Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Michael Jackson Bandit: All Of Sierra Madre's Bank Robbery Coverage In One Place

Thriller: FBI photo of the Michael Jackson Bandit robbing Sierra Madre's 'Bank of the West'

(Mod: The big news is yesterday's robbery of Sierra Madre's Bank of the West branch. Done at high noon during the ever vigilant SMPD's portion of the law enforcement day, some dude dressed up mostly in white, with a black hat and matching stylish scarf, threatened the very lives of terrified bank employees. He escaped unscathed in an awaiting getaway car. Here is how the news outlets reported this untoward event.)

Los Angeles Times: Sierra Madre bank robbed at gunpoint by bandit in mask and black hat (link): A robber wearing a mask and black hat held up a Sierra Madre bank Wednesday, pepper-spraying three people at gunpoint before fleeing with a bag of money, FBI officials said.

The man clad in a white shirt, white pants, a white mask and a black wide-brimmed hat burst into the Bank of the West on Sierra Madre Boulevard about 1 p.m. and demanded money, Sierra Madre police said.

Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman, said the man threatened tellers with a semi-auto handgun and released pepper spray.

Officials said the bizarre outfit shielded his features during the takeover robbery. He is believed to have fled in a silver or gray car.

Officials are investigating whether the suspect might be connected to a bank robbery crew that has hit 24 banks in L.A. County since November.

Pasadena Star News: Man robs Sierra Madre bank, pepper sprays employees (link): An armed man wearing an all-white jumpsuit pepper sprayed several employees of a bank he robbed Wednesday, police said.

The man carrying a semi-automatic firearm entered the Bank of the West branch at 100 Sierra Madre Blvd. at 1 p.m., Assistant City Manager Elisa Cox said. “It was a taken-over style robbery,” she said.

The suspect was also wearing a wide-rimmed black hat, a white mask with holes for the eyes and a dark-colored scarf, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimillier. “It was a very violent robbery,” Eimillier said.

No customers were inside the bank at the time. The man exited the bank and got in a silver-colored sedan driven by someone else.

There was no information on the gender of the driver or which direction the car was headed. Officials did not release the amount of money taken. At least three employees were treated at the scene.

The FBI is investigating whether or not this robbery is similar to others in the area, Eimiller said. Bank of the West corporate officials declined to comment about the incident deferring all inquiries to law enforcement.

The Chief gives his assessment
NBC News Southern California: Sierra Madre Bank Robber Sought (link): Police are searching for an armed bank robber who struck a Bank of the West in Sierra Madre Wednesday afternoon.

Around 1 p.m., a man dressed in an all-white jumpsuit, wearing a painters-style mask and a black wide-brimmed hat demanded money and pepper-sprayed employees at the branch in the 100 block of West Sierra Madre BoulevardSierra Madre Boulevard was closed between Hermosa Avenue and Windsor Lane for several hours as the Sierra Madre Police Department and the FBI investigated, according to a Facebook post from the city.

"Fortunately there were no customers in the bank it was just the bank staff," said Chief Larry Giannone. "He immediately walked to the counter, jumped the counter. He then put a gun to the teller's head and demanded $100,000."

The teller gave him what was available. He insisted it wasn't enough, so he went to several other tellers demanding more money. Giannone said he pulled out the pepper spray when he became frustrated that tellers had a difficult time opening one of the drawers.

The robber reportedly made a getaway in a silver colored sedan driven by another unknown suspect.

 Horrified Sierra Madre Facebook readers
City of Sierra Madre Facebook Page (link): At approximately, 1:00pm there was a take-over style robbery at Bank of the West. The suspect was dressed in an all-white jumpsuit with a painters-style mask and a black wide-brimmed hat.

The suspect demanded money and proceeded to pepper spray the employees. The suspect fled in silver colored sedan, driven by an unknown suspect. Residents and visitors are asked to stay clear of the Bank of the West; Sierra Madre Blvd. is closed between Hermosa and Windsor until further notice.

The FBI is responding and assisting the Police Department with the investigation. If you have any information on this robbery, please contact the Police Department at 626-355-1414.

Pasadena Now: Bank Robbery in Sierra Madre (link): A man dressed in an all-white jumpsuit and wearing a mask entered a Bank of the West branch in Sierra Madre and robbed employees Wednesday afternoon, before fleeing with another suspect in a car.

Sierra Madre Assistant City Manager Elisa Cox said it was fortunate there were no bank customers at the time of the robbery at the branch located in the 100 block of West Sierra Madre Blvd.

“At about 1 p.m., a male suspect entered the bank dressed in all white, wearing a painter’s mask and a wide-brimmed black hat,” Cox said. “He demanded money from the employees and pepper-sprayed them. Then he fled in a silver sedan with an unknown driver.”

Cox said they were expecting the FBI to be on the scene and that the city has meanwhile decided to close West Sierra Madre Blvd. where the bank was located, from the Hermosa intersection up to Windsor Lane.

Police are now searching the area for the suspects and are advising anyone with information about the incident to call the Sierra Madre Police Department, (626) 355-1414.

 Expensive Taste: The MJB's shopping bag filled with ill-gotten gains

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Last Night's City Council Meeting

"Just tried to watch the meeting. No broadcast - the 'streamer stopped streaming.'" - comment

You're going to have to tell me what happened last night because I missed it. Work got in the way, but I couldn't even watch a little bit of it on my cellphone because KGEM was having one of their special moments. They do have a nice new site and all, but at their technological core bad things still happen.

There was a good comment last night about the City Manager's difficulties grasping the concept of transparency. It is related to the previous meeting's browbeating of the City Clerk by the dude portion of the City Council.

After 100 plus years, the council is considering to switch from narrative minutes to action minutes of the city council meetings. This means that you will only be able to read the motions and their results for the council meetings, not the discussion or audience comments. They say it is to save time for the city clerk who would ordinarily spend several hours doing narrative minutes. It so means you would have to go to the tape itself to get a feel and information of an issue being discussed. So much for increased transparency, as Elaine likes to brag about. 

