Council Member Joe Carpetbagger: Do you feel as duped as City Mouse when Joe Mosca proclaims "I'm just one of you?" Turns out we're only a stop along the way on Joe's political track. San Fernando Young Democrats had settled on Sierra Madre as the perfect location for Joe and Matt to buy a home. Research showed three prospective seats on the City Council were on the 2006 ballot. Joe debuted as a candidate just a year after settling in. And who was that local Dem squiring him to "meet and greets," joining him at Bean Town, coaching Joe on the Village's VIPs, and which side to come down on in matters of controversy? Who indeed ...
The Steering Committee: The group formerly calling itself "The Steering Committee" recently resurfaced in support of former council member Tonja Torres' unsuccessful bid for re-election to the Sierra Madre City Council. Torres was a proponent of the Downtown Specific Plan. Joe Mosca has declared that his controversial votes in favor on the Hillside Management Zone (HMZ) and Metropolitan Water Department (MWD) were influenced by at least one member of that group as well.
City Mouse is following the crumbs left by Maranatha's unsuccessful bid to build its high school on the 1 Carter site and the mysterious Galletly/Dorn Platz (G/DP) acquisition of that very same piece of land. Coincidentally, the Steering Committee was instrumental in whipping the villagers into a frenzy in order to oppose Maranatha's high school, but not so much G/DP's subdivision. You may remember the stunning defeat the City Council handed G/DP wherein only 29 homes could be built after obligingly down-sizing three lots to 9,000 square feet.
The City was widely reported to have reached an agreement with the Steering Committee to drop its opposition and allow 1 Carter Development to go forward after more than 204 conditions were appended to the Conditions of Approval for Tentative Tract Map No. 54016, Conditional Use Permit 03-09, and Variance 04-11, which was adopted August 8, 2005. Many residents were left with their thumbs up ... well, they were confused by the abrupt capitulation.
Some Years Before The C.E. God Got Chatty: Three things happened: 1) at about the time God spoke to Maranatha's headmistress and directed her to build a hillside high school, 2) the PUSD had also spoken to her about Tonja Torres' plan to site a middle school at Sierra Mesa, and 3) as it turns out, God also called upon the Sierra Madre Congregational Church (SMCC) to expand its ministry. A Capital Stewardship Campaign was organized. Personal Ministry Communication Team (PMCT) members visited with the congregation to pledge funds. Members were asked to fulfill their civic duty as well, and encouraged to run for City office. They submitted their names in the hopes of being appointed to the City's various committees and commissions.
And way before (some say 13 years before), the August 2005 vote to approve the 1 Carter subdivision, SMCC had entered into discussions with the then Development Director about its expansion plan -- all very informal, very low-key. Coincidentally, as if directed from above, candidates favorable to a new direction for downtown Sierra Madre were elected to the Council.
Then wham! Bam! It looked like the goofy Maranatha headmistress was going to upset all the carefully laid plans and build a school on the Willis estate. Not even the PMCT would be able to sell two Evangelical campuses to the Villagers.
The Steering Committee quickened. Remember back to the well funded, well-run opposition against Maranatha's high school? Telephone trees, block parties, buttons, post cards, 4-color printed flyers, regular meetings and mailings ... e-mails? yes, e-mails if your name qualified you for the Steering Committee's closely guarded membership list.
Comes The Downtown Specific Plan: The Steering Committee met with members of the Planning Commission and the City Council, very quietly, very tentatively. And so it came to be that three years before anyone else in the Village learned of something called the Downtown Specific Plan, SMCC was confident God was looking favorable on their expansion program.
The 2006 City Council Race: Around the first week of March, it appeared Ms. Torres was to go down in local history as one of the few incumbent Sierra Madre City Council members not to be re-elected to a council seat. The Steering Committee quickly performed a shape-shifting maneuver. Ms Torres was their third vote for the DSP! Adamantly opposed to a referendum vote on the plan, determined that the 350 people immersed in the Downtown show and tell (coincidentally heavily represented by members of the "you know who"), she valiantly slogged away adjusting George Maurer's microphone, attending meet and greets, giving interviews to Molly Okeon, Staff Writer for the Pasadena Star News, and making decisions about what was good for older Sierra Madreans.
Church members were equally disappointed by the defeat of Ron Brandley, who ran a hard fought campaign to move into Tuesday night Adelphia primetime. But then, enough has already been said about Ron ...
The Shape Shifter's Rally: High ranking members of the Steering Committee, Rick and Margie Simpson, behaved like celebrities on the talk show circuit, appearing at the City Council open mic on alternate Tuesday night, working overtime to send off letters to the editors. Margie hit it on the head in the Pasadena Star News recently when she said, "there will always be those in the city who did not trust local lawmakers." "I think those are the standard people who feel that there is a conspiracy behind everything that happens, that everybody is lying," she said. "That's kind of standard fare."
Margie, when the locals are as conspiratorial and untruthful as members of the Steering Committee, it's truly "standard fare" - and self defense!
Credit where credit is due! The Simpsons are also members of the SMCC, where Rick manages the coffee house. And not to be overlooked, the Simpsons worked at light speed with Judy-Webb Martin and Clem Bartolai to organize George Maurer's sendoff.
Galletly/Dorn-Platz: Greg Galletly bullied the City on behalf of Maranatha with the threat of an RLUIPA lawsuit, allowing Dorn-Platz to develop 29 home sites at 1 Carter (which is estimated to result in gross profits to G/DP in excess of $75,000,000.) About the year 2004 G/DP moved forward to develop the Heflin property, which it had quietly bought. Residents on Liliano, Valley Vista, Grandview and Stonehouse were surprised to learn that an initial 35-home subdivision was already in the planning stage. It's widely rumored, among those in the know, that the approximately $1.4 million ($18,000,000 x 18% = $1,400,000) in additional property tax dollars available to the Village as a result of the sale will fund Executive and Management increases for the City Staff.
Hillside Management Zone: All of which brings us back to the underlying presumption that may make Greg Galletly/Dorn-Platz believe the Stonehouse project will be welcome in Sierra Madre. The Ad Hoc Hillside Management Zone Committee is heavily populated with former Steering Committee members. Talk about conspiratorial and untruthful! How did these folks get on this committee you ask? They filled out the form which can be found on the City's web site and the City Council appointed them! Tonja Torres, Enid "I'm not smart enough to have thought of that" Joffe, John Buchanan, George Maurer (who incidentally endorsed both Joe Mosca and Kurt Zimmerman), and Rob Stockley appointed them.