Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Really Confusing Thing We Heard Again Last Night About The Police Staffing Crisis

"Seinfeld once said that due to turnover on sports teams people are really rooting for the uniforms. That's just like people who love the SMPD. They love the uniforms, not the chubby little bellies that fill them! Maybe we can convince the sheriff to wear dark blue team colors so that we can convince SMPD's fanboys and girls that it makes sense to get 20% more patrol hours for $800k less a year." - Early reader comment

We heard a whole lot last night from Chief Giannone and others about how the City of Sierra Madre has adequate 24 hour/7 days a week Police Department coverage. This despite the fact that half the department has left and, according to the Chief, more cop desertions are on the way. So if this is all true, and everything is just quacky ducky, why did City Hall put out this following scary notice in late January?

"Staffing levels within the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

Quite a radical message change from El Jefe. Get too close to this stuff and you could get whiplash.

Not only did City Hall create the January notice, they also placed it in The Mountain Views News, and Pasadena Now. It is hard to figure out what is actually true here. Is there adequate policing in Sierra Madre or not? I guess it depends on what week it is, and which public relations message they believe is working best for them at the moment.

It must also be noted that the above press release has been pulled from the City of Sierra Madre site.  Orwell style, like it never even happened. But some of the info sources that published it as news items at the City's request still have it up on their sites. One being the Mountain Views News. Here is what that looks like.

Last night Chief Giannone said even more officers are leaving, yet everything is under control and everyone should be happy and grateful for all the fine work they're doing. However, and given what the city itself said only just a few weeks ago, why would anyone believe that? With more SMPD officers beating feet, how are things getting better? Outside of possibly hiring the Sheriffs, of course.

Carol wanted to know what's up.
Three supporters of the vanishing cops came to the podium last night and proclaimed their love of the Sierra Madre Police Department. Yet when you consider half of that department has already left, and more will be leaving soon, do you really think the SMPD is showing any sweetness back? Seems like a one-sided love.

The opposition to bringing the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department to Sierra Madre is not only bizarre and delusional, it's also dangerous. Those claiming to love Sierra Madre more than the rest of us, along with certain elected officials, could end up being enablers for one of the worst ideas ever. That is, gambling with public safety in order to get City Hall its tax hike.

Hopefully nobody gets hurt.

Steve Salisian's Illegal Structure Gets Crushed
Watching Bob Spears read off a strangely disingenuous John Harabedian last night over his double-talking up an illegal and very possibly dangerous structure was the highlight of the evening. It also makes you wonder why kind of guardian of the General Plan the pettifogging Councilmember Harabedian is going to be in his second term.

A few years back Kurt Zimmerman could be heard referring to John Harabedian as "Joe Mosca with brains." Time has shown that to be an accurate assessment.

In the end things turned out well. Preserve Sierra Madre put out the following statement late last night:

Dear Supporters: We brought to your attention a few days ago our concerns about an illegal 2-story 1322 square foot structure that was recently built at 156 W. Highland without architectural plans, engineering specifications, licensed tradesman, building permits, notice to the public or any approval or oversight whatsoever.           

The applicant, Mr. Salisian, originally intended it to be a dwelling unit with a kitchen and two bathrooms.  Only after it was discovered by the City after a citizen's complaint, was the use changed to a "recreation and exercise" building.

The Planning Commission rejected the after-the-fact CUP that the applicant was seeking which caused the applicant to appeal that denial to the City Council. City Staff recommended that the City Council support the Planning Commission's decision and deny the CUP as well.  

We are happy to report that the City Council denied the CUP at tonight's meeting.  Council members Capoccia and Delmar had to recuse themselves because they lived too close to the applicant's property.  Council Members Goss and Arizmendi voted to deny the CUP.  Council Member Harabedian was the sole vote in favor of granting the CUP to Mr. Salisian.

Preserve Sierra Madre is grateful to Council Members Goss and Arizmendi for their own judgment in this matter as well as giving due deference to our experts on the Planning Commission and due deference to the rule of law.  A powerful message has been sent that Sierra Madre's General Plan and Municipal Code exist to be followed and not flouted. These rules and regulations exist for many reasons, not the least of which, is to insure the health and safety of those who will be inhabiting the structure - namely the applicant himself.

We are also grateful to Planning Commissioner Spears who attended the City Council meeting and provided insight into the reasons for the Planning Commission's denial.

Let us be clear, we are not happy because the applicant is now facing a consequence for his actions.  We are happy because the importance of our General Plan and Municipal Code have been affirmed by the highest governing body in the City of Sierra Madre. That is why we are pleased with tonight's decision and grateful for the result.

A Better Tax Show
The "Stop the UUT" people haven't been showing up at the meetings. And from my perspective that is disappointing. Watching Earl Richey and John Capoccia going at it tooth and nail would be marvelous entertainment. Kind of like a Lucha Libre match without the cool masks. Think of the videos we could make.

Hopefully we will get to see some of that soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tonight's City Council Meeting Is Loaded With Excitement

A California Songbird
I covered the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department versus the Sierra Madre Police Department issue pretty much to death. It certainly was a fun enough ride, but there isn't much left to be said until after tonight's meeting. I do expect we'll have some additional key insights later this evening.

Gave some similar treatment to the Steve-O Salisian Affair yesterday. I suspect it will end up just like we want it to, though I will be keeping a jaundiced yellow eyeball on that as well. After all, you never really know how these things are going to turn out. It's like Bingo. Sometimes even the most unworthy of all those in attendance gets to take home the antiqued bronze lamp with the Songbirds of California lampshade on it. No matter how many cards you buy, life isn't always fair.

There is one other topic on tonight's City Council agenda that is fraught with anxiety and controversy. For some, anyway. It includes the following staff report information on the possible consequences of getting rid of utility taxes in Sierra Madre altogether.

