Monday, October 20, 2014

Would You Share Your Personal Identity To Visit The San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District's Pump House?

Water Wise Owl running ID numbers.
They don't do very much in the way of real news at The Mountain Views News these days. Instead they have taken a "steady diet of nothing" approach, which means they publish mostly cheery lowest common denominator stuff for people with the IQ of week old milk. You'll find nothing about the One Carter Planning Commission meetings, or the revelation that City Hall abjectly surrendered Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance without a peep. Then even paid for the Court fees out of our money. The City is generous like that.

But if you want to read scintillating news like Sierra Fitness is expanding to bigger quarters, or bears visited Assemblyman Holden's office (I was kind of hoping it was the FBI, but then the MVN would never have printed anything about it), then you know the information source to turn to for that kind of bumpkin bait.

But every once in a while something of relevance does get out. They aren't quite as swift as they claim at the MVN, and actual news can sneak through despite their vigilance against publishing anything but pablum for the toys in the attic set.

W.W. Owl checks very thoroughly
This weekend the top of the page screaming Mountain Views News headline was about an upcoming bus trip to the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District's pump house. Apparently the guys who have blessed this town with water the color of old horse teeth want you to stop by so you'll see that they aren't so bad after all. Something that to me sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry on a cloudy day. Which, I have been patiently assured, is a process.

However, at the very end of this article, there is some revealing information. Here is what it says:

Please RSVP to Laura Aguilar at City Hall during regular business hours of 11 am to 5:30 pm on Monday to Thursday. If you are able to attend, we've been requested to provide your name as it appears on your driver's license and your driver's license number to DWR for security purposes. This information will not be shared with anyone else.

Oh dear. They won't share your information with anyone else? Then how exactly are they going to check those driver's license numbers? Do they have their own data bank of numbers to check your driver's license #s against? Has H20 Owl been snooping?

C'mon, they're going to check your identity with either SacramentoHomeland Security or I.C.E. Or who knows, maybe all three. Perhaps even some agencies nobody has heard about yet. Of course they're going to share your numbers. Why else would they be asking for them? The only question being how many people will get to look them over as they are run through various government computer banks.

Really, would you trust a government water district with your personal identity? Especially one that has abused this town as badly as the SGVMWD has? Or how about City Hall for that matter? Personally, I'd much prefer to stay home.

The only other thing I can figure is that the SGVMWD has maintained some sort of black list because they don't want to see any of their more outspoken critics eating a free box lunch on their dime. But who really knows.

Prominent water officials want you to save water. But do they save water? Nah.

(Mod: I have a couple of heroes left in this world, and one of them happens to be a reporter by the name of Lance Williams. He currently helps run a website called The Center For Investigative Reporting (link). And investigate they do. Just so you know, Mr. Williams is the guy who originally broke the story about our own H. Susan Henderson getting bounced from her executive position at the California State Democratic Party for certain "ethical shortcomings" (link). He also uncovered the story about the nearly $200,000 in campaign cash Chris Holden "donated" to get a senior position in our State Assembly (link). All good stuff. And now Lance Williams has come up with another great story. Big time water officials who are some of the worst hypocrites that ever lived.)

California water officials aren’t following own call for conservation: Mike Soubirous is a prodigious water user, pumping more than 1 million gallons per year at his lushly landscaped home on a hot, windy Southern California hilltop.

Soubirous also is a member of the Riverside City Council, which in July voted unanimously to impose tough new water conservation rules in this desert city of 317,000.

Last month at Riverside Councilman Mike Soubirous’ home, sprinklers were seen running seven nights in a row.

Yet as California’s drought worsened from 2012 to 2013, he consumed enough water to supply eight California households – more than any other top water official in the state, records show.

Soubirous knows he should cut his water use to set a good example, he told The Center for Investigative Reporting. But he has a 1-acre lot with cascades of flowering shrubs and a weeping willow tree, and summer temperatures hit 100 degrees. Conservation isn’t that simple, he said.

“Do I have to sell my house to set that example, or do I have to just abolish all my shrubs?” Soubirous said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I can reduce my water rate.”

Like Soubirous, many of the local officials urging the public to save water during California’s crippling drought actually are profligate water users themselves, a CIR investigation has found.

Water bills obtained via the state’s Public Records Act show that in 2013, nearly half of the officials who supervise the state’s biggest water agencies used more water than the typical California household.

(Mod: For the rest of this story, click here.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Preemptive Strike On The City Council's Tentative October 28 "Prop P (Parcel Tax) Resolution"

If you should ever want to get a glimpse into where things are going governmentally in Sierra Madre over the next month or so, as good a place as any to look would be the City Manager's Report. It can be found on the City of Sierra Madre website, and it could be quite a crystal ball for you. If read properly you will be able to gaze into the future and anticipate some of the annoyances and heartache that are heading your way. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. You will most likely need some of that.

Contained within the tentative October 28 City Council Meeting Agenda cut and pasted above, about nine or so lines down from its tippy top, is this rather delusional little doozy. So you know, it is a resolution. Which, I think, is kind of like a "Hurray!"

The water bond we have discussed here before. The Tattler heartily recommends a NO vote on that one. Two or three NO votes if you can somehow swing it. Unless, of course, you think putting $7.5 billion dollars in new bond money into the hands of vastly corrupt Sacramento is a good thing. In which case you might want to consider having your fool head examined. 

We posted a helpful article about this on October 11 called "Proposition 1 Is A Pork Filled And Incredibly Expensive Bait & Switch Water Bond Boondoggle," and we really meant it. Click here for that important information.

We have not written about Proposition P yet, and can therefore provide no helpful link to anything on this site. But what is it, you ask? This is an opportunity to vote yourself a brand new parcel tax, gracelessly brought about by the Los Angeles County Board Of Supervisors, another unsavory outfit that needs to be put on a permanent money diet. Or simply disbanded. I can't imagine anyone would actually miss them.

Why the Sierra Madre City Council  would want to wade into the dark waters of this bubbling cloaca is anybody's guess. Maybe the Mayor thinks it will help his political career? One can only imagine. And given his rather ineffectual support for Measure UUT last April there is a precedence there for getting behind lousy tax initiatives. Perhaps he is just easily impressed. 

Fortunately the Los Angeles Times has sussed this wretched misery of a tax hike out, and so great was their disgust at what they found in this Prop P ballot mess that they wrote an entire editorial against it. I figured we should post it here. You know, as a public service just in case the City Council does somehow resolve to support yet another tax. That way you will already know better than they obviously do.

I have outlined this LA Times editorial in money green. Just for effect.

