Friday, April 18, 2014

Have the Passionist Fathers Decided to Take the Mater Dolorosa Development Money and Run?

(Mod: I received the following e-mail from the Stop The Monastery Housing people, and the news isn't all that good. Here is what they had to say this week about some of the unhappy recent events there.)

Hi John: Here is the latest salvo from Mater Dolorosa. We had proposed to them to give the citizens of Sierra Madre as well as donors a chance to try to purchase the property before they sell it to a developer.

Unfortunately, they didn't feel the amount of money we could raise would be as much as a developer would pay them for the property. The concern now is that because they seem to be focused on maximizing their profit, we will be looking at a major housing project at Mater Dolorosa. With the water shortage and other issues, this will not be a good thing for Sierra Madre.

Attached is a copy of their recent letter. They just posted it on their website under "Property News".  I intend to send their letter along with some commentary on Friday to all of the supporters on our email list.

Because our efforts to negotiate a "win-win" solution by preserving the open space and getting them the money they needed, we now move into a different phase of our efforts. It will also be interesting to see how much the city will try to promote this project now that the UUT went down in flames.  They would probably want the additional revenue.

It will also be interesting to see how all the people driving up Sunnyside this Friday for the Stations of the Cross will react to all those sign along the way. They have to drive the gauntlet to get there and probably didn't know a substantial portion of that property - about 20 acres - is about to be sold off.

(Mod: All good points. City Hall, which is always hungry for more development impact cash, is not likely to be of much assistance in helping to preserve the last truly open spaces here in Sierra Madre. Meaning that once again we could be on our own. Fortunately we have three new City Councilmembers who all expressed concern during the campaign about the fate of this at risk monastery land. This could be their first big test in office. Here is the "Property News" our correspondent wrote to us about.)
April 15, 2014
Property Communications - Dear Friends,

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province, headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois and the owners of the property on which the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center stands, has confirmed a final decision to develop an unused portion of this property, which they have owned since 1924.

The Passionists have our full support in this decision. This property is below the retreat house and is not used nor needed for our mission. As we have previously communicated, this sale has been in the planning stages since 2007.

The Passionists are selling the land to raise monies for the retirement and care of their aging priests and brothers and for the continuation of its global mission and their ongoing work. All monies raised from the sale of this parcel will go back to the Provincial Headquarters for this purpose.

We are now in the feasibility stage of our planning process. Based on the information gathered over the past seven years, the development will be in keeping with our neighborhood of single- family homes. This direction is important to the city, to our neighbors and to the many who come to Mater Dolorosa for the nearness to God, our quiet setting and Stations of the Cross provide.

As this property sits at our entrance and is around our neighbors, we have been conducting a thoughtful process to identify a firm that represents our values. Openness, listening and sensitivity to the environment are amongst the issues we have looked for compatibility.

We have looked at a range of approaches to divesting of the property from an outright sale as is to us developing the property on our own. We do not have the expertise to thoughtfully develop the property and feel it is important that we participate in offering our thoughts throughout the development process.

Consequently, we plan on entering into an agreement that in many ways acts as a joint venture arrangement with the ability for us to protect the serene environment through input and approvals throughout the development process.

Our due diligence process has included cordial meetings and ongoing phone conversations between a number of concerned residents, including Matthew Bryant, a Mater Dolorosa neighbor, Council Member-elect Denise Delmar and Leslee Hinton, a General Plan Update Steering Committee member. We have also received input from members of the Sierra Madre business community and many other long-time residents of our community.

While we will never be able to make everyone happy about this land being sold, we have found that once people learn the details and understand that any development will be in keeping with city regulations and will involve a very public process, they are more understanding.

The Passionists and Mater Dolorosa are in the final steps of selecting a developer to implement the decision in a manner that is sensitive and responsible to both the retreat center and its neighbors.

We commit to:
- speak with transparency and openness;
- keep the community informed of development milestones and provide updates on our website;
- support the developer in their intent to implement a design compatible and complementary to our retreat mission, our neighbors and surrounding land uses;
- work with the developer to provide information in a timely and detailed manner to representatives of the City of Sierra Madre as we move through the development process.

Once a purchase and sales agreement is executed, I will formally introduce the developer we will be working with.


Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. Retreat Director

(Mod: How jamming a bunch of tract housing up there is going to "protect the serene environment" is anybody's guess. Michael Higgins could just be saying this to make you somehow feel better. You never can tell. Someone closely associated with this "due diligence process" sent in the following. I believe it is far more to the point.)

The coalition met with representatives of the Passionist Fathers and discussed at length the concepts of developing a plan to raise 10 to 15 Million dollars to acquire the property. The representatives indicated the amounts discussed were insufficient.

(Mod: Apparently concerns over the "serenity of the environment," along with the rest of that rhythm, took a backseat to cold hard cash. Someone in the development world must be waving some very substantial sums beneath Passionist noses. As it is with City Hall, the needs of the community are now being kicked under the bus to fund the requirements of people who don't care very much about the effect their personal situations may be having on those unfortunate enough to live near them. Once again we are being asked to suffer the consequences of someone else's indifferent personal planning. Here are a couple of more points that were shared with me yesterday.)

1. Why sell it now.  The property existed intact since 1926, you had the great depression as well as real estate booms. There could have been plenty of reasons to sell the property then but the powers that be decided that it was important to hold onto the property.

2. Once you sell it, its gone forever.  They aren't making any more land like this.  Even though they consider it "excess" land, how do they know that they won't have a need for it down the road. The Huntington Library could have sold off their excess land when they had some financial challenges.  They managed to keep it and now we have the beautiful Chinese gardens.

(Mod: Ironic that an organization dealing with the ultimate in eternal considerations has here decided to take a more "live for today" approach. You can only wonder what is going to happen to the Passionist cause once its current guardians have sold off all of the remaining precious things passed down to them by people far better than they.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Campaign To Raise Utility Taxes In Sierra Madre Begins Again Next Tuesday

Who is Dario Frommer? ~
There was a lot of speculation yesterday about why John Harabedian would be soliciting RSVPs for his campaign to become the next mayor of Sierra Madre. Well, OK, they aren't so much reservations to endorse the John Harabedian for Mayor bandwagon as they are for a party celebrating his imminent elevation to Mayberry supremacy. Just so you know.

Why is John Harabedian soliciting so highly select a group of RSVPs for a party celebrating his City Council appointment to Mayor even though he hasn't actually been given the gig yet by that august legislative body? My guess is he's actually doing a little political organizing. Johnny is trying to build himself some in-town political consensus, a strong base of influential support here that will watch his back when he begins to do some rather extraordinarily unpopular things once he really does become Mayor.

And one of the most unpopular things he is likely to do is renew the "process" (so-called) to raise utility taxes back up to the 10% level they had been at since 2008. This despite the voters here having soundly rejected some very similar efforts in both 2012 and 2014. Perhaps Johnny believes the third time will be the charm? Certainly he feels it is important. And for those potential backers of his glittering political ambitions, it is.

The only question in my mind is whether the UUT will be put back on the ballot in November of this year, or in early 2015. The plush pension promoters at City Hall still have a little time to get this done before any damage will be incurred should the UUT begin to sunset in mid 2015. And despite the two consecutive defeats our double digit utility tax initiatives suffered at the polls, there is still the possibility that the end result will be our utility taxes won't ever actually sink below the lofty10% mark.