As you might already know, the petition to get a "Stop the Utility Users' Tax" initiative on the ballot ran afoul of various Los Angeles County bureaucracies. They did not dig it very much because the county also gets to wet its beak in Sierra Madre's UUT take. It isn't only City Hall that gets to order Foothill Village sweet green cash cocktails.

The upshot being that first petition the utility tax fighters submitted to LA County got tossed out for being one valid signature short. And by the time the second one was turned in it was too late to get a Stop the UUT ballot initiative on April's ballot.

As it stands now we might see this one in June, included along with the California Primary stuff. Or November with all of that infinitely annoying Presidential Election balderdash. It might even get pushed to 2018. Nobody knows that for certain yet, though I suspect the City Attorney has an opinion.

But that isn't what this evening's utility tax tango is all about. Rather this agenda item deals with what City Staff thinks will happen should their beloved utility taxes vanish altogether. Which, in their opinion at least, is tantamount to the apocalypse. Or at least having to possibly look for a new job.

Here is that agenda report. The only thing missing from it are predictions of plague locusts.

So that is basically it. Three rather huge items are happening tonight. I'm so excited I took Wednesday off from work so I can go to this meeting and stay right up until all of these momentous decisions have been made.

Or at least discussed. Of course, it could end up being just the usual jargon and process. Though I doubt it. I think the chairs are going to fly. In the metaphorical sense, anyway. As we all know, they are bolted to the floor.

Oh, one additional question. Will there be enough police officers present to insure that peace will be kept in Council Chambers?

Maybe they should bring in the Sheriffs for that as well.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Salisian Affair: Why Building Without Going To The Planning Commission First Can Make You Look Comedic

Mod: We have two videos today that should kick this off nicely. The response from the Planning Commission is the second, and it is one of those golden moments we all treasure from this city's first line of defense against bad development and the cracked actors who attempt it. Then we'll try to suss this all out in the clearest possible English. The matter is up before the City Council Tuesday evening, and should be quite a show.

Link to this video here.
Link to this video here.

The applicant, a presumptuous gent named Steve Salisian, bought the property at 156 W. Highland with his brother Robert Salisian. It currently has 3 rental units on it. Steve-o later told the Planning Commission that his brother lives in one of the units with the other two being rented out to tenants.

Mr. Salisian then proceeded to demolish a 200 sq. ft structure and build a 1,322 square foot 2-story affair with a kitchen and two bathrooms that he clearly intended, as least until he got caught, to be an additional rental unit.

However, under R-3 Zoning requirements, he is not allowed to do such a thing because the combined buildings exceed the lot coverage allowance. The property also does not meet parking requirements for a 4 unit structure. And, on top of all that, the new 2-story building encroaches at least 9.8 feet into the allowable side setback. It could encroach even more than that if the applicant turns out to be incorrect when he claimed that he owns a portion of his neighbors property. To our knowledge no survey has been done to confirm that.

Interesting fellow.

A concerned neighbor finally brought this mess to the city's attention. Meaning Steve-o Salisian got caught in the act or, to put it correctly, after the act since this thing had already been built and he never got the necessary city permits first.

So what does Mr. Salisian do after he realizes that he cannot have a fourth rental unit on his property?  He applies for a retroactive Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow this illegal structure to remain there and, after taking out the kitchen, tells us now that his 2-story 1,322 structure will only be used as a "recreation and exercise" building.

Steve-o then tells anyone who cares to listen that his family has a vital need for exercise, mostly because of the small size of the other units. I think. All of this despite the fact that it was initially built as a rental unit.

OK. But even worse, and as can clearly be seen in the first video, Steve-o arises from his Council Chamber seat and repeatedly gets his Pinocchio on to the Planning Commission about the special circumstances of this construction. On the one hand he states that the work is more than adequate, while on the other claiming that he did it all himself with no experience whatsoever.

Steve-o also represents to the Planning Commission that he had absolutely no idea that he was building an illegal unit, no idea that permits were required in Sierra Madre (really?), and had no knowledge of the approval process someone has to go through here.

Needless to say, nobody attending believed any of that hoot, and neither did the Planning Commission. And now Mr.  Salisian has the audacity to appeal the Planning Commission's denial of this CUP to the City Council in hopes that they will somehow believe his baloney and approve the project.

There is also a liability issue for the City of Sierra Madre. If the city approves a building that, according to Mr. Salisian's own testimony, was done without any experts whatsoever to insure the health and safety of anyone dwelling inside this structure, bad things could happen. God forbid if it were to collapse Third World style in an earthquake and kill somebody. Or at least crush all of that expensive exercise equipment.

We can also ask (and based on the fascinating Steve-o Salisian's apparent inability to appreciate much in the way of local development processes), what are the odds that he would later convert his "recreation and exercise" room back into a rental unit? I'd say they are pretty high.

As anyone can clearly see, this is about as flagrant a violation as you will ever get to witness. In this case, the cover-up is probably equal to the crime. People have worked very hard to put reasonable rules in place to prevent this kind of activity. As have most American cities. What kind of message does it send to developers, builders and unscrupulous homeowners if this is allowed to stand? It would certainly set a very bad precedent.

As can be seen in the video highlights, the Planning Commissioners are the experts. The City Council should not overturn their decision. In fact, the only solution is to make the applicant tear this building down and start over.

Time to get some red tags ready.

One more Salisianism for the road

Whatever you say, Steve-o.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anais Nin Is Probably The Most Famous Person To Ever Live In Sierra Madre

Above is a picture of the house that Anais Nin called home when she lived in Sierra Madre. The world famed authoress spent a significant amount of time here, something that has been almost completely ignored by those who see themselves as the local caretakers of this community's historical heritage. There is far more literature to be found in the Sierra Madre Library about local horseshoe nails and buggy roundabouts than the most famous writer to ever reside in town.

