Thursday, December 18, 2014

Transparent California: Sierra Madre's 2013 Salary & Benefits Data Now Available

Funny how things work in the world of government. Just as 2014 is about to give up the ghost, the salary and benefits information from 2013 becomes available. Speedy isn't quite the middle name of government. Or if it is they really should give it up because there are others who are far more deserving of that moniker. 

As you might recall, the last time Robert Fellner and our friends at Transparent California revealed this kind of information, and for every possible form of government agency in California (think of the sheer immensity of such a project!), the big news that shook our small but lively corner of the creation was that Sierra Madre in 2012 had been handing out perhaps the largest health care benefit packages of any city in the entire state. In certain cases we're talking as high as $37,000 an employee per year. 

What someone would actually get for that kind of money still baffles me. I'm assuming Medevac service would have to be standard.

The timing of these Sierra Madre revelations couldn't have been better as far as our elections last April were concerned. After having spent the previous few years listening to the city claim that every excess and unnecessary expense had been (to use their term) "cut to the bone," Transparent California supplied us with proof of City Hall budgetary excesses so outrageous that it turned the politics of this town on its head. 

The defeat of this city's UUT tax increase ballot initiative last April (by the very slimmest of margins) would never have happened had Transparent California not uncovered proof that City Hall's claims of stringent financial frugality just were not credible.

The good news is that in 2013 the City of Sierra Madre cut the costs of those extremely expensive health care packages a bit, and when we eventually see the 2014 numbers a year from now they will be even lower still. That is when the effects of the reforms put in place by Denise Delmar and Rachelle Arizmendi start to kick in. 

More proof that true transparency has become the taxpayer's best friend in Sierra Madre. You can access Sierra Madre's 2013 numbers by clicking here.

This year's big revelations have to do with the City of Los Angeles. As you will see when you read the following announcement of their release of the 2013 salary and benefits data on the Transparent California website, L.A. is making millionaires out of a lot of its city employees. 

To link to the Transparent California site please click here. To link to the California Policy Center website click here.

We'll be digging out a few more Sierra Madre revelations after we've had a little more time to go through the numbers a little bit. 

Let me know what you find.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More Consequences Of Delaying The General Plan Update

(Mod: On December 10 we posted an article called "The General Plan Update: A Race Against Time." You can link to it here. Here is a bit of what was said.)

There can be little doubt that a whole lot of time was wasted in between the moment when Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray first set the General Plan Update into motion in 2009, and what occurred at last night's City Council meeting. Four long years of retrograde foot dragging Civility Party Mayors occupy the gap between these two highly beneficial events, with the resulting damage done to Sierra Madre becoming more evident every day.

The lot splitting atrocities that can now be seen being built all over town, along with the impending McMansion developments that could be going down soon at One Carter and other equally unfortunate places, none of this could have happened had not the likes of John Buchanan, Joe Mosca and those other two stood in the way of the completion of MaryAnn's hoped for General Plan Update. The necessary protections would already be in place and the very real threat to Sierra Madre of being turned into some kind of knock off Arcadia Adjacent just not there.

But unfortunately that is the hand dealt to us, and those four wasted years are now a problem that could have some serious repercussions. As an example we are probably less than two months away from yet another very expensive One Carter lawsuit, something that would have been inconceivable had the updated General Plan been completed in the 18 months originally proposed by then Mayor MacGillivray.

(Mod: In response to this article a resident sent me the following pictures of a project being built at 405-419 Mariposa. Something that would have looked decidedly different had the updated General Plan been completed in the 18 months originally planned rather than having been delayed for years by the four Mayors that followed MaryAnn. Projects such as this one are becoming more prevalent in town, and in the minds of many are completely out character with the settings they are found in. Yet they are being built. A legacy of four Sierra Madre Mayors who were not faithful to the wishes of the people who elected them to office.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vocativ: A Video The Chinese Government Would Prefer That You Not See

Yesterday's post was so popular we thought we'd go back to the same well and see what else is there to dig up and exploit for the pleasure of you, the Tattler reader. And we did hit pay dirt. The creator of that highly popular video footage about the McMansion Mistresses of Arcadia is an outfit called Vocativ. An operation that apparently covers the affairs of the Chinese super-rich in America, but with a world audience in mind. With over 1 million hits, the video we're linking up with today obviously has created some real global interest. A lot of people are following what is happening here.

Today we are pleased to be bringing this latest video to you who, along with my cheerful self, are decidedly not a prime target audience.

Now you might be wondering why The Tattler would claim that this is a video the Chinese government does not wish for you to see. It does seem a bit presumptuous, and to think that would show a reasonable amount of skepticism on your part. But see, you haven't watched any of it yet. Here is how Vocativ puts it in the video itself:

"We got invited to where they meet up, but didn't know what to expect. The Chinese government is touchy about people seeing how the children of the Chinese elite play. Therefore they try and keep a relatively low profile."

So let's check out this video of the not so proletarian youth of that so-called People's Republic consuming expensive western products, shall we? It is called "Chinese Kids Driving Supercars: Inside the Secret Southern California Meet-up." The link is found just below this picture:

To view this video click here

Votiv has their own description of the incredibly wealthy children of China's super elite, along with their $400,000 automobiles. Here is what they have to say:

China’s ultra-rich are growing in number and in wealth - and are sending billions of dollars out of the country. Much of it is landing up in the U.S. where many children of the wealthy elite are sent to get an American college education — and they’re living large. Vocativ found a sub-culture of these Chinese students in California. They drive luxury cars like Maseratis and Ferraris and flaunt their wealth at discreet private parties and in online groups, like "Super Cars in America”.

As we try and get a better understanding of what is going on in Arcadia, and how the presence of so much money there could very well threaten the American middle class lifestyle of Sierra Madre, it is important that we examine each and every thing that is available to us. Especially videos like this one.

After all, the children of China's super-elite are now our new next door neighbors. Along with daddy's mistresses, of course.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sin City: Did You Know That In China Arcadia Is Known As "The Mistress City of California?"

Access this video by clicking here.

