Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Past Forgets and Hope Renews

"I figure staff sits around and develops certain categories then just lumps them onto one person or another. Pretty amusing that they gave Moran fiscal responsibility. Walsh's accomplishments were pure fantasy, and I understand more now about how the Civility Party kids itself." - reader comment

We would all prefer to write our own history. Certainly that version of what happened during whatever time is being discussed would be far more pleasing to us personally than what others might write. And that is pretty much what a City Council reorganization is all about. Those who are vacating their seats at the dais attempt to put the best possible spin on whatever it was they'd been doing for the last four years. Done in the hope that their intended audience will forget all the evidence to the contrary, and remember them more kindly than they might actually deserve.

But while that was the case for some departed City Councilmembers, there are those who do accomplish great things. It is still possible for an individual or two to make a difference here despite the great pressures put upon this community and its elected representatives to knuckle under to the moneyed special interests, coercive political machines and general rot that continue to drag California low.

We have had a few of those. Kurt Zimmerman would be one. Don Watts and MaryAnn MacGillivray would have to be added to that list as well. And to that sadly rather short roster of recent worthy Councilmembers we need to add Chris Koerber. His greatest accomplishment, twice defeating unfair utility taxes that were the highest in the state (and will be still for another year or so), stands tall amongst those of the conformist nonentities who served with him.

I thought I would post Chris Koerber's remarks from last night here. For someone who was only on the City Council for two years, he accomplished a lot. It needs to be remembered.

When I ran for Sierra Madre City Council in 2012 I made a promise that I would stand for Clarity, Community, and Economic Accountability.

I believe I kept my word.  I did what I said I would do.

In the area of Clarity, I proposed the following ideas which the Council adopted. 

- A formal succession policy for vacant City Council positions.

- A transparent application process for appointing new Commissioners.  All applications are put now on-line for residents to review.

In the area of Community I was blessed to work with Sierra Madre parents, PUSD Board members and staff to finally, after a nearly 3 year long delay, get construction of Sierra Madre Middle School underway.  I’d like to give former PUSD Board Member, Ramon Miramontes, a special thank you.  His introduction of a Board resolution to commit to building Sierra Madre Middle School was integral to keeping the process moving.  I’d also like to thank the members of the PUSD Board who voted 6 – 1 to approve the middle school.  I called all School Board members prior to the vote.  I really appreciate your support.

I also lobbied the PUSD Board during the vacancy appointment process for Sierra Madre to have a Board representative in 2013.  Many thanks to Gretchen Vance and Dr. Mikala Rahn, both Sierra Madre residents, who applied.  I’m happy to report that Mikala Rahn was appointed to the PUSD Board in 2013, a full two years before the scheduled redistricting election of 2015 would have done so!
Economic Accountability

I proposed a competitive review of the City Attorney.  For the first time in over 7 years we conducted a competitive bidding process that resulted in a reduction of over $1,000.00 per month for the City’s Attorney base retainer charges.

Another matter of great concern was the City’s failure to effectively collect the money it was due, especially for paramedic billings.  If a bill wasn’t paid in 60 days, no further collection effort was made.  In my opinion, it’s wrong to raise taxes and/or fees to offset poor collection efforts.

I’m proud to report that we now have a formal collections process to make sure that those who owe money will have to pay.

Lastly, I’ve made it clear that we need to watch what we spend.  Even the Mountain Views News has called me a “known fiscal conservative” (thanks, Susan!)

People don’t work to pay taxes.

We need to make sure we’re spending the taxpayers’ money in the most effective way before increasing taxes.  (I don’t think we’re quite there yet.)

I’m proud to be part of the team that worked to defeat the 2012 proposed 20% UUT tax increase and also to defeat the recent Measure UUT with its proposed 25% tax increase.  Since the 2012 tax hike defeat, we’ve saved the residents over 1 million dollars, while maintaining current staffing levels for police, fire and paramedics. We’ve also been able to keep the Library open the same numbers of hours each week. And, after all that, the City has had a small General Fund surplus left over.

Starting in 2015 through 2019, we will save the tax payers an estimated $4.5 million in Utility User Taxes. That’s money that you can keep or spend as you wish - and I’m sure some of it will be spent at our local businesses. As a matter of fact, you, the majority of the voters, also made Sierra Madre more business friendly starting in July, 2015. All the businesses in town, as well as our residents, will enjoy lower UUT costs. 

I have been both humbled and honored to serve as your council member.  Sierra Madre is a very special place with very special and very nice folks.

I’d like to close with a quote that I believe sums up my service to Sierra Madre residents. It is from T.S. Eliot:

“Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right, decide on what you think is right, and stick to it.”

May God bless America and may God bless Sierra Madre. Thank you.

Where are we going from here?

While there is always hope, an examination of the new majority faction of the City Council would indicate that we are not in the hands of the best people right now.

First and foremost we find ourselves with a Mayor whose intended audience will continue to be the county political machine that he hopes will reward him with a career in politics one day. The people he will be performing for are not from here. His dreams lay elsewhere.

Do not expect John Harabedian to put the best interests of the taxpayers of Sierra Madre first. Instead look for him to lead the charge to put the UUT back on the ballot for the third time, and sooner than you might think. For the Mayor Johnnies of this world governing is a form of fundraising, designed to enhance the welfare of those who help finance the political machines and special interests they so badly want to join.

Our new Mayor Pro Tem is an individual who got himself elected by promising to push back against regressive overtaxation such as double digit UUT rates. Once on the City Council he quickly changed sides, and with Measure UUT went on to actively campaign against everything he had advocated just two years previously. It's a wonder the fellow isn't too dizzy to stand up.

And then there is Gene Goss. The guy who saw nothing at all inappropriate about employing the campaign treasurer of the disgraced Calderon political machine (link). And even went on to make hilarious excuses for it. This from the Sierra Madre website (link):

I have a professional campaign treasurer keeping my campaign’s books because of my concern for absolute accuracy in my public campaign financial statements. She’s doing a great job and is not in any way a political consultant.

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pasadena Star News: Sierra Madre Monastery Declines $10 Million Offer for 20 Acres of Unused Land

(Mod: Good Zen Vuong article on the Mater Dolorosa development situation in today's Pasadena Star News. An informative summation for those of you who might have missed out on some of the recent events. Zen also gives a lot of ink to Matt Bryant, the Sierra Madre resident who has provided some very effective leadership in the fight to preserve one of the last open spaces in this town. Matt's contribution to this effort has been second to none here, and it is good to see him getting some recognition for his hard work in trying to save so important a part of our community. Here is a portion of that article. For the remainder click here.)

Sierra Madre monastery declines $10 million offer for 20 acres of unused land: To prevent what some residents called over-development, a citizen coalition offered to pay Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center about $10 million for about 20 acres of vacant land.

Since January the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa and Stop the Housing Project has communicated with the retreat center and its owner, Illinois-based Passionists of Holy Cross Province. Earlier this month, however, the owner of the 88-acre retreat center declined the Coalition’s multimillion-dollar offer.

Matthew Bryant, spokesman for the coalition, said the decision disappointed him. He was worried the property by Sunnyside Avenue and Bailey Canyon Park would morph into an enormous housing project.

