Monday, July 28, 2014

Sierra Madre's Adjudicated Weekly Newspaper Finally Publishes Our Building Moratorium Public Notice - And Is Doing This Two Times For Free

It's only money
The Public Notice for the remaining City Council business involved in extending Sierra Madre's building moratorium through July of 2016 has now finally been published by the Mountain Views News.

The paper's publisher, who somehow spaced out on her responsibilities (if that's what it was) here a few weeks ago, failed to honor a legally mandated requirement to publish this notice. This is what caused the City Council's deliberations to be bumped out of last Tuesday's agenda and into next month.

Because of Susan's error each of the five City Councilmembers will now have to drag themselves back from their summer vacations to meet in a special session on August 12th. I am certain this has sent all of them deeply into a state of beatific ecstatic peace beyond all known (and as yet unknown) past and present beliefs.

While Mountain Views News publisher Harriet Susan Poole Carter Henderson has steadfastly refused to accept any responsibility for what happened, the City of Sierra Madre did acknowledge the cause for this building moratorium extension discussion being pushed into August. The reason being to do otherwise would have been, thanks to Susan's dottiness, a violation of California law. Here is how this was communicated in a City Hall news release earlier this month (link):

City Council Consideration to Extend the Interim Moratorium
On July 8, 2014, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1357U, establishing an Interim Moratorium Ordinance Pursuant to Government Code Section 65858 on the issuance of all building permits and any discretionary approvals for construction of new development requiring new water service connections. The interim ordinance was an urgency ordinance, making it effective immediately. The Interim Ordinance 1357U will expire on August 22, 2014, unless the City Council takes action to extend the moratorium before it expires.

Originally, the City Council’s consideration of extending the interim ordinance was scheduled for the July 22nd meeting, but the public hearing notice was not printed in the locally adjudicated newspaper (the Mountain Views News) as required by law. This means that the City Council cannot consider extending the ordinance at the next Council meeting, instead the City Council will meet on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm, in the City Hall Council Chambers, to consider extending the moratorium for an additional 22 months and 15 days (until July 5, 2016).

Sierra Madre resident Judy Gold sent an e-mail to City Manager Elaine Aguilar asking her about how our adjudicated weekly newspaper's publisher was going the make good on this failure. The bonus revelation that came out of this exchange being The Mountain Views News is giving the City two freebie runs on this Public Notice. Both this past weekend and next.

Whether this is enough to compensate the taxpayers of Sierra Madre for the expense of having to pay for an otherwise unnecessary "special meeting" (and aren't they all special?) is not known as of this typing.

Here is that e-mail exchange:

This is an enquiry email via City of Sierra Madre from: J. Gold;
Name: J. Gold
Subject: Publication
Message: Last night you mentioned the building moratorium extension notice would be published twice. Why is this notice being published twice? How much does it cost us to publish? And is Ms. Henderson paying for this because of her mistake?

From: Elaine Aguilar
Date: July 24, 2014 at 11:53:00 AM PDT
To: "J. Gold"
Subject: RE: City of Sierra Madre: Publication
Hello Mr. Gold (sic):
The notice is only being published twice to provide as much notice as possible.  The City is not being billed for either the first or the second printing of the notice in the newspaper.  The printing of these two notices is at no cost to the city. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Thank you, Elaine

So there you go. The Mountain Views News is printing the Building Moratorium Public Notice two weekends in a row, and doing it for free. Apparently this is her way of making up for that rather badly timed and unfortunate error.

While Ms. Henderson is loathe to admit any guilt to the general public, she is hardly as evasive when it comes to protecting her relationship with the source of much of her income. 

Is City Hall attempting to restrict your use of the City of Sierra Madre website?

Let's say you are reading the City Manager's Report on the CoSM website, and see something of interest that you would like to forward to a friend. The best way to do that would be to make a cut and paste copy and send it off by e-mail. Unfortunately, and for reasons that are unknown at this time, you are now being blocked from doing this by the City.

Here is a screen shot of this new and unfortunate restriction in action:

When the current City of Sierra Madre website was brought on-line, so very much was made about how it would improve city government transparency in this town.

It is therefore sad to see that City Hall has decided to take so unfortunate a step backwards.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

City To Begin Replacing A 2,500 Foot Stretch Of Water Main This Friday?

Bruce and a rusty pipe
The following article was added to the Los Angeles Register website late last evening, and I am posting a portion of it here for you today. Written by their beat reporter for our city, America Hernandez, you can link to the entire piece by clicking here.

Funding from Bush-era bill reaches local water projects - Sierra Madre among agencies to dip into millions for nationwide water resource development: This city’s rust-tainted water is on a slow path to rehabilitation as a second water main replacement begins Friday, public works officials said.

About 2,500 feet of underground steel pipe, the concrete lining of which has worn away, will be ripped up to make way for new pipes, fire hydrants and water meters. The repair is expected to take two months.

“Our water main system dates back to the late 1920s and has become almost famously unreliable, as seen by major leakage and significant damage to the street,” said Sierra Madre Public Works Director Bruce Inman.

The project is partially funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, made available through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. The federal bill set aside $23 billion for more than 900 nationwide projects and programs, including $25 million for a Los Angeles River revitalization study.

Sierra Madre’s aging water system has been a major concern. After the city began buying water from San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District in October, some residents noticed their tap water had changed color. The severe drought had depleted local groundwater resources, and the new, imported water, treated with purifying chemicals, reacted with the city’s old steel pipes where the concrete lining had worn out. Rust deposits began flowing through taps, toilets and showers.

Despite its appearance, the rusty water, which ranges from bright yellow to gray-brown, has been deemed safe to drink by city officials.

“The current repair is not likely to have an effect that people will see (in the water) since there are dozens of water mains throughout Sierra Madre that need upgrading,” Inman said. “The primary benefit is fixing something that has outlived its service life.”

Sierra Madre’s long-term plan is to repair water transmission lines one by one as money becomes available, officials said. This is the second main to be replaced but the first to receive funding through the federal bill.

I looked at both the City of Sierra Madre website and Facebook page and could find no notification of any upcoming water main replacements. These projects are a pretty big deal in this town, and as with the East Sierra Madre Boulevard pipe replacement back in 2011, normally given a lot of prior notice. Especially for a traffic bending project that will take up to two months.

I also looked in the Mountain Views News and couldn't find anything there, either. Though their July 26th edition did have the following useful upcoming meeting notifications:

I'm renting a time machine for all three of these get-togethers now. They're not the kinds of meetings you'd want to miss more than once.

So if anyone can tell me where exactly the water main construction starting this Friday is going to be taking place, I for one would like to know. Right now this seems to be something of a mystery, at least for me. Maybe I missed something.

There is this one item (link) from the July 8 City Council meeting that indicates the location could be Mountain Trail. Is that ground zero for this one? And if so, have the residents there been notified? Will there be a press release with details of what is expected to happen?