Look at it this way. It just might take three elections for you to get that 2% reduction in your utility taxes in 2015. Three elections. And if this anticipated third attempt by the city to raise our utility taxes succeeds, then your votes on this question will have been nullified twice.

So much for democracy in Sierra Madre.

When it comes to tax money in this town, your vote just might not be as sacrosanct as you think it is. Certainly it's not the top priority. Tax money, and lots of it, is always the preeminent concern at our City Hall. Townie votes be damned.

In Sierra Madre representation will still get you taxation. Even when the majority of those who have to pay it voted NO. And our jumped up soon to be Mayor is all about that. His Sacramento political ambitions are riding on it. Like a screeching circus monkey on a dog.

If you want to have a political future in our neck of the once Golden State, you need to earn. And in one party Los Angeles County that means raising the taxes necessary to reward valued constituencies. Such as our own municipal employee unions.

Expect the worst because you will see it happen.

Who is Dario Frommer?

Pictured up top is our soon to be Mayor and three other grinners. And one of those grinners is a local political VIP of the very first stripe. Situated in the front right of that photo, his name is Dario Frommer and he is a former California State Assembly Majority Leader.

In the world of state government that makes him a major dude. That is why his much anticipated presence at John Harabedian's "I'm the Mayor" party at Corfu next Tuesday is a bit of a feather in the cap of our boy. By all accounts The Great Dario will be there.

Too bad you won't.

Here is a recent publicity release on the topic of Dario Frommer announcing his hiring to a very influential law firm in this state (link).

Dario Frommer, Former California State Assembly Majority Leader, Joins L.A. office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw -- Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP is pleased to announce the addition of Dario J. Frommer to the California Government Practice Group of its Los Angeles office. Mr. Frommer has served as majority leader of the California State Assembly and brings more than 20 years of experience in government and law to the firm.

"Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw affords me the opportunity to continue my involvement in good public policy in California while working with some of the best legal and political talent in the country. I'm excited about joining Mayer Brown's government practice and acting as a bridge between decision makers in business and government while continuing to work on some of the issues I focused on in the Assembly like health care, tax reform, and the environment."

Frommer joins other notable California Government Practice attorneys Mickey Kantor, former U.S. Commerce Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative, Bob Hertzberg, former Speaker of the California Assembly and recent mayoral candidate in Los Angeles, and Phil Recht, former Chief Counsel and Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As majority leader of the State Assembly, Frommer was responsible for reaching agreement on legislative and budgetary issues, and working with diverse interests and stakeholders to find innovative solutions to pressing issues. His legislative accomplishments include the creation of California's Urban Parks program, which put $130 million into new neighborhood parks and preservation of urban open spaces.

Definitely a serious player, and not quite the sort of person you'd ordinarily expect to find at a downtown celebration for the next one year Mayor of Mayberry. No wonder you townies aren't being allowed in.

I can tell you one thing without any fear of contradiction, however. Dario Frommer was not at any of Mayor Nancy Walsh's celebratory parties. I don't think he made it to Josh Moran's parties, either.

This truly is special.

Measure UUT's MIAs

Election night was April 8, and that evening at the City Hall ballot count the only two Councilmembers to show up were John Capoccia and Chris Koerber. There had been no official sightings of Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh or John Harabedian in a couple of weeks.

At the April 15 provisional ballot and final vote count, only Councilmember Chris Koerber showed up. And since then there have been no official appearances or news quotes from any of the UUT 4.

Have they been kidnapped?

We are talking about Measure UUT here, something that in the past has been described by the four folks named above as being extraordinarily important, or should I say vital, to the future of so many things here in Sierra Madre.

Yet in the last few week's of our just concluded election campaign the 80% of the City Council supporting that utility tax increase pretty much disappeared. Outside of a few screeds in the Looney Views  News, of course. Which, given its pithy circulation, is tantamount to hiding.

So maybe the reason is alien abductions? Or perhaps they joined the Navy so they can travel to exotic ports of call and drink coconut milk? Straight from the nut itself?

I think we should start thinking about putting their pictures on milk cartons.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Have You Been Invited To John Harabedian's "Mayor of Sierra Madre" Celebration Party Yet? Why Not?

~ RSVP Required ~
Is it permissible to want to be Mayor of Sierra Madre quite this badly? At least in public? Isn't it supposed to be like getting chosen to be the next Pope or something? You know, you have to deny wanting the job three times before the terrible burdens of the office, along with the burning needs of your desperately pleading peers, force you to accept so onerous a responsibility?

Besides, I would have thought that you'd actually have to be voted Mayor first before announcing a party celebrating your having having been presented with this gig. After all, isn't this a job you have to be elected to by your fellow members on the City Council? So wouldn't sending out party invitations to your fellow City Councilmembers, past and newly elected, celebrating your having been chosen by them to be Mayor when they haven't actually voted for you yet, be a bit, well, presumptuous?

Then there are the inevitable Brown Act questions. While this party is scheduled to take place after the actual selection has taken place, couldn't sending out private celebratory party invitations to your fellow City Councilmembers a week prior to that gala event be construed as being an attempt to influence their vote, and out of the view of the people? Does accepting this invitation become tacit recognition that John Harabedian is indeed the next Mayor? Before his being legally assigned the job?

And as it is with any other piece of the public's business, doesn't anything involved with this (or any) governmental process (so called) need to be done in the plain view of the citizens? And not through issuing invitations to a select group of people for an exclusive private reception?

There is also some precedent for believing that John Harabedian has been a bit overly ambitious here. You may recall that during the 2012 City Council reorganization Chris Koerber, having received the most votes of any candidate that year, was by longstanding Sierra Madre tradition expected to be chosen as the next Mayor Pro Tem. However, at that reorganization meeting John Harabedian, the second place finisher, loudly protested.

And for some of the most specious and obscure reasons ever heard here, declared that it was he who should be picked as the next Mayor Pro Tem, and therefore become next in succession for Mayor in 2014. Josh and Nancy joined with him in disrespecting the will of the voters.

This was a notable event, and one that left many wondering why John Harabedian so badly needed to receive an honor he had not earned, and therefore was not entitled to actually have. Why the big rush?

Then there is this unfortunate and inappropriate and reference in an article recently published in the Los Angeles Daily News (link).

All the sessions, held in small conference rooms on City Hall’s 10th floor, were closed to the press.

But after the meetings concluded, L.A. County reps chatted up reporters. Torrance City Councilman Kurt Weideman said he learned about countywide earthquake precautions, and intended to look at possibly retrofitting structures. “I have to know if all my buildings are safe,” Weideman said.

Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian attended a session on water, and learned new ways to capture rainwater, he said. Sierra Madre is so impacted by the drought that it is currently importing all its water, he said.

“We talked a lot about sustainability, and how to work together as a region,” Harabedian said.

Was this a mistake made by the paper's reporter? Or did John Harabedian actually misrepresent himself at this conference as being the Mayor of Sierra Madre? It does fit a pattern.

Look, I know John Harabedian is going to be chosen as the next Mayor. I don't sense that any potential coup are is to be unleashed by a suddenly militant John Capoccia or Gene Goss. Though theoretically any of the five City Councilmembers could be chosen as our next Mayor next week.

But there are ways these things are supposed to be done. And this isn't one of them. We're not a city that usually caters to the singular needs of any special people. Nor should the government of Sierra Madre be used to buff up the resume' of an overly ambitious politician.

Maybe everyone should RSVP. Try City Hall.

I'd need to thank some good people

I received the following e-mail recently.