So I was searching the Internet yesterday afternoon, looking for interesting and exciting things to bring you here on The Tattler. Sunday being one of the few days where there is plenty of time to casually rummage around and find the sorts of cool stuff that isn't quite on the beaten path. And much to my surprise and delight I stumbled across a website called CarbonatedTV. Though it is written in English, and with news videos in English as well, it is produced with an Asian audience in mind.

The video I have linked to above has a decidedly "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" sort of feel. Complete with breathless gushing narrator and a painfully obsequious regard for the privileged prats being interviewed. But there are some interesting revelations to be found as well.

This turned out to be a very good thing, as least as far as I am concerned. Because rather than the usual vanilla stuff about Arcadia that is passed around for folks like you and I to read, instead we get a good look at how Arcadia is being presented to the Chinese audience. And would you believe that Arcadia's reputation with CarbonatedTV's specially targeted audience is that of an extraordinarily glamorous, and even salacious, place? Specifically, a wild and racy city where middle-aged Chinese billionaires stash their young and pampered mistresses for future sexual assignations?

The article accompanying this video is called "This City In California Is Known As The 'Chinese Beverly Hills'It’s also known as the “Mistress City” of California," and it can be accessed in its original setting here. Or you can simply read what I've cut and pasted below. Much quicker.

Most of the property in Arcadia, California, is being snapped up by Asian – mostly Chinese – millionaires and billionaires. The city is now popularly known as the “Chinese Beverly Hills.”

“Prices in Arcadia are up more than 39 percent from their peak in 2007 before the housing downturn. The city, now 60 percent Asian, has become more expensive than Calabasas, the suburban enclave that is home to Justin Bieber and the Kardashians,” the LA Times reports.

“In the last year alone, more than 90 houses have sold for more than $2.5 million in Arcadia, a city of 56,000 that sits just east of Pasadena at the base of the San Gabriel Mountain.”

In fact, 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.

But it’s not all that the city offers. According to a report by Vocativ, Arcadia is also known as the “Mistress City” of California. 

“Most of the houses are rented out for people who have girlfriends,” stated realtor Peggy Fong Chen in an interview, implying that rich men lease mansions for “housing their mistresses.”

Now that is certainly quite different from what we've been reading elsewhere. The impression many of us had from reading the Los Angeles Times and other gwai lo news sources is that millionaire Chinese families are building their homes in Arcadia in order to raise their children in an open society that is both free and filled with opportunity. With the chances of being stood up against the wall and shot by guys in green hats with red stars decidedly less than back home.

Peggy Fong Chen - a too chatty Realtor?
But apparently that is not the real story. Instead Arcadia is viewed by the people building all of those awful cement mausoleum-looking McMansions as a place of unprincipled pleasure and sexual intrigue. A hot destination spot where the busy billionaire, after months of hard work exploiting the near slave wage workforce back in China (and at a vast profit mind you), can let his hair down and get it on with willing young girls. And in a 6,000 square foot McMansion with circular driveway, black iron gated fencing, and a bumping big Mercedes Benz parked out in front for all of those passing by to see. In the true big-a-shot arriviste' new money style.

In other words, my friends, Arcadia has in many ways become the Shame of the West. A hedonistic sexual playground for lascivious cheating Chinese billionaires who want to let it all hang out a long ways from home.

Now what happens in Arcadia stays in Arcadia, I suppose. Or at least I hope it does. But since this is a Sierra Madre blog, we do need to examine the possible ramifications for our small but at risk place in the warm California sun. So here are some questions:

- Is this what CETT has in mind for One Carter? Building a series of McMansions created to become sexy man billionaire pleasure palaces and hillside cheating chateaus? Is there a planning ordinance that covers this? Anything in the updated General Plan? A "Love Zone" perhaps?

- If all three of the proposed McMansion developments (One Carter, Mater Dolorosa, Stone House) happen here, will they become a kind of Archipelago of the Concubines? Will Carter and Grandview Avenues need to be specially repaved to accommodate speeding Lambos heading from party to party?

- What would the Good Fathers at Mater Dolorosa say if their once holy lands were to become (and I am channeling an Irish priest who played a passing role during my troubled youth), "a charnel house for 'hoors?"

We have so very much to talk about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tattler Post No. 2,000

A number, like any other.
I have been doing this blog since December 12, 2008, which means I have now been at it for almost exactly 6 years. An exercise in typing that I believe is unparalleled in Sierra Madre history. I think of it as an experiment. Nobody had ever done anything like this here, so how did we know what the effect could be?  We didn't, but how's that UUT increase working out for you? Plus it is a real good way to get down into the murky depths of things. And no depths were ever any murkier than those of the Foothill Village. I've been there. Bring special glasses.

In those 6 years this blog has drawn 2.8 million hits (or "page views" to use the Google parlance), with over 115,500 comments left by you the Tattler's readers. Which I think is also fairly unprecedented in this town. Where else around here have you ever seen that much public commentary about the affairs of a small town local government? In a time when most people don't even bother to vote anymore, that is a pretty good thing. Plus think of all the many adventures we've had together.

Remember when some people said you needed to have a print publication to actually reach people here, and that nobody reads blogs? I think it is safe to say that those tables have now been forever turned.

There are also those who say that public participation in the governmental affairs of Sierra Madre is abysmally low, and that people just don't seem to care. I would disagree with that. In comparison to other cities the public awareness and participation here is remarkably high, and the sophistication of those who do pay attention and participate is second to none.

Trust me, it is always a small group of inspired people that makes all the difference. A lot of cities don't have even that. They get by on a steady diet of obedient snotty bureaucrats, disingenuous self-serving politicians, special interests, gullible uninformed residents and, of course, lawyers. The results are rarely pretty.

Sierra Madre has a fairly good City Council right now. We had to beat the living daylights out of a few of the more deficient recent versions to get there, and chase off some of their odd candidates as well, but the guys we see going at it today are actually trying to get the old boat afloat again. A lot of people are impressed.

I know, I'm not sure I entirely believe it myself. Old habits die hard. But you have to admit, the results are there. At least so far. Credit where credit is due.