Perhaps City Hall forgot to tell anyone. You know how busy they get sometimes.

2.5 Million Hits

That locally beloved news institution known as The Sierra Madre Tattler passed the 2,500,000 hit mark late last night. A numerical milestone that is quite a robust one for a news site that covers the affairs of one of the smaller burgs in Los Angeles County. And while former Mayor Josh Moran used to famously claim that nobody reads this site, I think that number tells us a slightly different story.

Just so you know, we are currently at 107,908 comments life to date. Also a rather high number. Especially since I believe Josh also used to claim that they were all written by the same three people.

We do have our critics, I suppose.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tony Brandenburg: Muir High School Confidential - The Great Naked PUSD Teacher Selfie Apocalypse

La Fleur de Muir
Dance Monkey Dance
I have been in Europe recently. In fact, that is where I am writing this. I have been here a week or so, and I expect I will be here four weeks later. That is, of course, unless something happens that derails those plans.

Every night I perform music since the digital camera phone became predominant in our world, I have been filmed, photographed, and uploaded. I am approached, on an average, about ten times a day to pose with a complete stranger for a photograph. Think of it as a digital autograph. It is generally uploaded so that the stranger can show their friends an exotic American chimpanzee. I don’t mind. Much.

Except when they ask for it and I am eating. Or sleeping. Or doing my monkey business at the toilet. I am also video-logged in my chimp environment with other chimps playing rock music. These are also uploaded. Generally with mixed results. Sometimes the audio is horrible. Sometimes the picture is blurry. Sometimes the world gets both. I never really know what is uploaded, who will see it, or what purpose it may serve. I just have to hope it captures me in a semi-reliable light and that I am only coming across as half a wit, and not a complete and total idiot.

It is what it is. Because of that, I have to live with the knowledge that at any time, on any date, I could be called to the mat by any number of people in my professional and personal life to answer for something I have done or said. That means any parent, student, colleague, superior, inferior, fan, or instigator can ask me about my behavior on any given day or time about over ten thousand videos, recordings, photos, interviews, blogs, quotes, and other snippets of my public life over the last 35 or so years. That is a great deal of miles.

I am a public figure, and a public servant. It is part of the territory marked for me by the other chimps. All I can really do is to sniff, shrug, and carry on. Bananas are my target, and I am always finagling how I can find more.

My Collegiate Chimps
Which brings us to the, um, meat of the matter here. Sometime, earlier this month, a teacher at Muir High School in the Pasadena Unified School District was caught with his pants down. Literally.

Now, I am not sure where, or how to continue here because there are so many directions this indiscretion can go. So I suppose I should just shoot straight ahead. From the hip, so to speak. This teacher, a biology teacher I assume, was taking physiology to new heights. And beyond. There he sat, in an - um- handful of sprawling poses, with his number one on proud display.

Now, I’m not offended by such a shot. After all, I had to endure high school locker rooms like everyone else. But I never had to look at anyone’s genitalia like it was put out on display, and certainly not a teacher’s junk.

What I am getting at is this - it didn’t bother me. Just another picture of a dummy who couldn’t keep his pride within his pants. I see that kind of idiocy all of the time.

But this indiscretion had a price tag attached to it. And the cost hasn’t been realized yet. And the Pasadena Unified School District is trying to put a lid on it. Good luck with that.

Groupon, Groupoff, Group Email
So. These five picture get sent from a computer account belonging to the teacher, and are sent to a number of PUSD recipients. Teachers, administrators, top brass, and students. The email was then distributed to others. I believe I have an email of the third or fourth generation.

In other words, it got around. Now everyone knows what the biology teacher is packing.

A Polite Response
The Pasadena Police Department investigation has, to my knowledge, simply delegated this to a computer email hack, and left it at that. As for the Altadena Sheriff, who knows. But the response seems to treat it as a simple hack or revenge porn attack. In other words, someone hacked the teachers computer and account, and then sent it out in a mass mailer.

That is a pretty horrible thing to do to someone, let’s be clear on that. No one deserves to have their personal diary made public. That’s pretty messed up.

Clearly, he may have pissed someone off, and they lumped him up for it. Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned, and all that jazz. He was taught a horrible lesson about trusting the wrong person or people and perhaps left himself wide open. Or  maybe he was just stupid and left it on a unsecured computer. Who knows?

But in typical high school form, it spread like wildfire. The police response was, put simply, to be expected. They only use the Internet to troll Facebook in order to catch people like Anaheim James (click here). Investigating the distribution of nude pictures to school employees and minors is not investigation worthy. Hell, it’s hardly newsworthy.


The PUSD response has been equally noteworthy in an indifferent, whatever, sort of way. Former Superintendent Jon Gundry - who has his bags packed and couldn’t zip them up fast enough and get the hell out of Dodge - has released a quick apology to the first recipients of the email.

An inappropriate email message was sent to numerous email addresses from a Pasadena Unified School District account on Thursday, July 10. If you received this email, I would like to apologize for any harm this email might have caused and want to assure you that we are working with the relevant authorities to investigate the matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact PUSD Director of Human Resources Jose Alarcon at (626) 396-3600, ext: 88778.

Anyone else who received it doesn’t get an apology. That is beyond the scope of the district’s interest or responsibility, I suppose. Parents of students who may have also received the email have not been notified. This seems to be a more than slight oversight.

I mean I know I’m scarred by this image myself, but not by King Ooopsie’s photo essay and email. I'm scarred by the response, and that typical PUSD "Who's on First?" attitude about it. No apology needed for me. No apologies for anyone else, either. But a reasonable explanation would be nice.

No reprimand - or if there is one - we’ll never know. Union politics, no doubt. No moving the teacher to another school. Probably for the same reason. He has done nothing wrong, technically, so why move him involuntarily.

One district spokesperson likened it to teen sexting. I beg to disagree here. The teacher is not a teen. Teens who sext one another are generally willing participants. When they’re not, then it could be considered a crime. Willing, or not, transferring images of minors is a crime, and one that minors can also be prosecuted for.

Transferring images of an adult to a minor is also a crime. The person who sent this email should be vigorously pursued and prosecuted for more than just hacking into a computer or an account.

The only crime the teacher himself is guilty of is being an idiot.  Either he was stupid for leaving these images in his computer, or he was stupid because someone he may have trusted made public some personal information. He was an idiot for taking the damn things and leaving them accessible to whomever did this. Those aren’t prosecutable crimes. Just something that shows foolishness, a lack of discretion, and some really bad luck. On his part.

The crime is that someone did this to him. That someone accessed his private life and made it public. That someone intentionally spread anarchy into and through the district mail chain- and that the district filters didn’t catch it. Whether this was a viral hack or an act of intentional hatred is moot. The outcome is the same.