“It’s not in the best interest of the neighbors or the community at large,” said Bryant, who lives along Mater Dolorosa’s western border. “It wasn’t just disappointment; it was kind of sadness. Right now so many things are changing. We thought the one thing that wouldn’t change is Mater Dolorosa.”

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province has owned Mater Dolorosa since 1924 and dedicated Mater Dolorosa Monastery in 1932. The property has provided retreats for men since 1926, according to its website. The center later opened to the larger populace.

The potential development is still in its nascent stages; eight developers submitted proposals, said Cameron Thornton, chairman of Mater Dolorosa’s Board of Directors. It would be a minimum of three years before the project — if it happens — even breaks ground, he said.

“We do not have a specific design that is set (for the single-family homes),” Thornton said. “We’re going to invite as much feedback during the entitlement process as we can, and we will be reaching out and having public forums. ... The entire process is one that has been thought out very well.”

Residents who oppose new development can point to the 32-acre Stonehouse and One Carter project, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Elisa Cox, the city’s spokeswoman, said this project has gone through multiple owners and has been the object of a lawsuit. Although the property was graded in 2007, only one of the properties has broken ground.

(Mod: 2014 is the 10th Anniversary of nothing ever getting built at One Carter. Outside of perhaps the Downtown Specific Plan, One Carter is the very worst City Council decision in the recent history of our community. That these two decisions were basically the work of the same two former Mayors is not coincidence. Both had Gene Goss and Noah Green signs in their yards earlier this month. No surprises there, either.)

Tonight is the City Council Reorganization

Get there early if you want a seat. Judging by the Corfu invitation list, the Harabedian camp will be bringing in a lot of folks for their celebration of all things Johnny Mayor. And while there are three new City Council members to be seated as well, there are priorities.

Tonight will also be the last gasp of the Civility Party. With the single four year terms of Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran ending this evening, we will now have a City Council with no member having served for more than two years.

I recently put together and posted a list here of the problems the Civility Party has had in governing this town. I've since edited it a bit, and figured I should share that with you today. It's been a rough four years. We are coming out of a particularly difficult era in this City's history, and hopefully this will help folks understand that.

The Top 10 Failures of the Civility Party

1) Water rates increased twice. Twice because they couldn't get the math right the first time. $10s of thousands of dollars were needlessly paid to a second consultant to fix the mess caused by the first one.

2) The highest utility tax rates in California were put on the ballot twice in two years, failing both times. Residents were told various tall tales by the city about their double-digit utility tax rates. Few of which turned out to be completely true, and accordingly were disbelieved by the majority of voters.

3) Many downtown businesses closed, and those storefronts remain empty today. This despite $30,000 in taxpayer money being spent on something called a "Market Demand Study."

4) Our Moody's water bond ratings dropped three times, despite over 100% in combined water rate increases. A problem the water rate hikes were supposed to correct, or so residents were told by this City Council. Currently our water bonds remain rated "junk."

5) Our water ran out. SGVMWD replacement water, which the city is paying near ransom rates for, turns several different rainbow colors and kills pet fish.

6) Health plan costs for select city employees rose to some of the most expensive levels in the entire state of California. This while residents were being told that costs at City Hall had been cut to the bone.

7) The Tree Commission was killed off for no apparent purpose. What was left got folded into something called an EENER. The insulting reason given for this is it would save city staff time.

8) The EENER Commission, after months of meaningless politically correct posturing over just how "green" and "sustainable" Sierra Madre is, goes on life support after Chairperson Paul Alva suddenly quits. No move is made to replace him. Somehow the city survives.

9) Out of the three people elected to the City Council in 2010, none remain. Joe Mosca resigns for reasons never fully explained and leaves the country. Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran decide not to run for reelection rather than face questions about all of the above.

10) When the City needed leadership and guidance during the Bob Matheson/Child Pornography Affair, this City Council did nothing. Instead they quickly shifted all responsibility over to the SMPD, who then also did nothing. Two Councilmembers actually denied ever having known Matheson. Photos soon emerged showing that they were not telling the truth.

(Mod: We plan on "live blogging" tonight's City Council reorganization meeting. Join us at 6:30 if you like.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kumbaya: Sierra Madre UUT Revenues Will Continue To Go Up If Latest SoCal Edison Rate Increase Is Approved

Kumbaya: Bringing us together
(Mod: Today is a bit of an important day here at The Tattler. For the longest time I have been trying to get the noted taxation and city revenue expert Kumbaya to write a post for us. And just as I'd given up on it ever happening, the following showed up in last night's e-mail. As always with Kumbaya, it is an incisive dissection of the kinds of financial shenanigans we as taxpayers are subjected to by the unethical powers that be. This is a carefully researched piece of writing, and well worth the kind and generous attention you have always given to us at this site.)

Did you read “Notice of Southern California Edison Company’s Supplemental Filing For Residential Electric Rate Changes" (R.12-06-013, Phase 1)? You should have. It was in your last Southern California Edison (SCE) bill. It looks like this:

Fig. 1
Edison says that due to a new law (AB327) and a ruling from the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), they will “simplify California’s residential electricity rate structure and better align rates… Edison proposes to phase in the changes over a period from 2015 through 2018.”

In its request, Edison desires to make the following changes to the residential standard electric rate plan (Schedule D).

“Reduce the number of rate tiers from four to three tiers in 2015, and then to two tiers by 2017.

Let me think, here, for a minute: If there are fewer tiers to capture more money, will SCE have to increase OR decrease the cost of the lower tier? That is a trick question! INCREASE, of course.

So, you’ve been using less electricity by being energy efficient?  Too bad.  Go get your wallet.  And, you get to pay more UUT money on top of that.

“Phase in an increase to Edison’s Basic Charge from the current $0.94 per month to $5.00 per month in 2015, $7.50 per month in 2016, and $10.00 per month in 2017. The Basic Charge is a service fee that recovers some of SCE’s fixed costs.”

fig. 2
What does this mean, really? Congratulations, Sierra Madre rate payer!  You will now have a monthly “meter fee” for electricity, just like the dreaded water department meter fee.  So even if you use little to no electricity (think solar, or an extended vacation), it appears that you’ll still owe at least $5.00 per month in 2015 to Ol’ Man Edison. And more UUT money, too.

“Starting in 2016, lower the amount of usage billed at Tier 1 rate within each baseline zone.”

fig. 3
Wait a minute! If they make the lower tiers smaller, won’t I have more usage at tier 2 or 3 rates so my bill will go up?

That’s correct.  In figure 3 for Zone 10 (Inland Empire used since Sierra Madre rates weren’t in the brochure), the “Illustrative Changes in 2015 Monthly Bills Non-CARE Customers” show an estimated “bill impact” of 26% for the customers who are in the lowest 50% of electrical use. And you’ll get to pay more UUT.

Believe it or not, while most of us will be paying more for electricity in 2015, not everyone will be angry about:

Lower number of tiers

Increasing meter charges

Smaller Tier 1 (base rates)

As an example of that "not angry" category, the City of Sierra Madre will be thrilled!!

Not only will they get to collect more total tax UUT dollars from the 60% water revenue increase over the next 5 years, but wait, there’s more! The city will also get to collect more UUT dollars from increasing Southern California Edison bills.