Michelle Zack, who wrote the book Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre, was interviewed by the website Hometown: Pasadena in 2009. When asked about Sierra Madre's most famous writer, she told us this story (link).

Anais Nin, the erotic diarist, lived there with the forest ranger Rupert Pole for a decade and helped the Forest Service during the wildfires of 1953. When handling calls about the fire, she started answering with: “Forest Service, Paris Branch,” and some people got distracted by her accent and wanted to know who was on the other end of the line. Pole and Nin married in 1955, but she continued commuting between Sierra Madre and New York City, where she was also married to Hugo Guiler, a filmmaker who was editing her diaries. When these were about to be published, she annulled her marriage to Pole because she was afraid of getting her guys in trouble; both had been claiming her as a spouse and a tax deduction! So a major voice in changing sexual mores in the 1960s was quietly living as a bigamist in this pretty conservative San Gabriel Valley town.

In case you are among those wondering who Anais Nin was, here is a brief description of her fame taken from a Guardian article called "Before Lena Dunham, there was Anaïs Nin – now patron saint of social media" (link).

The Diary of Anaïs Nin was published by Harcourt Brace. The existence of the diary, a monumental life’s work that Nin was completing in secret – even when radically edited down for publication, it spanned seven volumes and 50 years – had long been speculated about in literary circles.

It contained the expected anecdotes about famous friends: Henry Miller, Antonin Artaud, Gore Vidal. Yet these were outnumbered by long, introspective passages about the nature of the self, which proved to be the diary’s biggest draw. Reviews were amazing, and sales were too.

So began the age of Anaïs Nin, feminist icon: worshipped by young women who believed she had provided the first real account of how a woman could thrive in the male-dominated world of literature. She toured the country, giving readings and speeches. Young fans, eager to learn at her feet, gathered at her Los Angeles home. She was the subject of a documentary, Anaïs Observed.

Anaïs Nin died in 1977, at the peak of her fame, beloved by a generation and assured of her place in history.

Rupert Pole and Anais Nin
Upon the 2006 death of Rupert Pole, the West Coast husband, the British newspaper The Telegraph published this interesting account of their very nontraditional relationship (link).

Rupert Pole, who died on July 15 aged 87, published the diaries of his lover, the feminist icon Anaïs Nin, detailing her bigamy, abortion, and multiple relationships. When Pole abandoned an uninspiring career as an actor to elope from New York to Los Angeles with Anaïs Nin in 1947, she wrote in her diary: "I am running away with a most beautiful man." The beautiful man himself, however, was unaware that she was already married. The couple lived in a cabin in Sierra Madre where Anaïs Nin scrubbed the floors, looked after the neighbours' children, and was known as "Mrs Anaïs Pole". Meanwhile Pole joined the forest service, and was assigned as a ranger to a station in the San Gabriel Mountains; he also taught science for several years at the Thomas Starr King Middle School in Silver Lake.

Whether Pole was genuinely unaware that her frequent trips back to the East coast, which she claimed were for writing assignments, were in fact visits to Hugo Guiler, her husband, or whether he simply turned a blind eye to it, is unclear. Regardless, Pole married her in 1955; she admitted in her diary that she had "exhausted all the defences I could invent" against a second marriage. Anaïs Nin continued both relationships, and hid her lies (which became so numerous that she had to record them on a library of index cards she called her "trapeze") so successfully that when she died the Los Angeles Times recorded the death of Mrs Pole, and the New York Times that of Mrs Guiler. Pole later claimed that her marital status was unimportant to him: "We had a wonderful, deep relationship," he said, "and that is what counted."

Pole's marriage was annulled in 1966 after Anaïs Nin admitted to her bigamy, reportedly for fear of the Internal Revenue Service discovering that both her husbands were naming her as their wife to receive tax deductions. However, he made use of his family connections to entice her back by asking his half-brother Eric Lloyd Wright to design her dream house, a "house of light, surrounded by water". It worked, and she returned to him.

Rupert Pole was born in Los Angeles in 1919, the son of actors who named him after the family friend Rupert Brooke. He spent much of his childhood living among Native Americans in an adobe house at Palm Springs, California, where the family had moved to obtain treatment for his father's respiratory problem. After his parents' divorce, Pole's mother married Frank Lloyd Wright Jr, son of the architect, and Pole moved in to his step-father's house in Beverly Hills in 1929.

A music lover who played the guitar and viola, Pole graduated from Harvard with a degree in Music in 1940. He was briefly married to a Wright cousin, Jane Lloyd-Jones, with whom he performed in United Service Organisation shows. It was while he was working as a printer, having just finished acting in a successful Broadway run of The Duchess of Malfi, that he met Anaïs Nin, in an elevator on the way to a party given by the Guggenheim family.

The pair spent the entire evening together, as she was gradually seduced by Pole's appearance, described by one of her biographers as "stunningly handsome, with the finely chiselled facial features and slim, muscular body found more frequently on Greek statuary than human beings". Anaïs Nin was also impressed by his youth (he was 28, she was 44) and his prototype New Age knowledge of Zen philosophy and the signs of the Zodiac. However, she had her reservations; the night she met Pole, she wrote in her diary "Danger! He is probably homosexual." He not only was not, but proved more enticing than her husband, and she took the decision to elope.

After Anaïs Nin's death in 1977, Pole became his wife's literary executor. He continued her own efforts to publish all 69 volumes of her diary, including details of her relationships with, among others, Henry Miller, Edmund Wilson, Lawrence Durrell and Otto Rank, her psychoanalyst, whom she supposedly seduced on his own couch. Pole took the decision that they should be released uncensored. 