What was done to this man is wrong, and it needs to be vigorously pursued and denounced. That can be done without accepting any liability or blame on the part of PUSD.

Pussyfooting around, or trying to play it down is not enough.

Source: Transparent California
A Quick Overview of the media Coverage
The Pasadena Star News (click here), local television affiliate KTLA (click here) and the L.A. Times (click here) have all covered the story. Hell, even the journalist Renatta Cooper keeps in her political back pocket over at the Pasadena Weekly has covered it (click here), and with the aptly titled double entendre, Junk Mail. Here is something from the Pasadena Star News article:

Pasadena Police Commander John Perez said several people who received the email called the Police Department that day, which prompted an investigation.“We don’t have anybody in custody. We do have leads,” Perez said. He didn’t say who they suspect as the culprit. Perez said Rosa is not a suspect.

“We did talk to him, and we determined he was likely not the sender,” Perez said.

Police don’t know the motive and haven’t narrowed down from where the email was sent. PUSD spokesman Adam Wolfson said district officials notified police when they learned about the message.

“We let Pasadena PD know because of the content of the email and because minors were on the distribution list,” Wolfson said.

Perez said he knows the sheriff’s Altadena station also got calls from email recipients.

From the Pasadena Weekly

A California “revenge porn” law passed in 2013, made it illegal to distribute sexually explicit photos that belonged to another person who expected the images to remain private. The crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If the victim, including the recipient of the images, is under the age of 18 or the defendant has a previous conviction for revenge porn, then the crime is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

The incident has left district officials scrambling to resolve the matter.

The Buck Passes Here
The computer and smart phones have become today's digital gossip machine. I would call that bullying myself, and I would go one further as to say it is rampant at the PUSD. I know first hand, my family were victimized too. The district’s response was that it wasn’t under their control what people in the community do.

That’s the problem here. No one there is ever responsible for anything. People are chewed up and spit out at the PUSD, and the general response is so ineffective and weak that there is no right or wrong any more. It is the wild west, and everyone is armed except the sheriff.

This teacher has - rightly or wrongly - been turned into a total buffoon. His gear will be drawn and distributed every time he annoys a student or colleague. There will be no reprimands for this behavior as the bullying enters the next ugly, ugly phase. And it will.

The reason? There is no clearly stated position on bullying and the consequences associated when it occurs. It will be hushed up, swept under a carpet, and will remain the elephant in the room.

The Community’s Responses
The responses from the community came pretty quick. The students seem mostly concerned that he will be fired. That isn’t likely form the district’s response to the matter.

One Petition titled Save Mr. Rosa: To help Mr. Rosa have a fighting chance to save his job is at Move (click here) and had over 489 signatures at the time of this writing. The background given there is rather vague:

"Mr. Rosa is one of the most professional teachers I know and I would hate for a great teacher to lose a job based on a mistake that may have been an accident. He's taught me so much and I don't want a teacher who has impacted lives to be turned down because of a mistake. Considering John Muir High School has a bad reputation, he's one of the best teachers who cares about the students and actually shows that he wants to be there."

Now, granted, there is nothing to indicate these signatures are 100% reliable, and in fact I found a few repeats, as well as a few that would be hard to verify as legitimate. Then there were some just plain funny signatures. I am sure that Olaf the Snowman and Fistum are probably not their real names. Tina from Pasadena probably is.

In any event, there were many positive responses. Certainly Rosa is a teacher who is loved and honored by his students. He is clearly respected, though the level of understanding regarding the pictures, his job, and the quagmire this teacher has sunk into, is varied. Some of the more quotable:

"This a personal and embarrassing attack taken against Mr. Rosa not to mention evil. DO NOT FIRE this man. This is also an invasion of his privacy."

"I hope they catch the person or people who did this. What a horrible nasty thing to do to someone. Good Luck."

"Everyone has a personal life and should be respected always. People from all walks of life take nude pictures and have an intimate life."

"Mr Rosa was there for me when I was attending John Muir High school. he help me through my sickness and for that I thank him. everyone makes mistakes and he deserves a second chance"

"He was hacked and someone was trying to ruin his life.""Mr. Rosa is one of the best science teachers John Muir High School has ever had and it needs to stay that way. Without him there is complete inconsistency in the science department but with him there is consistency in the science department. John Muir high school students need him to succeed in our high school career."

"SAVE MR ROSA. Best teacher out there. Just because of a mistake doesn't mean he has to loose his job. He was always sarcastic in class but he was the best. SAVE MR ROSA!!"

"He's a great teacher and he does care about the kids. The indecent is very unfortunate but that is not what Mr. Rosa is about and I am sure he did not do it himself."

"He's a great teacher and he does care about the kids. The indecent is very unfortunate but that is not what Mr. Rosa is about and I am sure he did not do it himself."

"From what I know & believe about Mr. Richard Rosa, the recent event it is out of character of for him. I've known him as a co-worker for 1 1/2 year and my daughter was a student in his class for 2 semesters. He has never behaved in any way but respectful and professional towards students, staff and parents. As a former parent of a John Muir Student I'm asking that he be afforded fair treatment and that there us NO rush to judge who I believe to be is a terrible and cruel act at the hands of someone other than Mr. Rosa."

"The general sense of mistake often plagues our very existence on an every day basis and while it seems to be greater for others Mr. Rosa is a man that has been part of this and I believe that this is proof of that, he touches the lives of many of his students and it's a shame if he were let go by a mere rule of everyday life as making one mistake."

"Please keep Mr. Rosa and save his job. A mistake like that is unacceptable but it was not his fault. One mistake should not affect a life, a career, and a whole platoon of people who loves and believes in him. He changed the lives of his students positively."

"All my life hated Biology! All my life I failed anything related to science and since then I believed that science will never teach me anything. But I had Mr.Rosa as my Biology teacher on my first year here in United States and he changed my prospective of Science. He was passionate about his class and teaching his students. I loved and enjoyed Biology! He was a great teacher and I believe he still is. He will touch his students heart and he will help them and teach them to become a better student. Keep him and let him have his job! We all make mistakes, we are human being. It is part of life and I really hope and pray he gets to keep his job!"

"I graduated Muir in 2012 I was one of Mr. Rosa's first students, and I can truly say he has impacted my educational career . He is very good teacher because he is easier to talk to and relates more to the student cause there's not a big age gap. I was in his pre-calculus class and even with such a tuff subject he was able to teach very well. I don't think he should be fired because other people thought it would be funny to play a prank on him."

A Class Trip to the Zoo
Over the years I have taken my class to the zoo. Granted, my students are in elementary school, so my discussion here may be a bit of a stretch. Regardless, when you go to the zoo, you have to be prepared for the things animals do. And, yes, they do. If you are a professional you handle the situations discreetly and quickly. If you don’t, or can’t, you will lose control of the class, and the conversation quickly. If that happens, believe me, you are toast.

