Monday, March 16, 2009

So What's Up With SMTV3? (part 2)

As you might recall from Saturday's column, apparently we are looking at a rather odd series of events in the re-airing of last Tuesday's (3/10) City Council meeting on our very own SMTV3. First, the regularly scheduled Wednesday replay did not happen. Given SMTV3's checkered past, this is not all that surprising. At least not in itself. We've all come to expect such annoyances.

But something highly puzzling did happen during Thursday's rebroadcast. First of all, it started and hour and a half late. Again, not completely surprising based on previous glitches at SMTV3. But after the re-airing finally began things became, well, highly irregular. After the 9:20 pm break, announced by the Mayor, and with the requisite interlude of edifying high classical music, a meeting did resume. But it wasn't the March 10th meeting that we'd been watching. Rather it was a segment from the November 12, 2008, meeting. And it continued for a full 10 minutes.

What made this particularly surreal was that Joe Mosca, who was in Washington DC for some meeting (God knows we'll eventually have to hear all about it), suddenly appeared on our TV screens as if he had somehow been transported electronically from 3,000 miles away. And people who had spoken at the podium earlier in the broadcast now showed up wearing completely different clothing. And the topic being discussed had absolutely nothing to do with what is going on during the previous 2 or so hours of the meeting.

Now some began to wonder what it was from the March 10th meeting that was replaced by a 10 minute segment from the November of 2008 confab. Was it anything important? Was there an overlap? Was there something somebody somewhere would prefer that we not look at too much?

Thanks to the skilled forensic work of two of The Tattler's most valued researchers, it now turns out that something of substantial importance actually was left out. That being the entire speech by Mayor Zimmerman announcing to the community that the long overdue audits from Sierra Madre's rather chaotic past finances were now finally complete. And that we had $1,000,000 more than we knew we had! Which in the minds of many here is a powerful indication of just how badly this City had been run by previous Mayors and City Councils.

Since SMTV3 had not been able to replay this important speech in a timely and professional manner, we here at The Tattler have decided that it is in the community's interest that we reprint the speech in its entirety. If you take a moment to consider that we're talking about years of blown audits and financial mismanagement by Sierra Madre's thankfully departed Old Regime, I think you'll agree that this was a rather important speech, and one that deserves to be as widely circulated as possible.

"The next agenda item concerns our 2007 audit. And because I anticipate that it's going to be a controversial item, I'm going to depart from tradition and discuss it first. Of course, allowing my fellow Council members and members of the public to weigh in. The results of this 2007 audit can be summarized really in one sentence, and that is a sentence that appears in the agenda report. And it reads, quote, "The General Fund has an increase in fund balance of 1 million, 36 thousand and 795 dollars. That's right, in 2007 we had 1 million more in the General Fund than anticipated.

Now the Mayors of most other cities upon hearing that news would be celebrating. Popping open a bottle of champagne and presumably toasting the auditors.

But not this Mayor. Not this Mayor because first much of that extra million dollars has either been spent or will almost certainly will be spent to defray necessary expenses and unanticipated expenses. Fire suppression costs for example, and mudslide abatement.

But there's another reason why I didn't celebrate, and that other reason was, like so many of you, I relied on incomplete and inaccurate information in determining that I should vote for the new UUT tax increase. And I guess as your Mayor, although I was at the time a City Council member, I need to accept some of the responsibility for accepting that inaccurate and incomplete information.

But I do think the lion's share of the blame needs to be laid at the feet of previous City Councils and City staff that determined that the preparation of complete and accurate audits was not a priority. And I want to make it clear that I do not believe we would even be discussing the completion of the 2007 audit tonight if it was not for our new City Manager, Elaine Aguilar, and Finance Director Karen Schnaider, and this Council.

So we have made some progress. That being said, this revelation makes me feel uncomfortable. A million dollars is not a rounding off error. And although I have seen no evidence of malfeasance, and again we're talking about discovering that we had more money than we thought and not less, my strong recommendation would be to have an outside council take a second look at our past accounting practices. Take a very hard look at our accounting practices.