Is this a gold mine for Sierra Madre or what?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Special Edition of the Tattler Sunday News

Umbrella weather on the Easter egg
(Mod: One possible benefit of embracing the apocalyptic is that should all of your dreams come true you will not have to go to work tomorrow. I don't know what it is like where you work, but for many people I know the end of all possible Mondays just might seem like a decent swap. However, that this would be made possible by exchanging the extinction of everything we have ever known, including our oftentimes annoying selves, and for only a few days off, might be too extreme. So maybe we shouldn't go there right now. There is a City Council reorganization this week, and who'd want to miss out on that? Not me. Here is your Easter Special Edition of the Tattler Sunday News. Read it and feel your awareness of all things grow.)

If El Niño Comes This Year, It Could Be a Monster (Wired link) - Attention, weather superfans: El Niño might be coming back. And this time, we could be in for a big one.

Official NOAA Climate Prediction Center estimates peg the odds of El Niño’s return at 50 percent, but many climate scientists think that is a lowball estimate. And there are several indications that if it materializes, this year’s El Niño could be massive, a lot like the 1997-98 event that was the strongest on record.

“I think there’s no doubt that there’s an El Niño underway,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is whether it’ll be a small or big one.”

On top of some late-’90s nostalgia, a strong El Niño would bring pronounced changes to weather patterns around the globe, and possibly relief from some of the less-pleasant weather trends that have dominated headlines this year. After a Polar Vortex-fueled, unbearably cold winter in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast, a strong El Niño could bring warmer, drier weather in late 2014. And to parched California and its prolonged drought, El Niño might provide drenching rainstorms to fill up reservoirs.

(Mod: I am all for this. I have been getting really bored with the drought, and I've come to believe that a return to mudslides and floods would be preferable. Besides, it's better than earthquakes, right?)

The Fault That Could Eat LA (The Los Angeles Times link) - The Puente Hills thrust fault, which appeared to be responsible for Tuesday's predawn magnitude 4.4 earthquake that shook much of the Los Angeles area, is capable of generating earthquakes up to magnitude 7.5 -- massive shakers larger than any in the modern history of the Los Angeles Basin.

A Times article from 2003 said that the Puente Hills system could touch off a 7.5 temblor directly underneath downtown Los Angeles.

Sue Hough, a seismologist in the Pasadena office of the U.S. Geological Survey, added: "This is the fault that could eat L.A."

(Mod: Here is a question the Los Angeles Times was incapable of asking. What exactly would L.A. taste like? True journalism is dead here.)

74-year-old Pasadena man dies at hospital two weeks after alleged attack by 25-year-old wife (Pasadena Star News link) - A 25-year-old Pasadena woman arrested earlier this month on suspicion of domestic violence against her 74-year-old husband may face additional charges after the man died at a hospital Friday, officials said.

Gina Marie Sas, 25, was arrested the afternoon of April 1 after allegedly striking her elderly husband in the head with an object at their home in the 200 block of South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said. His name was not released Friday pending notification of family members, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said.

Police declined to say what the object was, citing the active investigation. The man suffered a cut to his head, but was walking and talking when he met with police on the day of the alleged attack, Gourdikian said.

But the man’s condition quickly deteriorated once hospitalized, the lieutenant said. “Once he got to the hospital, his condition became critical,” he said. “He’s been on life-support since the first of April.”

Police were notified Friday morning by officials at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena that the man had died.

(Mod: Sometimes love is not enough. And even then it can be a headache.)

Why Portland Reservoir Was Flushed After Teen Peed in It (Yahoo News link) - Officials in Portland, Ore., are flushing 38 million gallons of public drinking water after a 19-year-old was caught on camera urinating into an open reservoir on Wednesday (April 16).

The water, which had already been treated, was tested for contamination after the incident. As expected, the sample came back clean, Jaymee Cuti, a spokeswoman for the Portland Water Bureau, told Live Science.

Officials acknowledged there was little public health risk from a small amount of urine in an open reservoir that is presumably exposed to the droppings of wild animals all the time. So why dump the whole supply? Bureau officials say they won't stand for serving their customers "purposely tainted drinking water."

"Our customers have an expectation that their water is not deliberately contaminated," David Shaff, the bureau administrator, said in a statement. "We have the ability to meet that expectation while minimizing public health concerns. We will continue to provide our customers with safe, clean and cold Bull Run water."

(Mod: Would City Hall flush out our settling ponds should a similar unfortunate incident ever happen here? And would we have the water to do it? That would be a good question for Bruce Inman on Tuesday.)

LA County unveils $26-billion budget, plans hiring spree (Los Angeles Daily News link) - Los Angeles County’s budget officials on Monday unveiled a proposed $26.1 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2013-2014 that calls for hiring about 1,300 new employees — mostly nurses and social workers — as well as funding for reforms in the troubled jail and child welfare systems.

Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich, however, believe more money should have been set aside for patrolling unincorporated communities and repairing aging infrastructure. And Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky wants to know whether the county’s hospitals, clinics and health centers can absorb hundreds of new staffers before approving any hiring.

Meanwhile, a steward in the county’s largest employee union complained the proposed staffing increases are not enough to reduce social workers’ caseloads to a manageable level. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 went on strike last year to complain that social workers handle as many as 30 or more cases at a time.

(Mod: It's really OK. The LA County people are planning on putting that Measure R sales tax extension back on the ballot later this fall, and it will take care of everything. Or at least until next time.)

Peoria Mayor Sends Police to Track Down Twitter Parodist ( link) - Politicians can be a thin-skinned bunch. You'd think they'd let insults roll off their backs given how much power they have over the lives and livelihoods of others. But if you have all that power, why bother letting insults roll of your back when you can use that power to disproportionately punish people?

Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him.

As a result, police raided a West Bluff home, seized property, and detained three people for questioning. The Twitter account, @PeoriaMayor, has been suspended. According to the Journal Star, the account had all of 50 posts and an equal number of followers. The Twitter profile apparently did not initially indicate that it was a parody account, but added that label in early March.

The label was hardly necessary, though, to prevent reader confusion. The Journal Star explains that "police were informed of the account by Ardis on March 12. The tweets implied 'Mayor Ardis utilizes illegal drugs, associates with prostitutes and utilized offensive inappropriate language,' according to an affidavit filed for the warrant." Who would actually believe such tweets were coming from the mayor? Well, maybe residents of Toronto.

Nevertheless, police raided this home and intend to charge whoever was responsible for the account for false impersonation of a public official. The police chief also doesn't think it was obvious the account was a parody and thinks the impersonator "went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor."

(Mod: I think Sierra Madre needs a Mayor with similar resolve to deal with the blog problem we have here in town. It really has gotten out of hand.)

Don't eat too many peeps today. I'm not sure those things are good for you. Especially in large quantities.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mater Dolorosa: Good Friday's "Unneeded Land" Photos

Mod: Here are a few pictures showing how that inappropriately labeled "unneeded land" was used during yesterday's Good Friday services at the Mater Dolorosa Monastery. The question today being will those hoping to observe future Good Fridays at the monastery be prevented from doing so once that unfortunate tract housing called for by the Passionist Fathers eventually squeezes them out?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Have the Passionist Fathers Decided to Take the Mater Dolorosa Development Money and Run?

(Mod: I received the following e-mail from the Stop The Monastery Housing people, and the news isn't all that good. Here is what they had to say this week about some of the unhappy recent events there.)