To be able to know what went on at a meetings months before, and not know exactly what meeting it was, you'll have to watch tapes of several meetings to be able to pinpoint what meeting it was, and the discussion that led up to the decision. Take my word for it, I've had experience of looking at city council action minutes before since some cities are doing them, and it isn't easy or fun. 

The rest is going to have to come from you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Will the City Council Apologize to City Clerk Melinda Carrillo Tonight?

Mod: The following e-mail received some fairly large circulation over the last week. I thought I should share it here because threatening newly elected City Clerk Melinda Carrillo with the loss of her pay, as incredibly meagre as it is, was exceptionally rude and uncalled for. Hopefully the City Council will at least consider an apology. As a beginning act it certainly did not reflect well on Mayor Goss's very first night on the job.

Dear Council Members,

I sincerely hope that the first item on your agenda next Tuesday will be a profound apology to our City Clerk for browbeating her the way you did at her very first council meeting. She did not deserve to be put on the spot the way she was. She signed up to earn one rate of pay, and within the first hour you are telling her that you may decrease this, or she can quit if she wants to. Yikes!

Secondly what was that all about, asking her if she wouldn't have run for the position if someone else had?  In 32 years, Nancy Shollenberger only had one person run against her.  We are lucky Melinda stepped up to take the position. Do you not realize that we are getting a bargain with our elected City Clerk? If staff takes the minutes, then the city will have to pay benefits and CALPERS. We hear continuously how overworked the staff is. Now it would appear that the Library Director and Community Services positions will be combined. This is not the time to nickel and dime a valuable resident out of a service to the community.

Please consider an apology.

Clearing up the pension debt inaccuracy in a staff report

Mod: The following is found on agenda item #5 and is titled "WATER SYSTEM FINANCING OPTIONS AND MONTHLY UTILITY BILLING. It is somewhat misleading. You can find this in the original by clicking here.

That $6.75 million number is a portion of the 2003 Water Bond debt. The actual financial obligation is actually more than double that because to date the city has made interest only payments on that principal. For whatever unkind purpose the author of this agenda report chose to leave a lot of that ridiculous amount of interest exposure out of her report.

When MaryAnn Macgillivray was Mayor she dragooned the City Manager into releasing the actual 2003 water bond debt figures to the public. To my recollection that was the only time this has ever been done. Here are the actual figures.

Sierra Madre's 2003 "Bart Doyle" water bonds were originally $6,750,000. For whatever reason the city decided to make interest only payments on those bonds through the year 2019, while also extending payments all the way out through the year 2034. The entire cost once all is said and done being $14,925,486.00, or substantially more than double the principal.

Why this ruinous debt load was ever incurred has been the source of much speculation over the years. Many are of the opinion that it has a lot to do with the so-called "Downtown Specific Plan," a hare-brained redevelopment scheme that would have seen much of Sierra Madre's picturesque downtown razed and replaced with the kind of generic crap found in way too many California cities today.

Fortunately Measure V put an end to all of that. However, the 2003 Water Bonds had already been issued. We're still paying for this incredibly bad financial blunder today. And yes, precious few pipes were repaired in that process.

Tonight the City Council will begin considering floating an additional bond (misidentified in the staff report as a "loan") in order to raise the $13 million big ones necessary to rescue the water department and its badly neglected infrastructure. It is important that the residents completely understand just how much additional debt this will involve, and just how large a debt load the city will have then taken on.

Fudging the figures in this manner is not an exactly noble gesture.

Anybody know what is going on with this?

The Hildreth trial has been going on for more than a month now. An extremely long time in my opinion. Any information would be appreciated.

Monday, May 23, 2016

City Council Meeting: Promises Made During The Measure UUT Campaign Are Now Quickly Going Away

The "Yes On Measure UUT" campaign made a number of promises during the run up to last month's election that do not look like they are going to be kept. That is no surprise for us here at The Tattler, but apparently for a little over 70% of Sierra Madre's easily bamboozled voters, this is going to come as a big surprise. That is, of course, if they even notice. They might be entirely too consumed with other matters. What those might be I am not sure anyone should actually care enough to know.

At tomorrow evening's City Council meeting there are two items in particular that show the claims made by the "Yes On Measure UUT" crowd were kinda bogus. They could also have been baseless and even dishonest. Again, no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, but you know how that goes. Obviously there was a critical shortage of well-informed residents available to vote this year, and those fabulous postcards filled with wistaria colored bromides and unrealistic promises were enough to sway their none too heavily involved heads.

I'd like to thank the "Yes On Measure UUT" Facebook page for leaving the following two postcards up on their site. For the moment you can see them in situ by clicking here. Usually campaigns as fact-free as that one would pull such things down shortly after an election. Happily, they have left all this up for us to enjoy. Probably out of laziness, though arrogance might play a role as well. I am not certain they really give a damn about whatever you might think. They got the money and that is all that matters.

Here is the first of the two cards I lifted from that Facebook page.

We're looking at the bottom two items on this card. Those being "Community Services" and "Library." You know, the place that so many people love. Or (Heart) as those ironically non-verbal library signs put it.

At tomorrow night's City Council meeting there is an agenda item (link) dealing specifically with just these very two things. Both of which are now to be combined into one department in order to keep salaries low. Or at least lower than they are in other nearby cities. Places where salaries and benefits are more generous.

Now, and if the proponents of higher utility taxes were to be believed, Community Services and Library Services would remain untouched and pristine should adequate UUT monies be made available by the voters. Yet here we can see that these two departments are being combined in order to be able maintain below market personnel costs. Is that what you thought a 66% increase in utility taxes would do?

The next card deals with the tender topic of water infrastructure. Here is how it goes.

