Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Exclusive Interview With the Riverside Mayor

The End of Loveridge Political Era in Riverside

By Salvador Santana

(Editing: Jetta Hice)

*** Thirty-three Years in Office.

*** Main Reason for retirement.

*** The Legacy of the Politician.

*** How was he got shot and saved his life.

*** A Great Life of Stability and Productivity.

*** The City of Yesterday, and the One of Today.

*** Ron Loveridge the Man, the Human Being.

Ron and Marsha Loveridge: 51 years
of a happy marriage.

The Ron Loveridge’s political era will end in November 2012 when a new mayor is elected.

Thirty-three years in office, as a Council member (1979-1993), then Mayor (1994-2012), Ron has become a Riverside icon. This tall, white-haired, 73 years old man, has had a significant impact on the community.

In spite of his important position Loveridge has always kept a low-key, humble personality. Though introverted, he genuinely enjoys meeting and working with people. Recently, the Mayor granted an interview to this writer.

The Mayor kindly invited me to his comfortable office on the seventh floor of City Hall. His friendly and efficient secretary, Jetta Hice, made the arrangements.

The windows in the Mayor's office provide a wonderful view of the solar terrace and the downtown buildings. Inside, pictures, trophies, plaques and books are mute witnesses to the hard work of a leader and the transcendental decisions made inside its walls.

--- How is you health, Mayor?

--- Excellent.

--- So, why are you not running again?

--- Marsha.

--- Marsha? Your wife?

--- Yes, she has been my support and best friend since we met in college. She has put up with my busy schedule for so long. It is time for me to dedicate greater time for her. She has taken care of everything on the home front.

--- How did you meet her at the first place?

--- We met in a Philosophy class at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Three years later we were married. Since then we have been a team. Without Marsha there would not have been “Ron Loveridge, the public man.”

When Loveridge talks about his wife, he sighs and get emotional. Fifty-one years of marriage with Marsha exposes a profound love, loyalty and caring of one for the other. This romantic union brought to this world two beautiful daughters, Joan and Kelly.

--- Mayor, I have known you for years. I've never seen you getting really upset, exploding. You're always very careful not to say anything that could hurt people.

--- Well, I am half Swedish, so I guess I have some northern reserve.

--- What have been the happiest and saddest moments during your tenure?

--- Both happened in the same year – 1998. The happiest one was when Riverside was awarded recognition as an “All American City.” To me it meant that Riverside was moving in the right direction.

--- And the saddest?

--- The shooting at City Hall just a few months later. It was horrible!

--- You and several other officials were hurt...

--- I was hit in the back of the neck., a wound that required 16 stitches. The bullet passed less than an inch from my spine. It was a miracle that nobody was killed, although other Council members and police officers were hurt. Chuck Beaty, Ward One Council member, who fought the assailant, was badly injured. His life was saved thanks to the quick intervention of Steve Early, who is now the Riverside Fire Chief, and the excellent medical attention at Riverside Community Hospital. Early stopped the bleeding until paramedics arrived. Even today, Beaty is affected by the life-threatenings wounds he received. He is a brave man and deserves our admiration and good wishes.


Loveridge earned a PhD in 1965 and MA in 1962 in
Political Science from Stanford University, and BA in 1960
in P.S. from University of Pacific. What an exemplary life
Robert Kennedy was his political idol.
--- Ron Loveridge began his political career when he ran for Student Body President at UOP. His mother set an example. She was on the school board for 15 years and was always active in the Concord Presbyterian Church.

--- You have been in politics for 33 years, a UCR Political Science professor for 47 years and married to Marsha for 51 years. Respectfully, I call you “Mister Stable.” What is the legacy of Ron Loveridge, the Public Server?

--- Salvador, in 1979, Riverside was a rapidly growing city, but seemingly lacking direction and pride. In 2012 it is a  city of 308,000 people – a university community with a significant history and dedicated citizens. Riverside has made progress in the areas of environment, the arts, education, infrastructure, redevelopment and development. The Renaissance Program has converted Riverside into a modern metropolis. Of course, this cost money, but the bonds issued for those projects will be paid in a timely manner as our financial experts have predicted.

And the Mayor continues, “What has been done to build new parks and remodel others has been terrific. Riverside is the only one of the twelve largest cities in California not in the 'red,' keeping a substantial reserve. Despite the economic crisis, our City has kept all public services functioning, although some adjustments had to be made.

One of our current projects is “Fit, Fresh and Fun.” A task force has been chosen to encourage healthier citizens and reduce obesity. Ongoing has been our commitment to the “Sister City” program to increase connection and understanding with people in other countries. Recently, the people of Riverside collected more than $600,000 to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan, our first Sister City. “Seising our Destiny” is the most significant and ambitious economic development plan the City of Arts and Innovation has seen in decades.”