The second volume, which detailed Nin's incestuous relationship with her father Joaquin and her late-term abortion of a child (believed to be Miller's), received mixed reviews but sold well. Erica Jong called the diaries "one of the landmarks of twentieth-century literature". Pole met Guiler after their wife's death; according to Eric Lloyd Wright, they communicated periodically "on a friendly basis, or a mutual husband basis".

Pole himself later described the attitude which allowed him to endure his wife's double life with the words: "I don't analyse, I just accept."

I have often thought that this is a story the City of Sierra Madre could develop and use to its advantage. Turning her home into an Anais Nin museum would not only attract tourists and fans from all over the world, but also bring some badly needed commerce to downtown shops and restaurants.

Of course, I also have doubts this could ever happen. In a town where resident literary passions are mostly shown by displaying library lawn signs featuring the nonlinguistic picture of a (heart), this would represent quite an enormous leap into the unknown.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

City Hall Blinks? The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Could Be On The Way

You know, it would have made it easier for everyone concerned if City Hall had just done the most logical and sensible thing right out of the box. But what fun would that have been? Watching the folks downtown do wild and wacky things in the past is what has kept this blog going strong for years. We'd hardly expect things to change just because a lot of people in town pointed so popular a reality out to them.

In case you are wondering where I get this kind of information, there is nothing at all that arcane or mysterious this time. It is right out of the relevant Staff Report for Tuesday evening's City Council meeting (link). And judging by what I'm reading here, it appears that the long struggle is over and, despite the fact that it might hurt the feelings of whomever remains on the Sierra Madre Police Department, the City Council appears to be well on the way to at least temporarily hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. This to fill the staffing gaps left by the exodus of so many unhappy and fearful SMPD officers.

Who'd a thunk it? However, the City Staff didn't make this move without first asking everybody else on the planet. That is made abundantly clear in this passage.

I'm not sure anyone who has followed the more shameful and controversial aspects of the Kendrick McDade murder and cover-up (link) is going to get too excited about bringing the trigger happy Pasadena Police Department to these peaceable streets. But as of this typing that does not appear to be too big of a possibility. At least for now. But yes, we'll keep our eye on on it.

Then, of course, there is some of the usual blame assigning. City Staff, as we are all very aware, is never wrong about anything.

However, the rest of the news is not all that bad. Check it all out.

On February 3rd the Pasadena Star News published an article called "Arcadia to Sierra Madre: Sorry, we can’t help fill police department void" (click). In that article the mere possibility of hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is credited, at least in part, for the departure of half of the Sierra Madre Police Department. Here Mayor John Capoccia is quoted as believing that an actual LASD hiring, perhaps even on a temporary or part time basis, could result in the rest of the SMPD beating feet as well.

“If there is a need, the sheriff’s will come,” (Capoccia) continued. “It’s a very sensitive issue (to contract with the sheriff’s). It could lead to perceptions that are not representative of our intent to the police officers, and with the public as well.”

Capoccia is referring to the city studying completely outsourcing police services to the Sheriff’s Department in hopes of saving the city money and addressing a reduction in revenue due to a sunsetting of a higher utility-users’ tax rate in July, when it is expected to drop from 8 percent to 6 percent. Fears about contracting with the Sheriff’s Department have been attributed to part of the reason for the exodus of some of Sierra Madre’s officers.

While I am not sure what the downside might be here, I guess we're going to get and see if maybe he isn't actually right this time.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Has The Mayor Now Changed His Message On The Policing Crisis In Sierra Madre?

The word coming out of City Hall is now apparently changing, and as such it is quickly becoming even more difficult than usual to figure out exactly what the real situation might be. As a review, here is the message that was put out by the city on its website back around January 22nd (link):

(Mod: This "Temporary Contract" article has since been pulled from the City of Sierra Madre website. You can still find it by clicking here. Upper right hand corner.)

Pretty dire, right? "Staffing levels within the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

Yesterday the Pasadena Star News published an article called "Arcadia to Sierra Madre: Sorry, we can’t help fill police department void" (link). For this article they interviewed Sierra Madre Mayor John Capoccia extensively, and here is how this report concludes:

(Arcadia) Councilman Roger Chandler agreed that sharing resources would be a bad idea. “I know we’re neighbors, and it would be nice to help, but this doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Sierra Madre Mayor John Capoccia said he was disappointed, but he understood the city officials’ position. “Our next step is to look at other options,” he said.

Chandler recommended Sierra Madre officials reach out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for assistance.

Since there was a draft agreement with Arcadia in place, Capoccia said the city did not look into contracting with other cities or the Sheriff’s Department before last night’s meeting.

“Arcadia was the natural first choice for several reasons,” he said. “If there is a need, the sheriff’s will come,” he continued. “It’s a very sensitive issue (to contract with the sheriff’s). It could lead to perceptions that are not representative of our intent to the police officers, and with the public as well.”

Capoccia is referring to the city studying completely outsourcing police services to the Sheriff’s Department in hopes of saving the city money and addressing a reduction in revenue due to a sunsetting of a higher utility-users’ tax rate in July, when it is expected to drop from 8 percent to 6 percent. Fears about contracting with the Sheriff’s Department have been attributed to part of the reason for the exodus of some of Sierra Madre’s officers.

To counteract the loss in revenue, officials placed an initiative on the April 12 ballot that aims to increase the utility-users’ tax to 10 percent, which would stabilize the budget and provide funding for the police department, which has served the small community of 11,000 for almost a century.

“We’re good for right now,” Capoccia said. “We don’t have an issue today but if we lose more officers, we may have more problems.”