A good part of the reason for this is the people who care enough to troop down to City Hall when needed and pour their guts out at public comment. It is democracy at its finest, and I am proud to call you some of the best friends I have ever had. This will never get you rich, and most people couldn't give a damn anyway, but you do it for the best of all reasons. The truth. That and God will get you into heaven. A place where the choices are clear and everybody always remembers to vote.

One more thing before I move on to what is a typically idiosyncratic Tattler topic. People ask me how much longer I intend to do this blog. The answer is for as long as possible. After that I can't make any promises. I really enjoy this, it is so deeply in my blood right now that I can't imagine not doing it. For me Sierra Madre is a perfect metaphor for the ills and blessings of small city government everywhere. Not bad, hardly good, but not atypical either.

Just there where I can get at it.

Is Civility a Totalitarian Impulse?
An interesting article from a site called News.Mic that should resonate a little bit in Sierra Madre (link). Civility Party members kindly take note.

Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time In 1961, curious about a person's willingness to obey an authority figure, social psychologist Stanley Milgram began trials on his now-famous experiment. In it, he tested how far a subject would go electrically shocking a stranger (actually an actor faking the pain) simply because they were following orders. Some subjects, Milgram found, would follow directives until the person was dead.

The news: A new Milgram-like experiment published this month in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as "agreeable, conscientious personalities" are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while "more contrarian, less agreeable personalities" are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

The methodology and findings: For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants' behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

"The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to 'pro-social' behavior,'" writes Psychology Today's Kenneth Worthy. "This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one's popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority."

The Nazi effect: The findings lend themselves even further to Milgram's original goal in the '60s: trying to understand the rise of Nazism. Milgram began his experiments in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He believed his findings might help explain how seemingly nice people can do horrible things if they are ordered to do so.

Does that mean the Nazis were just nice people trying to follow orders and be polite? You probably wouldn't want to go that far, but suffice to say, it turns out nice people just want to appease authorities, while rebels stick to their guns. 

I hope I didn't upset anybody.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Arcadia Highlands Fighting Back Against McMansions (plus) Judy Chu Rung Up On An Ethics Violation

Residents of the Arcadia Highlands area of our McMansion afflicted neighbor down the hill are getting organized in hopes of preventing the destruction of what is really one of the nicest places in that town to live. They have established a Facebook page called "Save The Highlands" to help create public awareness for their efforts, which you can access by clicking here.

You may also recall that this was the neighborhood in Arcadia providing much of the opposition to the razing of the Arcadia Woodlands by various grim LA County bureaucracies back in 2010. A cause many of us here in Sierra Madre supported.

Unfortunately, this was something that our so-called "green" Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem at that time failed to get behind when called upon by residents to do so. They didn't even bother themselves to comment about it, actually (link). Though both of them did support something they liked to call "green building standards," which always struck me as being something of an oxymoron. Perhaps Edison had made some investments in boutique building supply companies, or something.

There are a number of articles from major news outlets cited on this Facebook page dealing with the current bizarre situation in Arcadia, all of which we have discussed here on The Tattler. You do get the sense that many Arcadia Highlands residents feel that they have been sold out to powerful outside economic interests by their City government, and feel betrayed by this. Which is certainly something that residents living here can understand.

The Arcadia Highlands group currently has the following petition going, and they have already gotten quite a lot of support for it. This is how they pitch it:

Highlanders, please help set a precedent in the Highlands against mansionization! Download and sign the petition by following the link above or at the bottom of this post. More info can be found in the expanded "About" on the left.

This petition has been signed by over 330 homeowners representing over 250 homes in the Highlands. We urge you to join us in our efforts to get the opinions of Highlanders heard by our city council.

If you would like to help by signing the petition, please send an email to: Our goal is to have signatures representing over 400 homes in the Highlands. We still need signatures from about 150 homes. Please help spread the word!

Here is a screen shot of that petition. If you know anyone who owns a home in the Arcadia Highlands area, please forward this to them along with some encouragement to sign it.

Judy Chu busted on an ethics violation

Our treasured and esteemed Congresswoman Judy Chu (link), who through her support for the 710 Tunnel is no stranger to selling out residents of the San Gabriel Valley for the longterm benefit of certain hostile foreign economic interests, got popped this week by the House Ethics Committee. Apparently Judy was cited for interfering in an official investigation of her office over the use of government salaried employees for personal political gain. This from KPCC (link):

House Ethics Committee scolds Congresswoman Judy Chu El Monte Democrat Judy Chu was publicly scolded Thursday for using her Congressional staffers for campaign work and then interfering with an ethics investigation that sought to get to the bottom of it.

The House Ethics Committee has issued a letter of reproval, a punishment that carries no fine.

Chu was accused of requiring office staff to perform campaign-related work in her House office, during regular working hours. There's an ethical firewall between work done on the taxpayer's dime and that done on a political campaign.  

After an investigation, the Committee found that Chu's staff performed "limited campaign-related work while in House offices and on official time, and that some of this work was not voluntary," but the Committee also concluded that Chu didn't know about it.

The reproval was for interfering with the investigation by "communicating with a member of your staff who expressed concerns about improper campaign work." Chu says she spoke to the staffer "one time simply to confirm facts based on the official calendar." She told the committee she regrets her actions.

The Ethics Committee called Chu's expression of regret commendable, but not good enough. By giving her own version of events to a material witness she violated a House rule. "You impeded the Committee's work and exhibited very poor judgment," the letter said.

The Capitol Hill news source Roll Call also let Ms. Chu have it (link):

Chu Chastised for Interfering in House Ethics Investigation Concluding a probe it launched in March 2012 into allegations that Rep. Judy Chu tasked her official staff with campaign work while they were on the clock, the House Ethics Committee rebuked the California Democrat Thursday for interfering with its investigation.

Investigators learned a staffer had drafted a memo for an August 2011 fundraising lunch at the direction of Chu’s legislative director. They also discovered a second staffer spent several hours sifting through emails to Chu’s campaign account that were sent in response to a “military hazing” email.

The committee later determined Chu didn’t know about the improper work, and therefore had not violated House rules. But investigators learned over the course of the probe that the three-term congresswoman talked to her staff about the probe, violating House rules related to conduct.