Los Angeles Times - Endorsement No on Proposition P (link): In August, at close to the last possible minute to do so and with little notice to the public, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors added a measure to the Nov. 4 ballot that would impose an annual $23 parcel tax to pay for parks and other facilities. Proposition P — think P for parks — is offered as an extension of a tax that property owners have been paying annually since voters approved it in 1992 but that expires next June.

And what could be bad about continuing to raise money for parks? For more than parks, in fact? Proponents note that the 1992 ballot measure — Proposition A — has been used to acquire and preserve open space, develop trails, build recreation facilities, refurbish restrooms and create youth centers, senior centers, nature centers. Its funds were used to make improvements to the Hollywood Bowl and other cultural landmarks. It paid for projects that employed thousands of young people.

Proposition P's ballot title echoes those lofty achievements and more. It's called the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches and Wildlife Protection measure. Who would be against any of those things?

But slow down. Are there better options that might produce more of what the public wants and needs? Isn't there also a 1996 parks tax (sometimes called Baby A) that will continue to cover the maintenance costs for all the things that Proposition A has provided for another 4 1/2 years? Why was there no needs assessment like the one that took place over two years of consultation and hearings when shaping Proposition A?

Why does Proposition P apply a regressive, flat per-parcel tax, unlike Proposition A, which assessed its tax using a formula based mostly on a property's size? (That tax ranged from 3 cents to $10,000.) Why should so much of the burden for parks funding be transferred from wealthy landowners to average property owners? Why, if so many of Proposition A's projects were itemized in the ballot measure, does Proposition P not actually itemize anything? Why does it make sense to divide a huge chunk of the funds equally among the five supervisors, for them to spend as they see fit, instead of according to the county's greatest need?

Are there better options that might produce more of what the public wants and needs?

The process that brought Proposition P to the ballot bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the fiasco that was the stormwater-cleanup fee effort of 2012. It was a worthy idea, but the board handled it so poorly — with insufficient notice to the public and too little opportunity to discuss options and alternatives — that it was killed after outcry at a required "protest hearing."

If Proposition P were a legislative measure out of Sacramento, like the water bond (Proposition 1) or the rainy-day fund (Proposition 2) on the same ballot, it would have been the subject of months of hearings and opportunities for public input, and the language would have been improved accordingly.

But Proposition P has instead been an example of the closed-door process all too typical of the Board of Supervisors. It was negotiated and drafted out of public view and was shaped by polling results rather than sound policymaking. The public was first informed of the proposed measure just four days before it was placed on the ballot. And it is now presented as an ultimatum: Vote "yes," or else destroy your public parks, rob seniors and abandon youth to gangs.

In fact, failure of Proposition P would not defund any ongoing program or undermine any land acquired or facility built by Proposition A. Yes, the county would have less funds available to acquire new open space or build new facilities until a better-vetted replacement tax is passed (the next chance will be in two years). But there remains $150 million — nearly three years' worth of funding — yet to be spent. The Baby A tax will continue to bring in $28 million a year in property taxes for parks and all the other benefits until its expiration in mid-2019.

That gives the county plenty of time to go back to the drawing board and present a better measure on the 2016 ballot. Voters should say no to Proposition P and insist on a broader, more open, more public and more honest discussion about what projects are needed and how they should be paid for. The process should include at least the following:

• A needs assessment. It's irresponsible to begin divvying up more than $50 million each year without a clear sense of what the county and cities need most and how the money can most effectively be spent.

• Performance measures. There are required annual financial audits in Proposition P, but voters should expect there also to be performance audits, with goals and benchmarks to gauge the degree to which county residents are being served by the projects being funded.

• A statement of priorities from the Board of Supervisors. The county pulled back its proposed stormwater ballot measure early last year, but it must revisit the question of funding to capture and clean up stormwater runoff. Between parks and stormwater funding, which is more urgent and should come first?

• An explanation of the degree to which this tax can or should supplant some of the work that the stormwater fee was intended to cover. A portion of the Proposition P funds are dedicated to clean water projects. Would it decease the need for the stormwater fee, or vice versa?

• An explanation of the degree to which a parcel tax adopted last year by voters in two districts in and adjacent to the Hollywood Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains — a tax also ostensibly designed to replace the expiring Proposition A — decreases the need for another replacement tax.

• A public explanation for moving from a square-foot formula to a flat per-parcel tax. It may in fact be the case that changes in the law make it too cumbersome and too expensive to develop a valid formula that takes lot size into account. But such a formula was in fact used when voters adopted a trauma tax to sustain emergency services.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Businessweek: Why Are Chinese Millionaires Buying Mansions in an L.A. Suburb?

(Mod: A number of readers have commented about this article, so I thought I should post at least some of it here. The insane real-estate boom in Arcadia, garish McMansions and all, is being fueled by the extraordinary amounts of money being somehow spirited out of Communist-ruled mainland China. And as we saw by our city's capitulation on One Carter, the madness that has turned Arcadia into an immensely profitable dumping ground for architectural atrocity has now begun to infect Sierra Madre.)

“Oh, hey! How ya’ doin’?” Raleigh Ornelas hollers, leaning out the window of his spotless white pickup truck. He’s recognized the man across the street, a developer standing in front of a Tuscan-style mansion under construction. “Where have you been hiding at? I call you, you don’t call me.”

Ornelas is an informal broker in Arcadia, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains. He’s been keeping an eye out for the builder, an Asian man with a slight comb-over who goes by Mark. Ornelas has found two older homeowners who’ve finally agreed to sell their properties, and he knows that Mark, like all developers here, needs land on which to build mansions for an influx of rich clients from mainland China.

Ornelas rattles off addresses on a nearby street. “Three-eleven, that guy, he’s wack,” he says, shaking his head. “He wants 2.8.” He means million dollars. “And then 354, they want $2 million.”

The lot is 17,000 square feet. “Seventeen for 2 mil?” Mark asks, incredulous.

“I know,” Ornelas says. “They’re going crazy.”

A year ago the property would have gone for $1.3 million, but Arcadia is booming. Residents have become used to postcards offering immediate, all-cash deals for their property and watching as 8,000-square-foot homes go up next door to their modest split levels. For buyers from mainland China, Arcadia offers excellent schools, large lots with lenient building codes, and a place to park their money beyond the reach of the Chinese government.

The city, population 57,600, projects that about 150 older homes—53 percent more than normal—will be torn down this year and replaced with mansions. The deals happen fast and are rarely listed publicly. Often, the first indication that a megahouse is coming next door is when the lawn turns brown. That means the neighbor has stopped watering and green construction netting is about to go up.

