appeared to obliquely refer to the mayor’s spending money outside the city in a recent doorknob mailer. Whether these campaign expenditures, which create the appearance of hypocrisy, imperil the mayor’s his chances for re-election, is not likely, considering the Loveridge’s warchest (over $44,000) and the comparative pittance his opponent has raised. But in the end, that question can only be decided by the voters.