In a 17-page report, the committee details a “troubling” series of conversations and email that took place on March 19, 2012, the day after the Ethics Committee notified Chu’s office of the investigation. After a staffer expressed concerns to Chu’s chief of staff about the probe, Chu tried to offer reassurance. Additionally, it appears Chu tried to cover up the March 20 email exchange.

She later apologized for the inappropriate contact with her staffers, but it wasn’t enough to keep Ethics Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., from publicly rebuking her actions. Their two-page letter was posted Thursday.

Here is my question. Who actually votes for people like Judy Chu? And why don't they know how bad that is?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Next: A Moratorium on the Demolition of Older Homes?

Apparently slow growth mania is now sweeping the City of Sierra Madre. So used am I to a City Hall that seemingly wants to mulch the entire Foothill Village for the purpose of building SCAG housing of one sort or another (you know, to reach our RHNA numbers or some such foul Sacramento state centralized development travesties), or turn downtown into a knockoff version of Rancho Cucamonga meets Walt Disney, that I am having trouble getting my mind around this.

It all seems almost too good to be true, and I can't quite bring myself to accept that this is actually happening. Can it be that maybe the city has moved on in a more resident friendly direction and I am still fighting for things that are a part of the past? Did we win everything and I somehow forgot to notice?

Think about it, the City Council is now moving quickly towards approving a decidedly "slow growth" General Plan and there is NO OPPOSITION to this happening. None. Not one single gnarly old Bob the Builder miscreant wafted out of the Canyon and showed up at last Tuesday's City Council meeting to complain about the abolition of all American freedoms in Sierra Madre because they can't clearcut 100 year old oak groves to build Brobdingnagian bumper buildings on 1,600 square foot lots. A rather unprecedented event that would have been inconceivable just a few short years ago.

Of course, I can take some comfort in the fact that there is a long ways to go before all of the threatened damage is undone. We still haven't resolved the One Carter incursion, or even begun to address the atrocities being planned for Mater Dolorosa or Stone whatever, so there is still some continued relevance here for barricades thinking. But I have to tell you, the prospect of victory and the resulting peace that could follow does have me feeling a little nervous.

You can learn interesting things by checking out the City Manager' Report. I look forward to reading it each and every week, and much to my delight it showed up a day early this time around. And it did not disappoint. Check this revelatory little item out.

And then, just a paragraph or two later:

Be still my troubled heart. It is one thing to call for a special meeting to move the General Plan along, but a "Moratorium on the Demolition of 'Older' Homes" as well? Where oh where did that one come from? Dare we dream this is true?

There is a precedent for this, of course. Both Pasadena and Monrovia have done some similar sound thinking. Monrovia as recently as last month. Something that we ecstatically posted all about here.

There is a pretty good agenda report out of Monrovia, and I will cut and paste a portion of it today. You can view the whole thing in its native locale by clicking here.

What all of this appears to indicate for Sierra Madre is City Hall now believes that we need an interim plan for preserving the town until the refreshed General Plan comes on line in the hopefully not too distant future. As is the case in Monrovia, the method for doing such a thing is to prevent fine old homes from being torn down in order to accommodate those kinds of outsized Rose Hills mausoleum looking barns currently erupting all over Arcadia like a really nasty flare up of teenage acne.

This really is quite an event if you take a moment to think about it. The Civility Party must be rolling in its grave. Quietly rolling in its grave.

One more happy thing
It appears that the "captcha" box that was popping up when you commented is gone. Don't know if this is temporary or those fine folks at Google took my pleas to heart.

We are now free to be you and me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How Now Brown Cow: Pink No More

Downtown Brown
Our two year crusade regarding the pink cow in the Sierra Madre Christmas Creche, located at the heart of the downtown shopping district in Kersting Court, has achieved a positive outcome. We're declaring it another Tattler victory and proof of how a community blog, by giving people an opportunity to express their concerns on issues of importance to them, can make a difference.

As you can see from the picture to the left, what had once been pink has now been painted a rather beatific chocolate brown, returning our cow of concern to its more traditional and respectful color. Bringing to a successful conclusion a matter that had been a concern to those mystified by the inclusion of a brightly colored strawberry heifer in a setting depicting one of the central events of the Christian religion. Here is how one commenter expressed what they believe are the issues involved. This was posted on November 29.

I think it should be looked into. If someone is trying to make a statement that is probably not the place to do it. Unfortunately, I suspect someone is using that pink calf to make the statement, "Don't pay attention to Christmas or the birth of Christ, but pay attention to this silly pink calf. If that is the intention, that would be very unfortunate. Based on that picture of it being carried in a parade, someone knows something about it and the reasons for it. Let's see if anyone has an explanation.

Pink on parade.
I suspect its all part of the same thing. Let's change Sierra Madre whether its tearing down older character homes and building McMansions or putting a pink calf in a Christmas creche. I'd like to know who did it and why. I hope the battles we hear about elsewhere in this regard are not coming to Sierra Madre.

We had posted about the pink cow twice, once in 2013 when it was originally spotted in the creche, and then again just the other week when it appeared that nothing had been done about it (link).

This was followed a few days later by another series of pictures showing the Archangel Gabriel laying in the creche manger with coins placed over his eyes. Another disturbing episode that many took as an additional show of disrespect for Sierra Madre's Christian community.

So whoever repainted Sierra Madre's now famous creche cow brown, we'd like to say thanks. We have not heard from any of the players involved, and frankly we're not completely sure who they even are. Which is fine. I don't really need to know. I was mostly going on we'd heard from concerned residents and the pictures they sent us.

Hopefully people will see this episode as an unfortunate by-product of what happens when people do not respect one another. And now that things have been set right we can all happily move on with a greater understanding of how important that respect for others is in a community such as ours.

That "Prove You're Not A Robot" thing you see when attempting to post here

Yes, it is a huge pain.
The Tattler is published on a platform called "Blogger." This service is owned by Google, and can be used by anyone who wants to have a blog of their own. One they can use it for free. But it is very much Google's deal, and they can pretty much do as they wish with it.