This flood of money, arriving from China despite strict currency controls, has helped the city build a $20 million high school performing arts center and the local Mercedes dealership expand. “Thank God for them coming over here,” says Peggy Fong Chen, a broker in Arcadia for many years. “They saved our recession.” The new residents are from China’s rising millionaire class—entrepreneurs who’ve made fortunes building railroads in Tibet, converting bioenergy in Beijing, and developing real estate in Chongqing. One co-owner of a $6.5 million house is a 19-year-old college student, the daughter of the chief executive of a company the state controls.

Arcadia is a concentrated version of what’s happening across the U.S. The Hurun Report, a magazine in Shanghai about China’s wealthy elite, estimates that almost two-thirds of the country’s millionaires have already emigrated or plan to do so. They’re scooping up homes from Seattle to New York, buying luxury goods on Fifth Avenue, and paying full freight to send their kids to U.S. colleges. Chinese nationals hold roughly $660 billion in personal wealth offshore, according to Boston Consulting Group, and the National Association of Realtors says $22 billion of that was spent in the past year acquiring U.S. homes.

Arcadia has become a hotbed of the buying binge in the past several years, and long-standing residents are torn—giddy at the rising property values but worried about how they’re transforming their town. And they’re increasingly nervous about what would happen to the local economy if the deluge of Chinese cash were to end.

(Mod: You can read the rest of this article by clicking here.)

Is there another way to make money in Sierra Madre besides real estate?

(Mod: There is.  And anyone can get in on the action. As they say, you can't win it if you're not in it. This from CBS Los - link.)

Winning $5 Million Scratcher Sold In Sierra Madre - Officials with the California Lottery say a lucky player just scratched his way to a $5 million prize. Steve Armogida won one of the top prizes in the Million $$ Match Game.

Armogida bought the winning $5 million ticket at Happy’s Liquor on Sierra Madre Boulevard in Sierra Madre. The store also wins a bonus of $25,000 for selling one of the top winners.

Million $$ Match Scratchers is a $20 game. The lottery says there is more than $340 million in total available prizes in this game alone.

Non-winning tickets also have a chance for smaller prizes in the Lottery’s 2nd Chance Draw.

According to, there are two more $5 million tickets available, as well as three $2 million tickets and five $1 million tickets.

(Mod: They are even happier at Happy's then they were before. And they have always been pretty chipper. Except for the guy in the afternoon. In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself have purchased a few lottery tickets at Happy's. But only because I wanted to make a small donation to public education.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

2005 - 2014: Nothing Much Has Changed In Sierra Madre

You should know by now that nothing has really changed in Sierra Madre in the last ten years. Or at least you ought to. But here it is anyway. When the City Council back in 2005 caved in on One Carter, the sad story we heard over and over again was that they had to do it because of the threat of lawsuits. And when the Planning Commission did the exact same thing last night, they apparently believed that it had to be done to save the city from lawsuits.

This is, of course, no coincidence. The law firm that supplied our City Attorney back in 2005 was headed by Michael Colantuono. And the law firm supplying the City Attorney that hectored the Planning Commission an hour at a time for the last several months about the dangers to this city of lawsuits from CETT? You know, at a time when the City's finances are stretched by all those pensions and yearly $36,000 health care plans? Still headed by Michael Colantuono. It's why they pay him the big bucks.

Why do you think Moran, Walsh and Harabedian fought so hard to keep Colantuono's law firm? For situations just like last night. Their version of progress requires keeping the townies in line. It's a part of the process.

The fix was in on One Carter the entire time. This turkey was cooked just the way Richard McDonald likes it. And last night the Planning Commission put on their smallest aprons and served it to him on their nicest china.

Can you believe that this insufferable ass actually won? How could that have happened you ask? Trust me, he had plenty of friends on the inside helping him out. Money, be it in the form of development impact fees or the city employee pensions they will help to fund, speaks very loudly downtown. You? Not quite so much.

Here's another thought you may or may not like. The General Plan is a joke. Whenever real money comes into play (Camillo Road anyone?), the General Plan, the supposed voice of the people that so deeply expresses the hopes and dreams of the residents of Sierra Madre, is hustled off to a back room where it is given a couple of bottles of Ripple and a vomit bag.

The many thousands of fine words in the General Plan have no real relevance when it comes to building million dollar hillside McMansions. You might as well have tried stopping an army with yard daisies.

The original destruction of One Carter clearly violated the 1996 version of the General Plan. The '96 iteration specifically prohibited the grading of hillsides in the manner they are today. And despite the General Plan that land was brutally bulldozed, blasted, crushed and forever disfigured. The only so-called guiding principle behind the design of those lots being greed.

Last night it was very clear that the General Plan was not taken at all seriously in the deliberations regarding this first McWhatever at One Carter. It too is something that clearly violates the principles stated in that document. The Planning Commission gave it short shrift, and in the process once again proved it is nothing more than flowery, empty words. Just unrealistic and somewhat pompous pronouncements about how good and caring we all are, how much we love Sierra Madre and how deeply we wish to protect it. Except we never do.

That kind of stuff is repeated ad nauseam through that entire document like it's a magic voodoo incantation. And I guess it is. So many seem to be under its spell. It is mental comfort food for people who prefer to only eat desert.

The Planning Commission saved Sierra Madre from a One Carter lawsuit last night. They were given an important job to do by the City Attorney, and did it. Just like the 2004 City Council tried to save Sierra Madre from a similar lawsuits. And just like the 2012 City Council saved Sierra Madre from further lawsuits over the Sex Offender Ordinance.

So you know what? We will now have a hillside filled with McMansions, and registered sexual predators can live anywhere they like in town. Even next to schools and parks.

Yeah, we've been saved alright.

As always, when the lawyers get tough, Sierra Madre rolls over.

Out of a clearly hyped fear of lawsuits this city is losing its soul and any purpose for existing beyond real estate. The hillsides are being lost to big foreign money, and the safety of our children to a City Hall that prefers to spend the money it would take to protect them on things like platinum pensions and the most expensive employee health care plans in California.

What makes a McMansion compliant in Sierra Madre? Money and lawyers. Tough guys with legal muscle and deep connections at City Hall will always get what they want here, and they will profit deeply by pushing garbage that is not what most Sierra Madreans want for their community.

The General Plan in practice does nothing to stop that. You can read it to them until you are blue in the face. Being pleased that Mayor Harabedian will permit you to speak at public comment for 5 minutes instead of 3 will not stop that. Changing the name of Development Services to whatever will not stop that. And thinking that you can work with the likes of Teresa Highsmith and Elaine Aguilar, or that they in any way work in your interest, will not stop any of this, either. No matter how many times you stop by their offices to chat. Because it really is all about the money. It is the only authentic number in their equation.