So you get on the tightrope, and you balance.

“Oh, you heard that?” when the rhino let’s roar a rhino fart. “That was loud, and yes, it is funny” and you move on. All the while trying to keep a straight face because, you have to admit it. Rhino farts are funny.

The pooping giraffe. “Oh, I know, all animals poop. But I don’t see a toilet in there, and I know there aren’t any in the wild. That must be how they take care of their businsess” and move on.

Every single animal in the zoo that licks itself. And licks itself. And licks itself. And licks some more. “Oh. That. That is grooming. Animals sometimes do that to keep clean”  and move on.

The ambitious flamingo. “Huh. Well. That is mating. It’s part of the life cycle” and you move on.

There was one particular adventure I recall where I made the decision to sit thirty five kids across from the chimp enclosure. It seemed like the logical thing to do. After all, they were tired, and if I had to hear “I’m hungry” again in the hour, I think I would have invited a lion over for lunch. So I made an executive decision, and sat the kids on the nice amphitheater style benches facing the chimpanzees. It was designed, after all, for snacking, resting, and watching our simian cousins.

Everything went fine. For a while. The chimps socialized, goofed off, and generally made monkeys of themselves, The children laughed, ate, socialized, and generally made monkeys of themselves, too.

Then it happened.

First, one chimpanzee decided he was Inspector Gadget, and started to play with his gear. And to share this with anyone, man or monkey, who cared to observe. It was getting to the point of obnoxious when a second chimp screeched at the exhibitionist. Only then did the chimp on display come to the conclusion that it was time to move on.

He left.

Sound advice from one chimp to another. Sometimes a fresh start is a good idea.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Transparent California Is Now Doing For School Districts What It Did For Cities

I received a couple of e-mails this week from Transparent California. As part of their ever expanding coverage of government employee compensation in this our once Golden State, they are now posting pay, pension and benefit data from every reporting school district in the State of California. Including our very own Pasadena Unified School District.

Based on Transparent California's findings, we are going to have a special report on the PUSD sometime next week. However, as a special sneak preview for you guys, below is a chart that shows just how much Superintendents are compensated in four area L.A. County school districts. If you match the dollars paid with the results of a given superintendent's work, in this case API scores, you can then see some very interesting results.

In Robert Fellner's words, "Let’s just say you guys are dramatically overpaying for your superintendent."

Here is the announcement that was sent out earlier this week to the press statewide:

To check out what is going on in every public school district in California, including our own, click here. We are now getting close to knowing what is up with every paid government employee in this state. Including their salaries, pensions and benefits. Transparent California is putting all of this information on one easily accessed site.

And like I said, we will have more on the local school story for you next week.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Despite What You've Heard - The Sunsetting Of The UUT Is Not The End Of The World

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting we heard a discussion on Agenda Item #5, which deals with the sunsetting of our current state highest utility taxes. A distinction that the voters had decided to lose last April.

Titled “FY 2014-2015 Budget: Direction Regarding General Fund Budget Reductions In Preparation For Utility User Tax Sunset,” it was discussed with great solemnity by City Staff. And in order to emphasize the seriousness of this situation, each city department head rose from their seats and one by one approached the public comment podium to share with all of us just how terrible the UUT sunset is going to be for them.

Then our City Manager, and in the most melancholy way possible, detailed what cuts might be made, and with each example took care to outline just how difficult this would be, and how bad it would make things for the City of Sierra Madre. It was a reprise of a very familiar performance from Elaine. Of course, things such as that now famous $37,800 a year health care plan, perhaps the highest of its kind in all the State of California, were not mentioned.

At the end of this discussion an unfortunate situation developed between Councilmembers Delmar and Arizmendi, and a rather truculent Gene Goss. The difference of opinion was over the severity of the effects of the sunsetting UUT, with Councilmember Goss becoming nearly abusive about it. Here is how one reader commented on this set-to:

We here at The Tattler agree with Rachelle and Denise. To say that the survival of Sierra Madre is dependent upon this city charging one of the very few double-digit utility tax rates to be found anywhere in this country is just absurd. The real issue here is whether Sierra Madre is willing to accommodate Los Angeles style benefit and health care packages for its unionized employees, or pay for something that is a little more in line with what a small city of less than 11,000 people can afford.

As you may recall, during the run-up to last April's voter verdict on Measure UUT, City Hall was claiming that it would lose about half a million dollars for every 2% the UUT went down. So in 2015 at 8% they'd be off $500,000, and in 2016 at 6% they'd be down a $1,000,000 from what they'd been receiving.

Or, to put it on the Josh Moran coffee scale, the approximate cost of 250,000 grande' cups of Starbucks latte,' with that always essential extra shot added. Only the most callow of coffee parvenus would ever drink their latte' any other way. I'm sorry, but that is just how I feel.

The threat heard loud and often from certain involved persons is that this loss of revenue would lead to such dire consequences as the closing of the Library, outsourcing the Sierra Madre Police Department, and the end to our sweet little arrangement with the Paramedics. Defibrillators and all. In other words, just general chaos, mayhem and some of the milder forms of rioting in the street. With decorum, of course. Please remember where you are.

We here at The Tattler would hate to see any of that happen. We were also tickled pink to see Measure UUT go down in flames. Something that may cause some of those among us to sense a contradiction. But we're not like that. Well, not often.

So, putting pencil to paper, I believe we have come up with a way to have our cake and allow the City to eat some, too. Without wholesale firings, or the streets left wide open to crime and mayhem because we have too few cops.

The above graph was created for us by our friends at Note that the cost of these very generous health, dental and vision care plans we give to our city's Top 10 most benefit enriched employees average a ridiculously high $29,601 a year.

Also note that the cost of such health benefits to the average American citizen is right around $7,000. In our view that is quite a discrepancy.

It is important to note that there would be a potential savings of $226,000 a year if these Top 10 city government employees simply received an average costing health plan. And in a city where we have been forced to accept two water rate hikes in 5 years, a nearly 100% in combined increases, it is an unconscionable amount.

$226,000 a year is a lot of dough in anybody's estimation. Even our City Hall would be impressed by such a figure. But ask yourself this, what if all of those health, dental and vision plans given to our city's somewhat overcompensated employees were brought down to that national average of $7,000 per year? How much money could we save then?

Below is a chart which details the compensation received by our full-time City of Sierra Madre employees. It will enlarge if you click on it. The cost of their health, dental and vision plans are broken out on the right. Those figures are all over the map, as you can clearly see. How this might have happened I am not sure. But there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.

So what we have done here is add up the costs of all of those yearly platinum health care plan costs detailed in the column titled "Health, Dental and Vision." That number comes out to $560,649. Or way more than half of what the City of Sierra Madre will lose every year when our UUT here goes down to 6% in 2016.