In the world of the Internet traffic is everything, and Blogger, with its 10's of thousands of blogs, generates vast amounts of traffic for Google. About 17 million hits a day on average. Which is why they keep it around. But trust me, it is hardly one of their more important holdings.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where international Internet hackers and spammers attempt to take advantage of free services such as Blogger, and use it for purposes that really are not all that beneficial. And one of the ways they do that is to send out millions of spam blog comments, many with links to things I wouldn't ever want you to see on my blog. Or, even worse, could infect your computer with a virus.

One of the reasons I moderate this blog, and why there is a delay between the time you post a comment and when it appears here, is that I am making sure no such spammy nonsense appears on my site. There were days when I had gotten dozens of the stupid things. Mostly written in the kind of language you'd get if you used a Google Translator to turn Russian into English.

Since Blogger put it their new spam busting system, I get almost none of that. It works. Unfortunately, it is also making it difficult for some to post their comments here. Commenting being an important part of The Tattler.

I have been communicating with the Blogger folks by e-mail about this problem, and have noted (more than once) how those twisted letters they're using are hard for some of my folks to read and use. Here is a reply from them that is pretty typical:

Too many blog owners who want large reader populations have been unwilling to restrict comments, in the past - and have been allowing (by inaction) a place for spammers to post comments.  This has become a problem, for Blogger blogs, in general.  So, Blogger is making it less easy for large reader population blogs to provide spammer havens.

Long story short, despite my innocence in this matter, I am stuck with the Robot Thing for the time being. Many blog owners like myself are complaining, so maybe Blogger will come up with a better solution in the not too distant future. But for now they have their heels dug in.

My options are to live with it, or go and find another service. Something that would invariably mean a new look for The Tattler, plus an entirely new web address. In some ways this would be like starting all over, and I am not sure I want to do that.

One piece of advice for those who are struggling with this annoying function. That circular arrow next to the "type the text" box pictured above? If you click on it you get a new set of letters. Do it often enough and you should be able to eventually get something you can actually read and use.

It's always something, isn't it?

I have been forwarding comments posted here about this problem to Blogger. If there is anything you want them to know about your experiences with that Not A Robot function, post it and I'll be sure to let them know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The General Plan Update: A Race Against Time

There can be little doubt that a whole lot of time was wasted in between the moment when Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray first set the General Plan Update into motion in 2009, and what occurred at last night's City Council meeting. Four long years of retrograde foot dragging Civility Party Mayors occupy the gap between these two highly beneficial events, with the resulting damage done to Sierra Madre becoming more evident every day.

The lot splitting atrocities that can now be seen being built all over town, along with the impending McMansion developments that could be going down soon at One Carter and other equally unfortunate places, none of this could have happened had not the likes of John Buchanan, Joe Mosca and those other two stood in the way of the completion of MaryAnn's hoped for General Plan Update. The necessary protections would already be in place and the very real threat to Sierra Madre of being turned into some kind of knock off Arcadia Adjacent just not there.

But unfortunately that is the hand dealt to us, and those four wasted years are now a problem that could have some serious repercussions. As an example we are probably less than two months away from yet another very expensive One Carter lawsuit, something that would have been inconceivable had the updated General Plan been completed in the 18 months originally proposed by then Mayor MacGillivray.

So here is some good news. Just don't let anybody know you heard it from me.

The current City Council appears to recognize the urgency of the situation and is doing everything it can to get the General Plan Update completed, and fast. Last night myself and maybe four other civilian witnesses sat through one of the most godawful boring City Council meetings ever as our newly motivated elected public officials went through their land use maps, floor plan ratios and whatever else, and in the most excruciating detail. And I have to tell you, it was all music to my ears. And even when I fell asleep the dreams were pleasant.

Because what they were doing was making certain that once completed this new General Plan will slam the door on every conceivable attempt to build McMansions and (to use John Hutt's great term) McCondos anywhere in Sierra Madre. No matter how much embezzled foreign capital and the litigious lawyers such money buys are sicced against us.

Pretty good stuff. This is, of course, one hell of a lot of work for these guys, and there is much more of that sort of thing that remains to be done.

And they do understand this. Last night yet another special meeting of the City Council was scheduled  for January 6, 2015, just to work on the General Plan. I cannot recall a time when this many special meetings have been held for only one specific purpose, but that is what is happening now. It is that urgent a matter.

Two Equally Awful and Threatening Things that are Working in Our Favor

The first is the many millions of dollars in smuggled mainland Chinese money that is turning Arcadia into perhaps one of the most ostentatious, unattractive, and frankly absurd cities in Southern California.

Which, when you think about it, is really saying a lot. The threat of being consumed by that tidal wave of unearthly and rather immense bad taste has awakened the residents of the City of Sierra Madre in a very positive way. And suddenly the once widely reviled slow growth movement in this town has become all the rage, a trend that this City Council has obviously noticed.

The other is the worst drought in over 1,200 years (link). This City Council had instituted a 2 year moratorium on new development due to the amazing fact that Sierra Madre no longer has a water supply of its own. We do have a water company, but it has no water. Which I guess means it is just a company now.

In addition to stopping lot splits, new McMansion developments at Mater Dolorosa and Stone House, along with some of the other stupid developer tricks, this moratorium also gives this City Council the two years it will need to complete the General Plan update. Which, when finished, will in some (not all) very important ways extend this building moratorium out for an additional 20 years.

And get this, there was even talk last night of passing some sorts of restrictions on development that will take care of anything that might arise even before the General Plan is finished.

OK, I am sorry for all this optimism. Trust me, none of it comes easily to me. And there is still the very real possibility that there is a joker up somebody's sleeve. Having blogged through the previous four dismal years in this town has definitely jaded me in that respect.

But as Gene Goss said last night, we need to get the General Plan done as quickly as possible.