The only way you are going to preserve Sierra Madre is to clean out the downtown barn. The same people who sold out One Carter in 2005 are the same people who sold you out to CETT in 2014. The exact same people. With the exact same law firm providing helpful guidance all throughout the "process."

Until you fire these people, and while you're doing it completely reform the way government is done in this town, nothing will ever change. You will lose Mater Dolorosa, and you will lose Stone House. And you will lose any number of other things that you don't even know about yet.

Nothing has changed in Sierra Madre in 10 years. And unless the people who want to preserve this town take charge of their government, nothing ever will.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Lawsuit The City Of Sierra Madre Did Not Fight - Plus Tonight's Planning Commission Meeting

We have been discussing the purported civil rights lawsuit brought against the City of Sierra Madre by Attorney Janice Belluci on behalf of California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL), own organization that she founded and currently leads.

This lawsuit was initiated by an aggrieved anonymous registered sex offender living here in Sierra Madre, and was intended to challenge this city's Sex Offender Ordinance. The grounds being the restrictions upon where this individual could reside were a violation of his civil rights. This is also the basis of the lawsuit challenging voter approved Jessica's Law, which is now before the California State Supreme Court.

What the document below shows us is that during this trial the City of Sierra Madre filed no paperwork, and raised no objections. In other words, somewhere at City Hall it was decided that our City Attorney should not raise a finger to defend Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance. Rather they decided to merely just roll over as quickly as possible, agreed as part of the settlement to not enforce it in any way, and then paid all of the associated court costs and legal bills. Or you paid all the court costs and legal bills. Hopefully there wasn't a tip involved as well.

The City of Sierra Madre then kept all of this a big secret. That is, until the news broke 10 months later here on The Tattler. Here is the smoking gun.

I am not certain this is quite how the City Attorney described it all to us on Tuesday evening. The City of Sierra Madre's response to this lawsuit was no response at all. Except to surrender as quickly as possible, and then pay all of the bills.

I do not recall hearing the City Attorney use terms such as "rolled over," "raised the white flag," "caved in," "abject surrender" or "went crying home to momma." Or at least none of these were included in the closely parsed legal product offered by Ms. Highsmith during that discussion of this untoward event.

Do you?

One other point. After December 20, 2013 the City Council of the City of Sierra Madre lost their disclosure exemption. In other words, since litigation on this matter no longer exists, the City Council is now required by law to disclose exactly how they voted on this matter in any of the related closed sessions with the City Attorney. Otherwise they are violating the Brown Act.

What do you think? Should we do what we have to do in order to find out what really happened? Don't you think we deserve to find out the truth here?

Tonight the Planning Commission Meets Once Again On One Carter

In case you haven't see it yet, here is a video of just how crazy it got last time (link). We also posted an article about it a week or so back, which we called "CETT Attorney Richard McDonald's 'Self-Serving B.S.' Video: Is It Now All About A One Carter Lawsuit?" Check it out here.

That is pretty much where it stands right now. My guess is that they will not bring designs tonight that will be in line with the Planning Commission's requirements for approval. The developer and their litigious attorney want to sue, and they are only going through the motions here.

The real audience for what CETT will be saying tonight is the eventual Judge.

The meeting starts at 7PM and I intend to cover this one live. You should be there as well if you can make it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Foot Dragging Continues At City Hall

It was another KGEM nightmare of a night if you attempted to watch the City Council meeting on your computer. Maybe it was that way on television as well? Parts of resident public comments dropped out in the middle of a thought, City Councilmembers vanished from the screen mid-speech, and possibly strangest of all, segments from other now bygone City Council meetings would magically appear on the screen.

The result was it gave the whole thing an eerie - though arty - kind of video mash-up feel. The kind a freshman art student at an expensive university might make if the mood enhancers are right and there is no pressure whatsoever to create anything revenue enhancing, either now or in the future.

This was all very annoying, of course. So I did what I usually do every week and called over to KGEM to give them a helpful first hand report of just how awful the service they're providing actually is. Think of it as a form of tough love, with my criticism hopefully becoming a catalyst that could inspire them to do great things. Like fix whatever is broken. Call me a dreamer, but I still believe.

So what was I told by the dude at KGEM? That budgets are tight in Sierra Madre and we can't afford to replace the old equipment that is responsible for this mess. An theory that sounded very familiar to me. I can only assume that the KGEM guys have been spending some time recently talking to the City Manager.

But I did find a way to get around all of this. If you go sit in your flivver and pull the meeting up on your smartphone, then link it through bluetooth, you can listen to the City Council meeting on your car radio. And the sound was flawless. Not a single interruption or drop. So perhaps KGEM's borrowed "blame it on the voters who defeated Measure UUT" theory about Sierra Madre's supposed old equipment is not quite correct?

A few things happened at the actual meeting that were interesting. The City Attorney, nearly 10 months late mind you, finally explained to the residents of Sierra Madre why this city's ordinance dealing with registered sex offenders such as child molesters was put on hold. And it was as we said here previously. We'd lost a lawsuit to an organization that advocates for the civil rights of sex offenders, and part of the settlement was taking away legal protections designed to safeguard our children from such unhinged persons.

The City Attorney did not tell the entire truth, of course. This is Sierra Madre city government we are talking about here. Nothing was said about having to pay the legal costs and fees of that organization out of the public purse, nor were any theories about why this was kept a secret from the residents and taxpayers ventured either. Thanks to the brave resident who asked about this at public comment. Otherwise we wouldn't have even gotten the modified truth that we did.

We got to hear the entire gamut of foot dragging excuses about why City Hall cannot properly serve the people who want to do business in Sierra Madre. The worst of them being that the so-called cuts in staffing had been so awful that there is no longer the personnel necessary to perform what for many people is the most important function performed there.

Apparently all the laid off lifeguards at the community pool were integral to this function in the past.

According to the City Manager the work hours of city staff are better used doing things like preparing the documents referred to by City Councilmembers during meetings such as the one held last night. You know, so they can properly discuss things like City Hall services.

This was discussed by the City Council in a way that was rather heartening and hopeful. Gene Goss, bless his heart, actually got this one right. The perception in town is that City Hall does not care very much about the needs of those whose taxes sustain it, and one thing that is often given as an example of this is that the place is closed to residents except at the most inconvenient times.

The agreed upon solution was that full City Hall hours would be restored in January of 2015. This because the jobs of Karin Schnieder and the soon to depart Danny Castro would be filled by then. That neither of them spent a whole lot of time working at the front counter was brought up, but you know how that went.