Please note this sentence. "Unless Measure UUT passes, our City Council will have to significantly reduce programs and services and will be forced to delay vital repairs to our infrastructure."

Certainly there is no infrastructure more vital than Sierra Madre's creaky and rusty water system, right? Obviously that is what was being referred to here. So if raising utility taxes was supposed to take care of all that, why is this following unhappy information to be found in a staff report for tomorrow's City Council meeting (link)?

So there you go. Despite the Measure UUT 66% utility tax increase those "vital repairs" to the city's water infrastructure remain unfunded. All $13 million dollars worth.

Anybody surprised? You shouldn't be.

This report then goes on to consider what measures would be needed to adequately fund those many millions of dollars in desperately needed water infrastructure replacement. They include new parcel taxes, a sales tax increase and, of course, another round of bonds. This would be on top of the $23 million or so in bond debt the City of Sierra Madre is already carrying. Much of which the city is still only making interest only payments on.

And did you know that there might be yet another round of water rate increases coming up as well? How about that, right? Apparently Measure UUT really was just only the beginning.

I'd hate to say we told you so. But we did.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

SEC Files Charges Against Pasadena Congresswoman Judy Chu's Longtime Supporter


Bingqing Yang describes herself as having "sponsored the first Asia America female Congressman Dr. Judy Chu to successfully run for the Congressman." She also has contributed often to Judy Chu's campaign, Judy Chu for Congress. After Ms. Yang was charged, Judy Chu for Congress returned her most recent contribution of $5500.

Part of the alleged scheme was tied to the federal EB-5 immigrant visa investor program, according to the SEC. From 2011 to 2014, the commission said, Yang targeted Chinese citizens who wanted to obtain green cards through the EB-5 program, ultimately raising $8 million from EB-5 investors (Chinese immigrants seeking a special visa that let's them obtain a green card for making $500,000-$1,000,000 investments).

In a recent interview, Judy Chu stated that she became interested in the EB-5 program when she was elected to Congress in 2009 and that she wanted to make the program permanent (link).

US Immigration began making a number of changes to the program in hopes of increasing the number of applicants. By the end of 2011, more than 3,800 EB-5 applications had been filed, compared to fewer than 800 applications in 2007. In 2014, the program reached maximum capacity (link).

Judy Chu's husband, Mike Eng is an immigration attorney who provides assistance with EB-5 Visas (link). 

According to Ballotpedia (link), since entering Congress Judy Chu's net worth has averaged a 539% yearly increase. Again this was during her time in office.

SEC Press Release (link):

(Mod: This information was provided for the discerning local political wonk in all of us by the Mike Sweeney for Congress campaign. And yes, Judy Chu supports the 710 Tunnel. All who do shall face the wrath of my bombast.) 

And then there is this next story we'd like to share with you.

Mod: For the rest of the article click here.

Beers, Steers, and Republicans?

Mod: It doesn't make them bad people. Link here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Metro Politics of Measure R2 and the 710 Tunnel

Mod: Quite a glorious train-wreck of controversial issues in this Pasadena Star News story. Metro, which desperately wants a half-a-penny sales tax increase to fund various transportation projects, has gone quiet on the issue of the 710 Tunnel. Most likely because they do not want to upset San Gabriel Valley residents by reminding them that they are the lead agency responsible for this unpopular project. Measure R2 will require a two-thirds majority to pass, and it was the SGV vote that killed the previous version. Of course, the best thing you can do is vote NO in Measure R2 because, and despite all denials, they will spend a big chunk of that money on the 710 Tunnel. A project that would obviously have devastating environmental and economic consequences here.

Pasadena Mayor Pursues Repeal of 2001 Measure Supporting 710 Extension (link): Hoping to bolster opposition to the 710 Freeway tunnel project, Mayor Terry Tornek is proposing a November ballot measure that would ask voters to repeal a 2001 vote supporting the completion of the freeway through the city.

Although the City Council voted in April 2015 to oppose the 710 Freeway’s completion as a tunnel project, Tornek said during a City Council meeting Monday that Measure A legally prevents the city from fighting the project.

The city attorney and outside counsel agreed in legal opinions provided to the city.

“The measure that voters approved would not allow the City of Pasadena to take affirmative steps opposing the completion of the 710 extension,” said City Attorney Michele Bagneris.

Tornek intends to ask the council to vote on a repeal on June 13. The council needs to finalize the measure’s language before a July deadline to make it on November’s ballot. By repealing the 2001 ordinance, Pasadena can fight against the project without restriction, Tornek said.

“As soon as we launch an effort, all it will take is one citizen to sue us and enjoin us from violating the provisions of Measure A, which can only be overturned by a vote of the people,” Tornek said.

Tornek said he believes the tunnel project has been purposefully stalled to avoid hurting Measure R2, the county’s proposed $120 billion transit tax on November’s ballot.

Metro and the various transportation authorities are very anxious not to do anything that would rock the boat and jeopardize the adoption of Measure R,” he said.

After the vote in November, Tornek expects the tunnel proposal to come out of hibernation.

“The city is going to get ambushed and we’re going to be confronted with a full court press to build that project,” Tornek said Monday. “We have got to be prepared to make a concentrated effort to prevent that from happening.”

Mod: The plot thickens. To read the rest of this article click here.

You'd think voting for a third party candidate would have been preferable ...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Is There A Sacramento - Sierra Madre Water Disconnect?

Here is something to ponder upon. While Sacramento declares that the water crisis has eased, Sierra Madre is now stepping up its financial penalties for using too much water. Doing so while claiming it is helping the city reach water conservation goals that were set by ... Sacramento?

Life can be confusing. But fear not. We'll start by examining the latest news on this topic from Sacramento. This first article is titled "Many California cities predict no conservation requirements under new water rules," and it comes to us from the legendary Sacramento Bee (link).