Mr. Crawford,

Congratulations on your likely success in defeating Measure UUT.

I first learned of your efforts when you prodded the city to release pay data for our Transparent California website, and am gratified that you were able to use the site in the campaign to oppose UUT.

We created Transparent California in the hopes that local activists would use it to change public opinion, and your efforts are the first tangible evidence that we are accomplishing that goal.

Thank you for being an effective warrior for freedom.

Mark Bucher
California Policy Center

The contributions made by the California Policy Center, and in particular Robert Fellner, emcee of the Transparent California website, were nothing short of amazing.

The information and guidance provided to us by this organization, especially revelations regarding the previously unsuspected and outrageously costly health care plans of select City of Sierra Madre employees, likely the most expensive in the entire State of California I might add, was an important element in defeating unfair utility tax increase initiative Measure UUT.

On behalf of a lot of grateful people here in Sierra Madre, thank you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Provisional Vote Count In: Measure UUT Stays Defeated

~ Official Count ~
(Mod: Provisional votes are all counted, and the results are in. Measure UUT opponents picked up 20 votes in this morning's count, and a big win.)

Mod @ 10:05 - Nothing being counted yet, though there is actually a bigger turnout for this than we saw a week ago.

Mod @ 10:09 - Nancy Shollenberger has announced the ballots are now being opened, and yes, it does look like that. Martin & Chapman, the ballot counters, are expected to arrive at 10:30.

Mod @ 10:30 - Martin & Chapman has arrived. The stage is now set for big time ballot counting action.

Mod @ 10:36 - There are actually 294 provisional ballots. The 294th ballot arrived yesterday, but it was postmarked Apr 7.

Mod @ 10:46 - Martin & Chapman is now running the ballots through the machine. The big moment is almost upon us.

Mod @ 10:59 - Discussions are taking place at the front of the room. About what I do not know. No body language indications that I can read.

Mod @ 11:03 - Precinct 2 was just recounted.

Mod @ 11:08 - Final Totals - All Votes Tabulated: 
Rachelle Arizmendi - 1,782 
Denise Delmar - 1,367 
Gene Goss - 1,820 
Noah Green - 1,243 

Yes on Measure UUT - 1,296 

No on Measure UUT - 1,372

Mod: 11:14 - Measure UUT lost by 76 votes. Opponents to the UUT initiative picked up 20 provisional votes (etc), and won by 2.8 of the vote. Total voter turnout was 2,711 out of 8,181 registered voters, or 33.1%.

We won one.

Oh, and for those of you who wrote in other candidates, the total there was 25 votes. I'm calling all of those for Neil The Pig. It looks like he received .9% of the vote, coming in 5th behind Noah Green. None too shabby.

What I posted earlier today

293 provisional ballots are left to be counted this morning, with the results determining the final numerical outcomes of this year's election.

As of now Measure UUT trails by 56 votes, and the odds of this tax increase (and its unhappy fans) overcoming such a deficit are mathematically slim. But who knows? We will report the numbers here live from City Hall as they arrive. If I type fast enough you can be among the first to know the final results just by hanging out on The Tattler.

Provisional ballots include all vote by mail/absentee ballots delivered to the polls on election day as well as provisionally voted ballots.

So what is a provisional ballot, and why does such a thing exist? Thanks to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, here is more than anyone would ever really need to know on the subject (link):

While provisional voting may be relatively new in some areas of the country, California's provisional voting statutes have been in effect since 1984. Provisional voting exists in California for two fundamental reasons:

First, provisional voting ensures that no properly registered voter is denied their right to cast a ballot if that voter's name is not on the polling place roster due to a clerical, processing, computer, or other error.

Second, provisional voting allows elections officials to ensure that no voter votes twice, either intentionally or inadvertently, in a given election.

The most common circumstances when an elections official will ask a voter to cast a provisional ballot are:

First-time voters. Under federal law, a person who is voting for the first time in a federal election is required to provide proof of identification, even if their name is on the polling place roster. If the voter cannot provide proof of identification, the voter will be asked to cast a provisional ballot. The elections official will verify the voter's eligibility by comparing their signature on the provisional ballot envelope with the signature on their voter registration form and if the signatures match, then the ballot will be counted. (Elections Code sections 14310(c), 15350, and 3019.)

Vote-by-mail voters who appear in person. In this instance, the voter's name is on the polling place roster and the roster notes the voter requested a vote-by-mail ballot. However, the voter states they didn't receive the ballot, lost the ballot, or spoiled the ballot and doesn't have it with them. After the voter casts a provisional ballot, the elections official will check the records to ensure that the voter did not cast their vote-by-mail ballot. If this is the case and the voter's signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter's registration card, then the voter's provisional ballot will be counted. (Elections Code sections 3016, 14310(f), 15350, 15100 et seq.) If the voter did vote and return their vote-by-mail ballot before the close of polls on Election Day, then the vote-by-mail ballot will be counted and the provisional ballot will not be counted. If the voter did vote and return their vote-by-mail ballot but failed to sign the vote-by-mail ballot envelope, then the voter's provisional ballot will be counted, provided they complied with the instructions associated with the provisional ballot.

Voters who have moved within their county without re-registering to vote. The voter's name is not on the polling place roster because they moved within the county but did not re-register to vote. This also happens when a voter updates their driver's license with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) but the DMV's computer system doesn't update the voter's registration information, as it is required to do by law. In either instance, the voter is entitled to vote a provisional ballot at the polling place based on their current address. The elections official is required to count the ballot if the voter's signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter's prior registration form. The elections official is then required to re-register the voter at their new address for all future elections. (Elections Code sections 14310, 14311, 15350, 15100 et seq.)

Voters who are not on the polling place roster for an unknown reason. Should this occur, the elections official will check the county's official registration records after Election Day. If the voter was properly registered to vote in the county and in the precinct in which they voted, their provisional ballot will be counted. If the voter was registered to vote at another address in the county, their votes will be counted in the races they voted on as if they were voting in their home precinct (i.e., their votes for U.S. President, statewide, and countywide measures will be counted, but their votes in a city council race may not be counted if the precinct they're registered in is in a different city council district than the one in which they cast a ballot). If the voter is not registered to vote or is registered to vote in another county or state, their ballot will not be counted in part or in whole. (Elections Code section 14310(c)(3).

Enough said. Or at least I hope it is. See you at 10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Measure UUT: What Are The Odds?

The Measure UUT contest was close. There can be little doubt about that. A 56 vote difference with 293 provisional ballots left to be counted isn't a mathematical lock in any way. But certainly even the most die hard tax increase supporters have to know it will not be an easy deficit to overcome.

Here is how I put it here on The Tattler last Wednesday morning:

Here's the good news. Out of those 293 provisional votes, the YES UUT folks would have to win 175 of them in order to reverse their misery. Or about 60%. This is a mathematical improbability. Our opponents will most likely pick up no more than a net total of 10 votes when the provisional votes are counted next week.

This is nowhere near enough to overcome their current 56 vote deficit. Measure UUT has been defeated. The people have won a great victory.

Or, to view it another way, the No On UUT provisional ballot count would have to be 118 or less for the measure to carry. Out of 293 ballots that would be a highly unlikely result. And should this somehow happen, there would certainly be suspicions of foul play.

Provisional ballots include all vote by mail/absentee ballots delivered to the polls on election day as well as provisionally voted ballots. So you know.