So which is it? The dire assessment originally issued by the city on January 22nd, which was also published in the Mountain Views News, Pasadena Now, and elsewhere? Or the now entirely opposite claim that Mayor Capoccia made on to the PSN on Wednesday stating "we're good for right now?"

One more. Originally City Hall told folks that there would be outside law enforcement patrolling the nighttime streets of Sierra Madre by February 7. That is now two days away. As of this typing there is little police presence on the streets of this town at night. Or at least that is what we were being told on January 22.

And now that Arcadia's City Council unanimously said no to that policing request, nobody downtown can tell us when this reportedly dangerous situation will end. Instead Mayor Capoccia has changed the city's message to "we're good for right now."

Arcadia, which is currently experiencing a significant crime wave, needed its cops to stay put. So how soon before the criminals working there figure out that those running this city are apparently playing politics with public safety? And that Sierra Madre is now unprotected at night?

Not feeling much leadership right now.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pasadena Star News Editorial: Sierra Madre Should Explore Policing By The Sheriff

Mod: Big editorial today in the Pasadena Star News advising the City of Sierra Madre to take a long hard look at bringing in the Sheriffs. Link here to the PSN site.

Mod: The big question: When will Mayor Capoccia call an emergency City Council meeting to discuss the police crisis and bringing in the LASD? Will somebody have to get hurt first?

Rick De La Mora's attempt to reason with Mayor Capoccia

Mod: What follows is a letter Rick sent to Mayor Capoccia in hopes of bringing him to some very reasonable compromises on the question of how law enforcement needs to get done here in lieu of the SMPD's collapse. It seems that everyone is trying to get John Capoccia to do the right thing.

Dear Mayor Capoccia:

I find it discouraging that our city is divided when we all have the same goal in mind: A better and more vibrant Sierra Madre. As a result, I have decided to write to you with my thoughts on how our city can (i) deal with Arcadia's rejection of its request for supplemental police services, (ii) make needed improvements, and (iii) meet all funding needs. To that end, I encourage you to take the following actions:

1.  Adopt the Sheriff's 20/20 proposal and bank the $700k in annual savings it will yield.  This will for the first time free the city from its 47% police services spend.  It will also enable the city to receive the 24 hour/devoted police service coverage it requires without having to engage in the now necessary protracted and expensive re-build of the police department.

2.  Withdraw the 10% UUT proposal, which is openly being promoted as a way to provide still further funding to the Police Department without addressing our disproportionate police spend.

3.  Propose and place on the ballot an 8% UUT increase of $500k a year which would be applied to civic improvements and infrastructure. During year one I would propose that $250k of this be devoted to improving our Little League facilities, $150k to improving our Library, and $100k for senior services.  It is essential that the council promise that all future proceeds of the increase would be applied to civic improvements and/or investments in parks and infrastructure.

I am confident the entire city would get behind such a proposal, as the cost (loss of a proprietary Police Department) would be more than offset by the benefits (a steady flow of civic improvements).  Moreover, I am confident the City Council would prefer to be involved in building and delivering civic improvements rather than trying to continually deal with the ever increasing funding demands associated with our Police Department.

Once again, I would like to thank you for your service to our City and wish you and the council well in addressing our civic needs.                                                  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arcadia's City Council Unanimously Votes Down Sierra Madre's Request For Policing Assistance

Hat in hand.

As predicted a couple of times here on The Tattler, the City of Arcadia has no extra police to spare for patrolling the now defenseless late night streets of Sierra Madre. And because of that last night the Arcadia City Council unanimously voted down City Hall's  request for help with its policing problem.

Of course, if you are a reader of this blog you knew this result was a clear possibility. Here is how we shared our special insight with you yesterday.

Far be it from us to say we told you so, but we did. If City Hall would just listen once in a while to what we lay down here, and as a free service no less, they could have spared themselves a lot of embarrassment last night.

While City Manager Elaine Aguilar and Chief Larry Giannone were in the house with him, Mayor John Capoccia did all of the talking. Predictably he blamed the sunsetting of the UUT (which at one time he advocated) and resulting low pay for the loss of half of Sierra Madre's cops. Which, at least to me, makes no sense. After all, the pay City Hall offers its police officers now is pretty much the same as it was when the UUT was at 10% and hadn't been voted down yet.

Was there an SMPD pay hike in the works if Measure UUT had passed in 2014?

Ordinarily I am not a big advocate for Councilmember Roger Chandler due to his inability to understand the destruction mansionization has brought to much of Arcadia, but he did bring the elephant out into the open last night with this following question.

"Why," he asked, "are you coming to us with this request? Why haven't you gone to the Sheriffs? They're right down the hill."

Under additional questioning about Sierra Madre's puzzling refusal to work with the Sheriffs from other equally incredulous Arcadia Councilmembers, Mayor Capoccia tried to explain that somehow the political situation in Sierra Madre makes that impossible. Capoccia even cited the opinions of that bonkers public safety committee Glenn Lambdin heads up as proof of how difficult hiring the LASD would be for him.

All of which Roger Chandler then pronounced to be completely irrelevant. He then actually offered Capoccia the phone number of the Sheriff's Department. Right there on live TV. Just in case he didn't have it.

Unless Capoccia is looking forward to experiencing equally uncomfortable and futile evenings begging for policing help from Pasadena and Monrovia, he probably should have accepted Chandler's offer.

Now that Arcadia has shot him down, John Capoccia no longer has any other real options left. It's the Sheriffs or nothing. No matter how concerned he is about the dotty old dears that send him e-mails proclaiming their love for the Sierra Madre Police Department.

You know, the Police Department that has now deserted them?