You know, I believe him. Sure hope I'm right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tonight's City Council Meeting Is Mostly About One Thing Only: The General Plan Review

Four Mayors that delayed the General Plan Update
It's better late than never I suppose. Though why this 18 month General Plan Update "process" is now entering its sixth year of, um, processing, is a troubling one. With more to go, I might add. As you can visualize from our helpful picture to the left, it took the dedicated foot dragging of our previous four Mayors to make this happen. Each of them could have pushed this thing through, but for some reason they chose not to do that. At times quite loudly (link). Anyone care to speculate why? My guess is it has something to do with enabling development. You know, such as the McMansion variety now coming down at One Carter, Mater Dolorosa and Stonegate.

Here is how this evening's exercise in reviewing is previewed in the accompanying Staff Report:

If you think about it, when this General Plan Update is eventually finished it will have taken a full 40% of the twenty year period it was supposed to cover to complete. Is there a Guinness Book of World Records category for such a thing? The World's Longest General Plan Approval Process perhaps?

So when exactly will this completion happen you ask? Nobody quite knows for sure, though another two years has been cited by some. More or less. There is an Environmental Impact Statement to be completed, and that involves a very expensive consultant. One that has never been averse to the goals of the four individuals pictured in the upper left hand corner of this post.

And yes, there are consequences to these seemingly endless delays. Severe ones. The difficulties at One Carter would have to be among the foremost of them. Because had the updated Land Use Section for this latest iteration of the General Plan been in place back in 2011 when originally scheduled the difficulties we are having with CETT today wouldn't have even come up.

The necessary land use guidelines would have been clearly drawn and in place, and what they are attempting to legally foist upon us now could have been brushed aside so easily CETT probably wouldn't have even come here in the first place.

Should the 610 Baldwin Court matter end up going to trial, which in my opinion it will, and should we lose, the legal costs to the taxpayers of this town could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If not more.

And should City Hall lose that lawsuit we would not only have to pick up CETT's legal costs as well, but could also be forced to relinquish planning control over the remaining open foothill areas on the north side of town. Resulting in an out of control McMansionizing of the most visible (and vulnerable) portions of our community.

None of which would have happened had the General Plan Update been allowed to go through in 18 months as originally planned. Instead it was deliberately delayed by a complicit City Hall far more concerned with the revenues it would receive through massive development impact fees than the wishes of the citizenry whose taxes pay their salaries.

As I said, should Richie McDonald and his mysterious client prevail in court, the consequences could be devastating for this community. And it isn't just the money. We would also lose the ability to control the planning and development of our own community, and in the process end up with a Sierra Madre you wouldn't even recognize.

Sometimes these things really do count. See you tonight.

General Plan update? WHAT General Plan update?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Could Elon Musk Put Southern California Edison On The Unemployment Line?

It could be that big utility companies like SoCal Edison are within a decade of going the way of the dinosaur. With the major oil corporations only a banana step behind them.

Why is that you ask? Technological progress in the creation of power through solar energy, along with rapidly developing electric car and battery technology, are now becoming advanced enough to present truly credible threats to the old school electricity and fossil fuel business models.

The world is moving forward, right before our eyes. Faster than ever. And what once seemed to be intractable technological problems are now being solved, and it is private industry that is getting this done. That and people are sick to death of having to shell out $400 and $500 a month to arrogant, corrupt and poorly run electricity monopolies just to keep the lights on. Folks are beginning to look elsewhere, and at last there seems to be some options that make sense. And as I am sure you are aware, that need is growing.

And who is it that is leading the charge to make all of this happen? Apparently it is none other than Elon Musk, the creator of 300 mile range Tesla electric automobiles. Along with SolarCity Corp and a little company called SpaceX, which just did a rather huge deal with the Feds to provide the rockets necessary to put NASA and Pentagon satellites into orbit, this dude's portfolio is loaded.

Cutting edge engineering science and related private industries are today creating liberating technologies that old school utility and energy monopolies are increasingly incapable of even imagining. Making things work better at costs that actual Americans can afford, and doing it cleaner and more efficiently.

Just so you can hear it from someone else, here is an article that appeared recently on Bloomberg called "Why Elon Musk's Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company."

Trust me, it is all very good news.

Here’s why something as basic as a battery both thrills and terrifies the U.S. utility industry.

At a sagebrush-strewn industrial park outside of Reno, Nevada, bulldozers are clearing dirt for Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA)’s battery factory, projected to be the world’s largest.

Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, sees the $5 billion facility as a key step toward making electric cars more affordable, while ending reliance on oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At first blush, the push toward more electric cars looks to be positive for utilities struggling with stagnant sales from energy conservation and slow economic growth.

Yet Musk’s so-called gigafactory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power. Already, a second company led by Musk, SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), is packaging solar panels and batteries to power California homes and companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)

“The mortal threat that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose” comes from systems that include storage, said Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Snowmass, Colorado-based energy consultant. “That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide.”

The Tesla systems are arriving just as utilities begin to feel increasing pressure worldwide from the disruption posed by renewable energy.

There's a lot more to this Bloomberg article, and you can read the rest by clicking here.

So here's the deal. With the kind of electric storage battery technology Elon Musk will be producing in Nevada you could soon find yourself becoming an entirely self-sufficient economic entity, one beholden to nobody but yourself.

And everything you need is coming on line now. All done with solar panels that produce free electricity that can now be dependably used 24 hours a day, plus wide ranging electric cars that will be charged with juice you yourself produce, and at absolutely no cost.

In other words, no more Edison, no PG&E, no Chevron, no Shell, no Exxon-Mobil-Arco-Valero whatever. None of that dismal, over-priced and air befouling antiquated nonsense. You will need to do business with none of them.

If you can handle it, get yourself ready to live independent and free. Like all Americans should.

Speaking of Dinosaurs, Let's Bag on SCAG for a Minute

Our utterly clueless regional planning organization, the Southern California Association of Governments (or SCAG if you like pretty acronyms), was recently featured in a rather uncritical Pasadena Star News article called "Economic summit addresses jobs, poverty in Southern California."

You can click here to read it in its entirety.

Basically what this article tells us is SCAG believes a lot of people are poor around these parts, they don't have particularly nice houses to live in, and somehow didn't get the educations they need to compete in a world run by smart and capable people. It really can be tough out there, especially if you didn't bother to take the time to properly prepare yourself for it.