Before throngs of TV news cameras in April last year, Gov. Jerry Brown stood on a patch of bare Sierra dirt that should have been covered in snow and told Californians they had to be unified in conserving water.

Noting that his call for voluntary conservation had not resulted in a significant change in habits among urban and suburban residents the previous summer, Brown said that he had no choice but to order urban water providers to collectively reduce water use by 25 percent compared with 2013. “We’re in an historic drought,” Brown said. “And that demands unprecedented action.”

Flash forward to this week.

From a statewide perspective, conditions have marginally improved: Northern California had a good winter, and reservoirs are healthy. But Sierra snowpack remains well below average, and much of the state remains in a drought. What’s strikingly different is the message delivered this week about how conservation will play out in 2016.

The new rules adopted Wednesday by the State Water Resources Control Board allow more than 400 urban water agencies to propose their own conservation standards. Agencies will “self-certify” a target based on their assessments of the health of their water supplies and anticipated local demand.

On Thursday, several California water agencies told The Sacramento Bee that, based on the new rules, they expect their assessments to show they have plenty of water, and to largely back away from requiring customers to reduce water use tied to a specific target. That was the response from agencies in the Sacramento region, where a relatively wet winter has bolstered reservoirs and where groundwater supplies remain strong. But also, more surprisingly, from agencies in Southern California, which received very little rainfall this year.

This next bit of water use info is titled "In Sharp Reversal, California Suspends Water Restrictions," and descends upon us from none other than the venerable New York Times. You can get all the news that fits by clicking here.

California on Wednesday suspended its mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction in urban water use, telling local communities to set their own conservation standards after a relatively wet winter and a year of enormous savings in urban water use.

The new rules are a sharp change in policy for a state struggling to manage one of the worst droughts in its history. They came after a winter in which El Niño storms fell short of what meteorologists projected — particularly in the southern part of the state — but still partly filled parched reservoirs in Northern California and, more critically, partly replenished the mountain snowpacks that provide water into the spring and summer.

And Californians, responding to an executive order issued in April last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, reduced their use of potable urban water by 24 percent compared with 2013 levels. Officials said they were hopeful that reduction would prove permanent because of changes in water use such as replacing lawns with drought-tolerant shrubs.

The rules, adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, are likely to mean a huge rollback — and in some places, an elimination — of water reduction mandates that have forced people, businesses and governments to curb watering of gardens and lawns, take shorter showers and flush toilets less frequently.

That's the latest statewide news. They're loosening up on water restrictions and people can now presumably go back to whatever it is they were doing before everything dried up.

So what is the news from Sierra Madre? The little city that often prefers to march to the beat of a different drum? A Pasadena Now article called "Sierra Madre Water Penalties Set to Increase" (link), breaks it to us this way.

This year’s El Niño rains have had a limited impact on our part of the state. Water conservation remains as critical as ever as California enters into its fifth year of drought. Sierra Madre City Council approved a measure earlier this month that would increase the penalty rate assessed on excess water use.

The City of Sierra Madre would like to thank its water-wise customers for doing their part to make every drop count. The latest water billing numbers for May show 75% of Sierra Madre customers met, or outperformed, their water conservation targets. The remaining 25% of customers are of increasing concern for the City, as many of the customers who exceeded their water use target in the month have a repeat history of doing so.

The City of Sierra Madre will introduce a new water penalty rate beginning on July 1, 2016. The rate will apply to each billing unit used in excess of a customer’s conservation target. The current penalty rate is $5.04/unit. The new rate will increase to $10.72, or two times the Tier 4 rate.

The Pasadena Star News is also on the Sierra Madre water tip, and in their article, "Excessive Water Users In Sierra Madre Face Stiffer Penalties" (link), says this:

The city council voted Tuesday to increase the penalty rate starting in July for water customers who exceed their monthly goals.

The vote came just a day after Governor Jerry Brown announced a new set of water mandates Monday and emphasized the continuing threat from the drought on the state.

As part of continuing water conservation, the council asked city staffers last month to focus on pushing a trio of measures to achieve their goals. In addition to the stiffer overuse penalties, staff will reach out to the city’s top water users who have exceeded their conservation targets and renew the city’s water conservation campaign.

The new penalty rate for excess water use will be $10.72 per billing unit, an increase of 64 cents over the previous penalty. Customers are on four different rate tiers and the new penalty is double the Tier 4 rate, the highest. The penalty will apply to customers who exceed their goal regardless of their original rate tier.

Though the number of customers exceeding their conservation goals has been reduced, the last two billing cycles for February and March show there were still more than 1,000 customers who exceeded their conservations limits by at least 1 unit. There were 41 who exceeded their goal by 50 or more units, and 11 customers who exceeded their goal by 100 or more units.

Though the increase could bring in more than $80,000 for the city’s water fund revenue, staff noted that they hoped the measure would encourage conservation.

I wouldn't want to automatically assume that Sacramento is correct here, and everyone should be permitted to just go water hog wild again. You can only imagine the pressures being exerted up there by certain big special interests that want to get back to the good old days.

But still, it certainly does looks like Sacramento and Sierra Madre are going in very different directions. Go figure.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spa-Gate: Is Kathryn Barger the Worst LA County Board of Supervisors Candidate?

Mod: This one comes to us from the Tattler Los Angeles County Political Review Committee, headed up by the inimitable Deep Throat. That name is used because our correspondent actually works at the LACBOS, and wants you to know where Kathryn Barger is actually coming from. LA Barge is endemic to the entrenched corruption that has run LA County for decades, and part and parcel to many of the problems afflicting this part of the world. 