Here is a thought. Is it my imagination, or is it only those things directly affecting the public that now seem to be a problem for the city? KGEM broadcasts and performing the most basic services for the public at City Hall are suddenly beyond the reach of those running the place. Perhaps we really are being punished for not passing Measure UUT? Maybe certain individuals believe they are laying the ground for putting what are still some of the highest utility tax rates in the state back on the ballot and for a third go around?

This almost has the feel of a city labor union work slowdown at times. A tried and true public employee tactic often used to help shake more money out of reluctant taxpayers. The POA used it to good effect in 2008.

The much needed reorganization of our favorite city's government was also discussed, and will be returning to a City Council meeting agenda next month. Perhaps then the City Council will also consider the possibility of getting someone in the City Manager position who is attuned to getting the job done with the resources at hand, rather than endlessly politicking for more and more money. Which no matter how much is agreed to never seems to be enough.

Right after that the possibility of hiring a historian/consultant to inventory the places in Sierra Madre that have historic significance was discussed. This at a cost as high as $50,000. Fortunately wiser heads prevailed and the possibility of getting someone living in this town to perform that function was considered the better path to take. It would certainly save a lot of money.

This is actually a necessary thing to do as it will create a class of homes and buildings here that will have some protection from predatory development. There are towns who did not do the necessary things to establish effective preservation ordinances, and they pretty much lost their souls to the schlockmeisters of California generica. Folks who today are loudly banging on our door.

That was pretty much it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tonight's City Council Meeting: Anybody Think We'll Get An Answer To This One?

I thought we should revisit Sunday's article. I truly believe that it was quite a revelation, and if you are a member of this city's government, that would not be in the good way. Apparently sometime in December of 2013 our then City Council chose to rescind Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance. Which, under the awful circumstances of that time, was actually understandable. The City of Sierra Madre had been sued by a sex offender rights advocacy group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL), and lost. They didn't have that much of a choice.

But what in my mind is quite unforgivable is those running this city at that time chose not to tell the people of Sierra Madre about any of this, including that they no longer had their Sex Offender Ordinance. It had apparently been neutered by the City Council during a closed session conference with the City Attorney. Something most likely justified somewhere by the claim that to do this in public would have put the city into some kind of legal jeopardy.

Which would have been dishonest nonsense, of course. The Federal District Court had already issued its ruling, and the resulting settlement with CA RSOL had already been quietly agreed upon. One that included our having to pick up this sex offender advocacy group's legal fees and court costs. There was nothing more to lose.

As we saw recently, a possible consequence here was that a particularly notorious paroled Sierra Madre child molester wandered about this community at will for 6 months, and absolutely nobody had been made aware of his presence. Even though the Chief of Police and the City Manager both knew that he had returned home from prison and was now living here.

Why is that? Perhaps in part because we no longer had a Sex Offender Ordinance. Like I said, it had been removed, probably at that quite surreptitious December City Council confab. There was nothing much left for the city to enforce. And even though the residents here might have believed they still had that level of protection, it was in reality gone.

It was only after that 6 months had passed, and news of this fellow's resumed residency here did get out, that those we pay to protect the children of this community finally confessed. Even though they had known about it for about half of a year.

And the disabling of Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance? You found out about that Sunday, here on The Tattler.

While those we pay to protect this community might have treated the rescinding of Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance like it was their special dirty secret, the organization that beat them in court, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, was hardly as reticent. Instead they practically crowed about it on their website five days after that City Council's sub rosa action.

Here's a screen shot. Link here.

This was not a real secret, of course. We just weren't told about it by City Hall, and none of us read the CA RSOL website. At least up until now. And why did the city choose not to tell us? My guess is there was a municipal election coming up, and nobody on the City Council wanted to have to deal with having to answer those kinds of questions. Most of them probably felt they had much more important things to do. Like advocating for Measure UUT.

So they chose to hide all of this.

I think we are owed an explanation. I won't be at this meeting (the job intrudes), but if somebody could bring this up at public comment I would be grateful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why Is The City Manager Still Trying To Keep City Hall Closed To The Public In The Mornings?

Yo, later dude.
As almost everybody in town seems to know, having City Hall closed to the public in the morning is an unpopular and inconvenient problem. When residents are asked what are some of the most annoying things our local government agency does here, keeping that place shuttered to the public before 11AM ranks high on almost everybody's list.

The reason for this is obvious. Contrary to the very popular myth, a lot of people in Sierra Madre actually do work for a living. And there lies the problem for many residents here.

If someone has business to do with the city, the easiest time for them to get it done would be in the morning when they are on their way to work. Having to go to your boss and get a couple of hours off from the salt mines in order to deal with something as mundane as a screwed up water bill just doesn't fly too well at most places of employment.

The answer many would likely receive to such a request invariably being, "Can't you just get that done on your way in to work?" How would you explain why that is impossible in Sierra Madre?

So you'd think this might have finally gotten through, and that everyone who might be involved in opening the place back up in the mornings would be on board and ready to do what the taxpaying citizens, who actually pay the bills in this town, really want.

Most of the City Council seemed OK with this last meeting, and is it really all that much to ask?

However, apparently City Manager Elaine Aguilar is not down with whole morning hours thing. And at tomorrow evening's City Council meeting she will once again attempt to make the case for keeping your unworthy keister out of her building until 11AM. No matter how inconvenient that might be for you, the hardworking honest citizen of Sierra Madre.

The agenda item is #5, and it is called "Reorganization Follow-up Regarding City Hall Hours." Here is how the City Manager summarizes it in her Staff Report:

Now I am not completely sure what much of that means. But no worries, in the following analysis section things are certain to become a little less opaque. Let's check it out and achieve the perfect clarity required to understand the incredible complexity involved in getting someone to work a morning shift at City Hall's front counter.

UUT anxiety related?
Does any of that make much sense to you? No, I didn't think so. I mean, while it is convenient for staff to blame this (and almost everything else for that matter) on the sunsetting of the UUT, is that really the case here?

To be honest, at what point does the near endless complaining at City Hall about the failure of Measure UUT to win voter approval last April finally cross over the line and become whining? Also, what could city staff possibly be doing that is more important than giving the people who pay taxes in this town the kinds of services they really want? Rather than just telling them that they are getting services, and then bolting the City Hall gates during those hours when folks might actually be able to get there and enjoy some of them?

Hopefully this hogwash won't fly tomorrow night, and what has been an awful annoyance to so many will finally be shown the automatic door.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Question: How Exactly Was Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance Put On Legal Hold?