And yes, this was an embarrassing night for Sierra Madre. Our city officials should have known better.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bulldozer Bob Harbicht and the Arcadia Crime Wave

Arcadia Crime Wave
There are two very big issues in the Arcadia City Council election. One is mansionization, and Bulldozer Bob has been a consistent force for promoting what has become the least salable kind of development in Arcadia. According to Bloomberg Business (link) there are currently upwards of 38 Addams Family Vanity Castles sitting unsold on the market in Peacotia, and you might as well put a brightly painted cement bust of Bulldozer Bob's grinning visage in front of each and every one of them. They are all a result of his 20 long and misguided years occupying a seat on that City Council.

The other issue is crime, and here is where the seemingly eternal Councilmember Harbicht would prefer to make his campaign stand. And for obvious political reasons.

Yet wouldn't his having been in office for two decades, and in many ways a key architect of Arcadia's current law enforcement woes, make it hard for Harbicht to claim that he is an effective fighter of crime? Especially in a city that is today experiencing a 38.4% increase in residential burglaries, and a 55% increase in robberies overall?

Bob Harbicht is going to give it a try anyway. Here is how he expressed his opinions about those forces he believes are responsible for the crime wave engulfing Arcadia. This from the Arcadia's Best blog (link).

Bulldozer Bob probably believes he has correctly identified the cause of Arcadia's crime debacle. But apparently his analysis of the problem is factually flawed. Here one of his opponents in the City Council race, April Verlato, sorts his mess out.

Obviously Bob Harbicht doesn't really know what he is talking about. But his problems hardly end with the glaring ignorance he has shown regarding recent trends in state crime law. Bob also somehow believes that the support he has received from the Arcadia Police Officers Association makes him a mighty crime fighter.

Below is Harbicht's Form 460 from the last time he ran. It shows that the Arcadia Police Officers Association gave Harbicht a big $2,000 donation.

The Arcadia PD contract is up in 2 years, and the next City Council will be negotiating any new benefits and pay increases. What Harbicht is actually all about is shown by his willingness to vote Arcadia's Police Department huge pay and benefit increases.

Bob was on the City Council 2 years ago when the last Arcadia Police contract was negotiated. Here are the results of his ineffectual and possibly complicit efforts from Transparent California (link). This is what ordinary beat cops are currently being compensated in Arcadia.

Obviously the Arcadia Police Officers Association supports Bob Harbicht because he is willing to sign off on huge compensation packages in exchange for both political support and four figure campaign donations.

However, the effect this long standing political relationship has had on Arcadia's crime problems is actually something quite different. It just isn't working.

Tonight's Arcadia City Council Decision On Sierra Madre's Policing Woes

I am hearing from people in Arcadia who know a lot about these things that a City Council decision there approving Arcadia PD patrols in Sierra Madre is in no way a done or easy deal. There is a lot of resident opposition to sharing their cops, and they're talking to their CC members about it. Loudly.

Apparently those big increases in home robberies in Arcadia over the last year or so have made a strong impact on folks. The criminals go mainly after jewelry, and have never been caught. Some homes have been hit more than once.

We'll let you know how this all turns out. But do not be surprised if Arcadia's City Council rejects Sierra Madre's request for law enforcement assistance.

Despite what you might have heard, that is a possible result.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Resident Letter to the MVN's Susan Henderson - Plus Court Cop Flop: John Ellins Loses His Lawsuit

I don't know if you read the Mountain Views News, but there was a very heated front page article published there over the weekend. It actually suggested that City Hall may have been engaged in a major and deliberate act of dishonesty by keeping news of the mass exodus of officers from the Sierra Madre Police Department secret from the public for so long.

Quite an abrupt change for the author of that piece, the paper's usually sycophantic and city tax dependent Susan Henderson. Maybe she thought she was being edgy like The Tattler, or something? It can be hard to say.

However, as unexpected a message change as that might have been for this city's adjudicated newspaper, the rest of it was not. Rather this piece quickly became a blatant and rather shameless pitch for voter approval of Measure UUT. Making this the third election in a row where Ms. Henderson has pushed for utility tax increases.

Something that should now be even easier for her since she no longer lives in town.

Sierra Madre resident Barry Gold wrote the following insightful letter to Susan Henderson. I asked if I could post it here, and I am doing so with his kind permission.

So you know, Chief Giannone also claimed to the Pasadena Star News that he has 65 potential officers lined up. Something that flies in the face of what Ms. Henderson assures us the City Manager said is the case. Which means that two of this city's most highly placed appointed officials have no idea what the other one is saying. Either that or they're just making this stuff up on the fly.

In that PSN article, titled "Why half of Sierra Madre’s police force suddenly left," here is how the Chief's claim reads (link):

In a staff report, the department says they “have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” and cited the city’s lower salaries for trouble recruiting full-time officers.

“This is totally a temporary measure to make sure we’re providing the same level of service to the community as we start to build our department back up,” said Giannone. “We have a great working relationship with Arcadia and we’re here to help each other.”

Meanwhile, the department is doing heavy recruiting for full time sworn-in and non-sworn positions. “I think that’s going very well; we have 65 applicants,” said Giannone.

One other thing. I am hearing from people I know in Arcadia that the City Council there might not be as enthusiastic about sharing their Police Department with Sierra Madre as some have so easily assumed. Chief Giannone in particular. Home invasion robberies are up 40% in Arcadia over the past year, and the residents living there are literally up in arms at the thought of the absurdly overpaid APD (link) spending any quality late night time here.

Oh, and can anyone please explain to me what exactly Arcadia's Chief of Police, Robert "Don't Call Me Woody" Guthrie, gets with his $101,894.01 in total benefits? Particularly in light of the out of control crime wave in Arcadia?

So what happens if Arcadia's City Council says no to City Hall's request to rent their Police Officers for $1,200 a night? We'll have more on that tomorrow.

