Friday, July 25, 2014

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gene Goss Is Kind Of A Funny Dude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, thank you for this opportunity. 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A couple of bonus questions:

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

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

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

Today's Pasadena Star News article on the development moratoriums

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

Here is an example:

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

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

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

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

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

Really, Cameron? Does New Urban West know?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sacramento Is Cracking Down On Your Water Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

Perhaps some state funding is available?

The Looney Views News Airbrushes Itself Out of the Picture

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


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

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are those comments:


http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In today's Pasadena Star News:

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

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

Click here for the rest.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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

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

video

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

video

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

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

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

A major screw up, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube versions

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

Richard McDonald link here.

Frank Nicholas link here.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Answers You've Been Waiting For The Tattler To Get You

An eating process pie chart
Mod: Over the past few weeks there have been some questions that nobody here ever bothered to answer. Sometimes out of forgetfulness, other times out of indifference. But mostly because the correct answer either just didn't exist yet, or nobody knew it. But today we have the answers to three of the biggest questions recently asked by Tattler readers. Important questions that deserved answers when they were asked, but just weren't available at the time. Now they have been found, and boy oh boy we just can't wait to share them with you. You ready?

1) When will the "Mountain Views News Special City Council Building Moratorium Meeting" take place? 

Mod: You know that the City Council's final deliberations on the Building Moratorium had to be pushed back by a few weeks because the legally required Public Notice newspaper ad was somehow "lost" by dotty Mountain Views News publisher Harriet Susan Henderson Poole Carter.

So what is the date for this make-up meeting? One where the City Council will have to make special time in their vacation schedules so it can happen? For that information we turn to Barry Gold, who got us a big payoff this week with his timely e-mail to Mayor Harabedian. Here is Barry's e-mail, along with the reply he received:

From: Barry Gold

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:25 PM
To: John Harabedian
Cc: Rachelle Arizmendi; Gene Goss; John Capoccia; Denise Delmar; Elaine Aguilar
Subject: Building Moratorium Extension

Dear Mayor Harabedian,

I heard that the building moratorium may not be extended beyond the initial 45 days period because the required notice was not published in the Mountain View News in a timely manner. Many residents are understandably concerned and would like to know the status of this matter.

Could you please let the community know whether or not a vote on the building moratorium extension will take place on July 22 at the council meeting.

Maybe you could use the City's web site to bring us all up-to-date.

Thank you, Barry Gold

From: Elaine Aguilar
To: Barry Gold
Sent: Wed, Jul 16, 2014 9:45 am
Subject: RE: Building Moratorium Extension

Hello Mr. Gold

Mayor Harabedian asked me to reply to your email on his behalf (and on the behalf of the Council) – to let you know what staff is doing to notify the public of this situation.  Your information is correct, the Mountain Views News did not print the public hearing notice in Saturday’s newspaper, so the Council cannot take any action on July 22nd. I have checked with the City Council to determine a new date when the matter can be considered.  The entire City Council is available for a meeting on Tuesday, August 12th. So the Council will be meeting on Tuesday, August 12th at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers to consider extending the moratorium.  The urgency ordinance (Ordinance 1357U) that was approved at the July 8th City Council meeting is in full force and effect until August 22nd.   Please know that this publishing error does not in any way impact the other two actions the City Council took on July 8th  (approval of Urgency Ordinance 1356U and Resolution 14-58.)

To notify the public, we will be including this updated information in this week’s E-Blast, in this week’s City Manager’s report, and by posting the information on the City’s website; in addition to the regular posting of the agenda on the City’s website at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting.  Lastly – there will be a notice in the City’s adjudicated newspaper (the Mountain Views News), as required by law.

Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions you may have, or if I can provide any assistance in the future.

Sincerely, Elaine Aguilar, City Manager

Mod: So there you go. This MVN inspired "special meeting" will take place on August 12th. Thanks to the Mountain Views News there will be an August City Council meeting after all. Plus look at it this way, now the Building Moratorium will get its very own moment in the sun. A great opportunity for residents to focus on just how destructive developments such as Mater Dolorosa, One Carter and (as someone posting on this blog happily called it) Stonehenge, would be here. Especially during the worst drought in recorded history.