Tomorrow morning at 10AM the last act in the Measure UUT drama will play out. Those provisional ballots will be counted, plus there will be a sample manual count from one precinct. Then it will all be a done deal.

We'll be covering all of this tomorrow morning live from City Hall. See you then.

The Mountain Views Sore Loser

Not happy.
There seems to be a pattern developing here. For the second election in a row the support of Mountain Views News publisher H. Susan Henderson has not exactly carried the political day. Henderson, as the former Executive Director of the California State Democratic Party, who was canned from her job after it was discovered that she had fibbed repeatedly on her resume' while also using that party's credit card to make purchases at places like Victoria's Secret (link), to this day still imagines herself to be quite the political strategist. As delusional as that may seem.

Here in Sierra Madre, where you'd think that Susan's vast statewide political experience would outstrip anything those darned townies might be able to come up with, things may have changed. For the second election in a row nearly everything Susan touched turned into something you'd hate to find floating in your swimming pool. Her performance as a political strategist having been that bad.

Both in 2012 and 2014 a UUT ballot initiative calling for tax increases she herself loudly supported tanked, along with most of her candidates. Including the one she handpicked specially for this election, an individual who turned out to have an unfortunate penchant for posting very strange selfies of himself on Facebook.

Henderson, like so many people possessing both an outsized ego and meagre abilities, does not enjoy taking the blame for her failures. After all, Susan's value to those who employ her rests on an ability to deliver real election results, especially with tax increase initiatives. Otherwise of what possible use could she be to them?

Now that Susan has overseen two election defeats in a row, there has got to be some discomfort in certain quarters about the value of her services. With the inference being that she has become more of an embarrassment than an asset. And Susan Henderson really has become an embarrassment, and to this entire community. It isn't just the many unfortunate typos and spelling errors in her paper, either.

For the second election in a row, Susan Henderson is now blaming The Tattler for a political defeat that was of her own making. And in the second over-the-top and frankly hysteric "editorial" in her small press run newspaper in a month, my name gets filtered through the dank and airless passages of Susan's cerebral bat cave. Like somehow her failures are all my fault, or that if she blames me there will be someone out there who might actually believe it.

Here are a few of the patently untrue statements found in the latest edition of the Looney Views News, along with my comments:

Henderson: "During this election cycle we had the unprecedented exploiting of personal photos taken by one candidate's wife while they were on vacation."

There is nothing unprecedented about the press picking up on any strange Facebook pictures of a politician running for an elective office. Anything that appears on the Internet is fair game, and if you post pictures of yourself doing lewd and sexually suggestive things, and on a public forum like Facebook no less, people are going to find out. Just ask Anthony Weiner.

Here is what the Pasadena Star News had to say about Noah Green's unfortunate Facebook selfies (link):

Photos showing City Council candidate Noah Green letting loose on a 2011 vacation, and possibly getting naked, surfaced online Tuesday.

The photos were pulled from Green’s and his wife Melanie’s Facebook pages and appeared on the Sierra Madre Tattler blog. They show Green with his mouth between the breasts of a bikini-clad mannequin; Green sitting naked in a hammock holding a beer; and Green stripping at a party. The photos were taken in 2011 while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Miami and Costa Rica, the Greens said.

There is also a screenshot of a Facebook status Green made in 2011, when he was “getting ‘buc’d up’ (with the) townies” at Buccaneer Bar in Sierra Madre after first moving there in 2011.

I am sorry, but those picture were news. They still are. And judging by the thousands of hits received by this blog when I posted those pictures, along with the related Pasadena Star News article that became the #1 most read on their news site that week, people were very interested in seeing them.

Just because the Mountain Views News doesn't like to print very much in the way of actual news doesn't mean the rest of the world should start suppressing important information. Susan Henderson not approving of something is no reason to institute North Korea-style news censorship in the Foothill Village.

Henderson: "… I cannot get over the blatantly called (sic) Gene Goss a liar regarding campaign contributions when it was a well known public fact that Gene never solicited a contribution from the Teachers Union and when they sent him one, he returned it and stated that fact over and over again."

Henderson is referring to a post card that I had nothing to do with. However, that hardly means the authors of that card were wrong. The issue here is that Gene Goss clearly stated on his campaign website that he would never solicit or accept the support of any outside agencies, including labor unions and political consultants. Here are the exact words from his campaign website (link):

PledgeThe trend in recent years of outside organizations trying to influence Sierra Madre politics is unacceptable. Therefore, in the interest of the independence of this town, my solemn commitment to fellow Sierra Madreans is that I will absolutely not solicit nor will I accept any support from political parties, outside political organizations, outside political interest groups, outside political consultants, labor unions, law firms, developers, etc.  

Gene Goss "pledged" that he would not solicit or accept any support from organizations such as labor unions. Yet on this same campaign website he lists the endorsement of the United Teachers of Pasadena.

Support from such an organization is hardly limited to cash contributions. It also comes in the form of campaign publicity, volunteers and favor within the community supporting that organization. All of which are equally beneficial to a candidate running for office. Goss actively pursued this union endorsement, and once it was offered to him, accepted it. Despite his stated claims that he would never accept such support.

There is also the matter of Goss's connection to the criminal Calderon political organization through his campaign treasurer, Yolanda Miranda. Her company being yet another outside interest that he relied upon for support. All of which points to a certain ethical squishiness on Gene Goss's part. Something you should find troubling when considering the kinds of responsibilities that come with the City Council seat he will soon occupy.

Henderson: Sierra Madre has a lot of challenges to deal with. Should the UUT remain defeated, we have to figure out how to keep the town the pristine village that it is. We can't do that if we have council members who refrain from doing the right thing for fear of being (called out) on "the blog" or dressed down in council meeting (sic). 

What Susan is referring to here is John Capoccia's flip-flop on the taxation issue. He ran as a self-styled tax fighter in 2012, and won his seat on the City Council because a lot of people believed John's claim that he opposed utility tax rates that to this day are still the highest in California. John later went back on his promises on that issue and supported the large tax increases called for by Measure UUT. He has taken a lot of criticism in the community because of this, and justifiably so.

Apparently what Susan is saying here is that if a politician breaks a campaign promise, which is about as bad a thing for a politician to do, we should not say anything because it might discourage other people from running for office.

To which I would say that any politician who would promise one thing during a campaign, yet do the complete opposite once elected, should definitely be discouraged from running for office. I know I will do anything I can to help in that effort.

It is also important to remember that in 2012 the people of Sierra Madre voted to sunset our double digit utility tax rates starting next year. Our vote not only counts, it supersedes everything else. The last thing we need is flip-flopping tax happy pols trying to undermine basic democracy.

Henderson's real problem here is that she failed to deliver for her clients in the last two elections. Susan fears that she is quickly becoming irrelevant, that her paper doesn't influence very many people anymore, and she's now lashing out at just about anyone or anything in hopes of diverting attention from the fact that she just can't get it done anymore.

Maybe Sore Loser Susan needs to retire from her political consultant gig. Obviously it just isn't working out for her anymore.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tattler Weekend News: State Senate Corruption Watch

(Mod: Believe it or not there have been other things going on besides this week's elections here in Sierra Madre. Hard as that is to believe. And what I find to be among the most intriguing stories these days is the California State Senate corruption affair. It certainly goes a long ways in explaining why things such as SB 375 and SCAG exist. I thought it might be a good idea to catch up on some of this story. Here are a few items that caught my eye today.)