Hi John: Here is the latest salvo from Mater Dolorosa. We had proposed to them to give the citizens of Sierra Madre as well as donors a chance to try to purchase the property before they sell it to a developer.

Unfortunately, they didn't feel the amount of money we could raise would be as much as a developer would pay them for the property. The concern now is that because they seem to be focused on maximizing their profit, we will be looking at a major housing project at Mater Dolorosa. With the water shortage and other issues, this will not be a good thing for Sierra Madre.

Attached is a copy of their recent letter. They just posted it on their website under "Property News".  I intend to send their letter along with some commentary on Friday to all of the supporters on our email list.

Because our efforts to negotiate a "win-win" solution by preserving the open space and getting them the money they needed, we now move into a different phase of our efforts. It will also be interesting to see how much the city will try to promote this project now that the UUT went down in flames.  They would probably want the additional revenue.

It will also be interesting to see how all the people driving up Sunnyside this Friday for the Stations of the Cross will react to all those sign along the way. They have to drive the gauntlet to get there and probably didn't know a substantial portion of that property - about 20 acres - is about to be sold off.

(Mod: All good points. City Hall, which is always hungry for more development impact cash, is not likely to be of much assistance in helping to preserve the last truly open spaces here in Sierra Madre. Meaning that once again we could be on our own. Fortunately we have three new City Councilmembers who all expressed concern during the campaign about the fate of this at risk monastery land. This could be their first big test in office. Here is the "Property News" our correspondent wrote to us about.)
April 15, 2014
Property Communications - Dear Friends,

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province, headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois and the owners of the property on which the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center stands, has confirmed a final decision to develop an unused portion of this property, which they have owned since 1924.

The Passionists have our full support in this decision. This property is below the retreat house and is not used nor needed for our mission. As we have previously communicated, this sale has been in the planning stages since 2007.

The Passionists are selling the land to raise monies for the retirement and care of their aging priests and brothers and for the continuation of its global mission and their ongoing work. All monies raised from the sale of this parcel will go back to the Provincial Headquarters for this purpose.

We are now in the feasibility stage of our planning process. Based on the information gathered over the past seven years, the development will be in keeping with our neighborhood of single- family homes. This direction is important to the city, to our neighbors and to the many who come to Mater Dolorosa for the nearness to God, our quiet setting and Stations of the Cross provide.

As this property sits at our entrance and is around our neighbors, we have been conducting a thoughtful process to identify a firm that represents our values. Openness, listening and sensitivity to the environment are amongst the issues we have looked for compatibility.

We have looked at a range of approaches to divesting of the property from an outright sale as is to us developing the property on our own. We do not have the expertise to thoughtfully develop the property and feel it is important that we participate in offering our thoughts throughout the development process.

Consequently, we plan on entering into an agreement that in many ways acts as a joint venture arrangement with the ability for us to protect the serene environment through input and approvals throughout the development process.

Our due diligence process has included cordial meetings and ongoing phone conversations between a number of concerned residents, including Matthew Bryant, a Mater Dolorosa neighbor, Council Member-elect Denise Delmar and Leslee Hinton, a General Plan Update Steering Committee member. We have also received input from members of the Sierra Madre business community and many other long-time residents of our community.

While we will never be able to make everyone happy about this land being sold, we have found that once people learn the details and understand that any development will be in keeping with city regulations and will involve a very public process, they are more understanding.

The Passionists and Mater Dolorosa are in the final steps of selecting a developer to implement the decision in a manner that is sensitive and responsible to both the retreat center and its neighbors.

We commit to:
- speak with transparency and openness;
- keep the community informed of development milestones and provide updates on our website;
- support the developer in their intent to implement a design compatible and complementary to our retreat mission, our neighbors and surrounding land uses;
- work with the developer to provide information in a timely and detailed manner to representatives of the City of Sierra Madre as we move through the development process.

Once a purchase and sales agreement is executed, I will formally introduce the developer we will be working with.


Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. Retreat Director

(Mod: How jamming a bunch of tract housing up there is going to "protect the serene environment" is anybody's guess. Michael Higgins could just be saying this to make you somehow feel better. You never can tell. Someone closely associated with this "due diligence process" sent in the following. I believe it is far more to the point.)

The coalition met with representatives of the Passionist Fathers and discussed at length the concepts of developing a plan to raise 10 to 15 Million dollars to acquire the property. The representatives indicated the amounts discussed were insufficient.

(Mod: Apparently concerns over the "serenity of the environment," along with the rest of that rhythm, took a backseat to cold hard cash. Someone in the development world must be waving some very substantial sums beneath Passionist noses. As it is with City Hall, the needs of the community are now being kicked under the bus to fund the requirements of people who don't care very much about the effect their personal situations may be having on those unfortunate enough to live near them. Once again we are being asked to suffer the consequences of someone else's indifferent personal planning. Here are a couple of more points that were shared with me yesterday.)

1. Why sell it now.  The property existed intact since 1926, you had the great depression as well as real estate booms. There could have been plenty of reasons to sell the property then but the powers that be decided that it was important to hold onto the property.

2. Once you sell it, its gone forever.  They aren't making any more land like this.  Even though they consider it "excess" land, how do they know that they won't have a need for it down the road. The Huntington Library could have sold off their excess land when they had some financial challenges.  They managed to keep it and now we have the beautiful Chinese gardens.

(Mod: Ironic that an organization dealing with the ultimate in eternal considerations has here decided to take a more "live for today" approach. You can only wonder what is going to happen to the Passionist cause once its current guardians have sold off all of the remaining precious things passed down to them by people far better than they.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Campaign To Raise Utility Taxes In Sierra Madre Begins Again Next Tuesday

Who is Dario Frommer? ~
There was a lot of speculation yesterday about why John Harabedian would be soliciting RSVPs for his campaign to become the next mayor of Sierra Madre. Well, OK, they aren't so much reservations to endorse the John Harabedian for Mayor bandwagon as they are for a party celebrating his imminent elevation to Mayberry supremacy. Just so you know.

Why is John Harabedian soliciting so highly select a group of RSVPs for a party celebrating his City Council appointment to Mayor even though he hasn't actually been given the gig yet by that august legislative body? My guess is he's actually doing a little political organizing. Johnny is trying to build himself some in-town political consensus, a strong base of influential support here that will watch his back when he begins to do some rather extraordinarily unpopular things once he really does become Mayor.

And one of the most unpopular things he is likely to do is renew the "process" (so-called) to raise utility taxes back up to the 10% level they had been at since 2008. This despite the voters here having soundly rejected some very similar efforts in both 2012 and 2014. Perhaps Johnny believes the third time will be the charm? Certainly he feels it is important. And for those potential backers of his glittering political ambitions, it is.

The only question in my mind is whether the UUT will be put back on the ballot in November of this year, or in early 2015. The plush pension promoters at City Hall still have a little time to get this done before any damage will be incurred should the UUT begin to sunset in mid 2015. And despite the two consecutive defeats our double digit utility tax initiatives suffered at the polls, there is still the possibility that the end result will be our utility taxes won't ever actually sink below the lofty10% mark.

Look at it this way. It just might take three elections for you to get that 2% reduction in your utility taxes in 2015. Three elections. And if this anticipated third attempt by the city to raise our utility taxes succeeds, then your votes on this question will have been nullified twice.