For the record there has been no statement yet from Susan Henderson explaining how exactly this rather momentous boner occurred. Should that ever happen, and we're not holding our breathe, we will post it here.

2) When will the 2013 City of Sierra Madre Employee Compensation numbers finally be made available? 

Mod: We have been posting some of the truly troublesome numbers provided to us by TransparentCalifornia.com detailing just how bizarrely high City of Sierra Madre employee health care plan costs are. Which, in case you are not aware, at over $30,000 per for certain specially chosen employees, are some of the highest in the state of California. If not the highest of all. These numbers are all based on the most recent data made available by the City of Sierra Madre, and are from 2012.

You can link to this information directly by clicking here.

That 2012 date has been problematic for some, however. One individual, who seemed particularly irked by our forthcomingness about this City's insane health plan compensation spending, left the following tart comment here last week:


I don't know how having squandered hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on Cadillac city employee health care compensation plans in 2012 can somehow be justified by what City Hall did in 2013. Why the year this disaster occurred makes things any better escapes me. And how would this individual have known that the 2013 numbers are lower since our local government agency has not made them available to anybody yet? Including Sacramento?

That is, unless "anonymous" is a city employee himself. One having privileged knowledge to information nobody else has seen yet. Always a possibility.

But again, how could the 2012 numbers be inaccurate or misleading? They are the numbers for 2012, after all. As supplied to the State Controller's office by City hall as is required by California law. Suddenly 2012 doesn't matter anymore?

So I asked our friends at TransparentCalifornia.com to try and find out when exactly the 2013 numbers would become available. Just to keep everyone happy. They made an inquiry to City Hall and received the following reply:

I wanted to let you know that I am in receipt of your request, but we have not yet compiled the data you are asking for the State Controller and therefore do not have a report to send you at this time. I believe the deadline to submit the State Controller’s report is in mid-August. Once we have submitted the report, I will send a copy to you as well.

So there you go. Most cities in California are on this exact same reporting schedule, and ours is no different. The law is the law. This also means that the 2012 numbers we have been posting here are the most up-to-date and accurate possible.

Trust me, as soon as those 2013 health care plan numbers are made available this August we will be more than happy to post them here.

One question though. The mysterious fellow who left the above blog comment claims that those as yet unknown 2013 numbers will be lower. So does this mean the City Council has been cutting the costs of city employee health coverage? And if so, wouldn't that have had to happen during a City Council meeting? Do you recall any such thing ever going down? I don't.

Here is another interesting fact, also based on those same 2012 numbers. The City of Sierra Madre has a total of 53 full-time government workers that are costing us, when pensions and everything else is factored in, a cool $5,450,000 million a year. Divide that cost amongst the 5,888 residents of Sierra Madre who are classified as employed, and it comes to $925 a year per taxpaying resident.

You're most certainly welcome.

3) How many signatures will the people who want to do away with the UUT altogether have to get in order to put this question on the ballot this November? 

Mod: This question had come up more than once, and nobody seemed to know the answer. Or if they did they didn't care to share it with us here.

To get that information we turned to a Pasadena Star News article titled "Arcadia City Council rejects petition to repeal utility tax." To read the entire thing click here.

A notice to circulate a petition was submitted last week in Sierra Madre. The group needs about 100 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Earl Richey, a proponent in Sierra Madre, said the city needs to be more responsible in its handling of its finances. “The city wants more revenue to give it more borrowing power, which will put us in even more debt,” Richey said.

This spring, Sierra Madre voters defeated a measure that would keep the utility tax at 10 percent through 2020. By rejecting the measure, the tax will decrease to 6 percent by July 2016.

City Manager Elaine Aguilar said the city will collect $2.4 million in UUT revenue this year or, 27 percent of the city’s total revenue. “For a reduction of that amount of money it is not possible to take a little from here and a little from there,” she said. “It would mean completely changing the way the city provides services.”