--- Mayor, how will you cope with the fact that after coming to City Hall for 33 years it will be no more?

--- I will be teaching Political Science at UCR, but I won't be coming back to City Hall. When you finish your mission, you walk away. But I will be available if needed. I feel in peace with myself, having done my best for the City and its residents.

--- Hobbies?

--- As to hobbies, they will continue to be reading and walking.

--- Mister Mayor, some people could have disagreed with you about some city issues, but everybody agrees that you have conducted yourself, publicly and privately, with decency, honesty, honor, dignity, great dedication and devotion to the the City that you love so much. Thanks for the memories.

--- Thank you.


by The Los Angeles Times

Six people were wounded Tuesday morning on October 6, 1998, including the mayor and two City Council members and two police officers, after a dismissed recreation department chess coach opened fire with a handgun in a City Hall conference room and was finally shot by police in a terrifying close-quarters battle.

Authorities said the suspect, a U.S. postal carrier, entered the room shortly before a scheduled city government meeting at 8:00 a.m. The suspect, Joseph Neale, 48, shut the door and began firing at elected officials with a 9-millimeter handgun. Police responded minutes later, using  crowbar and sledge hammer to force open the door.

Neale, police said, began firing a them and they returned fire through the partially open door. (The small conference room is right next to the dais.) In the chaos it was unclear whether any of the city official were struck by police gunfire as officers moved in.

The most seriously injured in the attack was Riverside City Councilman Chuck Beaty, who underwent extensive surgery for wounds to his face and shoulder and was listed in guarded condition afterward. Beaty received 32 stitches to his tongue, lost a lot of teeth, and has had his jaw bone rebuilt twice. He is still in severe pain.
Ex Riverside Council members Ameal Moore,
at the left, and Chuck Beaty, ambos victims
of the shooting at City Hall.

Riverside Police Sgt. Wally Rice was in stable condition after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound in his lower abdomen. A second police officer, Scott Borngrebe, escaped injury after a gunshot was deflected by his bullet-proof vest, and a third officer, Chris Manning, received a grazing wound on his hand. (Today, Manning is a Lieutenant.)

Mayor Ron Loveridge was grazed by gunfire on the shoulder and neck and appeared later at a news conference, where he lauded the quick police response. Neale also underwent surgery after he was shot by police. The suspect was hospitalized in serious condition after surgery Tuesday evening.

Neale, a Riverside resident, "appeared to be disgruntled employee" who worked as a six-hour-a-week chess coach for the City Parks and Recreation Department from 1986 to 1994, said Riverside Police Chief Jerry Carroll. Neale, who has worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1989, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city after being fired as the organizer and coach at a local community center, where he was known as "Chessman."

In his lawsuit, Neale complained that he was fired after writing  5-page manifesto that he sent to the city officials and apparently the White House, complaining of oppression against black men. City officials, court record shows, denied that Neale was dismissed for writing the lengthy treatise, but did not disclose why he was fired.

Mayor Loveridge, a recipient of Neale's essay, characterized the shooting as "surrealistic, something you'd see on television or in the movies."

"I'm very glad to be alive," Loveridge said. "This raises questions about the safety of all of us in public office." He said he thought at one point: "you may not leave that room, that your final testimonial might be to be lying on the floor of a small room."

A shaken Councilman Ameal Moore said the confrontation occurred so fast, "it's hard to describe." (His ears were affected by the sounds of the shots.) Ameal said, Neale entered the small, windowless conference room, situated in the corner of a City Hall annex that houses the council meeting chambers, and began shooting.

"I heard two shots before I ducked behind the table with the mayor," Moore said. "All I could see from under the table was that he was shooting at anything that moved. Within minutes, police stormed the room, but "it seemed like an eternity."

Another City Council member, Laura Pearson, was struck in the hip by a bullet fragment. Council woman Terri Thompson  was not struck by gunfire but was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.

There were no security guard or metal detector at the entrance. (Today it is impossible to enter that room without knowing a code.) At the time the police arrived, Neale was barricaded. By then, about nine police officers were at the scene and several began to break down the locked door. As the door gave way, Neale began shooting at the police officers through the door, and officers returned fire, striking him.

"I'm not sure I'd be standing here today if it weren't for their decision to come in, to force the door," said Loveridge.

(Today, in 2012, Chuck Beaty is still receiving treatment for the wounds he suffered on October 6, 1998.)

A real miracle nobody was killed. "We were lucky Mr. Neale was a poor shooter," said Loveridge to the reporter. In February of 2001, Neal was sentenced to 374 years in prison.

A comment: We all have a number. No one in that City Hall room had one that tragic day.


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