So much for democracy in Sierra Madre.

When it comes to tax money in this town, your vote just might not be as sacrosanct as you think it is. Certainly it's not the top priority. Tax money, and lots of it, is always the preeminent concern at our City Hall. Townie votes be damned.

In Sierra Madre representation will still get you taxation. Even when the majority of those who have to pay it voted NO. And our jumped up soon to be Mayor is all about that. His Sacramento political ambitions are riding on it. Like a screeching circus monkey on a dog.

If you want to have a political future in our neck of the once Golden State, you need to earn. And in one party Los Angeles County that means raising the taxes necessary to reward valued constituencies. Such as our own municipal employee unions.

Expect the worst because you will see it happen.

Who is Dario Frommer?

Pictured up top is our soon to be Mayor and three other grinners. And one of those grinners is a local political VIP of the very first stripe. Situated in the front right of that photo, his name is Dario Frommer and he is a former California State Assembly Majority Leader.

In the world of state government that makes him a major dude. That is why his much anticipated presence at John Harabedian's "I'm the Mayor" party at Corfu next Tuesday is a bit of a feather in the cap of our boy. By all accounts The Great Dario will be there.

Too bad you won't.

Here is a recent publicity release on the topic of Dario Frommer announcing his hiring to a very influential law firm in this state (link).

Dario Frommer, Former California State Assembly Majority Leader, Joins L.A. office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw -- Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP is pleased to announce the addition of Dario J. Frommer to the California Government Practice Group of its Los Angeles office. Mr. Frommer has served as majority leader of the California State Assembly and brings more than 20 years of experience in government and law to the firm.

"Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw affords me the opportunity to continue my involvement in good public policy in California while working with some of the best legal and political talent in the country. I'm excited about joining Mayer Brown's government practice and acting as a bridge between decision makers in business and government while continuing to work on some of the issues I focused on in the Assembly like health care, tax reform, and the environment."

Frommer joins other notable California Government Practice attorneys Mickey Kantor, former U.S. Commerce Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative, Bob Hertzberg, former Speaker of the California Assembly and recent mayoral candidate in Los Angeles, and Phil Recht, former Chief Counsel and Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As majority leader of the State Assembly, Frommer was responsible for reaching agreement on legislative and budgetary issues, and working with diverse interests and stakeholders to find innovative solutions to pressing issues. His legislative accomplishments include the creation of California's Urban Parks program, which put $130 million into new neighborhood parks and preservation of urban open spaces.

Definitely a serious player, and not quite the sort of person you'd ordinarily expect to find at a downtown celebration for the next one year Mayor of Mayberry. No wonder you townies aren't being allowed in.

I can tell you one thing without any fear of contradiction, however. Dario Frommer was not at any of Mayor Nancy Walsh's celebratory parties. I don't think he made it to Josh Moran's parties, either.

This truly is special.

Measure UUT's MIAs

Election night was April 8, and that evening at the City Hall ballot count the only two Councilmembers to show up were John Capoccia and Chris Koerber. There had been no official sightings of Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh or John Harabedian in a couple of weeks.

At the April 15 provisional ballot and final vote count, only Councilmember Chris Koerber showed up. And since then there have been no official appearances or news quotes from any of the UUT 4.

Have they been kidnapped?

We are talking about Measure UUT here, something that in the past has been described by the four folks named above as being extraordinarily important, or should I say vital, to the future of so many things here in Sierra Madre.

Yet in the last few week's of our just concluded election campaign the 80% of the City Council supporting that utility tax increase pretty much disappeared. Outside of a few screeds in the Looney Views  News, of course. Which, given its pithy circulation, is tantamount to hiding.

So maybe the reason is alien abductions? Or perhaps they joined the Navy so they can travel to exotic ports of call and drink coconut milk? Straight from the nut itself?

I think we should start thinking about putting their pictures on milk cartons.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Have You Been Invited To John Harabedian's "Mayor of Sierra Madre" Celebration Party Yet? Why Not?

~ RSVP Required ~
Is it permissible to want to be Mayor of Sierra Madre quite this badly? At least in public? Isn't it supposed to be like getting chosen to be the next Pope or something? You know, you have to deny wanting the job three times before the terrible burdens of the office, along with the burning needs of your desperately pleading peers, force you to accept so onerous a responsibility?

Besides, I would have thought that you'd actually have to be voted Mayor first before announcing a party celebrating your having having been presented with this gig. After all, isn't this a job you have to be elected to by your fellow members on the City Council? So wouldn't sending out party invitations to your fellow City Councilmembers, past and newly elected, celebrating your having been chosen by them to be Mayor when they haven't actually voted for you yet, be a bit, well, presumptuous?

Then there are the inevitable Brown Act questions. While this party is scheduled to take place after the actual selection has taken place, couldn't sending out private celebratory party invitations to your fellow City Councilmembers a week prior to that gala event be construed as being an attempt to influence their vote, and out of the view of the people? Does accepting this invitation become tacit recognition that John Harabedian is indeed the next Mayor? Before his being legally assigned the job?

And as it is with any other piece of the public's business, doesn't anything involved with this (or any) governmental process (so called) need to be done in the plain view of the citizens? And not through issuing invitations to a select group of people for an exclusive private reception?

There is also some precedent for believing that John Harabedian has been a bit overly ambitious here. You may recall that during the 2012 City Council reorganization Chris Koerber, having received the most votes of any candidate that year, was by longstanding Sierra Madre tradition expected to be chosen as the next Mayor Pro Tem. However, at that reorganization meeting John Harabedian, the second place finisher, loudly protested.

And for some of the most specious and obscure reasons ever heard here, declared that it was he who should be picked as the next Mayor Pro Tem, and therefore become next in succession for Mayor in 2014. Josh and Nancy joined with him in disrespecting the will of the voters.

This was a notable event, and one that left many wondering why John Harabedian so badly needed to receive an honor he had not earned, and therefore was not entitled to actually have. Why the big rush?

Then there is this unfortunate and inappropriate and reference in an article recently published in the Los Angeles Daily News (link).

All the sessions, held in small conference rooms on City Hall’s 10th floor, were closed to the press.

But after the meetings concluded, L.A. County reps chatted up reporters. Torrance City Councilman Kurt Weideman said he learned about countywide earthquake precautions, and intended to look at possibly retrofitting structures. “I have to know if all my buildings are safe,” Weideman said.

Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian attended a session on water, and learned new ways to capture rainwater, he said. Sierra Madre is so impacted by the drought that it is currently importing all its water, he said.

“We talked a lot about sustainability, and how to work together as a region,” Harabedian said.

Was this a mistake made by the paper's reporter? Or did John Harabedian actually misrepresent himself at this conference as being the Mayor of Sierra Madre? It does fit a pattern.

Look, I know John Harabedian is going to be chosen as the next Mayor. I don't sense that any potential coup are is to be unleashed by a suddenly militant John Capoccia or Gene Goss. Though theoretically any of the five City Councilmembers could be chosen as our next Mayor next week.

But there are ways these things are supposed to be done. And this isn't one of them. We're not a city that usually caters to the singular needs of any special people. Nor should the government of Sierra Madre be used to buff up the resume' of an overly ambitious politician.

Maybe everyone should RSVP. Try City Hall.

I'd need to thank some good people

I received the following e-mail recently.