State Senate postpones hearings for ethics training ( link) - In response to ongoing corruption cases, the California State Senate will postpone all committee hearings scheduled for April 23 and in their place host an all-day ethics discussion and training session.

In a Wednesday afternoon email, Kathy Dresslar, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg‘s chief of staff, requested that Senators, committee staff and Capitol office employees “clear their calendars for this one day to devote to the ethics training and discussion which is being planned.”

“All Committees that were scheduled for Wednesday, April 23 will be postponed until the following day, with the exception of Senate Budget Sub 1, which is being postponed until the following week,” Dresslar wrote in her email to Senate chiefs of staff. “Senate Rules Committee is being rescheduled earlier to Monday, 4/21.”

Steinberg: No ethics class on gun-running

The Senate Ethics Discussion and Training day comes as three suspended members of the State Senate face ongoing criminal charges ranging from weapons trafficking to public corruption. The most serious of the three cases surfaced in late March, when the FBI arrested Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on weapons trafficking and pubic corruption charges.

Allegedly referred to as “Uncle Leland” by his co-conspirators, the San Francisco Democrat allegedly offered to smuggle millions of dollars worth of automatic weapons into the United States from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines, according to the FBI affidavit.

In February, state Senator Ron Calderon was charged with a 24-count indictment in connection with bribery and corruption. In January, state Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood was found guilty of eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy. Wright’s case did not involve any allegations of bribery or corruption.

Following Yee’s arrest, Steinberg called upon “our entire body to take a deeper look at our culture.” But he has also recognized the limits of an ethics review.

“I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality and the danger of gun-running,” Steinberg said during the Senate’s debate over whether to suspend the members with pay.

Canceled Pro Tem Cup, kept money, and deleted websites

The Senate has been mixed in its response to the scandals. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats canceled a luxurious annual fundraising event, known as the Pro Tem Cup, citing the “recent and extraordinary breaches of the public’s trust” by three Democratic state senators as the reason.

However, the Senate Democrats also kept the campaign cash, and in place of the golf tournament, personally called each of the event sponsors.

Over the weekend, the California State Senate scrubbed the websites and online archives of the three Senators that face criminal charges.

In addition to pictures and video clips, the websites contained detailed information about the senators’ legislative achievements and ties, which could shed light on past deals or questionable votes. Although some of the information, such as bill language and votes, remains available on other websites, the individual pages acted as a repository or central clearinghouse for information about the Senators.

(Mod: Scrubbing the websites of criminal State Senators was actually done out of jealousy. They have been getting all of the web traffic over the last few weeks, and Darrell Steinberg was starting to feel slighted. Oh, and hopefully they will find an instructor for that course on the ethics of gun running. Can't just let fund-raising Senators go willy-nilly into this highly profitable field with no prior knowledge of proper decorum.)

Leland Yee scandal blunts increasing approval of Legislature (Sacramento Bee link) - As the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

It was good news for the California Legislature in December, when the Field Poll showed public support for lawmakers at its highest since 2007, and the outlook was only getting brighter. Early results from polling in March indicated voter approval of the Legislature at 46 percent, surpassing disapproval for the first time in more than a decade.

Then scandal hit: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI in a sweeping corruption sting.

As Field finished its polling over the next week, voters' approval of the Legislature tumbled to 43 percent and disapproval jumped from 40 percent to 46 percent, representing a 9 percentage point swing in the negative direction. It's not the record lows that lawmakers saw during the depths of California's budget crisis, but public confidence has clearly been shaken by the string of recent criminal charges — and one conviction, so far — against their representatives.

(Mod: People can be so judgmental at times. Then again, most anything drawing attention to this State Legislature is likely to hurt their approval ratings.)

Firing Squad Or Hanging? AG Candidate Wants Death Penalty For Corrupt Lawmakers (CBS News Sacramento link) - A Republican candidate for California attorney general said Friday that state lawmakers who are found guilty of crimes that endanger the lives of others should face the death penalty.

Phil Wyman, who spent 17 years in the state Legislature, said he was motivated by the case of Democratic Sen. Leland Yee. Yee faces federal charges that include an attempt to coordinate an international gun-running scheme from the Philippines.

Wyman also criticized Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris for being “silent as a mouse” on the corruption cases that have marred the state Senate this year. A campaign spokesman for Harris declined comment.

Wyman said in a news release and subsequent telephone interview that the “most egregious” abusers of their public office, if convicted, should be able to choose their method of death – public hanging, firing squad or lethal injection – as a deterrent to others.

“If they know that it’s gun-running and they know it’s going into a terrorist organization in the Philippines, that person earns the death penalty, and especially if they’re in elected office,” Wyman said in the interview.

Prosecutors would not have to prove that deaths occurred, he said; an officeholder promoting the potential for violence would be enough.

California law currently allows lethal injections for murders committed with aggravating circumstances, such as multiple slayings or murder-for-hire. Wyman would make an exception for corrupt politicians.

“Firing squad, at least that’s a bit more macho than getting some other cocktail. Let that person choose. That person’s been at the pinnacle of power. If he wants to be executed by firing squad, let him,” he said in the interview. “I want to discourage and teach the new generation about values – that nobody is above the law.”

(Mod: He's got my vote. If you hit the link to this article you will see that there is also an on-line poll you can take. So far about 80% are in favor of executing corrupt state officials. That seems low to me. You need to vote.)

Republican leads in California Secretary of State race ( link) - The beleaguered California Republican Party received a rare piece of good news on Friday when the California Poll announced that a Republican leads in the election for secretary of state. Pete Peterson, a Pepperdine University instructor, is in the lead for chief elections officer with 30 percent support, followed by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla with 17 percent.

The election was upended recently when Democratic hopeful Leland Yee was indicted on federal gun trafficking charges.

Another prominent candidate, Dan Schnur, has failed to gain traction so far, receiving only four percent of voter support. Schnur is a well-connected former Republican insider who has served as an aide for such GOP luminaries as former California Gov. Pete Wilson and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. Generally regarded as a moderate, Schnur left the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate.

Also receiving single-digit support are Green Party hopeful David Curtis and Democrat Derek Chassman.

Peterson is executive director of the Davenport Institute of Public Policy at Pepperdine. The think tank seeks to find and promote ways to persuade more citizens to get involved in the political process. He is a reform-minded candidate for Secretary of State who believes elected officials should be paid on the basis of how much they get done rather that a set salary.

Under his plan, a 10-point performance dashboard would be launched on the state website and the salary would be based on what percentage of the goals had been completed successfully. He also proposes making it easier to track money contributed to political campaigns and enhance the use of the World Wide Web to help people find and complete state paperwork.

(Mod: You see how fickle the voters can be? Just because some of the state's leading Democratic elected officials have been arrested for various crimes, including setting up gun running deals with foreign terrorists, is no reason to abandon the majority party here in California. It smacks of ingratitude. And as soon as I figure out exactly what we have to be grateful to the California State Democratic Party for - outside of giving us Susan Henderson, of course - I will get back to you.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sierra Madre Voter Opposition To The Measure UUT Tax Increase Ballot Measure Was No Fluke

(Mod: When I was down in the Slough Of Despond last Tuesday evening for the counting of our votes, I couldn't help but notice the reaction of the gathered City employees to the defeat of Measure UUT. They were clearly in a state of stunned disbelief. Apparently none of them saw this one coming. And since then there has been some conversation among the supporters of this tax hike scheme about how so bad of a loss could have happened here. It is good to see that they also can enjoy a good conspiracy theory or two. But was the defeat of Measure UUT really all that anomalous an event for a California city such as Sierra Madre? According to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, the answer to that one would be a rather clearly defined "No.")