Sex Offender Defender Janice Belluci
Mod: There is a fairly extensive article in today's Pasadena Star News regarding an attorney by the name of Janice Belluci. She is the leading lawyerly light of an organization called California Reform Sex Offender Laws, a group of activists concerned with the legal rights of convicted child molesters. They see themselves as being a kind of civil rights organization. You know, like the ones that were led by Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez. Or so they believe. That said, how you might feel about so-called sex offender rights is apparently besides the point as Ms. Belluci has won quite a few cases in Court here in California, something that restricts the ability of little cities such as ours to limit where registered sex offenders are allowed to live and where they may go.

Libraries, playgrounds and schools are usually sensitive issues in these kinds if cases, as you can well imagine.

Here is a portion of that Pasadena Star News article, which is called "Pair seeks repeal of sex-offender laws in California." It is an eye-opening and at times shocking report about the legal battles currently being fought in California over the issue of restricting the ability of convicted sex offenders to get their funky bad selves out and about town. You can link to the entire article by clicking here.

A crusading civil rights attorney and a registered sex offender have partnered in a legal battle that has prompted dozens of California cities to repeal or revise what the pair believe are unconstitutional ordinances restricting the activities of sex offenders.

Since March, Santa Maria attorney Janice Bellucci and Frank Lindsay, a 62-year-old water-treatment specialist from Grover Beach and registered sex offender for 35 years, have filed 18 lawsuits in federal court challenging ordinances in cities from Stockton down to National City.

To date, Bellucci has settled 15 of the lawsuits, while 38 other cities have avoided litigation by agreeing to repeal their ordinances. Six other cities have voluntarily suspended enforcement of their ordinances, while ordinances in another 18 cities are still under review.

“The way I look at it is that I’m protecting the Constitution of the United States as well as the state of California,” said Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, a nonprofit she launched three years ago as an affiliate to the national Reform Sex Offender Laws organization.

While Bellucci believes she’s fighting for the rights of oppressed sex offenders, others say she’s endangering the state’s youth.

“As an elected official and as a mother, I’m concerned about the health and safety of our young people who don’t have a voice,” said Carson Councilwoman Lulu Davis-Holmes. Carson is one city sued by Bellucci that plans to fight the lawsuit.

“Our kids did not make the choice to be molested,” Davis-Holmes said. “I personally think we need to do more to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

"Crusading civil rights attorney" Janice Belluci and her team of legal beagles run a website that is called, rather obviously, California Reform Sex Offender Laws. And if you go there you will eventually stumble across an article identifying Sierra Madre as one of those cities that somewhat cravenly knuckled under to the legal machinations of Ms. Belluci. Here is a screen shot of that article (link).

Now I follow the affairs of the City of Sierra Madre fairly closely, as do most readers of The Tattler. We're really into this stuff, believe it or not. And correct me if I am wrong, but I do not recall this action of the City Council ever being talked about by any of our town officials. Nor did it come up at that December 10, 2013 City Council meeting, or at least as far as I can remember. And I have a fairly decent memory.

Here is the City Council Agenda for the meeting in question. You may view this in its native habitat by clicking here.

Mayor Walsh, Mayor Pro Tem Harabedian, Council Members Capoccia, Koerber, and Moran
Council Member Chris Koerber
City Attorney report from the closed session.
Majority vote of the Council to proceed with City business.
Approval of Minutes from the Regular City Council meeting of November 26, 2013.
Reports of individual Council Member activities relating to City business occurring since the last City Council meeting.
Regarding items not on the Agenda.
Introduction of Sierra Madre Rose Float Princesses
Water Conservation Update

Recommendation that the City Council approve Resolution No. 13-83 for approval of payment of City Warrants in aggregate amount of $75,872.22; Sierra Madre Library warrants in the aggregate amount of $9,213.71 and Payroll Transfer in the aggregate amount of $316,467.51 for the fiscal year ending June 2014.

Recommendation that the City Council waive further reading and adopt Ordinance No. 1348.

Recommendation that the City Council approve the Renewed Professional Services Agreement for Video Production and Cable Television Access Services with Community Media of the Foothills.
Recommendation that the City Council accept the completed project, direct staff to file a Notice of Completion with the Count Clerk/Recorder, and direct staff to carry over unused Measure R funds in the amount of $144,606 for use in the 2014-2015 fiscal year street improvement project.


Recommendation that the City Council revise if desired, and adopt Resolution No. 13-82 requesting the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors provide services for the April 8, 2014 Municipal election; No. 13-85 calling for and giving notice of the holding of a General Municipal election to be held on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 and Ordinance No. 1349 Amending the City’s Utility Users Tax; No. 13-86 authorizing certain Council Members to submit arguments regarding the UUT measure and directing the City Attorney to prepare the impartial analysis of the measure; No. 13- 87 providing for the filing of rebuttal arguments for City measures; and No. 13-88 adopting regulations for candidates’ statements submitted to the voters.
NO. 13-88


Nothing there about putting Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance into mothballs that I can see.

Now there was a closed session with the City Attorney. A strictly hush-hush get together with the greatest legal mind we've ever known plus our elected City Council officials. A couple of whom were often only marginally sentient while in office. Here's a screen shot of that rhythm.

I have what I think are some relevant questions. Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance was passed with great fanfare by the City Council in open session a few years back. Under state law there is just no other way that it could have been done. To do otherwise would be a violation of the Brown Act

So wouldn't putting such an ordinance on legal hold also have to be done in a properly agendized and quite public City Council meeting? That would certainly be my contention.

Perhaps this was done in secret because no City Council member would ever dare to do such a thing in full sight of God and man? Especially when you consider that there was an election coming up very soon?

That could have been it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Proposition 1 Is A Pork Filled And Incredibly Expensive Bait & Switch Water Bond Boondoggle

This November, California voters will be faced with a $7.5 billion bond called Proposition 1. Special interests will tell you that the measure will help with the drought and fund useful water projects. It was originally crafted by Darrell "SB 375" Steinberg, and so loaded with pork that it was pulled from the ballot twice. This time, Jerry Brown has pulled the "twin tunnels" out of it that would drain the Bay Delta, and so they're trying again.

Prop 1 will use taxpayer money to send more water to corporate agriculture and stick our state with massive debt. It doesn't solve any of our water problems. In other words, Prop 1 is another typically corrupt Sacramento perceived solution to a serious problem, something that is in actuality an expensive giveaway to special interests and the lobbyists who stuff their pockets, It will not help Californians or solve the drought crisis. We need real water solutions, not a taxpayer-funded special interest water giveaway.

Since the City of Sierra Madre is running all sorts of one-sided propaganda from Tom Love and the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (along with others just like them) in favor of Proposition 1 on its publicly funded website, we thought we should post some information here that contradicts all of that. In the spirit if fairness, of course.

Here is what you can find if you dig around the Internet a little and do a little research. For the record much of this was sent to me by a friend and researcher who has wisely asked to remain in the background.