But never fear. SCAG, which is run by a former Soviet apparatchik (link) and devours $10s of millions of dollars in state and federal tax dollars yearly, all to do some mighty thinking about just these kinds of problems, has a solution. Are you ready? Here it is:

SCAG’s Regional Action Plan on Poverty was developed by its business advisory group, the Global Land Use & Economics (GLUE) Council. It identifies three large-scale initiatives for immediate action.

The first could potentially create hundreds of thousands of construction jobs to improve and repair the region’s aging transportation infrastructure through SCAG’s Regional Transportation and Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Much like the nation’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program during the Depression, the plan would provide construction jobs for people who desperately need work.

There it is. SCAG (or is it GLUE) wants to solve society's ills by bringing back a cutting edge solution from the 1930s. You know, way back during the depression era.

Compare that with what is going on at companies like Tesla today and you can get a pretty good idea of just how archaic and useless SCAG really is. A unmitigated waste of valuable taxpayer dollars.

It's time to start pulling the plug on the past. And that would certainly include SCAG.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Couple Of Things City Attorney Teresa "Red" Highsmith Forgot To Tell You About The Demise Of Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance

Better put this one in your "Unbelievable City Hall Idiocy" file. Right next to the one you have on the Civility Party and Josh Moran's denial of having ever known Bob Matheson. We're talking advanced level dumb and dumber here, courtesy of Sierra Madre's City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith.

Or, as Earl Richey often enjoys calling her, Red.

As I am sure you recall, the news that Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance had been effectively killed in secret was first communicated to the folks here in town by the Sierra Madre Tattler. I mean, who else here would ever do that? Certainly not Teresa. The article we posted was titled "Question: How Exactly Was Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance Put On Legal Hold?" and you can link to it here. This really was quite a story, especially for a town such as ours. One that has unfortunately become a kind of haven for these creepy little dudes, and thanks in part to the likes of our highly compensated City Attorney, one where they get to call their own shots.

So you know, Sierra Madre's Sex Offender Ordinance was pulled down in a closed session City Council meeting with Teresa in December of 2013. It was part of a settlement agreement with an organization known as California Reform Sex Offender Laws. Wonderful folks who provide free legal representation to child molesters and other similar forms of hell spawn.

Their lead attorney, Janice Belluci, had beaten the pants off Teresa in court, and part of the settlement was that Sierra Madre could no longer use its Sex Offender Ordinance. It was put into mothballs in December of 2013, and will remain there until the California Supreme Court gets around to deciding if voter approved Jessica's Law is Constitutional or not. Which is a whole other story.

This was a clandestine City Council session, and nobody said anything about it later. A triple dipple secret, one where all of the City Councilmembers must have been specifically told to clam up because not a one of them ever snitched. Neither did City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith. Security was firmly in place.

Then again, when does City Hall ever tell us anything anyway? They're generally as transparent as mud down there, and about half as personable.

This stayed a big secret from December of 2013 to October of 2014, which is when The Tattler found out about it. Then it wasn't a secret anymore.

The reason I did find out was because I'd been digging around on the CA-RSOL website looking for some useful information about one of City Hall's most privileged child molesters. I didn't find much there about him, but I did discover the shocking news that Sierra Madre had secretly mothballed its Sex Offender Ordinance. The CA-RSOL apparently being more transparent than our own City Hall. Here is how the law firm that provides free legal services to child molesters shared that news (link).

So that is the background. Today's new revelations regarding the atrocious nature of City Hall's record on the child molester issue comes from Teresa L. Highsmith herself. It isn't anything she told us, of course. Red doesn't share anything with the townies unless she is absolutely forced to do so.

Instead she writes about how to properly manage the repeal of a Sexual Predator Ordinance in the October 2014 issue of Western City magazine, which is run by the always murky League of California Cities. The article is titled "The Better Part of Valor: Amending Local Sex Offender Ordinances," which you can link to here.

The piece itself is more about how to deal with controlling public outrage over the loss of certain legal protections against child molesters than anything dealing with the criminals themselves. After all, we do live in a politically correct age where sex offenders are afforded special civil rights protections by the Courts in California, and Teresa doesn't seem too upset about that. At least in this article.

No, her spiel is mainly about crowd control and public relations. Making sure the unwashed villagers don't get too worked up and out of line when they discover there is little to be done when someone who raped a child (as an example) decides he later wishes to live a couple of blocks from an elementary school or playground.

But to me the most unintentionally revealing passages in this article are from the section titled What Can Cities Do Now? Because it would appear that in the case of Sierra Madre at least, our City Attorney, Teresa "Red" Highsmith, did not deign to take her own advice.

Here no blows were softened, nothing was publicized. Only after this blog let Sierra Madre know that its Sex Offender Ordinance had been secretly dropped months earlier did something begin to happen. And even then it took a concerned resident, Deb Sheridan, confronting her directly during a recent City Council meeting, to get City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith to finally fess up.

No explanatory staff reports were ever prepared that we saw, nor was the matter ever presented to the public in the kinds of special ways recommended in her article. Despite Ms. Highsmith's advice to her League of California City colleagues all we ever got was a terse and defensive one minute reply to a question at public comment almost an entire year after the fact.

All of which seems rather hypocritical of Red. Obviously the people of Sierra Madre are not getting very good legal representation from their City Attorney.

Unless, of course, you're one of our resident child sex offenders. Then your secrets are under lock and key.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Costs Of Delaying The Approval Of The General Plan

 -----------------------  That fire line is right about where the McMansions will go. ------------------------
While the City Council's "Call for Review" of the mess known as 610 Baldwin Court has been pooch punted into next year, Tuesday evening's meeting still has an item of great importance (link). The "Review of the General Plan Update" is on the agenda, and that long delayed yet key piece of the governmental design of Sierra Madre will move yet one more step to completion.

And when exactly will that completion happen you ask? Nobody quite knows for sure, though two years has been cited by some. More or less.