California’s Taxing Dilemma (PPIC link) - As the April 15 deadline for filing taxes looms, we asked Californians in the latest PPIC Statewide Survey how they view their state and local tax burden. Their responses point to a disconnect between public opinion and the views of many fiscal reformers.

A record-high 60 percent say that they pay more than they feel they should in state and local taxes. Just two years ago, 46 percent held this view. Today, six in 10 Californians also have the perception that California currently ranks above average or near the top in state and local tax burden per capita. And they are correct: A Tax Policy Center report recently ranked California’s 2011 state and local tax burden as the 11th highest in the nation.

Further, a record-low 50 percent of Californians say that the present state and local tax system is very or moderately fair. In contrast, 57 percent said it was at least moderately fair two years ago. Across income categories today, perceptions of the fairness hover around 50 percent.

What changed in the last two years? For one thing, voters passed Proposition 30, temporarily raising the state sales tax, as well as state income taxes on wealthy residents.

Today, eight in 10 Californians say that major or minor changes are needed in our state and local tax system. But their views of change don’t necessarily match those of fiscal reformers, who have argued for years that our state budget is too dependent on wealthy individuals with volatile income tax payments. Some reformers have argued that broadening the sales tax base to include services would be an effective way to avoid the extreme ups and downs in state revenues that play havoc with state and local government budgets.

But Californians appear to have little interest in changing the tax system in ways that may impact their pocketbooks. Among four types of state taxes that we asked about in our March 2014 survey, six in 10 oppose extending the sales tax to services that are not currently taxed, and fewer than half favor extending the sales tax to services even if it means lowering the overall state sales tax rate. However, six in 10 would support raising income taxes on the wealthy, while about half favor raising state taxes paid by California corporations.

Voter opposition to extending the sales taxes to services is higher among those who feel that they are already paying more than they should in taxes. Even the more popular proposals—raising corporate taxes and income taxes on the wealthy—are favored by fewer than half of the voters who feel they are paying more taxes than they should.

(Mod: Hopefully the "Yes On UUT" folks will see this report and stop taking things quite so personally.)

FBI initiates probe into Centinela Valley school district activities (Pasadena Star News link) - The FBI is beginning to probe the activities of the Centinela Valley high school district at a time when the board has vowed to do a full investigation in the wake of Superintendent Jose Fernandez’s placement on paid leave this week.

School board member Gloria Ramos on Thursday said although she wasn’t aware that the FBI has contacted at least one person with close ties to Centinela, she hopes the district will hire an independent auditor to look into Fernandez’s compensation, which exceeded $663,000 last year.

“We have to do a full forensic investigation,” she said. “This means going deeper, confiscating computers and emails. It means you might have erased something, but they will find it.”

(Mod: $663,000 a year for a school superintendent? And people wonder why voters turn down tax increase initiatives.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Passing Fair Day For The Tattler

I've posted a screen shot here of something that I get to look at on the internal dashboard of this blog, and that is the live graph that shows reader traffic on The Tattler. During the previous 48 hours we received over 9,000 hits on this blog, which is by far the largest number ever seen here. Yesterday's total, 5,727, is also the most traffic we've ever seen in a single day. Not bad for a blog that discusses the local politics of a town with less than 11,000 people living in it. What this shows us is that when Sierra Madreans wanted to know what was really going on this election, they came here.

Our previous best showing was a little over 4,000 hits in a 24 hour period, and came on the day we first posted Noah Green's unfortunate Facebook pictures. Something that, at the time, was quite a popular attraction in town.

These pictures, in my humble opinion, were the game changer in this election. It shattered the carefully planned election strategy of the Tax Me Party, and caused them to spend a lot of valuable time trying to convince people that the fault here lay not with the fellow who originally posted those embarrassing shots, but this blog for letting you know about them.

Which, of course, was a terrible waste of precious campaign time. First of all, "The Blog" (as it is called at City Hall), wasn't running for any elective offices. Attacking The Tattler is about as effective a campaign strategy as discussing city tax policy reform with a fire hydrant.

But it also distracted them from one of their chief aims this election season, which was surreptitiously smearing Denise Delmar. The Tax Me Party had sent out its usual 24/7 Creep Squad to whisper bizarre lies and slander about one of the most capable and intelligent individuals to run for office here in quite a while. And apparently The Tattler distracted them from their important work.

That is what they do, you know. Election after election. All while shamelessly proclaiming themselves to be some of the most civil and caring people imaginable.

When I was running for office in 2010 the fool that publishes The Mountain Views News proclaimed in an "editorial" that I had been reported to the police for going through resident trash cans. An absurd lie since trash has never excited me that much. And as the SMPD confirmed after the election (I actually had a lawyer inquire), no such complaints were ever filed. Besides, if it was garbage that I wanted, I could have gotten as much as I could ever use by reading her paper.

Payback is a beautiful thing. I can't even begin to tell you.

Even with Noah's strange selfie revelations, the fight for that third seat on the City Council was still a close one. With 293 provisional ballots left to be counted, Denise's lead over Noah is a fairly thin 1,223 to 1,114 votes. It is statistically almost impossible for Noah to overcome that lead, of course. Even Noah knows this as he has conceded defeat and congratulated the winners.

But if those pictures had not come out? If they hadn't been sent to me by an outraged Sierra Madre couple who cared enough about this community to alert us all to who exactly was about to be elected to our City Council? We'd be looking at a very different, and sadly retrograde, outcome today.

I was sent other things as well, by the way. Which I didn't use. But trust me, there was more.

The Tax Me Party almost pulled it off. Despite all of the stupid blunders and narcissistic unsolicited revelations. Their message, as dishonest as it always is, does have a strong appeal to many of the low information voters they almost exclusively target. And there are an awful lot of them in this town.

My advice is that you start thinking about 2016 now. They're wounded, angry, and out for revenge.

A passing fair election prediction

A reader calling himself The Dark Lord posted his election predictions on Monday. And now that the results are mostly in, we can see that his vision was pretty accurate. The numbers are a little high, but the predicted order of finish and the dynamics that drove it were nearly spot on. Here it is:

An election preview for the Tattlers:

Turnout will be approximately 10% below 2012’s turnout of 2,956 voters

predicted absentee voters = 1,200
predicted precinct voters = 1,450

1,007 people have already voted absentee through Monday.

20 more ballots will be received by the city clerk in the mail tomorrow and another 150 absentee and provisional ballots will be dropped off at the precincts tomorrow. These 150 ballots (containing a total of 400 votes for various candidates) will not be counted on election night but will instead be counted approximately a week later. These final 150 ballots will not change the election night results because they will be spread between all four candidates in the approximate proportion of their precinct vote. (Unless Delmar and Green are less than 20 votes apart on election night).

Of the approximately 2,650 ballots in this election, 450 people will bullet vote (vote for only 1 candidate) or cast votes for only 2 candidates instead of the 3 votes they could otherwise cast.

Thus, there will be a total of approximately 7,275 votes (cast on 2,650 ballots) spread among the 4 candidates when all is said and done.