There are 34 health, vision and dental plans listed here that are above the national average of $7,000. 34 times $7,000 comes to $238,000 per year. Subtract that from our yearly nut of $560,649 and we the taxpaying citizens of Sierra Madre could save $322,649 every year! Or nearly a third of that yearly $1,000,000 lost due to the sunsetting of the UUT.

What this struggle at City Hall is really all about is saving union negotiated benefits, such as $30,000+ a year health care plans, from the chopping block. Yet by bringing such benefit costs down to the level most tax paying residents of Sierra Madre get, saving city services such as the Library and Police Department becomes possible.

You have to wonder why Councilmember Goss would want to put union issues that he feels are important above the safety and needs of the people of Sierra Madre.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gene Goss Is Kind Of A Funny Dude

"We have two fine candidates. I don't know either one of them." - Gene Goss

Mod: A few interesting things happened at last night's City Council meeting. I am not going to get into very much of that today because I have to get up early tomorrow, and it is almost 1 AM as I am typing this. If I don't get my five hours of shut eye I'll be a little less than functional at work tomorrow. Which is probably OK. I do work in the music business. It's not like I'll be operating on anyone's brain or anything.

The one thing I would like to share with you today is what happened when the City Council selected a new member for the Community Services Commission. Most of the City Council supported the obviously more qualified of the two people under consideration. Gene Goss did not, and ended up casting the only vote for the other candidate. We're going to try and explain that.

Here is how the winning candidate for that Community Services Commission seat, Debbie Sheridan, presented herself at last nights's City Council meeting.

Good evening Councilmembers.  Congratulations Mayor Harabedian on the birth of your son.  Thank you for giving me a second opportunity to speak about my  qualifications for Community Services Commissioner. 

At the July 8 meeting, I let you know about my 27 year involvement with Sierra Madre Little League, Pony and Colt League, girls’ softball, Manager of the Dapper Diner, AYSO, LaSalle Parents Board, Athletic Boosters, and writing articles for the Sierra Madre News and Sierra Madre Weekly, as well as serving as liaison to the Pasadena Star News sports editor.  I mentioned my four year involvement in serving on the General Plan Update Steering Committee.  I coordinated the Outreach Team, which helped the paid consultants with many tasks and provided the publicity for our three Town Hall Forums.  My subcommittee developed and administered the community wide survey.  Tonight I’d like to mention the other local activities I’ve participated in, as well as adding detail to my application for this position.   

I have an MBA, with a concentration in Marketing.  I was an Assistant Professor and taught Marketing, Market Research, Accounting, Income Tax, Business Management, and Ethics.  As an IRS Agent, I audited the tax returns, legal documents and financial statements of small businesses.  I was promoted to the Review Staff, and reviewed other Agents’ work for correct administration of the tax law and technical correctness.

I’ve marched in the Fourth of July parade several times, my favorite being with the Friends of the Arts.  I was an easel, and was painted on down the parade route.  I also marched for the dog park, which shortly afterward became a reality.  I have served on two committees that are part of the Community Services Commission.  As part of the SM3TV committee, Illona Volkman and I reviewed the SM3TV contract, and reported our findings to the committee.  I was on the Art Review Board for four years, and am currently a member of the Friends of the Arts.  I have helped with the Friends of the Library Wine Tasting, Concert in the Park, making and selling confetti eggs on the Fourth of July.  

I played softball in our adult softball league.  We were the Madres and Padres.  About ten years ago, I formed a soccer team, Haute Pink, to compete against much younger women.  It took us a year before we scored a goal, but not only is the team still going strong, an article about us was on page 1 of the California section of the Los Angeles Times.  I have been profiled as Volunteer of the Week in The Mountain View News.

My experience and involvement gives me the expertise to assess contracts and budgets, write articles for the local newspapers, develop surveys and assess the needs of all members of the community.  I’ve worked with City staff as Deputy City Clerk, and on committees, and have learned about the organizational structure of the City. 

I’d like to mention that I’ve had the opportunity to live elsewhere and have benefited from the exposure of living in other cities, other states, and other countries.  

Once again, thank you for this opportunity. 

Others in attendance at last night's City Council meeting also spoke on Debbie's behalf.  
Here is how the candidate that Gene Goss voted for represented himself. Keep in mind that Mr. Loera did not show up at last night's City Council meeting, nor did anyone but Gene speak on his behalf. Instead all we have is the following application.

That is it. About as minimal an effort as you can possibly make. You can only wonder why he even bothered to try.

So why did Goss vote for the candidate who not only has done very little, but also showed that he didn't feel he needed to work very hard to get the gig? Here is how one poster put it last night.

That commission is comprised of intelligent and highly independent people who do not kowtow to City Hall. Instead they do what they think is right for the community. For the people Gene Goss represents that is a bad thing. They want people who will do what the City Manager tells them to do.

Works for me. The only thing I would add is to follow the money. City Hall wants to monetize everything it possibly can. Those belonging to the Community Services Commission would rather do what is right for the people of Sierra Madre. And Goss, as something of a L.A. County political machine kind of a guy, only cares about keeping the unions happy.

Speaking of which, we'll get into that somewhat inaccurate UUT presentation city staff put on in our next post. But I would like to leave you with this reader comment, which was posted here late last evening.

I'm completely irate about the way Gene Goss addressed Rachelle and Denise about their remarks about the future budget and the way it can be changed without employee reduction. He clearly has an issue with women smarter than he is. Good for Rachelle for putting him in his place - very politely. I'm also worried that Capoccia has mentioned such drastic cuts as closing the library. If you want to see a public uprising, just try that one on for size. 

I think Delmar and Arizmendi are on the right track about reorganization of departments, and the fact that the projection of the deficit may not be as large as predicted. Combine the two and problem solved.

You really do have to start wondering what troubles the guy. That and who exactly is feeding him all of the nonsense he so obviously believes.

But that is a topic for tomorrow. At least for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Captain Obvious On Agenda Item #5 “FY 2014-2015 Budget: Direction Regarding General Fund Budget Reductions In Preparation For Utility User Tax Sunset.”

Credit: NPRI
(Mod: Frequent Tattler commenter Captain Obvious needs no explanatory introduction. Obviously. The Captain often speaks out on this blog about the very special economics of City Hall, a place where the everyday financial pressures of life somehow do not always apply, and the numbers sometimes just don't quite add up. At least in a traditional mathematical sense ... Come join in the fun as the Captain slices and dices city staff's quirky claims regarding the upcoming sunsetting of the UUT. A topic that will be presented at tonight's City Council meeting by the City Manager and other staff types as one of the greatest tragedies of our times. And yet, as Captain Obvious clearly demonstrates below, the numbers just do not justify all of that sobbing.)

The Captain enjoys a good intellectual read, sometimes. And other times, he’d prefer a good laugh. City Hall must be reading the Captain’s mind, ergo, the staff report from tonight’s (7/22) City Council meeting.