Mr. Crawford,

Congratulations on your likely success in defeating Measure UUT.

I first learned of your efforts when you prodded the city to release pay data for our Transparent California website, and am gratified that you were able to use the site in the campaign to oppose UUT.

We created Transparent California in the hopes that local activists would use it to change public opinion, and your efforts are the first tangible evidence that we are accomplishing that goal.

Thank you for being an effective warrior for freedom.

Mark Bucher
California Policy Center

The contributions made by the California Policy Center, and in particular Robert Fellner, emcee of the Transparent California website, were nothing short of amazing.

The information and guidance provided to us by this organization, especially revelations regarding the previously unsuspected and outrageously costly health care plans of select City of Sierra Madre employees, likely the most expensive in the entire State of California I might add, was an important element in defeating unfair utility tax increase initiative Measure UUT.

On behalf of a lot of grateful people here in Sierra Madre, thank you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Provisional Vote Count In: Measure UUT Stays Defeated

~ Official Count ~
(Mod: Provisional votes are all counted, and the results are in. Measure UUT opponents picked up 20 votes in this morning's count, and a big win.)

Mod @ 10:05 - Nothing being counted yet, though there is actually a bigger turnout for this than we saw a week ago.

Mod @ 10:09 - Nancy Shollenberger has announced the ballots are now being opened, and yes, it does look like that. Martin & Chapman, the ballot counters, are expected to arrive at 10:30.

Mod @ 10:30 - Martin & Chapman has arrived. The stage is now set for big time ballot counting action.

Mod @ 10:36 - There are actually 294 provisional ballots. The 294th ballot arrived yesterday, but it was postmarked Apr 7.

Mod @ 10:46 - Martin & Chapman is now running the ballots through the machine. The big moment is almost upon us.

Mod @ 10:59 - Discussions are taking place at the front of the room. About what I do not know. No body language indications that I can read.

Mod @ 11:03 - Precinct 2 was just recounted.

Mod @ 11:08 - Final Totals - All Votes Tabulated: 
Rachelle Arizmendi - 1,782 
Denise Delmar - 1,367 
Gene Goss - 1,820 
Noah Green - 1,243 

Yes on Measure UUT - 1,296 

No on Measure UUT - 1,372

Mod: 11:14 - Measure UUT lost by 76 votes. Opponents to the UUT initiative picked up 20 provisional votes (etc), and won by 2.8 of the vote. Total voter turnout was 2,711 out of 8,181 registered voters, or 33.1%.

We won one.

Oh, and for those of you who wrote in other candidates, the total there was 25 votes. I'm calling all of those for Neil The Pig. It looks like he received .9% of the vote, coming in 5th behind Noah Green. None too shabby.

What I posted earlier today

293 provisional ballots are left to be counted this morning, with the results determining the final numerical outcomes of this year's election.

As of now Measure UUT trails by 56 votes, and the odds of this tax increase (and its unhappy fans) overcoming such a deficit are mathematically slim. But who knows? We will report the numbers here live from City Hall as they arrive. If I type fast enough you can be among the first to know the final results just by hanging out on The Tattler.

Provisional ballots include all vote by mail/absentee ballots delivered to the polls on election day as well as provisionally voted ballots.

So what is a provisional ballot, and why does such a thing exist? Thanks to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, here is more than anyone would ever really need to know on the subject (link):

While provisional voting may be relatively new in some areas of the country, California's provisional voting statutes have been in effect since 1984. Provisional voting exists in California for two fundamental reasons:

First, provisional voting ensures that no properly registered voter is denied their right to cast a ballot if that voter's name is not on the polling place roster due to a clerical, processing, computer, or other error.

Second, provisional voting allows elections officials to ensure that no voter votes twice, either intentionally or inadvertently, in a given election.

The most common circumstances when an elections official will ask a voter to cast a provisional ballot are:

First-time voters. Under federal law, a person who is voting for the first time in a federal election is required to provide proof of identification, even if their name is on the polling place roster. If the voter cannot provide proof of identification, the voter will be asked to cast a provisional ballot. The elections official will verify the voter's eligibility by comparing their signature on the provisional ballot envelope with the signature on their voter registration form and if the signatures match, then the ballot will be counted. (Elections Code sections 14310(c), 15350, and 3019.)

Vote-by-mail voters who appear in person. In this instance, the voter's name is on the polling place roster and the roster notes the voter requested a vote-by-mail ballot. However, the voter states they didn't receive the ballot, lost the ballot, or spoiled the ballot and doesn't have it with them. After the voter casts a provisional ballot, the elections official will check the records to ensure that the voter did not cast their vote-by-mail ballot. If this is the case and the voter's signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter's registration card, then the voter's provisional ballot will be counted. (Elections Code sections 3016, 14310(f), 15350, 15100 et seq.) If the voter did vote and return their vote-by-mail ballot before the close of polls on Election Day, then the vote-by-mail ballot will be counted and the provisional ballot will not be counted. If the voter did vote and return their vote-by-mail ballot but failed to sign the vote-by-mail ballot envelope, then the voter's provisional ballot will be counted, provided they complied with the instructions associated with the provisional ballot.

Voters who have moved within their county without re-registering to vote. The voter's name is not on the polling place roster because they moved within the county but did not re-register to vote. This also happens when a voter updates their driver's license with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) but the DMV's computer system doesn't update the voter's registration information, as it is required to do by law. In either instance, the voter is entitled to vote a provisional ballot at the polling place based on their current address. The elections official is required to count the ballot if the voter's signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter's prior registration form. The elections official is then required to re-register the voter at their new address for all future elections. (Elections Code sections 14310, 14311, 15350, 15100 et seq.)

Voters who are not on the polling place roster for an unknown reason. Should this occur, the elections official will check the county's official registration records after Election Day. If the voter was properly registered to vote in the county and in the precinct in which they voted, their provisional ballot will be counted. If the voter was registered to vote at another address in the county, their votes will be counted in the races they voted on as if they were voting in their home precinct (i.e., their votes for U.S. President, statewide, and countywide measures will be counted, but their votes in a city council race may not be counted if the precinct they're registered in is in a different city council district than the one in which they cast a ballot). If the voter is not registered to vote or is registered to vote in another county or state, their ballot will not be counted in part or in whole. (Elections Code section 14310(c)(3).

Enough said. Or at least I hope it is. See you at 10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Measure UUT: What Are The Odds?

The Measure UUT contest was close. There can be little doubt about that. A 56 vote difference with 293 provisional ballots left to be counted isn't a mathematical lock in any way. But certainly even the most die hard tax increase supporters have to know it will not be an easy deficit to overcome.

Here is how I put it here on The Tattler last Wednesday morning:

Here's the good news. Out of those 293 provisional votes, the YES UUT folks would have to win 175 of them in order to reverse their misery. Or about 60%. This is a mathematical improbability. Our opponents will most likely pick up no more than a net total of 10 votes when the provisional votes are counted next week.

This is nowhere near enough to overcome their current 56 vote deficit. Measure UUT has been defeated. The people have won a great victory.

Or, to view it another way, the No On UUT provisional ballot count would have to be 118 or less for the measure to carry. Out of 293 ballots that would be a highly unlikely result. And should this somehow happen, there would certainly be suspicions of foul play.