As we stated above, the recently-renamed Proposition 1 replaces the original Prop 43 - $11 billion water bond that was originally slated to be on the ballot in 2010 and then, the 2012 ballot. No one in Sacramento was happy with the pork-ridden bond authored by Darrell "Dirtbag" Steinberg; and at the absolute last minute, both Democrats and Republicans, with the support Governor Brown, agreed to this $7.1 billion bond. Brown dropped the controversial twin water tunnels proposed for the Delta, and the Republicans added dams just because it sounds good to do that; construction money is always good for their constituencies. Click here for a related Sacramento Bee article.

As usual, in politics, the agribusiness and infrastructure developers have raised fifty times the cash to push this through as the folks speaking in the public interest. Restore the Delta speaks out on the ongoing wasteful structure of this legislation that seeks bond funding. That this is being put on the ballot in the severest drought the state has ever seen is as cynical a move as any. Link to a related Modesto Bee article here.

Critics of the Republicans' "deadbeat dams" also point out that this legislation opens up backdoor funding for water to fill the governor’s planned Delta tunnels, the latest incarnation of the defeated peripheral canal, with water coming from Northern California’s watersheds. Sacramento Bee article here.

Key observations from the Legislative Analyst's Office are to be found here. Bottom line: This measure provides a total of $7.5 billion in general obligation bonds for various water-related programs. First, the measure allows the state to sell $7.1 billion in additional bonds. Second, the measure redirects $425 million in unsold bonds that voters previously approved for water and other environmental uses. The state repays these bonds, with interest, using the state’s General Fund. As I am sure you know, the General Fund is the state’s main operating checkbook, which pays for education, prisons, health care, and other services.

The measure includes several provisions that would affect how specific projects are chosen to receive bond funds. The California Water Commission - an existing state planning and regulatory agency - would choose which water storage projects would be funded with the $2.7 billion provided in the bond for that use. The Commission would not have to go through the state budget process in order to spend these funds. They could just do it by themselves, and you know how water commissions are. If you have forgotten, go run your tap and check out the yellow water.

For all other funding provided in the measure, the State Legislature generally would allocate money annually to state agencies in the state budget process. While the Legislature could provide state agencies with some direction on what types of projects or programs could be chosen, the measure states that the Legislature cannot allocate funding to specific projects. Instead, state agencies would choose the projects.

In other words, for a lot of this money you will have no elected representation for how it is to be spent. Think of those controlling this money in the same you feel about SCAG or COG. Or the SGVMWD for that matter.

And therein lies the rub. This bond funding redirects monies already committed to water projects, as well as placing $2.7 Billion in additional money into the hands of private agribusiness without any public accountability. Proposition 1 continues to have taxpayers subsidize excessive water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary. These water diversions have a massive negative impact on San Francisco Bay and coastal fisheries.

Too much water is pumped from the Delta for use by big agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Proposition 1 does nothing to help with real-water needs from the drought. Water conservation, recycling, storm water capture, and groundwater cleanup were slashed by 36 percent in the final bond compared to previous versions, while the pork-filled gift basket of big dams and water transfers were protected. A related article from The Mercury News can be found here.

The official site for No On Prop 1 outlines most of these issues (link). It also identifies agribusiness billionaires Stewart & Lynda Resnick, two cuties who hog California's water to irrigate water-intensive crops grown on toxic soil in the Central Valley - and then export the lion's share to emerging markets like mainland China.

Resnick's extensive influence on California water policies extends to the Water Commission that would select the storage projects for these private interests. On April 25, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, exposed in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle the enormous influence of the Resnicks and the Westlands Water District on the water and fish policies of Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessors. Resnick, while serving on the board of Conservation International, has become notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed. Article from Daily Kos here.

Finally, for those of my more conservative readers who might blanch at cites from the likes of Daily Kos (reinforcing the perception that I am actually a secret Liberal who is channelling The Tattler's vast profits to the DNC), here is basically the same stuff from (link).

CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 1 WATER BOND IS BAIT & SWITCH -The $7.5 billion California Proposition 1 Water Bond (Assembly Bill 1471, “Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014”) on the November ballot promises to provide more above ground water storage for the first time in 40 years in order to gain a broad support from Democrats and Republicans.  But a close look at the language in the proposition reveals that the initiative is another legislative “bait and switch” that will not complete a single major water storage or delivery system.

According to Bruce Colbert, Executive Director of the Property Owners Association of Riverside County, Proposition 1 limits to $2.7 billion the portion of the bond that is supposedly earmarked for “public benefit” from water storage projects, including dams, reservoirs, and groundwater storage.  

The “public benefit” is then defined as ecosystem improvements, water quality, flood control, or recreation.

The language of the proposition then limits “public benefit” cost share of a water storage project to “not exceed 50 percent of the total costs" of the project. And the language further states that ecosystem improvements must comprise at least 50 percent of the total public benefits of a project. In other words, the Water Bond only funds a quarter of the cost to construct any above or below ground water storage. To finish any project will require higher taxes or user fees to pay for the other 75% of any water storage project’s costs.

State and federal water officials are studying five major reservoir projects in California:
• Sites Reservoir in Colusa County, which would be filled by water pumped from the Sacramento River at a cost of $3.8 billion;

•   Temperance Flat Reservoir on the San Joaquin River at a cost of $2.5 billion;
•   Raising Shasta Dam to increase capacity at a cost of $1.2 billion;
•   Raising the dam at Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa at a cost of $1 billion; and
•   Raising the dam at San Luis Reservoir in Merced County at a cost of $360 million.

But the text of the Water Bond also states, “A project shall not be funded… unless it provides measurable improvements to the Delta ecosystem or to the tributaries to the Delta.” Therefore, key decisions on funding would be made by Governor Jerry Brown's politically appointed California Water Commission (AB 1471). 

Consequently, the Water Bond provides no immediate relief for the state’s water woes. Most people thought that in the third year of a California drought the state’s politicians would come together to sponsor a real improvement in water storage.  

Unfortunately, Proposition 1 is just another bait-and-switch folly.

One more article you might want to check out. It comes from LA and it is called Voters Rally Against Proposition 1 Outside the Beverly Hills Mansion of Water Barons. Link here.

Unless you think giving Sacramento another $7.5 billion in borrowed money (which becomes $14.1 billion once all of the interest is factored in) so that they can spend it on the their cronies and campaign contributors is a fabulous idea, you might want to consider voting NO on Proposition 1.

I mean, after all we've seen, do you really trust these guys?

Friday, October 10, 2014

CETT Attorney Richard McDonald's "Self-Serving B.S." Video: Is It Now All About A One Carter Lawsuit?