Yes, it’s the dreaded Agenda Item #5, titled “FY 2014-2015 Budget: Direction Regarding General Fund Budget Reductions In Preparation For Utility User Tax Sunset.”

If you need a good laugh, read the full staff report – all 10 pages. The Captain loved, yes, loved, Page 2 of 10: “General Fund Comparison of Revenues to Expenditures (in thousands) including Transfers In/Out."

The Captain won’t be attending the meeting this evening, but here are some good questions for lots of people to ask at Public Comment (feel free to have a number of people ask the same question – tell ‘em the Captain sent ya!) Please be sure to pass a copy of your questions to the City Clerk so they can go into the minutes.

Question 1: City revenues for FY (fiscal year) ending 6/30/2012 were $7.98 million. The current budget for FY ending 06/30/2015 (the year we’re in now) proposes $9.04 million. That’s a $1million dollar bump, or an average of 4.4% in increases in just 3 years.

Why did the revenues go up so much? Didn’t the UUT fail in 2012?

Question 2: City revenues for FY ending 6/30/2012 were $7.98 million. The City’s “doomsday” scenario for the FY ending 06/30/2017 (after the UUT rate sunsets to 6%) shows projected revenues at $ 8.56 million. This shows a $580,000 increase (over half a million dollars) or an average of 1.5% increase per year over those 5 years.

What increased services does the city provide now, or will provide in 2016, that it didn’t provide in 2012?

Question 3: In the July 17, 2014 edition of the Sierra Madre Weekly, City Manager Elaine Aguilar talks about an estimated $1 million less revenues after July 1, 2016 as the UUT sunset to 6%. Why didn’t she mention the expected $1 million increase in revenues from FY 2012 to FY 2014?

Question 4: The estimated Sierra Madre Police Department budget for FY ending 06/30/2014 was $ 3.504 million. The proposed FY ending 06/30/2015 shows a $3.906 million budget. That’s a $402,000 increase, or an 11.5% jump, and IN ONLY ONE YEAR! Why does it appear the City is building in a big pay raise for the police before negotiations have even gotten near the finish line?

A couple of bonus questions:

Question 5: Please explain how the City projected only about a 6.0% increase in property tax revenues for FY ending 06/30/2015 when at least 64 homes have sold in the last 90 days? That works out to about 240 for the entire year. These sales are not one time things - the increased taxes will continue year after year.

Question 6: Before we added paramedics in 2008, the City got along with a 6% UUT rate that applied to less types of utilities than we pay now. When was the last time (if ever) the City explored having the County provide paramedic services?

The Captain thinks the City’s answers to these questions should be transparent. With your help, we can get the clear answers we deserve.

Today's Pasadena Star News article on the development moratoriums

Mod: Is it just me, or are the three McMansion developers starting to sound just a little bit whiny? Today's Star News article, written by Zen Vuong and called, "Developers not bothered Sierra Madre’s water conservation measures" (link), gives us a bit of palaver from the folks in that corner. People who actually sound, well, kind of bothered.

Here is an example:

Cameron Thornton, spokesman for the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, said the 20 acres of vacant land his ministry hopes to develop into single-family homes is at least three years away from breaking ground. The building moratorium could be extended for a maximum of two years. In fact, the organization has yet to start a property sale process.

“It doesn’t change our need to sell the land to raise funds, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “We still have the need to care for our aging priests in America and abroad. Quite candidly, it doesn’t change anything. Our biggest hope is that the moratorium will allow the community to come together and have civil exchanges and have honest conversations.”

There you go. Apparently Cameron Thornton believes that the people of Sierra Madre have been uncivil and dishonest on this topic. Probably because so many haven't been seeing things quite his way.

So how civil would it be to subject this community to years of the dirt, noise and pollution of so massive a construction project, and just because the Passionists did not plan properly for the retirement of their people? And isn't that what Thornton does for a living? Retirement planning?

And honestly, how in the world can Cameron Thornton claim with a straight face that "the organization has yet to start a property sale process?"

Really, Cameron? Does New Urban West know?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sacramento Is Cracking Down On Your Water Use

Got paint?
I guess it was inevitable. When even the all knowing and mighty statesmen of Sacramento have woken up to the fact that the State of California and its 39 million thirsty residents could run out of water, and within the next two years no less, then you know it really must be serious.

Despite all of the nonsense we've heard from visiting developer suits and their legal hirelings at our two most recent City Council meetings (link), it really is a very dangerous situation. And also one more instance where the forces of nature have somehow magically intervened to prevent Sierra Madre from being chopped up into yet another unhappy and overdeveloped example of California Generica.

But not without a cost. Here is an ABC News article that discusses California running out of water in as little as two years.

FEDERAL METEOROLOGIST: CALIFORNIA 2 YEARS AWAY FROM RUNNING OUT OF WATER (link): A U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist believes California is only two years away from completely running out of water. 

In a recent interview with 24/7 Wall St., federal meteorologist Brad Rippey said the drought has dragged on for three-and-a-half years in many parts of the country and is possibly worst in California. 

"Reservoirs which are generally fed by the Sierra Nevada's and the southern Cascades [are] where we see the real problems," Rippey told 24/7 Wall St., "At [the current] usage rate, California has less than two years of water remaining."

So the not so quickly reacting solons of Sacramento, who have finally taken things such as the above to heart, have now cooked up something completely the opposite of what Sierra Madre's City Council did with its Phase III water use restrictions the other week. Opposite in that the mavens up north kept the fines, but did absolutely nothing about limiting any new water uses for development.

Which is something that the building and real estate lobbies in Sacramento, folks who lavish these mendacious malefactors with millions of dollars in campaign donations in exchange for their legislative favor, would never tolerate.

Here is a portion of an article recently published by The New York Times (link):

California Approves Forceful Steps Amid Drought With rainfall this year at historically low levels and reservoirs quickly dwindling, California officials on Tuesday approved the most drastic measures yet to reduce water consumption during the state’s increasingly serious drought, including fines of up to $500 per day under some circumstances for watering a garden, washing a car or hosing down a sidewalk.

The new measures come in response to an apathetic public that has ignored repeated pleas to save water since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January. Though the governor asked all Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, water use actually increased by 1 percent statewide in May, according to a state survey released Tuesday.

Californians are turning in their neighbors. “People really don’t understand the gravity of the drought, particularly in urban California, where people are hundreds of miles from their water source,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted on Tuesday to impose the new regulations. They are expected to take effect around Aug. 1.

It is pretty much a bash the little guy attempt at a solution. And, as is the practice in Sacramento, they did what they enjoy doing best, taking more money from folks like you and I.