More of the same garbage will come our way in the LA County Fifth Supervisorial District if Kathryn Barger Liebrich (her legal name) snags her boss' chair this November. If you like real "experience" with your cheeseburger, she's been running Michael Antonovich's office for decades as his Chief Deputy, and has carried out his myriad bad policies that we're so fond of. Such as steering millions of dollars in grant money every possible Los Angeles County dirt patch and planting the Antonovich name on it. Not just all of those east county trails and parks, but the LACHSA Amphitheater, the Antelope Valley Courthouse, and a regional recreation area in Simi Valley. And it's not polite to turn the honor down. As a matter of fact, Kathryn will politically cut your throat if you try. In a heartbeat.

It would also mean a re-run of failed management and the oversight of corrupt practices that we have come to expect from that office. The LA County Sheriff's office (Lee Baca - resigned, Paul Tanaka - convicted in Federal Court of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice) has utterly failed. The County jails are out of control and are being investigated by the FBI.

Los Angeles Times: Two L.A. sheriff's deputies convicted of beating mentally ill inmate (link).

We've also had to deal with criminal activity in the LA County Assessor's office, the former LA County Assessor John Nougez is under indictment on corruption charges, an investigation that charged him with taking $185,000 in bribes from Arizona tax consultant Ramin Salari to reduce property values for Salari's clients. In addition, a former employee has alleged that ex- county assessor John Noguez asked him to lower the values of several properties over several years ending in 2011. This activity was offset by attempting to raise taxes in wealthy communities, and the Assessor's office was forced to reissue the tax billings at the much lower actual rate. This kind of corruption is/was endemic in the LA County region.

Culver City News: Former employee Arraigned Feb. 24 (link).

The out-of-control public sector salaries and pension spiking (read: CalPERS) is another symptom of the takeover and ruination of regional cities by LA County organizations. The model for which drove the tainted Measure UUT effort in Sierra MadreBarger Liebrich has the full support of the public safety unions because she promotes their huge salaries and platinum pensions with a vengeance. 

Los Angeles Times: Sheriff's, firefighter unions spend heavily on candidate in L.A. County supervisor's race (link).

She was instrumental in getting the local parcel tax measure to financially support the police department in San Marino, along with Lee Baca himself, as part of a committee of San Marino residents who feel that no expense should be spared on police/fire equipment, salaries and pensions. These, along with lots of unnecessary construction busy work to keep the county public union coffers full (the infamous "Make San Marino Better" list), fill out the dance card.

San Marino Tribune: Committee Formed to Support Renewal of Measures ‘U,’ ‘SA’ (link).

This old regime LA County network is bringing full pressure to bear with its insertion of long-time police officers into municipal positions. Done to better promote police/fire personnel and increases in their salaries. It started with the abrupt hiring of the San Marino police chief to be the City Manager a few years ago, and the resulting city staff/police/fire salaries and pension liabilities are ballooning out of control and creating a backlash in the community.

The City Council members who insisted on this arrangement were not re-elected, but the damage is done. Now we see two other cities, Alhambra and Gardena, that cited San Marino as a precedent to follow. Cities where cops were hired for that spot. Their police hires for City Manager happened rather suddenly as well, at the behest of this corrupt county political network which doesn't like to see outside hires who won't play the game.

Pasadena Star News: Why Alhambra chose its police chief to be its new city manager (link).

Barger-Liebrich is part and parcel of this systemic dysfunction, and has also learned how to skim the system. She even got caught  receiving a free union facial:

What Were They Thinking? (link) I bring up Gen. Boulanger because this fourth great question can now be asked of Kathryn Barger-Leibrich. She is the chief of staff for county Supervisor Mike Antonovich and the most prominent member of the Magnificent Seven - the seven staff members representing Supervisors Antonovich, Don Knabe and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who spent an August weekend of health and beauty together at the Torrey Pines resort in La Jolla. 

What is so magnificent about getting a facial? Well, this particular facial was supposed to be free. The entire tab for the entire weekend for all seven was picked up by the Coalition of County Unions, which, just by happenstance, was holding a conference at Torrey Pines resort that weekend, and also just happened to be in negotiations with the county supervisors for new union contracts.

What a coincidence! At the same time the unions are in contract negotiations with the supervisors, these same unions, out of the goodness of their hearts, feel the need to provide a getaway weekend in La Jolla for seven members of the supervisors' staffs. Who would have thunk that would ever happen? 

Of course, there are laws that govern such bribes, I mean gifts. The gifts have to be reported. That makes them public record and taxable. Ouch. 

Fortunately, the unions generously offered to allow the Magnificent Seven to serve on panel discussions at their conference, which would make their rooms and meals - the really expensive part of the weekend - nontaxable. What a bunch of philanthropists these union folks are, using their members' dues to provide such generous bribes, er, gifts, for a bunch of deserving political functionaries. 

Barger-Leibrich defended her free facial in La Jolla. She said, ``The unions represent our work force ... and it's important that we understand their needs and concerns.'' Hmm. I wonder if she ever thought of attending any of the contract negotiations where she probably would have gotten a pretty good idea about union needs and concerns without having to drive all the way to La Jolla. But then, her skin wouldn't have felt so silky afterward. 

Barger-Leibrich reimbursed the unions for her weekend - after she got caught - but by then it was too late. The Magnificent Seven were public knowledge. And that is bad because someday Barger-Leibrich may want to run for public office, perhaps even one of the seats on the county Board of Supervisors. Her job has often been a platform for wannabe candidates. But I fear her future candidacy may be drowned out by the chants of ``Spa-gate, Spa-gate, Spa-gate,'' and the taunting jeer, ``Get a facial, get a tan, get a bribe wherever you can.''

So now that the San Gabriel Valley is quickly becoming the local model for a police state, what's next? Are local cities doomed to simply feed the wildly ballooning CalPERS retirement system and its pension-spiking? Just let Kathryn Barger Liebrich take this corruption to its logical conclusion countywide.

What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is There An Obamacare - Dedicato TC Link?

