And I can understand this belief. It certainly does defy reason why Ms. Henderson would consistently publish material that is so obviously slanted towards the interests of a very small and well-heeled portion of the community. Unless, that is, she was being somehow rewarded. But there is one large gaping hole in this argument. One so big that you could drive a truck through it. Why would anybody give up anything in exchange for the consistently poor quality and patently ridiculous nonsense we read in the Mountain Views "Observer?"
As an example, in the latest issue of the "Observer" (03/28/09) there is an article entitled "No Resolution Yet For Congregational Church." It discusses something that has become a matter of some interest in town, the Congregational Church's construction of a "Kid Port" (read: school) without first obtaining the proper City of Sierra Madre approvals. And contained within the article is obviously skewed material such as this:
"According to the minutes adopted by the council, on March 10th Mayor Zimmerman states, 'We are told the property is not to be used as a school but you have desks.' Mayor Pro Tem MacGillivray stated, according to the minutes, 'most churches don't have classes, gyms, etc.' And yet, almost every Church in Sierra Madre has classrooms for Sunday School and other educational purposes. SMCC Church (sic) representatives have denied any plans to build a school."
Now if by "almost every Church" the "Observer" is talking about Bethany, St. Rita's, and the Church of the Ascension, yes, they all do control classrooms and other such educational facilities common to schools. Why? Because they actually do run schools. Real full time day in day and day out schools. So what makes them different than what the Congregational Church is up to? Their schools were built on land legally zoned institutional in the City of Sierra Madre's General Plan, whereas the SMCC merely has an illegally constructed and out-of-zone building that looks like a school.
Here's another shady statement from our so-called paper of record.
According to Mr. Pete Zimmerman (no relation to the Mayor), Chairman of the Trustee's of SMCC, 'We have done everything that the city has required us to do. We submitted our application for a General Plan Amendment (GPA) in 2007. We were given written authorization to proceed with the construction once the application for the GPA was submitted. We submitted it within the 60 day timeline. We were advised, in writing, that we could proceed without the "prior" approval of the amendment.'"
Now this transparent fallacy is, of course, designed to shift blame for their activities back upon the City. The SMCC was clearly informed by the Planning Commission that their approval to build was dependent upon them first getting a General Plan Amendment from the only place you can get one, the City Council. And did the SMCC go to the City Council to get this done? Apparently not. Rather the SMCC went behind the City Council's back, only later claiming that they were the innocent victims of City Hall confusion. If I was a member of the Planning Commission I would be highly offended by Mr. Zimmermann's attempt to shift the blame to them and those they work with when it is so obvious that the instructions they gave were clear and undeniable. And let's face it, Mr. Zimmermann is basically inferring here that both the Planning Commission and the City is staffed by incompetents, or worse.
By not getting proper City Council approval for an amendment change to the General Plan (from commercial to institutional), the Congregational Church did the following. They built an
illegal structure in the Downtown area, and they apparently did so without caring to get the approval of the duly elected officials of Sierra Madre. No matter how much the "Observer" attempts to fudge the evidence, the case here is ironclad and irrefutable.
Besides, doesn't all of this nonsense about "written authorizations" obviously beg a question we have yet to hear an answer to? That being, who exactly is it that signed this mysterious written authorization? If it wasn't the City Council, and it wasn't the Planning Commission or anyone associated with it, who then put their signature to this specious document? Somehow the SMCC's Mr. Zimmermann, nor anybody else for that matter, ever seems to want to identify that person. All they will say is that it was signed. And where exactly is this "written authorization" anyway? Has Mr. Zimmermann or any of the other SMCC people ever actually produced it?
Another place where the "Observer" goes off the deep end is here:
"... an extraordinary amount of concern has been expressed by MacGillivray, K. Zimmerman and Don Watts regarding the Church's Master Plan. Master Plans are documents which assist with 'the orderly development of your community' said Peter Zimmermann on Friday. They are a work in progress. That statement echoes similar Master Plan descriptions made by the City Manager and Development Director regarding other plans."
This statement is obviously a laughably weak attempt to sweep the matters at the very core of this lamentable situation under the rug. The SMCC submitted an original Master Plan on its "Kid Port" (read: school) building design in 2007. Along with other buildings such as a gymnasium capable of seating 450 people. A Master Plan that clearly identified that what they were building was a lot more than a Sunday School. It was filed and forgotten about after Measure V was passed and the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) staked. It contained plans that are in strict violation of the 2-13-30 parameters of the measure, which made this 2007 Master Plan out of code.
And if I was either of the individuals cited here I might resent having the words "echoes similar Master Plan descriptions made by the City Manager and Development Director" put into my mouth in quite that way. The City Manager and Development Director were not talking about this specific case, and to breezily imply that their words apply here is rather disingenuous.
Now the thing that the "Observer" howls about the loudest is the fact that the City Council is reconsidering the General Plan amendment first passed on this matter on February 24th. As the paper put it:
"What happened next has left many in the church and the community perplexed. At the March 10th meeting of the council, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Ann (sic) MacGillivray asked for a reconsideration of the February vote. Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, responding to inquiries from other council members as to why a reconsideration was necessary, indicated that he had "new information." One of the items that was of particular interest to the Mayor was the church's use of the term 'Jr. High Building' in their draft Master Plan."
Again, by the use of the term "draft Master Plan," we see the same evasion in action. The Master Plan being referred to here was the original Master Plan as submitted by the Congregational Church. It wasn't a draft, or a work in progress, or the passing fancy of some whimsical architect, it was the SMCC's Master Plan as submitted to the City of Sierra Madre in regard to their plans to build what they specifically identified as being a school. Designs committed to paper and filed by the City in 2007 as an officially received document. It even contains staff comment.
This, of course, is the new evidence Kurt Zimmerman spoke of. The rediscovery of the SMCC's original Master Plan has revealed crucial information that directly contradicts what spokespersons for the Congregational Church had only recently told our City Council in regard to their illegal construction project.
It is our opinion that a City Council must defend the integrity of the General Plan. This isn't the backwoods, and no matter how influential or connected the concerned party may be, nobody can just build things without first getting the full authorization of those responsible for maintaining the integrity of our town. And if the City Council did not pull this one back for reconsideration, they would be neglecting one of their most important duties.
It really is a shame that the only newspaper actually headquartered in Sierra Madre seems to despise our City government and many of the people working there. It is becoming obvious that the increasingly divisive Mountain Views "Observer" has serious problems with Sierra Madre. How nice it would be to have a paper in town that doesn't feel obliged to repeatedly trash people elected by the citizens of the very town it claims to serve ... but we don't have that.