And so, on Tuesday evening, down there at the Slough of Despond (which some still insist on calling Council Chambers), Sacramento's water fine happy mandate will be weighed by the City Council. It is Item #2 on the agenda, and it looks something like this:

The Staff Report for this momentous little number has a lot of information that I don't think needs to be regurgitated here. If you wish to do so you can read the whole thing by clicking here and moving your eyeballs from left to right. But here is the passage that details what fines you could be paying, and soon:

Here is what you, the offending townie, will be fined for should you fail to get with it:

And here is where those who will be enforcing this state mandated crackdown on your suspect water habits are identified:

No news yet if City Hill will be sponsoring a "Turn In Your Neighbor" promotion, but if there is a revenue stream attached to it I am certain that they will.

Perhaps some state funding is available?

The Looney Views News Airbrushes Itself Out of the Picture

The Looney, which caused quite a bit of chaos in town last week when somehow the City's legal notice for the scheduled Public Hearing on the building moratorium mysteriously didn't make it into the paper, printed the following Saturday:

It is funny how the paper's starring role in all of this somehow got left out. Well, OK, maybe not that funny.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pasadena Star News - Saving flushed fire hydrant water too expensive, Sierra Madre officials say

Mod: This was originally posted at the bottom of the previous article, but since the first three comments made so much sense I thought I would move it up here and make this into a separate post. It certainly is a topic that has been on the minds of a lot of people over the last year or so.

This article, written by Zen Vuong of the Star News, brings up a few points that I think are pretty important. The topics being yellow water, and the extraordinary amount the city has to flush out of the pipes through hydrants to get this water to run clear. Something that many here believe is extremely wasteful. Here are the first few paragraphs. If you want to read the entire article, the link is here.

Saving flushed fire hydrant water too expensive, Sierra Madre officials say The city recently mandated 30 percent water conservation, yet it frequently runs fire hydrant water into the gutter because city workers determined that recycling yellow-orange water that’s provided to most residents would be too expensive.

Bruce Inman, director of public works, said Sierra Madre has always flushed out its water system because of health department requirements. But it increased the hydrant flushing frequency in October because adulterated water was coming out of faucets and taps throughout the city. Workers are trying to clear loose rust and particles from pipes by forcing large amounts of water through more often.

Sierra Madre owns a water truck that could hold about 3,000 gallons of water, but it is infrequently used during hydrant flushing, Inman said. The city would expend more money saving the water than it would if it let the liquid run its course into gutters and groundwater sources.

“The difficulty you still have is the amount of time that is spent driving the truck back and forth between fire hydrants,” Inman said. “We do not have adequate staff to devote to the hydrant flushing process.”

Even as city employees are running water through hydrants, the council approved mandatory 30 percent water conservation on July 8.

While much of the article is a discussion with Bruce Inman, there is also a short interview with Fay Angus about colored water and how that has affected her water usage.

Here are those comments:

Did Mayor John Harabedian Give Sierra Madre "The Horns" at the 4th of July Parade?

Did he?
Having grown up in the belly of New Jersey, and therefore immersed in a culture that has blessed our world with such classic highbrow entertainment as "Jersey Shore" (link) and "The Guido Guide" (link), I am deeply aware of the phenomenon known as "giving someone the horns." Being of mostly garden variety Celtic descent myself, I was never personally invited to participate in this form of communication. Which is fine, and I did not take that personally. But I have witnessed this kind of thing up close. And yes, I can say "yo."

Which is pretty much why this picture of the Mayor of Sierra Madre, torn from the front page of a recent issue of the nearly newsless Looney Views News, jumped right out at me. Because, at least in this picture, it does look like The Mayor is giving somebody "the horns." Or, having now appeared on the front page of our adjudicated weekly paper, perhaps it is nearly everyone in the city that got them. Crowd horning, as it were.

A blog that refers to itself as Mozzarella Mamma explains what is actually at stake here. This from an article titled "What does it mean to 'have horns' in Italy?" (link):

Italy is the country where instead of giving someone the traditional finger in the car, you can really insult them by giving them the ‘corne’ or horns. That is the index finger and the pinkie raised to look like horns.  If you say in Italian that someone has corne, it means that his or her spouse is cheating.  They are being cuckolded. That is the worst possible insult you can give to an Italian man.  As tempted as I have been in the past to make use of the gesture against aggressive, obnoxious Italian male drivers, Gustavo warned me that people, who have made that gesture in the past, have been run down and murdered by the insulted driver.

I have also provided you with this screen shot from "The Guido Guide" website. It shows how an individual might give someone "the horns." This can seem to be a bit aggressive, and is most certainly disrespectful. And as it suggests here, "The Horns" is not just commentary on the sad state of someone's marriage, or the lack of faithfulness in a wandering spouse. It can also be shown in a way that indicates the giver is attempting to ward off suspected evils in a targeted individual, or give them a curse. This from a Wikipedia piece titled "Sign of the horns" (link).

Its earliest use can be seen in India, as a gesture very commonly used by Gautama Buddha as Karana Mudra which is synonymous with expulsion of demons and removal of obstacles like sickness or negative thoughts. The same usage can be seen in Italy and Mediterranean culture as well where, when confronted with unfortunate events, or simply when these events are mentioned, the sign of the horns may be given to ward off bad luck. It is also used traditionally to counter or ward off the "evil eye" (malocchio). With fingers down, it is a common apotropaic gesture, by which superstitious people seek protection in unlucky situations (It is a more Mediterranean equivalent of knocking on wood). 

Thus, for example, the President of the Italian Republic, Giovanni Leone, shocked the country when, while in Naples during an outbreak of cholera, he shook the hands of patients with one hand while with the other behind his back he made the corna. This act was well documented by the journalists and photographers who were right behind him, a fact that had escaped President Leone's mind in that moment.

In Peru one says contra (against). In the Dominican Republic the expression is zafa, said against curses known as fuk├║. All of these gestures are meant to conjure supernatural protection.

If this is actually the case here, we can only surmise what manner of evil Mayor Harabedian was attempting to ward off at our 4th of July parade. So we won't.

All of that said, it must also be noted here that sign language for "I love you" is also "the horns." How this can be I am not sure. It does seem to fly in the face of ancient traditions. Maybe the intent in this instance is ironic? It certainly does seem to be quite an appropriation.

The Tattler will follow up on this important story if and when more information becomes available to us.

In today's Pasadena Star News:

Saving flushed fire hydrant water too expensive, Sierra Madre officials say - The city recently mandated 30 percent water conservation, yet it frequently runs fire hydrant water into the gutter because city workers determined that recycling yellow-orange water that’s provided to most residents would be too expensive.

Bruce Inman, director of public works, said Sierra Madre has always flushed out its water system because of health department requirements. But it increased the hydrant flushing frequency in October because adulterated water was coming out of faucets and taps throughout the city. Workers are trying to clear loose rust and particles from pipes by forcing large amounts of water through more often.