That 100 signatures figure is a surprisingly low one. If true, and why wouldn't it be, what this tells me is the fate of the remaining 6% of our Utility User Taxes (UUT) will most certainly be in the hands of the voters this November.

My advice to City Hall is to be a bit more proactive about getting its spending under control. You know, things such as those crazy $30,000 plus per year employee health care plans have simply got to go.

Because if the City won't do it, we now have the necessary tool to do the job for them.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Tom Love Video Is Now Available For Tattler Readers

A link to the video of Tom's talk can be found here.
Tom Love, who is the President of the Board of Directors for the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (link), stopped by City Hall last Tuesday evening and spoke to us about the state of the water supply we now find ourselves completely dependent upon. This because our very own municipal water company is now an almost completely waterless one, which has got to be embarrassing for them.

Love has come under much criticism here in town because his remarks about this area's at risk water supply, which ran for over 26 minutes, seems entirely too optimistic to many. So much so that he was called out on his inappropriately sunny views by Councilmember Rachelle Arizmendi, who seemed astonished at what she, along with a room filled with her constituents, had just heard.

That moment is also on the Tom Love video. Do not miss it.

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The video of Mr. Love's remarks has now been posted on YouTube, and should you wish to revisit his talk you can do so by clicking on the link provided above. It is located underneath the large personality screenshot we included with this Tattler edition. Or, should you wish, you can link to it here as well.

As I said, Tom has come under considerable criticism on this blog. Below is a sampling of the remarks that were posted here by readers on July 9, the day after last Tuesday evening's City Council meeting.

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 9:59 AM
Love's "presentation" was indefensible. There is too much riding on this. A whole community needs a reliable water source. He clearly had an agenda. He's alligned with all the pro-development people and he was willing to throw Sierra Madre under the bus to further that agenda. Governor Brown declared a state of emergency over the water crisis. Every city is having problems. The drought is most likely going to get worse. For him to get up there and paint that rosy a picture was disgraceful. Thank goodness the Council called him out on it and he started to backpedal pretty rapidly. He spoke first to try to influence the tone of the meeting. I'm glad no one listened to him. Various water boards have become very corrupt. Without further evidence, I won't tar him with that brush yet but I still think his presentation was a disgrace.

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM
Tom Love basically said everything is fine and we have plenty of water. He was even worse than that One Carter lawyer who spoke up at the June 24th meeting. I'd like to know who placed the phone call to get him out to that meeting and try to change its direction?

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Love looked like a complete idiot. He came there at someone's request to put the brakes on the building moratorium. Councilwoman Arizmendi expressed what everybody felt. The question is what made him go against all the data of where Sierra Madre and this state are heading. I think we know the answer to that question.

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I wonder what Mr. Love has to say about today's announcement: "The State Water Resources Control Board meets next week to consider draft emergency regulations. 'We are in a drought of historic proportions,' Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said in a telephone interview with Associated Press. " The public meeting will be held July 15 in Sacramento. If the board adopts the regulations they would take effect immediately and remain in force for 9 months. 

Full story: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jul/09/california-board-considers-fines-for-wasting-water/

Seems like Mr. Love would have known all this, being on the SGVMWD Board? It's not like it all happened overnight. So it's puzzling, why he would present such a rosy interpretation of these very dire circumstances?

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM
That was Rachelle's finest hour so far. It was the "wait a minute" moment that stopped Love in his tracks. Granted he can rifle off some facts but anyone can skew the data to fit the result they want. Love did that and I too lost all respect for him.

Anonymous July 9, 2014 at 10:33 AM
I just want to thank Love for speaking up the way he did. If one reader is correct that he spoke up repeatedly in favor of the assisted living facility and after what he did last night, we now know him for what he is. He has an agenda and he is in the pro-development camp. If he speaks at any future meetings, he will have no credibility or influence whatsoever. Thanks again for getting up there and letting us know we have plenty of water.

I have been told by someone whose opinion I value that Mr. Love's efforts to influence last week's City Council confab were worse than what Allen Graves attempted. The reason for this being that Graves was only speaking as a private citizen, whereas Tom strode into the room as a leader of the area's highest water authority. His words were supposed to be a completely accurate depiction of our water situation, and set the tone for what was to follow. Instead we apparently got something else.