Current models show the following election night results with 6,860 votes to be counted (cast on 2,500 ballots with up to 3 votes each...the remaining 400 votes cast by 150 voters who turn in their ballots at the polls will not be counted on election night):

based on observed quality of and quantity of campaigning (including Goss’ name recognition from 2 years ago) election night results are projected to be:

Arizmendi = 1,950
Goss = 1,825
Delmar = 1,600
Green = 1,485

Despite all the hand-wringing over hit mail last weekend, Green already had essentially ceased campaigning three weeks ago when he stopped sending mail.

When the absentee results are posted before 9 p.m. both Arizmendi and Goss will have very large leads over Delmar and Green.

As the precinct results are reported, Arizmendi and Goss will widen their leads over Delmar and Green but not by the percentage margins they will win the absentee vote.

Final conclusion: Noah largely threw his chance away to defeat Delmar because Noah stopped mailing. The revelations regarding Noah’s Facebook photos were a factor mostly because they apparently caused Noah’s supporters, and more importantly Noah himself, to lose faith in his campaign.

Elaine Aguilar can order the nameplates now.

Where we are at right now

There is a nicely laid out election results grid on the City of Sierra Madre website. For those of you who find that site difficult to use, I have cut and pasted it here.

We will post the certified final election results on this site just as soon as they are available next Tuesday, April 15. Which, ironically enough, is tax day. A fitting moment for one of the most regressive municipal utility tax rates anywhere to be sent howling into oblivion.

Oh, and one other thing. It is OK to feel good today. As a matter of fact, I recommend it. Step outside and breathe the air deeply. Nice, right? That beautiful smell is called freedom.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Delmar, Arizmendi Win, Measure UUT Goes Down In Flames & Even Our Fire Department Can't Put It Out

For our 'Yes On UUT' friends-
I know we are supposed to talk about what a great night for democracy it all was, and now that it's over we need to come together and work for the betterment of our town. For all of the people who have the enduring honor of living here in the Foothill Village

But do you want to know what? I don't recall any such warm sentiment when the other side won their elections. And if you want a living and breathing metaphor for the arrogance and misfit rule of the Tax Me Party, what better example than Nancy Walsh's "We can take you out" speech? About as bad as it ever gets, and real proof that an especially bad era has now drawn to a close.

OK, I've gotten that out of my system. I guess we should now move on.

There have been two great electoral victories since I first came to call Sierra Madre home. One was the triumph of Measure V, the other was last night's defeat of Measure UUT. Great electoral victories because each of these two times the residents of this town rose up and, by the very narrowest of vote margins, took control of their town back from outside forces who were only here because they wanted to exploit our birthright and line their pockets. 

City Hall, who for the last six years has believed it was somehow entitled to the highest utility taxes in the State of California, will now have to learn to deal with their financial situations just like everyone else does. No longer will they be able to slide their favorite office cronies $36,000 a year health care plans, drop $30,000 on a so-called Market Demand Study, or give some legacy liquor store owner $5,000 in taxpayer money to defray the costs of opening a wine tasting room.

And maybe now a police cruiser with 95,000 miles on it won't seem quite so old after all. I'm not sure the city will have any choice but to make do. Just like the rest of us.

Welcome to the real world. The one that we the taxpayers live in. This city is ours, we pay for it. And it is time our city government got around to answering to the real boss. The one that just docked them a million bucks in the people's money last night for being careless, irresponsible and entitled.

There is one matter that still needs to be discussed, and that is the 293 "provisional ballots" that have yet to be counted. By the City Clerk's reckoning this is a high number, and there is some concern about what this might mean to our 56 vote margin of victory over Measure UUT.

Here's the good news. Out of those 293 provisional votes, the YES UUT folks would have to win 175 of them in order to reverse their misery. Or about 60%. This is a mathematical improbability. Our opponents will most likely pick up no more than a net total of 10 votes when the provisional votes are counted next week.

This is nowhere near enough to overcome their current 56 vote deficit. Measure UUT has been defeated. The people have won a great victory.

We know who the winners were last night. Rachelle Arizmendi, Denise Delmar, and we the highly taxed townies.

But outside of poor Noah Pants, who were the big losers? Nancy Walsh for one. Her disastrous leadership of the Yes On Measure UUT Committee was a big factor in why it went down to defeat. John Capoccia, John Harabedian and Josh Moran must be added to that list. The shadow government, headed by Bart Doyle, took an enormous hit. Our resident bad bond salesman will now be forced to find himself another town to shake down.

And, of course, Susan Henderson. The publisher of our slanted adjudicated weekly newspaper has once again shown herself to be a political disaster. The disgraced former Executive Director of the California State Democratic Party has, and for the second election in a row, led her all too trusting clientele to a well-deserved defeat. 

If ever there was an example of something that needs to be strapped into a very tight tax tourniquet, the Mountain Views News is it. How much longer should the taxpayers be forced to fund a paper that is really little more than a vanity propaganda tool for one of the most inept political consultants in Los Angeles County?

It really was a great night. I am so proud to know you.

Bonus Coverage: "Sierra Madre election results: Arizmendi, Delmar, Goss in; Measure UUT out" (Pasadena Star News - link)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Live: The 2014 City Council and Measure UUT Vote Count

Mod @ 8:05: Here at the Slough of Despond. The action at the moment is absentee ballots are being opened, ballots taken out of their envelopes, and not much else. Susan Henderson is in attendance, as is Councilmember Koerber, the City Mangler, Chief of Police Giannone, Martin Truitt, among other dignitaries.

Mod @ 8:20: Absentee Ballots Precinct 2: Arizmendi 261, Delmar 218, Goss 283, Green 190. UUT: Yes 183 No 226.

Mod @ 8:39: Tony Brandenburg is in attendance. Life is good.

Mod @ 8:43: Absentee Ballots Precinct 6: Arizmendi 258, Delmar 190, Goss 258. Green 171 UUT: Yes 194 No 166.

Mod 8:53: Totals so far: Arizmendi 519, Delmar 408, Goss 541, Green 361. UUT Yes 377, No 392.

Mod 9:32: The Mod wants more numbers. He is running out of coffee.

Mod 9:35: Absentee Ballots Precinct 10:Arizmendi 279 Delmar 199 Goss 269 Green 179. UUT Yes 154, No 238

Mod 9:41: Total Absentee Ballots Cast: 1,191. Arizmendi 798, Delmar 607, Goss 810, Green 534. UUT Yes 531, No 630

Mod: 9:48: Regular Vote Precinct 10: Arizmendi 257, Delmar 188, Goss 175, Green 175. Yes 189, No 193

Mod 9:53: Totals so far Arizmendi 1,055, Delmar 795, Goss 985, Green 709. UUT Yes 720, No 827

Mod 10:03: Regular Vote Precinct 6: Arizmendi 233, Delmar 193,Goss 250, Green 179. UUT Yes 206, No 155

Mod 10:12: 293 provisionals. High number.

Mod 10:23: Precinct 2 Arizmendi 311, Delmar 235, Goss 312, Green 226. UUT Yes 234, No 238

Totals: Arizmendi 1,599, Delmar 1,223, Goss 1,627, Green 1,114. UUT Yes 1,160, No 1,216

Pasadena Star News: Sierra Madre Utility Tax Opponents Cry Foul Over Questionable Mailer

The Chiefs
This article is now available on the Pasadena Star News site, and you can access it by clicking here. The controversy over a possibly illegal "Yes On UUT" postcard, the product of Mayor Nancy Walsh's personally selected committee dedicated to raising utility taxes here by 25%, continues to grow. It will be featured prominently in today's Pasadena Star News, our local daily newspaper of record. This from the PSN article:

 Carroll Wills, spokesman for a statewide firefighter labor organization that represents about 30,000 front-line responders, California Professional Firefighters, said city ordinances vary. Yet he said it’s generally not considered proper to have uniformed personnel in any kind of political mailer.