Provisional ballots include all vote by mail/absentee ballots delivered to the polls on election day as well as provisionally voted ballots. So you know.

Tomorrow morning at 10AM the last act in the Measure UUT drama will play out. Those provisional ballots will be counted, plus there will be a sample manual count from one precinct. Then it will all be a done deal.

We'll be covering all of this tomorrow morning live from City Hall. See you then.

The Mountain Views Sore Loser

Not happy.
There seems to be a pattern developing here. For the second election in a row the support of Mountain Views News publisher H. Susan Henderson has not exactly carried the political day. Henderson, as the former Executive Director of the California State Democratic Party, who was canned from her job after it was discovered that she had fibbed repeatedly on her resume' while also using that party's credit card to make purchases at places like Victoria's Secret (link), to this day still imagines herself to be quite the political strategist. As delusional as that may seem.

Here in Sierra Madre, where you'd think that Susan's vast statewide political experience would outstrip anything those darned townies might be able to come up with, things may have changed. For the second election in a row nearly everything Susan touched turned into something you'd hate to find floating in your swimming pool. Her performance as a political strategist having been that bad.

Both in 2012 and 2014 a UUT ballot initiative calling for tax increases she herself loudly supported tanked, along with most of her candidates. Including the one she handpicked specially for this election, an individual who turned out to have an unfortunate penchant for posting very strange selfies of himself on Facebook.

Henderson, like so many people possessing both an outsized ego and meagre abilities, does not enjoy taking the blame for her failures. After all, Susan's value to those who employ her rests on an ability to deliver real election results, especially with tax increase initiatives. Otherwise of what possible use could she be to them?

Now that Susan has overseen two election defeats in a row, there has got to be some discomfort in certain quarters about the value of her services. With the inference being that she has become more of an embarrassment than an asset. And Susan Henderson really has become an embarrassment, and to this entire community. It isn't just the many unfortunate typos and spelling errors in her paper, either.

For the second election in a row, Susan Henderson is now blaming The Tattler for a political defeat that was of her own making. And in the second over-the-top and frankly hysteric "editorial" in her small press run newspaper in a month, my name gets filtered through the dank and airless passages of Susan's cerebral bat cave. Like somehow her failures are all my fault, or that if she blames me there will be someone out there who might actually believe it.

Here are a few of the patently untrue statements found in the latest edition of the Looney Views News, along with my comments:

Henderson: "During this election cycle we had the unprecedented exploiting of personal photos taken by one candidate's wife while they were on vacation."

There is nothing unprecedented about the press picking up on any strange Facebook pictures of a politician running for an elective office. Anything that appears on the Internet is fair game, and if you post pictures of yourself doing lewd and sexually suggestive things, and on a public forum like Facebook no less, people are going to find out. Just ask Anthony Weiner.

Here is what the Pasadena Star News had to say about Noah Green's unfortunate Facebook selfies (link):

Photos showing City Council candidate Noah Green letting loose on a 2011 vacation, and possibly getting naked, surfaced online Tuesday.

The photos were pulled from Green’s and his wife Melanie’s Facebook pages and appeared on the Sierra Madre Tattler blog. They show Green with his mouth between the breasts of a bikini-clad mannequin; Green sitting naked in a hammock holding a beer; and Green stripping at a party. The photos were taken in 2011 while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Miami and Costa Rica, the Greens said.

There is also a screenshot of a Facebook status Green made in 2011, when he was “getting ‘buc’d up’ (with the) townies” at Buccaneer Bar in Sierra Madre after first moving there in 2011.

I am sorry, but those picture were news. They still are. And judging by the thousands of hits received by this blog when I posted those pictures, along with the related Pasadena Star News article that became the #1 most read on their news site that week, people were very interested in seeing them.

Just because the Mountain Views News doesn't like to print very much in the way of actual news doesn't mean the rest of the world should start suppressing important information. Susan Henderson not approving of something is no reason to institute North Korea-style news censorship in the Foothill Village.

Henderson: "… I cannot get over the blatantly called (sic) Gene Goss a liar regarding campaign contributions when it was a well known public fact that Gene never solicited a contribution from the Teachers Union and when they sent him one, he returned it and stated that fact over and over again."

Henderson is referring to a post card that I had nothing to do with. However, that hardly means the authors of that card were wrong. The issue here is that Gene Goss clearly stated on his campaign website that he would never solicit or accept the support of any outside agencies, including labor unions and political consultants. Here are the exact words from his campaign website (link):

PledgeThe trend in recent years of outside organizations trying to influence Sierra Madre politics is unacceptable. Therefore, in the interest of the independence of this town, my solemn commitment to fellow Sierra Madreans is that I will absolutely not solicit nor will I accept any support from political parties, outside political organizations, outside political interest groups, outside political consultants, labor unions, law firms, developers, etc.  

Gene Goss "pledged" that he would not solicit or accept any support from organizations such as labor unions. Yet on this same campaign website he lists the endorsement of the United Teachers of Pasadena.

Support from such an organization is hardly limited to cash contributions. It also comes in the form of campaign publicity, volunteers and favor within the community supporting that organization. All of which are equally beneficial to a candidate running for office. Goss actively pursued this union endorsement, and once it was offered to him, accepted it. Despite his stated claims that he would never accept such support.

There is also the matter of Goss's connection to the criminal Calderon political organization through his campaign treasurer, Yolanda Miranda. Her company being yet another outside interest that he relied upon for support. All of which points to a certain ethical squishiness on Gene Goss's part. Something you should find troubling when considering the kinds of responsibilities that come with the City Council seat he will soon occupy.

Henderson: Sierra Madre has a lot of challenges to deal with. Should the UUT remain defeated, we have to figure out how to keep the town the pristine village that it is. We can't do that if we have council members who refrain from doing the right thing for fear of being (called out) on "the blog" or dressed down in council meeting (sic). 

What Susan is referring to here is John Capoccia's flip-flop on the taxation issue. He ran as a self-styled tax fighter in 2012, and won his seat on the City Council because a lot of people believed John's claim that he opposed utility tax rates that to this day are still the highest in California. John later went back on his promises on that issue and supported the large tax increases called for by Measure UUT. He has taken a lot of criticism in the community because of this, and justifiably so.

Apparently what Susan is saying here is that if a politician breaks a campaign promise, which is about as bad a thing for a politician to do, we should not say anything because it might discourage other people from running for office.

To which I would say that any politician who would promise one thing during a campaign, yet do the complete opposite once elected, should definitely be discouraged from running for office. I know I will do anything I can to help in that effort.

It is also important to remember that in 2012 the people of Sierra Madre voted to sunset our double digit utility tax rates starting next year. Our vote not only counts, it supersedes everything else. The last thing we need is flip-flopping tax happy pols trying to undermine basic democracy.

Henderson's real problem here is that she failed to deliver for her clients in the last two elections. Susan fears that she is quickly becoming irrelevant, that her paper doesn't influence very many people anymore, and she's now lashing out at just about anyone or anything in hopes of diverting attention from the fact that she just can't get it done anymore.