There is a debate going on here at The Tattler. And that debate is over whether or not CETT has abandoned the attempt to build its controversial house of many shapes and sizes at One Carter, and instead is now pursuing a strategy designed to enable a lawsuit against the City of Sierra Madre. One that would open its bleak hillside holdings to the kind of McMansion development it so dearly wants to build there. Because, and let's face it, that is where the really big money is going to be made.

Not everyone agrees with that. One recent addition to our staff of guest informants believes that the likely outcome of the Oct 2nd Planning Commission meeting was a full approval of the 610 Baldwin Court McMansion. As stated, "In my opinion, Richard McDonald was setting the stage in case Planning Commission didn't approve. He won't sue yet because the city approved the project. They'll keep threatening, though."

There are quite a few people in town who agree that the decision to approve has been made, and once CETT's remarkable architect, the celebrated Adele Chang, submits her designs at the next Planning Commission get-together, they will include the four simple changes requested for approval. In other words, it is over and CETT has won. That one single house will be built, and then we'll move on to the next one.

I don't agree with that assessment, however. As I have stated previously, I think CETT decided several months ago that this one single house was hardly worth all of the bother, and instead they are now pursuing a strategy that involves a legal challenge to the Sierra Madre ordinances and zoning restrictions that prevent them from doing what they really want to do. That is, building as many McMansions as the One Carter hillside can hold, and making a ton of money in the process.

The recent olive branch extended to CETT by the Planning Commission was hardly the first, and had Adele Chang submitted plans that took into account what had been asked at previous meetings, the house of many shapes and sizes at 610 Baldwin Court would have been approved months ago, and well on the way to being built by now.

However, this has not been their aim for a while. Instead CETT attempted to create a situation where it believes that the actions and words of the Planning Commission will, once presented in a Court of Law, lead to a decision that will give them what they want but cannot get here, carte blanche to build a whole lot of 6,000 square foot "modern family" five bathroom McBarns on our hillside. A judgement that would leave the City of Sierra Madre powerless to resist in any way.

Here is what I believe is a piece of prime evidence. In my opinion the following video shows the eminently litigious Attorney Richard McDonald, hired gun lawyer for the developer, attempting to provoke the Planning Commission into saying things that, properly packaged and reinterpreted for a Judge, would lead to a positive legal outcome. At least for CETT. One that would open the One Carter hillside to their dreams of McMansion dominance.

The video is from the October 2nd Planning Commission meeting. Watch as a taunting Attorney Richard McDonald attempts to provoke a reaction from the Commissioners that could be used to the City's disadvantage in a Court of Law. The link to this video is below the screenshot.

Click here -

In my humble opinion what we have been seeing take place at the most recent several Planning Commission meetings is no longer really about the house at 610 Baldwin Court. Rather it is legal sparring taking place between our City Attorney and Richard McDonald. All of it concerned with how these proceedings will appear to the Court once the upcoming lawsuit actually gets to trial.

Because that looks to be where all of this is heading.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Can I Get A Witness? The Missing Planning Commission Public Comments Mystery - The City Weighs In

Back on September 23rd we posted an article here titled "Is Certain Public Comment Getting Left On The Cutting Room Floor?" You can link to it here if such is your wish.

What that post dealt with was the disturbing news regarding several people who had made public comments at the September 18 Planning Commission meeting, only to discover later that, in the KGEM replays at least, what they said that evening had somehow vanished. The natural suspicion being that someone had been doing a little surreptitious editing, and decided that these particular comments were best left on the cutting room floor. Where they would be both out of sight and safely out of mind, you understand.

As you may also recall, this particular meeting was yet another of those dealing with the seemingly endless attempt by the folks at CETT to build some jumbo LULU McMansions up at One Carter. A matter of great importance in town, and one that most likely is heading to the Courts fairly soon.

To be clear, nobody in an official capacity has discussed anything like lawsuits yet, nor are they likely to do so anytime soon. But that hardly means what we are speculating about here isn't true, or that the last few meetings haven't really been more about legal jockeying than any potential McMansions. Just so you know.

So here is how this was all described on The Tattler Sep 23:

I have received several complaints from people who have told me that their public comment from the most recent Planning Commission meeting has pretty much been chopped out from any of the SMTV3 reruns.

Which is kind of troubling in a couple of ways. The first being that this city is blessed with some very thoughtful and eloquent people, folks who actually bother to go to City Hall for these meetings and share what they know. A thankless task if ever there was one. You'd think they would deserve to be treated a little better than that. Besides, finding out later that your brief 3 minute talk has been badly cut or even deleted from Planning Commission meeting TV reruns altogether has got to be a sobering experience. You could find yourself wondering why that might be. Are your thoughts really that dangerous?

Even more troubling is that there might actually be somebody in a position of authority here who actually fears what some people had to say to the Planning Commission last Thursday. To the point where they would arrange to have the comments in question badly truncated or even deleted entirely from city video taped meeting reruns. You have to wonder what the stakes might be for someone to cause such a thing to happen. It really is kind of mind boggling and absurd.

As you also likely know, reruns of City Council and Planning Commission meetings are pretty much the meat and potatoes of SMTV3 here in Sierra Madre. With public comment always being an important part of these rebroadcasts. And it is quite probable that more people see those meetings in the repeats than they do live.

Several residents whose public comments appeared to be tampered with had written into the City asking for explanations. Yesterday replies were sent out by City Hall, and I managed to get my mitts on a couple of them. Here is the first.

For the record, I am often at these meetings, and I do bring a laptop with me so that I can transcribe some of the happenings there. And I do use the Internet, of course. So if Leticia's theory is correct here, I could be at fault. Though I am having some trouble accepting that.

The other response came from Elaine Aguilar, Sierra Madre's longstanding City Manager.

Now here is the part where you come in. We're looking for a few good witnesses. Anonymous ones are fine. The issue as I understand it wasn't the live broadcast, but the repeat airings of that broadcast. It is where people began to notice that what they'd said at the meeting had been somehow deleted. After all, they could hardly have been watching themselves disappear on television at home while they were at City Hall making a public comment at the same time. Right?

So how else would they have known? It's not like anyone at home could tell if what they were saying was not being broadcast live.

A couple of the people I have been corresponding with have said that they did watch this particular meeting at home, and that the public comments in question were broadcast in their entirety. At least in the original "live" airing. It was only later that they disappeared.

This, of course, was after they'd discussed the matter with those who had made the actual public comments.

So anyway, if you were a witness that evening, let us know what you saw. Leave a comment here. As you can tell, it really is quite a mystery. And inquiring minds always need to know.