Mod: Since a few of the things related to sober houses (and the current Dedicato Treatment Center controversy in particular) have been moved up to next week's City Council meeting from June sometime (perhaps Mayor Goss has been getting email?), I thought we'd look at the situation from a different perspective. The following comes to us from a website called Transcend Recovery Community (link). It helps to show that the explosion in sober house expansion and the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, could be linked.

Staying Sober, Obama’s Affordable Care Act: There are many challenges to sober living and maintaining sobriety. The biggest hurdle is making the choice to get sober. Once you’ve taken on that remarkable endeavor and the process of recovery has begun, you’ve got to find a rehabilitative treatment center, which is often quite costly. But it doesn’t end there. The next challenge, an ongoing one, is how to stay sober and prevent relapse after your treatment is complete.

One option that many recovering addicts choose is to stay at a sober living or halfway house. This helps to bridge the gap between having a very structured and supportive environment to returning home where there is likely little or no structure for staying sober. Halfway houses can provide a community of folks in similar shoes, also making the choice every day to stay sober.

However, this also costs money, adding to the challenges of creating a sober life for yourself. One of the benefits of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that the treatment of substance use disorders is considered to be an essential health benefit. Addiction recovery is now seen as a primary component to physical health, and for this reason, the ACA is making it more affordable and more accessible for individuals to get the recovery treatment they need.

Apparently, the logic is simple. Taxpayers were essentially paying high dollars to privatized health care and law enforcement when it came to untreated addictions. However, the aim of ACA is to use those dollars in a preventative way by making it easier for addicts to obtain the treatment they need, hopefully keeping them out the legal system and keeping law enforcement costs down.

Furthermore, screening and counseling for addicts is now considered to be preventative care and this kind of care under the ACA is fully covered. Also, whereas before addicts might have been deemed ineligible for health care coverage, now under the ACA an individual cannot be turned away even if they have a history of addiction.

There are some disadvantages for recovering addicts covered under the ACA. For instance, if an individual says yes to whether they use tobacco products, insurance companies can charge them a higher premium. The point here is to prevent people from smoking. But using tobacco products is often closely related to using other drugs, and often a recovering addict might also be a smoker and be subject to higher healthcare premiums.

Also, there is some confusion regarding specialty treatment, which should be the umbrella term for rehab programs. There are some clear loopholes regarding whether new healthcare plans under the ACA will cover ongoing rehabilitative treatment that would prevent relapse.  There is no clear indication whether a patient’s second, third, or fourth admittance to rehab programs would be covered. Because relapse is a reality in treating addiction this is an important component that still needs clarification under the ACA.

In some cases, the ACA is a godsend for a recovery addict. Most or all of their treatment costs are covered. In other cases, certain costs are still in question. Hopefully, in the future, those loopholes will be closed and the full range of treatment costs for healing addictions don’t have to land on the individual in recovery.

Mod: A website called asks that question, and then provides the following answer (link).

Mod: There are other sites that explain this connection as well. SoberNation (link) has an article called "Obamacare Helping Low-Level Drug Offenders Beat Their Addiction" that is also informative.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CAR's Mysterious $1,000 IMPAC Donation to the 'Yes On Measure UUT' Committee

"Why did IMPAC donate $1,000 SIX DAYS after the April 12, 2016 election? Is this how the bulldozer club spikes the football?" - reader comment

The final list of contributors and their generous donations to the 'Yes On Measure UUT' campaign does not become available to us until sometime in June, but certain information has begun to surface. Especially the larger amounts like this $1,000 beauty pictured above. Those need to be declared a bit earlier, as Ms. Putnam has apparently become aware recently.

The identified source of this loot is something called the "Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee," and is an entity of the California Association of Realtors. This is probably the largest donation from them to any campaign in Sierra Madre since the bumping big sums of cash they coughed up in the attempt to defeat Measure V a little less than a decade ago. 

That didn't work out quite as well for them. 

Here's the mystery as I see it. What exactly was in it for the CAR this time around? What was it about Measure UUT that caused them to write so large a check to Amy Putnam? And, even more to the point, what exactly is this 'Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee' anyway?

Here is how that one is described on the California Association of Realtors website (link):

I was not aware that Measure UUT was a local ballot measure that might "affect real property rights in California." A phrase that appears to make reference to the longstanding claim of the Arcadia Association of Realtors group that those it favors should be allowed to build whatever they want, and wherever they want, despite what concerned locals might feel is best for their community.

In short it is the belief that developers and their Realtor allies should have more favorable land use privileges than residents.

This does make you wonder what might have been promised to them by the folks running the Yes on Measure UUT campaign. Most of whom were opposed to Measure V back in the day.

There are a few huge land use issues this city will be facing in the next couple of years. The origin of this $1,000 donation from what should have been an unrelated source does raise a few questions.

Especially when you consider the stated political purpose of that source.

Maybe there is something we don't know yet. Or perhaps we do.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes, It's Bad News Monday

Mod: Let's face it, nobody currently being forced to work for a living likes Mondays. It is the worst day of the week as far as most such people are concerned. And, to be completely frank with you, I also don't like Mondays. So in that bright spirit we now present Bad News Monday. You're going to have to trust me on this, it is all bad news. So if that is not what you're looking for this morning, I suggest that you might want move on to another site because this one will not be right for you.

Excessive water users in Sierra Madre face stiffer penalties (Pasadena Star News - link): The city council voted Tuesday to increase the penalty rate starting in July for water customers who exceed their monthly goals. The vote came just a day after Governor Jerry Brown announced a new set of water mandates Monday and emphasized the continuing threat from the drought on the state.

As part of continuing water conservation, the council asked city staffers last month to focus on pushing a trio of measures to achieve their goals. In addition to the stiffer overuse penalties, staff will reach out to the city’s top water users who have exceeded their conservation targets and renew the city’s water conservation campaign. The new penalty rate for excess water use will be $10.72 per billing unit, an increase of 64 cents over the previous penalty.