Former Sierra Madre Police Officer John Ellins Loses His Case

Attentive Tattler readers are aware of the long running lawsuit by former Sierra Madre Police Officer John Ellins. A gent who definitely had it in for his boss, then Sierra Madre Chief of Police Marilyn Diaz. The case has been stuck in various Courts for years.

All bad things do come to an end however, and John Ellins's hopes of getting a big fat check from the hides of the taxpayers of Sierra Madre have now been clearly dashed. You can read the decision of the California Court of Appeals by clicking here (link).

What follows is a passage from that decision. Some may find it disturbing.

There have been many SMPD initiated lawsuits against the City of Sierra Madre. It is enlightening to finally get a clear look at what one of those lawsuits was all about.

In this case the litigious police officer involved turned out to be something of a creep.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bob Loewen: How Government Unions Are Destroying California

Mod: There is a lot of nonsense out there about why Sierra Madre needs to raise its utility taxes by 66%, giving this town one of the Top 5 UUT rates in all of California. The latest canard being floated by certain individuals (who really should be ashamed of themselves because I am sure they know better), is this is needed to keep things like the Halloween celebrations on Algeria and the Mt. Wilson Trail Race from going south (link). It is a whole new level of hostage taking, and sad to say there are people who are actually buying into this baloney. What follows are some relevant excerpts from an important column written by Bob Loewen (link). Bob details the real forces driving taxes higher in many cities such as Sierra Madre. Just in case you are wondering what the actual truth might be.

How Government Unions Are Destroying California: California was once the State that everyone looked up to. With the best weather and natural resources, we were full of hope and innovation. We had the best public schools, a world class system of higher education, the best freeways, infrastructure to provide fresh water to our growing population, which also doubled as a source of clean energy through hydro-electric power, a business-friendly environment where entire industries grew in entertainment, aerospace, and technology, making our economy virtually recession-proof.

Then in 1978, then-governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that imposed union-shop collective bargaining on public agencies in California, and the rise of public sector union power began.

(Mod: Then Governor Ronald Reagan signed something similar into law in 1968 called the Myers-Milias-Brown Act. Just to keep everything accurate and nonpartisan. As most Tattler readers know, with this matter there are very few truly innocent parties in California government.)

Today, public sector unions are the most powerful political force in our State. They control a majority of our State Legislature and might control a supermajority in November if a few swing districts fall their way.  No politician, Democrat, Republican or Independent, acts without considering how it will affect the union agenda.

These government unions press 100% for a progressive agenda, and they consistently agitate for increased spending. In two areas, the quality of our public education system, and the financial health of our cities and counties, the consequences of government union power have been catastrophic.


Police and firefighter unions do the most damage at the local level. They have attained unsustainable pensions, known as “3%@50”, meaning that a member of that bargaining unit is eligible at age 50 for a pension equivalent to 3% of his highest salary times their number of years of service. 

While the age of eligibility has been raised for new public safety employees entering the workforce, the vast majority of active police and firefighters still retain these “3%@50” benefits. So at age 50, a 20-year veteran can retire with a pension equivalent to 60% of their highest year’s salary, which can be manipulated through spiking, and a 30-year veteran is eligible for 90% of his or her highest salary.

These pension requirements are held under the “California Rule” to be irreversible. In other words, once they have been adopted, democracy is incapable of turning off the spigot. With the spigot running constantly, communities go bankrupt. First, they cut other services. Then they increase taxes. Then they refuse to pay bondholders, so no one will invest again.

Current unfunded liabilities in California:

At CalPERS: $93.5 billion (ref. page 120, “Funding Progress,” CalPERS 6-30-2015 financial report -link).

At CalSTRS: $72.7 billion (ref. page 118, “Funding Progress,” CalSTRS 6-30-2015 financial report - link).

Local Unfunded Liabilities add considerably to this total, since CalPERS, with assets of $301 billion, and CalSTRS, with assets of $158 billion, only constitute 62% of California’s $752 billion in state and local pension fund assets (link). If all of these systems in aggregate were 75% funded, which is probably a best case estimate given the poor stock market performance since the official numbers were released, the total unfunded pension liabilities for California’s state and local government workers would be $256 billion.

And $256 billion in unfunded liabilities, a staggering amount, still understates the problem for two reasons: First, these pension funds may not succeed in securing a 7.5% average annual return in the coming decades. If not, then they will not earn enough interest to prevent their funding ratios from getting even worse. Also, this doesn’t take into account “OPEB,” or “other post employment benefits,” primarily health insurance. The unfunded OPEB liability just for Los Angeles County is officially recognized at over $30 billion.

A realistic estimate of the total unfunded liabilities for retirement obligations to state and local workers in California is easily in excess of $500 billion. These benefits, which are financially unsustainable and far more generous than the taxpayer funded benefits available to ordinary private sector workers, were forced upon local and state elected officials through the unchecked power of government unions. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Arcadia Police Night Patrols In Sierra Madre Is On The Arcadia City Council Agenda For February 2nd

Coming soon to a street near you.
It happened. And Arcadia's staff report for this issue, wordily titled "TEMPORARY MUNICIPAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES AGREEMENT WITH THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE FOR THE PERIOD OF FEBRUARY 15, 2016, THROUGH JUNE 30, 2016," does make for some interesting reading. It also goes into a lot more detail than the agenda report we saw for Sierra Madre's last City Council meeting. Considerations that were then bumped to a later date because Arcadia's decisions on the matter had not yet been made and the Mayor didn't want to be seen as being presumptuous.

In the following portion of a rather City Hall-centric Pasadena Star News piece titled "Why half of Sierra Madre’s police force suddenly left," the dollar amount involved in bringing the Arcadia PD to the late night streets of Sierra Madre is identified as $40,000 per month. In the Arcadia agenda report that figure is $164,000 for the period covering Feb. 15 through June 30th, or $1,200 per day. With the potential for some additional charges when arrest expenses and overtime costs are factored in.

