10:00 PM PST on Monday, January 24, 2011

By ALICIA ROBINSON
The Press-Enterprise

When Riverside City Council members meet tonight, they will consider spending $220 million on plans including a new park and fire station and 20 years’ worth of affordable-housing projects — all on a nearly 20-item agenda that could be decided with one vote.

Those projects and promises are on the consent calendar, a block of matters that are “considered routine” and not discussed separately unless someone on the council or staff requests it, according to the agenda.

Some council watchers say putting controversial or big-ticket items on the consent calendar disenfranchises the taxpayers who have to live with or finance the council’s decisions.

“The main job of a city council person is to provide that fiscal oversight of the staff, and I feel like they’re not doing it,” said Kevin Dawson, a resident who has questioned the city about ethics and spending on legal counsel.

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