Customers are on four different rate tiers and the new penalty is double the Tier 4 rate, the highest. The penalty will apply to customers who exceed their goal regardless of their original rate tier.

Though the number of customers exceeding their conservation goals has been reduced, the last two billing cycles for February and March show there were still more than 1,000 customers who exceeded their conservations limits by at least 1 unit. There were 41 who exceeded their goal by 50 or more units, and 11 customers who exceeded their goal by 100 or more units.

Though the increase could bring in more than $80,000 for the city’s water fund revenue, staff noted that they hoped the measure would encourage conservation.

(Mod: Of course they noted it. This goes without saying. You might wonder why they even felt they needed to put that out there.)

SEC vs. USFIA GemCoins trial scheduled for January 2017 (Behind MLM - link): Following a Joint Report filed by the SEC, USFIA and Steve Chen, a trial date has been scheduled for January 10th, 2017. Note that this is the SEC civil action against USFIA and Chen, with details of criminal proceedings yet to surface.

The Joint Report was filed on April 11th and is a run down of what we can expect in the lead up to the scheduled January 2017 trial.

Here’s what we’ve learned; The SEC and Chen disagree on discovery scheduling. The SEC wants to get discovery over by November 18th, 2016. Steve Chen wants discovery completed in “phases”, ‘with discovery of Chen conducted last‘.

The SEC objects to Chen’s proposal on the grounds Chen’s testimony ‘might well point to the need to take other or further discovery’.

Chen’s position is that, given the wide breadth of the allegations in this case, and the conflicting interests raised by the matters addressed in the Motion to Stay, a November 2016 discovery cut-off is not realistic. If Chen had his way, discovery would stretch well into 2017 with a trial likely to take place towards the end of the year.

Steve Chen still thinks USFIA’s amber is worth something. Despite the Receiver establishing that USFIA’s amber reserves had “limited intrinsic value“, Chen has requested that the receiver preserve all amber or gem stones seized from USFIA. Why Chen wants the amber preserved was not disclosed.

I suspect Chen might want to trot out a friend third-party to re-value the amber, which will invariable conclude it to be infact the most valuable resource in the known galaxy. The defense that follows will probably be “See, we gave investors something of great value!”

(Mod: GemCoins are backed by an amber mine with intrinsic value. I guess. No news yet if former Arcadia Mayor Johnny "GemCoins" Wuo is expected to testify at any trial, but wouldn't you want to be there when he does?)

Objections to Encinitas Library renaming (San Diego Reader - link): Steve Mizel, a wealthy investor and a philanthropist, wants to have the name of the Encinitas Library changed to honor his wife. He’s offered $2 million to the city to change the library’s name to the “Pat Mizel Encinitas Library.”

As city staff and the Mizels are negotiating a memorandum of understanding, former mayor Sheila Cameron and others have a problem with that. Cameron spoke out at the May 11 meeting of the city council.

Cameron says the issue was originally brought up late in the evening at a council meeting in January, when few members of the public were in the audience. Councilman Tony Kranz reminded the audience that the item was on the agenda and properly noticed.

“We spent $20 million to build the ‘Encinitas Library.’ Now we want to give that away for just 10 percent?” she asked the council.

The state-of-the-art library was built on the Cornish Drive site in 2008, overlooking downtown with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, in a hotly contested election to determine its location. Cameron believes since residents voted for the library, they should have the right to vote on the name change.

(Mod: How much do you think the city would get if it sold the naming rights to the Sierra Madre Library? Or any other city building for that matter? How about the Bart Doyle City Hall? Or the John Buchanan Spreading Grounds? Oughta be a few bucks in that. If not, maybe this could be done as a lottery? $10 bucks a ticket. I can see it now. The Eric Maundry Police Station. That certainly does have a nice ring to it.)

Obama making bid to diversify wealthy neighborhoods (The Hill - link): The Obama administration is moving forward with regulations designed to help diversify America’s wealthier neighborhoods, drawing fire from critics who decry the proposal as executive overreach in search of an “unrealistic utopia.”

A final Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule due out this month is aimed at ending decades of deep-rooted segregation around the country.

The regulations would use grant money as an incentive for communities to build affordable housing in more affluent areas while also taking steps to upgrade poorer areas with better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as part of a gentrification of those communities.

HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” a HUD spokeswoman said. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”

(Mod: Think of it, HUD would then take over all of Sierra Madre's planning functions and zoning laws. Sober Houses for everyone!)

Pasadena’s finances could run into the red by next year (Pasadena Star News - link): Pasadena’s interim City Manager Steve Mermell painted a grim picture Monday when he warned the city could run into a deficit within the next two years.

The city’s estimates Pasadena’s revenues will come up short by about $6 million in 2018 fiscal year, according to Mermell’s report.

“Our costs have started to rise again at a rate that exceeds our revenues.” Mermell said. “The gap between the two is in effect where we would draw on the fund balance if we don’t do something to stem this widening gap.”

Pasadena effectively holds about $42 million in reserves, but increased operating costs will burn through that quickly in the next five years if the city doesn’t change course. By 2021, the city could run into the red by as much as $21 million, Mermell said.

The city will take a big hit to its revenues when beauty-products giant Avon shutters its distribution center in Pasadena next year. Mermell said the company is one of the city’s highest sales tax generators.

Avon announced plans to close the center in 2013, but Pasadena delayed the decision through an agreement to share some of the tax revenue. But now Avon notified the city recently of plans for a shut down by this time next year.

“I would say that the loss is significant,” Mermell said. Rising compensation for workers and CalPERs costs will contribute to the potential fiscal gap.

(Mod: I don't see this as being too much of a problem. Pasadena would only have to hire Martin Truitt to send out a blizzard of postcards telling the nincompoop voters that taxes need to be raised to save the Rose Parade.)