Here is the PSN info (link):

During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, an agreement with the Arcadia Police Department was being considered to offer supplemental patrol services, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. 7 days a week, to Sierra Madre at a cost of about $40,000 a month.

“I’m not happy at all,” said Mayor John Capoccia about the dramatic drop in the police force. “What we have here is a perfect storm because of the financial concerns.”

In a staff report, the department says they “have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” and cited the city’s lower salaries for trouble recruiting full-time officers.

“This is totally a temporary measure to make sure we’re providing the same level of service to the community as we start to build our department back up,” said Giannone. “We have a great working relationship with Arcadia and we’re here to help each other.”

Meanwhile, the department is doing heavy recruiting for full time sworn-in and non-sworn positions. “I think that’s going very well; we have 65 applicants,” said Giannone.

In the still sorta relevant Sierra Madre City Council Agenda Report, dated January 26 (link), that amount is also identified as $40,000 per month, with additional costs alluded to but not yet factored in. The period mentioned here was to begin on Feb. 7, which is now no longer an operative start date.

I'm sure the final dollar amounts will all be hashed out. But as it stands now any potential additional costs really are open ended and subject to events that have yet to occur.

Here is the Arcadia Staff Report in its entirety (link).

That's what we know as of now. More as it shows up.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Is Sierra Madre's Bill Coburn Math Challenged?

Remedial ciphering required?
There is a Facebook page in town that goes by the name of "Sierra Madre." It is a place where you can often find some of this city's more innocent folks posting their opinions. A few of them appear to be from the old Civility Party crowd, and likely are still mourning events such as the departure of Nancy Walsh from the City Council. Apparently for them things have gone downhill in Sierra Madre since the Queen of Cray hung up her tinfoil crown and stopped treating us to her oftentimes edgy opinions.

If it is any consolation whatsoever to them, I too miss Nancy Walsh. But probably for very different reasons. She used to bless us with great video content. Here is one where the former Mayor compared a report about reducing City Hall hours to the repellent practices of child predators (link).

A word of warning though, some of the language contained in that linked video clip gets a bit blue. Do not share it with your younger kids.

However, I also miss the Sierra Madre Facebook page. I used to post links there to articles posted on this site. Sadly, after I left one about an article that included a leaked internal report detailing a culture of employee institutional violence at Southern California Edison, I suddenly found myself blocked from the Sierra Madre site. I can't even view it any longer. Truly a sad commentary on the inability of certain elements in this town to deal with opinions they might not share.

Here is a snippet from The Tattler post that got me booted from the site (link).

I dunno. Maybe it just wasn't Facebook material.

But I digress. Bill "Rooster" Coburn, who runs an antediluvian on-line news site called, apparently is not a person who cottons to the challenges of independent thought. He rarely publishes anything more than City Hall press releases there, and never dares to add any commentary of his own. Apparently Bill regards the stuff he is sent from downtown as wisdom received from on high, and it is not his place to second guess such things.

Unfortunately, Bill also has some problems with basic math. Particularly when it comes to Measure UUT, the City Hall proposed April ballot initiative that will raise your utility taxes to some of the highest levels found in the State of California. Here is what he posted on the Sierra Madre Facebook page.

I wasn't aware that the "Algeria on Halloween" event was funded by city money. Probably because it is not. The residents living there foot most of the bills all by themselves. And it would be equally sad to think that the Mount Wilson Trail Race would have to be discontinued without the participation of City Hall. Especially when you consider that nobody employed there ever actually runs in that race.

Also, while the 6% UUT might have had its origins in the distant past, there was quite a long stretch there when it was at 10%. I believe right up until July of 2015. Not certain how Bill could have forgotten that.

However, the worst part of Bill's Facebook post is that it is mathematically illiterate. It took former Sierra Madre City Councilman Chris Koerber to explain why.

This does explains some of Bill Coburn's work on the Public Safety Committee. I'm also not sure what sort of latte' he is talking about.

I hope it isn't the kind you can now legally buy in Colorado. I hear they're highly expensive.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bloomberg Business: The Surge in U.S. Mansion Prices Is Now Over (McMansions Sitting Unsold In Arcadia)

"Mysterious and spooky"
Mod: One of the big myths coming out of Arcadia these days is that all those Addams Family McMannies being built there are somehow creating extraordinary amounts of wealth, and their mere presence has been an economic boon for those privileged enough to dwell behind the Peacock Veil. And, like most myths, particularly those cooked up by specious special interest groups like the Arcadia Realtors claque, nothing could be any farther from the truth. Or at least according to those celebrated and always well-informed financial analysts at Bloomberg Business.

Bloomberg: The Surge in U.S. Mansion Prices Is Now Over

So apparently, and despite what you may have heard from all of the usual suspects, McMansions have actually become a financial burden on the communities where they are built as well. For the rest of this eye opening article click here.

Arcadia Chamber of Commerce Big Dome Quits, Heading to Nebraska

Mod: Arcadia Chamber head Scott Hettrick, who has enjoyed some notoriety on this blog over the last year or so for his willingness to serve as an easy apologist for both Addams Family McMansion development and such infamous Arcadia political figures as John "Johnny GemCoins" Wuo, is hanging it up and heading for Nebraska. Of all places. Another sign that big changes are under way in Peacockia as its once all powerful old guard continues to just fade away.

Thanks to the assistance of invisible hands, here is Scott Hettrick's resignation letter.

Is it just me, or is there some irony in the confessed fact that the CEO of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce can no longer afford to live in that town? And now finds the prospect of living in an apartment complex in Omaha to be a better option?