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It has also been reported to me by meeting attendees that Tom was overheard telling people in the lobby at City Hall that there is no water shortage, and that things are not as bad as some have said.

So this morning it is a full week later, and people have had an opportunity to reflect a bit upon what they saw and heard at that meeting. You now have a chance to revisit this controversial talk by an influential member from the San Gabriel Valley water management elite, and let the community know your current take on what was said.

As you should be well aware, both the water and development moratoriums are back on the agenda for next week's City Council meeting. There is still a lot that needs to be worked out.

In many ways this is a conversation that has just begun.

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

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

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

(Mod: A little something to think about.)

This evening's EENER meeting on water
In a review document prepared by Bruce Inman for tonight's EENER get-together, a "preliminary list  of study matters" is discussed (link):


If anyone is going to this EENER get-together and gets some copies of staff's list of City Council study matters, which apparently is being handed out fresh this evening, please send one my way. Thanks!

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another Mountain Views Mess? Public Hearing On the Water Related Building Moratorium Cannot Be Held at July 22nd City Council Confab Due to Newspaper Foul-Up

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How long do we have to put up with this? Why can't City of Sierra Madre legal notices and other advertising just be posted on this city's website? Improving accuracy and saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars in the process?

The Tattler has now been made aware that because The Mountain Views News failed to run the properly authorized City of Sierra Madre Public Notice advertising for the upcoming Public Hearing on the water related building moratorium question over the weekend, this vital matter, originally scheduled for July 22nd, will not happen on that date.

A 10 days notice for a Public Hearing of this kind must by law be published in an adjudicated paper before any such meeting can take place. By "losing" this ad the MVN has confiscated the public's right to a hearing on the date originally scheduled.

The two August City Council meeting dates were recently shined off so that Councilmembers could take their summer vacations undisturbed by the cares and affairs of Sierra Madre. This extension has to be in place before August 22nd, and with no meetings scheduled until September this matter is now in some doubt.

A special meeting would need to be held, if possible. So far none has been scheduled.

I will update this post as more news becomes available.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, July 14, 2014

Something Happened: Why Did This City's Establishment Get On Board With the Water and Building Moratoriums?

~:  City Hall Gulch  :~
I don't know about you, but I have to admit to being a bit perplexed about a couple of things. I've been kicking this around for a few days now, and I have yet to figure it out. Why exactly did this City's local government and political establishment get on board with the two moratorium measures?

Until recently there appeared to be strong establishment opposition to either of the moratoriums. It took nearly two months for Denise Delmar's requests on these emergency measures to get safely past the Mayor's resistance and before the public. Yet at last Tuesday's City Council meeting support for both fell easily into place, and they passed unanimously. It appears to have been quite a change.

So what was the reason for this? It isn't often in this City that you witness so radical a mood swing, especially when it could have a serious financial impact on the ability of our local government agency to fund platinum retirement and benefits packages for itself. The most sacred of all the cows now housed in the City Hall barn.

While there were a few persons who did show up at last week's meeting to voice opposition, I'm guessing as a last gasp attempt by the now sadly diminished Buchanan/Doyle crowd to somehow stop the two moratorium bids, they had no effect whatsoever on the final outcome.

As a matter of fact, the response of the attending public appeared to be one of either astonishment or just plain anger at what these far too professional and chatty gentlemen had to say. An indication of just how out of touch and marginalized this once influential group has become. Even at City Hall, which apparently didn't even bother to let them know that the fix was already in.

It was not just surprising at how easily the old regime was pushed in front of the bus, it is almost as if this was done for our benefit.

The Mountain Views News, our city's adjudicated newspaper, which is almost entirely dependent upon taxpayer funded legal advertising for its meagre survival, presents pretty much a mirror image of the thinking at City Hall. A Pravda-like press obedience to government diktat that never strays far from officially approved versions of current events.