Maybe Sore Loser Susan needs to retire from her political consultant gig. Obviously it just isn't working out for her anymore.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tattler Weekend News: State Senate Corruption Watch

(Mod: Believe it or not there have been other things going on besides this week's elections here in Sierra Madre. Hard as that is to believe. And what I find to be among the most intriguing stories these days is the California State Senate corruption affair. It certainly goes a long ways in explaining why things such as SB 375 and SCAG exist. I thought it might be a good idea to catch up on some of this story. Here are a few items that caught my eye today.)

State Senate postpones hearings for ethics training ( link) - In response to ongoing corruption cases, the California State Senate will postpone all committee hearings scheduled for April 23 and in their place host an all-day ethics discussion and training session.

In a Wednesday afternoon email, Kathy Dresslar, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg‘s chief of staff, requested that Senators, committee staff and Capitol office employees “clear their calendars for this one day to devote to the ethics training and discussion which is being planned.”

“All Committees that were scheduled for Wednesday, April 23 will be postponed until the following day, with the exception of Senate Budget Sub 1, which is being postponed until the following week,” Dresslar wrote in her email to Senate chiefs of staff. “Senate Rules Committee is being rescheduled earlier to Monday, 4/21.”

Steinberg: No ethics class on gun-running

The Senate Ethics Discussion and Training day comes as three suspended members of the State Senate face ongoing criminal charges ranging from weapons trafficking to public corruption. The most serious of the three cases surfaced in late March, when the FBI arrested Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on weapons trafficking and pubic corruption charges.

Allegedly referred to as “Uncle Leland” by his co-conspirators, the San Francisco Democrat allegedly offered to smuggle millions of dollars worth of automatic weapons into the United States from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines, according to the FBI affidavit.

In February, state Senator Ron Calderon was charged with a 24-count indictment in connection with bribery and corruption. In January, state Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood was found guilty of eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy. Wright’s case did not involve any allegations of bribery or corruption.

Following Yee’s arrest, Steinberg called upon “our entire body to take a deeper look at our culture.” But he has also recognized the limits of an ethics review.

“I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality and the danger of gun-running,” Steinberg said during the Senate’s debate over whether to suspend the members with pay.

Canceled Pro Tem Cup, kept money, and deleted websites

The Senate has been mixed in its response to the scandals. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats canceled a luxurious annual fundraising event, known as the Pro Tem Cup, citing the “recent and extraordinary breaches of the public’s trust” by three Democratic state senators as the reason.

However, the Senate Democrats also kept the campaign cash, and in place of the golf tournament, personally called each of the event sponsors.

Over the weekend, the California State Senate scrubbed the websites and online archives of the three Senators that face criminal charges.

In addition to pictures and video clips, the websites contained detailed information about the senators’ legislative achievements and ties, which could shed light on past deals or questionable votes. Although some of the information, such as bill language and votes, remains available on other websites, the individual pages acted as a repository or central clearinghouse for information about the Senators.

(Mod: Scrubbing the websites of criminal State Senators was actually done out of jealousy. They have been getting all of the web traffic over the last few weeks, and Darrell Steinberg was starting to feel slighted. Oh, and hopefully they will find an instructor for that course on the ethics of gun running. Can't just let fund-raising Senators go willy-nilly into this highly profitable field with no prior knowledge of proper decorum.)

Leland Yee scandal blunts increasing approval of Legislature (Sacramento Bee link) - As the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

It was good news for the California Legislature in December, when the Field Poll showed public support for lawmakers at its highest since 2007, and the outlook was only getting brighter. Early results from polling in March indicated voter approval of the Legislature at 46 percent, surpassing disapproval for the first time in more than a decade.

Then scandal hit: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI in a sweeping corruption sting.

As Field finished its polling over the next week, voters' approval of the Legislature tumbled to 43 percent and disapproval jumped from 40 percent to 46 percent, representing a 9 percentage point swing in the negative direction. It's not the record lows that lawmakers saw during the depths of California's budget crisis, but public confidence has clearly been shaken by the string of recent criminal charges — and one conviction, so far — against their representatives.

(Mod: People can be so judgmental at times. Then again, most anything drawing attention to this State Legislature is likely to hurt their approval ratings.)

Firing Squad Or Hanging? AG Candidate Wants Death Penalty For Corrupt Lawmakers (CBS News Sacramento link) - A Republican candidate for California attorney general said Friday that state lawmakers who are found guilty of crimes that endanger the lives of others should face the death penalty.

Phil Wyman, who spent 17 years in the state Legislature, said he was motivated by the case of Democratic Sen. Leland Yee. Yee faces federal charges that include an attempt to coordinate an international gun-running scheme from the Philippines.

Wyman also criticized Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris for being “silent as a mouse” on the corruption cases that have marred the state Senate this year. A campaign spokesman for Harris declined comment.

Wyman said in a news release and subsequent telephone interview that the “most egregious” abusers of their public office, if convicted, should be able to choose their method of death – public hanging, firing squad or lethal injection – as a deterrent to others.

“If they know that it’s gun-running and they know it’s going into a terrorist organization in the Philippines, that person earns the death penalty, and especially if they’re in elected office,” Wyman said in the interview.

Prosecutors would not have to prove that deaths occurred, he said; an officeholder promoting the potential for violence would be enough.

California law currently allows lethal injections for murders committed with aggravating circumstances, such as multiple slayings or murder-for-hire. Wyman would make an exception for corrupt politicians.

“Firing squad, at least that’s a bit more macho than getting some other cocktail. Let that person choose. That person’s been at the pinnacle of power. If he wants to be executed by firing squad, let him,” he said in the interview. “I want to discourage and teach the new generation about values – that nobody is above the law.”

(Mod: He's got my vote. If you hit the link to this article you will see that there is also an on-line poll you can take. So far about 80% are in favor of executing corrupt state officials. That seems low to me. You need to vote.)

Republican leads in California Secretary of State race ( link) - The beleaguered California Republican Party received a rare piece of good news on Friday when the California Poll announced that a Republican leads in the election for secretary of state. Pete Peterson, a Pepperdine University instructor, is in the lead for chief elections officer with 30 percent support, followed by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla with 17 percent.

The election was upended recently when Democratic hopeful Leland Yee was indicted on federal gun trafficking charges.

Another prominent candidate, Dan Schnur, has failed to gain traction so far, receiving only four percent of voter support. Schnur is a well-connected former Republican insider who has served as an aide for such GOP luminaries as former California Gov. Pete Wilson and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. Generally regarded as a moderate, Schnur left the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate.

Also receiving single-digit support are Green Party hopeful David Curtis and Democrat Derek Chassman.

Peterson is executive director of the Davenport Institute of Public Policy at Pepperdine. The think tank seeks to find and promote ways to persuade more citizens to get involved in the political process. He is a reform-minded candidate for Secretary of State who believes elected officials should be paid on the basis of how much they get done rather that a set salary.

Under his plan, a 10-point performance dashboard would be launched on the state website and the salary would be based on what percentage of the goals had been completed successfully. He also proposes making it easier to track money contributed to political campaigns and enhance the use of the World Wide Web to help people find and complete state paperwork.

(Mod: You see how fickle the voters can be? Just because some of the state's leading Democratic elected officials have been arrested for various crimes, including setting up gun running deals with foreign terrorists, is no reason to abandon the majority party here in California. It smacks of ingratitude. And as soon as I figure out exactly what we have to be grateful to the California State Democratic Party for - outside of giving us Susan Henderson, of course - I will get back to you.)