And I know this is going to upset a number of people, including some City employees, but I need to say this, I think it would be fair if we brought this issue back to the City Council to discuss either a repeal or moratorium on the User Utility Tax. Because after all I voted for the UUT because I thought the City was in dire financial straits. And it turns out we're not in dire financial straits. We're not rolling in the money, but as you will hear later this evening, this City Council has actually balanced the budget this year.

Ironically, I also took some solace after hearing this news because I was reminded of the many arguments that were advanced against Measure V. I think we all can recall the biggest argument, the largest lie, which was if Measure V passes the economy of Sierra Madre will be irreparably broken. Well, I take great pleasure in telling you in 2007, the end of 2007, that was not the case. And nearly 2 years after its passage, it is not the case now.

Before I invite the presentation by our Finance Director I want to close with something that somebody told me when I first decided to run for this City Council, a very wise man who will appreciate me not identifying him this evening. He said that Sierra Madre politics is characterized by two things. The first is grudges, and the second is secrets. Now I'm not sure the City Council can do a whole lot about the grudges, they run deep in this town. But I'd like to think that this discussion and what I'm telling you tonight is proof positive that the second characteristic, secrecy, is no more ..."

Now I'm not claiming that this speech was deliberately excised from an SMTV3 rebroadcast of the March 10 meeting. Though I can think of at least several folks who'd certainly prefer that the topics covered not be too widely discussed. But the fact that this speech lasted a full 10 minutes, and that is exactly what was missing from the 3/12 rebroadcast, is a troubling coincidence.

23 comments:

  1. Sir Eric, thank you for printing that important speech and more important, the information in it. I think it's safe to say that we can be completely agog at either the incompetence or the duplicity of the previous regimes and frankly, if I had voted to raise my own taxes on the basis of this information, I would be ready to strange somebody--maybe more than one somebody. Actually, I still feel like strangling somebody.

    And as far as whether this material was deliberately excised from the re-play of the City council meeting, I am not a believer in coincidences, particularly when it comes to politics. There's somebody in the booth that's not going with the program here and this ought to be addressed. He who controls the airwaves has a good handle on what people here, what they therefore know, and what they ultimately think. This can't be a surprise, and it shouldn't go unaddressed. This is supposed to be a public access channel and the public's access is being messed with.

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  2. provocative stuff indeed, but may i contribute a report on something else? weather lousy at yesterday's wistaria vine celebration, a shame, but still the annual seething carnival of foot traffic,human being and dog, vendor huckster booths --- one outrage: the booth in the park, bare hours after with the massacre in florida, (the day's gun bloodbath) hawking replica --wood -- automatic rifles to the kiddies; music, including briefly a terrific jazz quartet in the parking lot of that restaurant whose name l can't pronounce; and endless ceaseless lines to the tour buses, $9-10 per passenger. Everything is about money anymore. Will the chamber of commerce devulge how much it took in? How it spends it? Does the city get a cut? benign questions. not suspicious. just mildly interested.

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  3. Now don't go saying anything about restricting wooden
    guns, please. Otherwise it will end up joining those other
    Sierra Madre sacred freedoms, blowing cigarette smoke
    in the faces of babies and running your gas powered leaf
    blower at 5AM.

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  4. big big difference between damage a leaf blower inflicts and that of a bullet. or don't you remember the covina xmas eve slaughters to name just one. pretty close to home, that one. guns are bad news.

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  5. Not saying you're wrong here, Joe. But you have
    to remember, defense of the indefensible is a
    cottage industry in this town.

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  6. peace, curly. i'm a rookie blogger. don't want what i thought was an innocuous report on the westeria day to veer into a firestorm about guns. lets concentrate on sir eric's tube report. that's the important thing. great scandal and expose brewing here i hope. maybe somebody at last getting caught.

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  7. Who put up the old tape in place of Mayor Zimmerman's comments?
    More importantly, who instructed him to do so?

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  8. Playing a tape from November by accident, how dumb do they think people are? Are the council tapes just lying in a box and they pull one out? Don't think so. I am sure they are filed by date and there is probably an index to the content. Yes Kentucky if we knew who played the tape, we would know why it was played.