There is little that gets published in the Mountain Views News that doesn't kowtow to the wishes of either the City Manager or the previous four Mayors. Many of these articles sounding like they were dictated by our city government itself, rather than anything an independent and skeptical press would provide. And as such the MVN has unintentionally become one of the best indications we have for what is going on internally at City Hall.

I thought I would cite three recent Mountain Views News articles showing the speedy, and radical, evolution of this city's thinking on the building and water moratorium fronts. A rapid change that, in a few short weeks, went from complete support for McMansionizing places like Mater Dolorosa, to bringing the entire process to a screeching halt.

Without once even acknowledging the change, by the way.

The first cite comes from a May 31st Mountain Views News piece called, "The Talk of the Town: Mater Dolorosa Development Board Issues Statement To Clear Air."

Neither of the moratoriums were taken seriously in this article. And in that last paragraph, it is as if whatever you might think about Mater Dolorosa doesn't even matter. The authorities and big money had spoken, and the Mater Dolorosa McMansion development was going through. Your concerns about this matter being of no consequence whatsoever.

Events, of course, were to prove this MVN version wrong.

Things changed. From a complete and utter certainty about development impact fee enriching projects such as the Mater Dolorosa debacle happening, doubt began to creep into the official message just a few short weeks later. This from the June 28 version in the Mountain Views News:


A rather cautious approach, but quite different from the previous nonsense. Of course, that Phase III gambit was greeted with the catcalls and rotten tomatoes it deserved. After two water rate jack ups of nearly 100% combined, and in fewer than 5 years no less, that the City would even think of instituting cash penalties predicated on a 30% forced decrease in water usage was just plain nuts. Plus if instituted it could very well have led to a city-wide political uprising. Which explains why City Hall was packed last Tuesday evening, with a crowd that filled the lobby and spilled out into the street.

The bit about the City Council not dictating land use policy becomes a absolute hoot in light of the next MVN article cite. The following unmedicated hysteria is taken from this weekend's edition:


From declaring that housing at Mater Dolorosa was going to be built no matter what, to this over the top celebration of everything that we here at The Tattler had been advocating like … forever? All in just six weeks? Talk about having an Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a mood swing so rapid that the author of those three little numbers really ought to get herself to a doctor and checked out for whiplash. And soon. Her head just might fall off.

Of course, I don't have much of a problem with any of this. My hope was always that the two moratoriums would succeed. Along with zero penalties for not knuckling under to that absurdly large 30% water use cutback demand. Something that almost everybody in town would have trouble meeting, thereby making any new water use penalties a de facto third city water rate increase.

We won. We beat them. So what do I have to complain about?

Nothing. At least for the moment. But I still want to know why Harabedian, Goss and Capoccia, along with the City Manager and City Attorney, capitulated so completely. To me this is the other big event, and nearly as important as the two moratoriums themselves. The Tattler being so very political and all.

I have two theories. Here they are:

Theory #1: We won. City Hall finally figured out that there was a full-scale uprising in town, and they would soon to find themselves in an extremely untenable political position. One where extremely irate residents could start organizing a Councilmember recall or two, plus other possibly inconvenient unpleasantries. The matter had to be defused.

City Hall, along with its two union enabling shills on the City Council, also feared that this sudden burst of purposeful energy amongst the townies could soon extend to such issues as those obscene 30% (plus) health care plans they've been giving themselves. Plus with the remaining 6% of the UUT going on the ballot in November? Better to just kick the developers to the curb and let the lawyers sort it out.

Theory #2: They didn't really mean it. And at the next City Council meeting, when all the details on these moratoriums are going to be worked out, most everything will be parsed, processed and finagled away.

In other words, last Tuesday was for show, and with Council Chambers back to being nearly empty, they'll do what they always do. Make a pig's ear out of a silk purse.

Personally, I fear that in the end we will not have won that much. And if we don't show up at the next City Council meeting, with the exact same energy and resolve, we will lose everything we thought we'd achieved. You know, all of the stuff that Susan Henderson talks about in this weekend's version of the Mountain Views News.

Which changes its opinions with the wind. Just like our City Council does. And could once again if we are not there in sufficient numbers to stare them down.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com