This whole "General Plan Update" effort began in late 2009, with the first version of the committee to accomplish this effort being seated in 2010. It was supposed to take a total of 18 months to complete. Yet due to the endless cancelation of meetings, odd and at time inexplicable delays by city staff, plus the open hostility to this update by certain of our more awful City Councils (Nancy Walsh's "We'll take you out" tirade   * link * being an eye opening peek into their at times bizarre behavior), turned this 18 month updating process into nearly 6 long and frustrating years.

With two more yet to go. Perhaps. They're not sure.

And yes, there are consequences. Severe ones. The difficulties at One Carter would have to be among the foremost of them. Because had the updated Land Use Section for this latest iteration of the General Plan been in place back in 2011 (instead of two years into the future ... maybe) the difficulties we are having with CETT today wouldn't have even come up. The necessary land use guidelines would have been clearly drawn and in place, and what they are attempting to legally force us into accepting now could have been brushed aside so easily that CETT probably wouldn't have even come here in the first place.

Should the 610 Baldwin Court matter end up going to trial, which in my opinion it will, and should we lose, the legal costs to the taxpayers of this town could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And should we lose that lawsuit we would not only have to pick up CETT's legal costs as well, but could also be forced into relinquishing planning control over the remaining open foothill areas on the north side of town. Resulting in an out of control McMansionizing of the most visible (and vulnerable) portions of our community. We would become indistinguishable from Arcadia.

All of which would never have happened had the General Plan Update been allowed to go through in 18 months as originally planned. Instead it was deliberately delayed by a venal City Hall far more concerned with the revenues it would receive through massive development impact fees than the wishes of the citizenry whose taxes pay their salaries.

In my opinion each city employee complicit in selling out the taxpayers of Sierra Madre by deliberately delaying the completion of the General Plan Update needs to be relieved of their jobs and sent packing. An outside investigation into why this happened should be conducted as well to make certain nothing criminal occurred.

As I said, should Richie McDonald and his mysterious client prevail in Court, the consequences could be devastating for this community. And it isn't just the money. We would also lose the ability to control the planning and development of our own community, and in the process end up with a Sierra Madre you wouldn't even recognize.
--- 4 Mayors who delayed the General Plan update. Note name error. ---
What MaryAnn MacGillivray, Don Watts and Kurt Zimmerman had in mind when they first began discussing an update to our General Plan in 2009 was just that. Protecting our community from just these kinds of overdevelopment threats.

All three had recognized what our vulnerabilities are, and what the consequences to this community could be. They set out to fix them, but then ran out of time. Today we're paying the price.

Those who did all they could to delay the completion of that effort, and with considerable success I might add, did so in order to open up this town up to the kinds of overdevelopment problems we are currently facing. And will continue to face when the Mater Dolorosa and Stone House McMansion projects come on line.

And yes, it has always been about the money. We wanted to preserve Sierra Madre. City Hall wanted to sell us out in order to line the pockets of their development, corporate, union and utility cronies. Not to mention funding their own personal pensions and benefits. All something we have yet to get past.

In my mind that is a practice called corruption.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Uh Oh. Is The Fix In On One Carter's 610 Baldwin Court?

There is a small item in yesterday's City of Sierra Madre "e-blast" (as opposed to maybe a far milder e-zephyr? Or an e-pat-on-the-noggin?) that begs for a bit more attention than it was given there. Here is that wee piece of foggy information for you:

First off, a helpful jargon alert. By "continued" the author of this pithy piece of vagary actually means the meeting on this matter has been delayed for some unexplained reason. Or kicked down the road for a piece. Or pushed off to next year. Delayed so a bit of monkey business can be get done behind the scenes might be another fun way of putting it. That is, if such is your point of view. 

Oh, and as of this typing last night the "complete agenda packet" was not "available online." So you e-blast recipients shouldn't go wasting too much time poking around the city's website just yet.

The final episode of the "Call for Review" regarding CETT's illegal McMansion designs on our hillsides was supposed to take place next Tuesday evening. Hopefully with a rejection of this project along with an expressed invitation to pack up their tedious PowerPoint presentations and rude lawyerly insults and start leaving us alone by the end of the year. If not sooner.

However, apparently that is not to be just yet. This despite all of the purposeful and bold talk by the City Council at the last meeting. Since that golden moment in time there apparently has been many a conversation going on that we are just not privy to yet. All done in the hopes of bringing things to some kind of an amicable agreement I'm sure. Something that will avoid lawsuits and create a new kind of love between the city and CETT. And then we'll all go off and celebrate the Christmas holidays. 

Which you can probably translate into simply meaning something is going to get built at One Carter. And then a whole lot more.

I did receive a few emails about this yesterday, but none more informative or insightful than this one:

I was notified by Elaine that the next meeting that will discuss the "Review" of One Carter was postponed until January 13th, to give the city council a chance to meet with the developer and for the subcommittee to make their recommendation so the decision may already be done before that date.

Since we are going on little hard information for the actual cause of this "continuation," we're just going to have to speculate about it a little. Attempt to shine some light into the infinite opacity of it all. Something we enjoy doing here at The Tattler office suite. Which is the dark purple couch to the right of the TV located nearest the kitchen.

The City Council, or at least its pettifogger Mayor, does not want to vote on any houses at One Carter. Never, and not a one. To do so is to risk being put into position of becoming one of the handful of people responsible for setting the McMansion plague loose upon what until now has been our Foothill Village

Trust me, any persons responsible for doing such a thing run the risk of being talked about in the most uncivil of terms, and for all times. Mad dogs will be named after them. New species of rattlesnakes as well. That sort of thing.

So there could be a deal in the works. A behind the scenes fix that will be presented at the January 13 City Council meeting in the most glowing of terms. A grand compromise as it were. Or perhaps a reaching out across our many differences to forge an understanding that will benefit us all. That sort of malarkey. Or, if you are Lawsuit Richie, self-serving BS.

At which time it will all be tied up in frilly bows and pretty paper and "continued" on over to the Planning Commission for a cursory and polite rubber stamping. With a Colantuono lawyer present in case there are any awkward questions.

You could call it a "vote-free" approval. Or a fix if you are prone to earthier skepticism. Which early indications show is now in. Otherwise the City Council would have just voted this mess down tout suite next Tuesday evening. Right?

 Without a doubt.