“In most municipalities, it’s not lawful — or at a minimum — it’s against municipal policies,” Wills said. “It’s not something we would ever counsel our affiliates to do no matter who took the photo. In our view … to use the color of public office to promote a political cause one way or another, even if the photo was taken by a newspaper … it’s a line we would not have our members cross because it confers an endorsement from the department.”

In 2012 then-City Council candidate John Harabedian sent a campaign postcard of himself and two police officers in full uniform. The city conducted an internal investigation.

No one blurred or photoshopped any official city insignia from the photos used for the “Yes on Measure UUT” postcard.

You have to wonder whether the people responsible for this "Yes On UUT" postcard really understood what it is they were playing with. For the supporters of Measure UUT this controversy couldn't have come at a worse time.

The Tattler Guide To Successful Voting

It's Weds morning. Look at who you just woke up with.
Nobody wants to fail as a voter. As it is with everything else in life, it's important to succeed when you cast your ballot. You must vote to win. It is an extension of your power as one of the people. It's who you are.

And look at it this way. How are you going to feel if you wake up on Wednesday morning and the naked guy in the hammock with the glow on and the beer in his hand turns out to have won a seat on your City Council? Would you personally be able to bear up under the ignominy of having helped to send him there? Do you really want to live in what would be the laughingstock of the San Gabriel Valley? Nobody ever would. Vote successfully. The consequences of doing otherwise are not all that good.

The Tattler loves its charts
If you care to know why Measure UUT is the fraud that it is, all you need to do is revel in the wisdom of the following charts. We posted these over the course of the last six weeks, but here they are all in one happy place. If you know anybody on the fence about our double digit and highest in the state utility taxes, show them these beauties. I took them door to door and even the most adamant pro-tax nut began to question their beliefs after viewing them. They're magic charts.

         We pay ridiculously expensive health plan costs for select city workers

               At 10% we pay some of the highest utility tax rates in California

Select Sierra Madre employees have the most expensive health plans in California

          Sierra Madre is taxed on all UUT categories. Very few cities do that.

Measure UUT really is a tax increase. If you find this hard to believe, seek help.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Part 1: Does Responsibility For The Illegal "Yes On UUT" Postcard Fall On Sierra Madre Mayor Nancy Walsh?

Politically Exploited Employees?
12:30 add - City Hall replies: Hello John, You have also emailed Chief Giannone and Chief Heydorff -- on behalf of both Chief Giannone and Heydorff, and myself, we did not approve or authorize the use of any photographs on any political mailings for or against Measure UUT, as that would have been contrary to law. Nor were City resources used to take, provide or forward any photographs, as this too would be contrary to law.    As you are aware, the City has no control over photos that are taken by members of the press or the general public.  Sincerely, Elaine Aguilar

(Mod: "Contrary to law." And to think is was the Mayor, their boss, that did this.) 

Back to our regularly scheduled program: Yesterday we discussed the highly controversial "Yes On UUT" postcard and how the unfortunate abuse of uniformed Sierra Madre Police and Fire Department personnel found there, and in what was basically a political advertisement for a tax increase ballot initiative, was quite possibly a violation of California election laws.

If you click here you will be taken to a page titled "Police Officer Employee Rights in California." There is a section that deals with "political activity" and what is and isn't permitted by state law. Here is what it says about our topic for today:

A police officer has the right to pursue public office and participate in politics. However, a police officer must be off duty when engaging in political activities in the state of California. In addition, a police officer must be out of uniform before participating in political meetings or functions. A police officer may not wear her uniform while campaigning for public office or while supporting a political candidate.

The people responsible for both this postcard, along with the illegal use of the picture above (among others), is the "Yes On Measure UUT Committee." And who exactly comprises this committee? Would you believe it is headed up by the Mayor of Sierra Madre, Nancy Walsh? Here is this committee's CA Form 410 paperwork:

I sent out e-mails yesterday to Chief Giannone and Chief Heydorff, with a backup to City Manager Elaine Aguilar. My question to both of them being were they asked by this Yes On Measure UUT Committee for permission to use their images, and in uniform, for what is basically a political postcard. I have yet to receive any replies, which is understandable. I am not sure I would want to reply too quickly either. At least not without first discussing the "Yes On UUT" postcard situation with the City Attorney.

Since the YES On Measure UUT Committee is headed up by the Mayor of Sierra Madre, who may therefore be required to take her portion of the blame for exploiting our Police and Fire Departments for political purposes, this does put them in a bad position. After all, the perpetrator is also their boss.

My hunch is that the Mayor of Sierra Madre did authorize the use of photos of both Chiefs, and in their uniforms, for a political postcard without even bothering to ask them. Along with all of the other uniformed Police and Fire Department people who appeared on the Yes On UUT postcard.

In other words they were exploited by their rude employer for a political purpose. And in a way that may very well have violated state political campaign laws.

As employees I can't imagine they are feeling too comfortable about this right now.

Part 2: Noah Green Gets Caught With His Pants Down

Bill Coburn ran an article on his blog Saturday called "Let's Denounce These Tactics." Its purpose was to somehow help defend Gene Goss and Noah Green from some of the charges leveled at them in a campaign postcard. One that clearly attacked both of them on the honesty issue late last week. Goss and Green attempted to downplay and spin what was said there, but in very different ways. Here is how the more interesting part of that article went:

I contacted Noah and Gene to get their response to the attacks on them.  Gene told me that he had in fact returned the union’s check the day he received it, but other than that he was going to go with a statement he published on the Issues page of his website, That statement was: “I must be doing something right because today some knuckleheads sent out a cheesy last ditch mailer about me. It did not have a return address or the legally required ID and it includes the expected lies attendant to this sort of thing. As a college teacher for 23 years who is married to a teacher of 28 years, I am proud to be endorsed by the United Teachers of Pasadena, but I have not accepted any contributions from them.  I have a professional campaign treasurer keeping my campaign’s books because of my concern for absolute accuracy in my public campaign financial statements. She’s doing a great job and is not in any way a political consultant. My campaign has been successful because I am sincerely trying to pitch in and do my part to maintain the wonderful things about this town we love.  The people of Sierra Madre expect its leaders to walk the high road and set a proper example. That is what I have been doing and will continue to do.”

Noah responded that “The part about me not voting is totally false, I always vote. Otherwise,  I stand behind every quote they attribute to me in the mailer.”

Goss's clumsy attempts to explain away his broken promise not to accept the political support of unions, or the fact that he unfortunately shares a campaign treasurer with indicted State Senator Ron Calderon, is duly noted.

I have highlighted Noah Green's response here because it is significant. The information pictured in the inset above is from a webpage that tracks the voting records of individual Los Angeles County residents. What is showing in the screenshot is each and every time Noah voted. Between the years 2004 and 2012 Noah voted a rather meagre total of four times.

In other words, and according to this website, Noah does not "always vote." Rather he votes on very rare occasions. Or whenever he feels like doing it, which is not very often.

If anything, the Goss/Green postcard was about these two politicians and their struggles with honesty. Or at least that is my interpretation.

Noah Green did not help himself here. Neither did Goss.