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  9. Thank you for publishing Mayor Zimmerman's speech on the subject of the city's finances, the unexpected outcome of the 2007 audit, and the question, in the light of that outcome, of whether or not we retain the additional UUT (since it now truly represents a kind of extortion of Sierra Madre residents). You can be sure that the re-airing of the council meeting with these critical broadcast minutes "lost" was no mistake. The people that would completely undermine the interests of most residents in favor of the profit of a few are still at work behind the scenes, ugly little trolls that they be...

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  10. This needs to be investigated. City Hall needs to be tented and fully fumigated. First the Congregational Church gets a back room wink and nod on their New Life Center expansion, and now we have creative editing of a Mayor's speeches? What is this, a 5th Column?

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  11. Thank you Sir Eric for printing the text of the speech. It did play back correctly at least one night (Sat.?), but it is very good to be able to see it in print. Any chance the Sierra Madre Weekly would print it also? It certainly merits the town's attention.

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  12. What's pathetic is where is the Pasadena Star News in reporting the story that a city has a budget surplus they didn't know about?

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  13. Why is it that the City's website claims that City council meetings will be available on the website within one week and in fact the most recent City Council meeting available on the website is about a year old! Why can't we watch the Council meetings on our City's website?

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  14. 4:47: The Tattler is the only place you
    can read about things like this. Somebody
    said it on another thread, we're on our
    own now.

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  15. The Pasadena Star News is a DIRT PARTY rag.
    They always support DIRT PARTY candidates and DIRT PARTY positions.
    The head guy over there is a pal of BART DOYLE.
    They won't print anything with facts and/or figures the DIRTS don't like.

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  16. Pamela PoliticianMarch 16, 2009 at 6:46 PM

    Why isn't Sir Eric going to speak tomorrow before the Kiwanas to balance out Queen Susan?

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  17. Unlike Susan, Sir Eric has a job. It keeps him
    out of town during the day.

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  18. I hope some of Sir Eric's loyal readers will stop by at Kiwanis tommorrow.....Harriet should be very entertaining, can't wait to hear her lies!

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  19. Hurray for Kurt! I hope he is able to have an outside counsel take a second look at our city's past accounting practices. The Pandora's Box has been opened, now let's finish the job and clean house. NO MORE SECRETS!

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  20. susan henderson luncheon for the Kiwanis outfit on the topic of "keeping a community newspaper alive...never loose (sic) your focus!" was pretty much an anti-climax...just when the questions were getting good the moderator shut the whole thing down... before that happened Susan said she was unfamiliar with the mayor's criticism of her paper from the last counnil meeting (wanna bet?) but disputed the chief of police's charge that Susan's reporting of the jailing of T-room Tom was innacurate. and responding to the charge that she publishes lots of softball stories glorifying the town compared to never printing stories that might embarrass the town but are vital news anyway, Susan said her newspaper printed plenty of those, too, yet was unable to name one, except the arresting of t-room Tom.
    Random quotes "I am in sierra madre to stay"..."an editor of any newspaper is constantly under attack"..."being an editor is not an easy task"..."I'm very good at pissing people off"..."my publishing is a service to the town"..."I'm untroubled by ridiculous comments and attacks on me"..."I was the highest paid Democrat official in the country"..."in this town politics are pretty tough"..."I give you what I truly believe"...
    One tough old lady, susan. Say what you will.

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. Ben - I'm leaning towards terribly presumptuous.

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  23. I'm leaning toward reality. It wasn't a hiccup in communications equipment. There are plenty of people working at City Hall that want to obscure of the facts about previous administrations. I mean, how hard is it to run a video tape without cutting out something in the middle and in it's stead running something from months ago? As for proving comments, what proof do we need? Are you, Ben, suggesting that the tapes of the last meeting were really run in full regularly since the last meeting? Are you suggesting that it was an accident to cut out the portion where the finance situation was discussed? If it was an accident, why wasn't it fixed immediately?

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