11:17 PM PST on Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

While Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge accentuated the positive in his State of the City speech Thursday, some residents said Friday they see some negatives they want city officials to address.

In his speech, Loveridge acknowledged the recession’s toll on Riverside — namely high unemployment and a dwindling city budget — but he also pointed to recent projects such as the renovation of the Fox theater, and new initiatives like an economic plan to attract green jobs, boost the arts and improve neighborhoods.

Missing from the speech was any mention of layoffs and budget cuts to departments such as the library and metropolitan museum, and empty jobs at the Police Department that aren’t being filled, Mary Shelton, a council watchdog and blogger, said in a phone interview Friday.

She noted that part of the city slogan is about the arts, and yet library hours were cut in 2009.

“I think they’re spending too much attention focusing on the concept of what they are,” she said. “People are more interested in what kind of infrastructure” and basic services are provided.

Others said the city is doing as well as could be expected in a prolonged economic downturn. Janice Penner, executive director of the business group Riverside Downtown Partnership, said she fully supports the new economic plan the mayor touted Thursday.

Rather than setting a target number of businesses to attract, the plan focuses on the quality-of-life issues that make people want to live and work in a community, Penner said.

“I think this is the type of plan that intelligent cities promote,” she said by phone. “They’re not saying there’s no point in trying because things are so bad. They’re saying we have to look to the future.”

The city’s main problem is the same as the state’s — the recession has people struggling in the present and scared about the future, Riverside Stamp & Coin owner Craig Roubinek said Friday at his shop in the Brockton Arcade.

Considering the circumstances, “The city’s doing a pretty good job. They do the graffiti, they keep the streets nice, they try to encourage new facades on the buildings,” he said.

“They’re doing what they can, but they can only do so much. It’s beyond their control.”

Some of Roubinek’s customers on Friday disagreed, saying the city could be doing some things better.

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