Click here for the rest.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Richard McDonald Discovers That People In Sierra Madre Are Not Especially Intimidated By Lawyers

Tremble, townies
Attorney Richard McDonald, who represents whomever it is that is so adamantly trying to build McMansions at One Carter (or whatever they are calling that sadly abused place these days), strode up to the public comment podium at the June 24th City Council meeting to voice his umbrage at the temerity of the people of Sierra Madre. Plus the troublesome notion that there might not be enough water around here to support the construction of 6,000 square foot McBarns with 5.5 bathrooms in them. Obviously Attorney McDonald was interested in laying down the law and putting an end to all such foolishness. So how did he do? Let's go to the videotape and see for ourselves.


At the July 8 City Council meeting the One Carter Stonewhatever (Stonehenge?) developers sent another Attorney to speak on their behalf. Apparently Richard McDonald, after his Sierra Madre City Hall success, was off to the Ice House in Pasadena showing off his hitherto unsuspected talent for comedy. In his place was Attorney Frank Nicholas, and he had a letter of great importance to share with us, along with a spoken warning as well. Was Frank a more effective and intimidating legal representative for the One Carter wannabe McMansionizers than Richard McDonald? Here's a video to help you make your own personal call:


I guess the only question needing an answer now is what exactly is a Vice Mayor?

City Hall covers the ample backside of The Mountain View News
As you know the City Council will not be permitted to hold their previously announced Public Hearing on the water saving Building Moratorium next Tuesday. Something the two comedic attorneys in the videos above probably think is just fine.

This is because The Mountain Views News, our somewhat dimwitted adjudicated weekly newspaper of record, somehow forgot to print the legally mandated advertising for this hearing sent their way by City Hall to announce this occasion. And without that the show can't go on. State law being what it is.

A major screw up, right?

But for City Hall, apparently the priority is not getting the complete story to the public, rather it is airbrushing the responsibility of The Mountain Views News for this mess completely out of the picture. This from the City's latest "e-blast."

City Council Consideration to Extend the Interim Moratorium
On July 8, 2014, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1357U, establishing an Interim Moratorium Ordinance Pursuant to Government Code Section 65858 on the issuance of all building permits and any discretionary approvals for construction of new development requiring new water service connections. The interim ordinance was an urgency ordinance, making it effective immediately. The Interim Ordinance 1357U will expire on August 22, 2014, unless the City Council takes action to extend the moratorium before it expires. The City Council will meet on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm, in the City Hall Council Chambers, to consider extending the moratorium for an additional 22 months and 15 days (until July 5, 2016).

They do supply a link that will take you to another story, one posted earlier this week on the City of Sierra Madre website. And that one does mention the MVN, but without specifically identifying the paper as being the culprit in this failure.

So how many people would actually care enough about a matter described as this one is above to chase that link down? Based on the inconsequential and somewhat puzzling sounding blather written above, why would they ever feel the need?

Once again the Mountain Views News skates, and we are left with having to pick up the tab for a City Council meeting that didn't even have to take place until the MVN's unfortunate mistake.

Why is it that those who run this city don't feel they need to share the truth with the residents? And exactly what kind of influence does the Mountain Views News hold over City Hall?

YouTube versions

Some folks using iPads and tablets have told me that they cannot view the above videos on those devices. Here are the YouTube links.

Richard McDonald link here.

Frank Nicholas link here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Robert Fellner: Would you take a 12 percent pay cut in exchange for a 100 percent reduction in work?

(Mod: As you likely know, Robert Fellner is a research fellow with the California Policy Center and a transparency researcher for He has also taken a keen interest in the City of Sierra Madre due to our outrageously expensive and likely State of California leading city employee health care plans. An interest that this blog, along with our community, have benefited by. Here is Robert's latest investigative article into extreme government employee compensation in what is for some truly the Golden State. This article has also appeared in California Political Review - link.)

OCERS Retirees Receiving Pensions in Excess of their Highest Salary: Wouldn’t it be nice to receive your full salary even after you retired? For several Orange County government retirees, this isn’t a dream — it’s reality.

For instance, Orange County Department of Education’s former deputy superintendent Lynn Hartline retired in 2013 with an OCERS-reported final average salary of $250,018.92. Hartline won’t have too much trouble adapting to life without a salary, however. Her 2013 full-year pension benefit from OCERS (Orange County Employees Retirement System) was 100 percent of her final average salary – $250,018.

Charles Walters received the second-highest OCERS yearly payout in 2013. Walters was the former Orange County assistant sheriff who retired in 2008 amidst a criminal grand jury probe for the 2006 murder of John Chamberlain in the jails he oversaw. His pension for the 2013 year was also 100 percent of his final average salary — $226,365.

Unfortunately the examples above are hardly extreme outliers, but rather indicative of an underlying trend. For all OCERS full-career retirees — those with 30 or more years of service credit for retirement — the average annual pension benefit received in 2013 was $73,875, or nearly 90 percent of their final salary.

Focusing on only recent retirees prevents older retirees — who’ve received significant cost of living adjustments to their pension benefit — from artificially inflating the comparison of pension benefits as a percentage of final salary. The average pension benefit received by a full- career OCERS retiree who retired in 2004 or later was $81,283, which represents 88 percent of the average final salary.

OCERS retirees who worked for the O.C. Fire Authority received an even larger percentage of their final salary in retirement. The average full-career Fire Authority retiree received a pension benefit of $117,934 in 2013, which was 94 percent of the average retiree’s final salary. Retirees who had retired after 2004 received an average benefit of $119,326, worth 94.5 percent of their final salary. For 2008 or later full-career Fire Authority retirees, the average pension benefit in 2013 was $122,770, which was 94.75 percent of the average retiree’s final salary.

The data from those who retired after 2008 demonstrates that pension benefits worth 94 percent their final salary is indicative of the base pension amount an employee can expect to receive upon retirement. Reviewing the OCERS 2013 data reveals that this problem goes beyond fire retirees. In addition to Hartline’s quarter million dollar yearly benefit, a former social services director, assistant public defender, and sanitation district manager all receive annual pension benefits well over $150,000 apiece.

As salaries rise, so too will future pension benefits for which taxpayers are responsible. Consider the Orange County Department of Education’s current superintendent, Alfred Mijares, who received a salary of $287,500 in 2013. If Mijares retires with at least 30 years of service credit, he will likely receive a pension benefit of over $250,000 his very first year of retirement.

Private citizens usually consider an appropriate pension amount to be what is necessary to cover the cost of living during retirement. Yet for many Orange County employees, pensions have become a continuation of the extravagant salaries they took home during their careers.

This system encourages government employees to retire 10 to 20 years earlier than their private- sector counterparts. Taxpayers are left paying for six-figure government pensions that most can only dream of, while simultaneously trying to fund their own, significantly smaller pensions.

SMRFA President Robert Young Passes Away - Article on Bill Coburn's site. Click here.