California’s $400 billion debt worries analysts (San Francisco Chronicle - link): California has come a long way to dig itself out of budget deficits, but the state remains on shaky ground due to nearly $400 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt from public pensions, retiree health care and bonds, financial analysts say.

“Yes, the state’s budget is balanced if you are looking at what they are required to spend cash on this year, but not when you look at their expenses,” said Gabe Petek, a credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s.

The high debt and unfunded liabilities have resulted in the state’s rating lagging behind other states, Petek says. California saw its bond rating rise last year from A+ to AA-, the highest level the state has had in 14 years. Good bond ratings are a sign of a strong budget and financial management and allow states to pay lower interest rates when selling bonds.

“Compared to other states, though, California has one of the lower ratings,” Petek said.

And the reason is clear, he said. It’s California’s debt and liabilities that are concerning financial analysts, particularly the state’s rapidly growing unfunded retiree health care costs, which grew more than 80 percent over the past decade. California has promised $74 billion more in health and dental benefits to current and retired state workers than the state has put aside.

(Mod: You can easily tell who the retired government employees are in California. They're the ones with nice teeth and driving Winnebagos.)

Ralphs store in Arcadia closing its doors (Pasadena Star News - link): A Ralphs store in the Rancho Santa Anita Shopping Center is shuttering its doors next week, and it looks like an Asian supermarket could take its place. Store Manager Mark Stalcup said the store will close its doors for good on May 20 at 6 p.m.

The closure of this store follows a series of Ralphs closures in the San Gabriel Valley in the last few years, including stores in Arcadia, Glendora and Duarte that had been underperforming for years.

The mid-sized store, at 1101 W. Huntington Dr., employs about 80 to 100 employees, who have all been placed in existing stores, Stalcup said. He said there won’t be any layoffs due to the closure, noting that Ralphs is currently in hiring mode. The company announced earlier this week that it intends to hire 400 people across Southern California, and is holding hiring events at all of its stores on Saturday.

“We have a wide variety of part-time positions that we need to fill in every Ralphs store in Southern California,’ Kendra Doyel, vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. “Positions are available to friendly and engaging people in most every department including front end, deli, meat, bakery and grocery.”

(Mod: And here I was hoping for a .99c Only store.)

Senator Bob Huff says 'YES' to 710 Tunnel! (some idiotic site - link)

(Mod: This jerk is running for Antonovich's seat on the LA Board of Supervisors - link. Your karma will sink to that of sewer lice if you vote for this guy.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

National Catholic Reporter: US Sisters Turn Their Lands Over To Trusts, Preserving Them From Development

Mod: Quite a contrast between what the Victory Noll Sisters are doing with their land, and what is happening in Sierra Madre at the Mater Dolorosa Monastery Retreat Center. This report comes to us from the National Catholic Reporter. The entire article can be accessed here. Does anybody know if such an option might be possible locally?

The fight to save Glendora open space Mod: The following was sent to me by the San Gabriel Valley Task Force of the Sierra Club. Theirs is an important fight, and not much different from what is going on in Sierra Madre and Arcadia. The  article was written by Joan Licari.

Affecting the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains forming the backdrop for Glendora, there is a proposal wending its way through the CEQA and city permitting process to build 19 two-story, single-family homes of over 5,000 square feet on 71 acres. The San Gabriel Valley Task Force believes that it would best serve the residents of Glendora and the larger San Gabriel Valley population to have these lands preserved as open space for wildlife and recreation. Although the development is small, it has larger implications to open-space conservation in the San Gabriel Mountains, the foothills of which are almost completely developed.

Little undeveloped open space remains, making even small areas valuable as habitat for wildlife and urban residents. The Gordon-Mull property is adjacent to Glendora Wilderness Park, which is in turn adjacent to the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and the Angeles National Forest. This parcel would be an extension of the preserved parkland to which it connects and gives access.

A recent biological study claims the property has “very high biological value.” The springs and oak woodland attract wildlife. Construction will require removal of 176 mature oak trees along with other tree and scrub species. There are three federal or state listed species present in the area — the coastal California gnatcatcher, cactus wren and three-leaved brodiacea. Bobcats, mountain lions (one even seen dragging off a deer), female bears with their cubs, ring-tailed cats and foxes have been observed on the property or near it.

The owner faces problems in approvals for the development. The biologically significant species on the property may prevent development of some lots. The Sierra Madre fault zone could prevent use of some and threat of landslides from possible seismic shaking exists on others. Only one access route is present. Access to water will be expensive, and concerns exist about necessity of waivers from Glendora’s slope-development regulations. Hillside-development codes could potentially affect several proposed lots. Residents have registered concerns about increased traffic congestion, air pollution, noise and cumulative impacts of this development because of other previously approved foothill projects.

The San Gabriel Valley Task Force hopes these issues will convince the owner to sell the property to one or a coalition of conservancies. The Trust for Public Land, Rivers and Mountain Conservancy, and the Glendora Community Conservancy have indicated interest in purchasing the property if the owner will sell at current market value.

The Draft Environmental Report is expected in late April or May. The goal of the San Gabriel Valley Task Force is to preserve this area of San Gabriel Mountain foothills to connect to already preserved open space for preservation of habitat and recreation, not only for the local residents of Glendora but for the several million inhabitants of the greater Los Angeles area.

We hope that the presence of the Sierra Club involvement in this fight will create awareness of and interest in the Sierra Club to the extent that a new East San Gabriel Group can be created.

To build these 19 homes on the Gordon-Mull property would destroy recreational opportunities for residents and for growing populations in the wider Los Angeles area. And it would eliminate its value for wildlife forever. For many visitors, our mountains are their first time in the tranquility of unspoiled wilderness If kept as open space — the goal of the San Gabriel Valley Task Force — the region would increase an area of contiguous, protected open space for people and wildlife.