Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Sierra Madre Tattler Endorses Betty Chu For Congress

We here at the Sierra Madre Tattler are proud today to give our endorsement to Betty Chu for the United States Congress. Betty is a graduate of USC Law School, was a founder of the East West Savings Bank, and has served as both a Councilmember and Mayor of the City of Monterey Park. This is a special election, and it takes place in less than two weeks.

Of course, as Betty Chu is running in the 32nd Congressional District, none of us living in Sierra Madre can vote for her. Which is unfortunate, because in some ways she is fighting for the same things that we are fighting for here. The rights of cities to defend themselves against the unchecked depredations of runaway redevelopment and its enablers in Sacramento and Washington DC being very much at the top of her list. This is now the sleeping giant of California politics, and Betty Chu knows that. If she can pull off an upset and win this race, it will be a tremendous victory for all of us.

Yesterday Betty held a press conference because she needed to draw a very careful distinction between herself and her opponent. This is how the Pasadena Star News reported it:

"Thirty-second Congressional District candidate Betty Chu at a press conference on Wednesday attempted to distance herself from an opponent who shares the last name ... Betty Chu sought to reassure voters she is not the same Chu who took money from a developer who was arrested on embezzlement charges ... Board of Equalization member Judy Chu accepted $1,000 from developers Jean Lang and John Leung, who were arrested two weeks ago on allegations that they embezzled $1 million from private investors."

Now where this PSN report lets us down is that it limits the Judy Chu/John Leung /Titan connection to that mere $1,000. Because, and as Betty pointed out to me in a phone call after the event, there is a whole lot more to it than that. Follow along.

Judy Chu is a former member of the California Assembly. And while she was a member there she sponsored two bills that had a direct bearing on the financing of the El Monte Transit Village project that has quickly become the reigning metaphor here for tainted redevelopment.

The first document we will examine comes from the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. An organization that, as you will see if you follow the link, lists Bart Doyle as a member of its Board of Directors. The bill discussed here is AB 1167, which was sponsored by Judy Chu. This is how the SGVEP document summarizes it:

AB 1167 - Redevelopment: El Monte SUPPORT - "AB 1167 amends a portion of California redevelopment Law to enable the financing and development of the El Monte Transit Village, a very progressive transit-oriented mixed commercial and residential development project in the Downtown El Monte Area ... This bill would eliminate the July 2007 debt incurrence (sic) deadline, and allow flexibility for the City to carefully plan the project, and flexibility to issue and pay off debt as needed with a specific debt ceiling within the transit Village site, without altering existing pass-through obligations in the rest of the Downtown El Monte Project Area."

This blatant call for special privileges in the area of bond financing for an individual project was wisely shot down in Sacramento. But this didn't stop Judy Chu from taking a second run at seeing to John Leung's needs in this sensitive matter. A second bill, AB 2157, came to the attention of the State Assembly in February of 2006:

Summary: Allows the El Monte Redevelopment Agency to amend its redevelopment plan for the purposes of a transit oriented redevelopment project without making a finding of blight and without complying with any existing law provisions (except public notice requirements) with respect to amendments and time extensions. Specifically, this bill ... allows the City of El Monte Redevelopment Agency (RA), for the purposes of transit oriented redevelopment, to amend its redevelopment plan according to the following:
a) Without a finding of blight;
b) Extend the life of the project area indefinitely;
c) Remove the time limit on incurring debt.
d) Increase from $44 million to $65 million the amount of allowable bonded indebtedness for one or more transit oriented redevelopment projects.
e) Increases to $150 million the amount of tax increment allocated to the RA.

And this project specific funding boondoggle was shot down as well. And Judy Chu, after carrying an awful lot of water for John Leung and Titan's "Transit Village," then left the State Assembly and went on to her current position on the Board of Equalization. But that is not where this surreal story ends.

Another FOJL (Friend of John Leung) took Judy's place in the Assembly. His name is Mike Eng. Or, if you are among the better acquainted with the affairs of that side of the Valley, Judy Chu's husband. This from an article that appeared in The Mercury News:

"Though no charges have been filed against Leung and Lang, Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Judy Chu and Assemblyman Mike Eng - D - El Monte, are trying to keep their distance by returning campaign donations ... 'We do intend to give all of the funds back,' Eng said of his campaign committee."

Of course, it wasn't that long ago that Mike Eng, along with Judy Chu, were proud to call John Leung their very special friend. So special that Mike Eng, after he took his over wife's position in the California Assembly, reintroduced almost the exact same bill. The one that had already been shot down twice! This time it was called AB 20, and Eng boasts about it on his own website. Why? Because this time it passed.

Transit Oriented Development: This bill allows redevelopment agencies to amend a redevelopment plan to extend redevelopment financing time limits and debt limits to support infrastructure improvements of a transit oriented development in a redevelopment area.

(On edit: Apparently the information on Eng's site is dated, or he just doesn't give a damn. The redevelopment language was stripped from AB 20 at a later date, and it morphed into something called AB 1221, sponsored by Assemblyman Ma. And while it did pass, it was later vetoed by Arnold Schwartzenegger. So Titan never did get their pound of flesh.)

So why did this version make it through the Assembly and Senate? Eng - later Ma - took out the specific reference to the El Monte Transit Village and made this fast and loose method of redevelopment boondoggle financing available to all. And if it wasn't for Governor Schwartzenegger, it would actually have become law.

It would be great if the good citizens of Congressional District 32 were to recognize this for what it really is, unmistakable cronyism and the twisting of state law to suit the needs of a privileged special interest. And the very best way to do that would be to send Betty Chu to represent them in Washington DC. It would be an electoral upset that would galvanize this entire state and put venal politicians everywhere on notice that the voters will no longer stand for this kind of blatant disregard for the true wishes and needs of the taxpayers. And as bad as things are in California, we the people could really use a victory right now.

A victory for Betty Chu would be a victory for all of us living in the San Gabriel Valley. We need to do whatever we can to make this happen. It's our fight, too.

UPDATE: "Race for 32nd District not over yet" ... PSN article now up on their site. Judy Chu is hearing footsteps.


  1. Too bad Betty isn't running in our district.
    She would carry Sierra Madre by a landslide!
    Best of luck Betty.....this Judy Chu has tons of money behind her......she runs ads on cable news channels every day. Disgusting.

  2. Where does Dreier stand on these sorts of issues? Has he ever
    said anything about SB 375 and redevelopment? It's good that
    the El Monte Billion Dollar Bus Station has been getting a lot
    of attention, but what about, say, East Montecito? How are we
    going to stop them there?

  3. I have an East Montecito story coming up that will curl your hair, Curly. Been working on it for a bit. I'm thinking I'll have it up next Tuesday.

  4. WOW!
    Can't wait to read that one, Sir Eric.

  5. Sierra Madre and El Monte are just the tip of the iceberg. We have no idea how deep the development connections and payback really are. Big development has so much at stake they will stop at nothing. There are so many politicians waiting for their $$ backing as we have seen in Sierra Madre that the honest ones almost do not stand a chance. We have all seen to what lengths the BIA will go to buy an election. Although we can not vote for Betty we can send her campaign donations and notes of encouragement.

  6. The depravity and dishonesty of the power mongers really knows no bounds. How nice that Judy and Mike found each other - who else would marry either one of them (well, of course, except another soul-sucking, capitalistic, opportunistic, corrupt-minded politician). I hope the good people of Monterey Park and the rest of the 32nd CD recognize the necessity to vote these cretins out and return some integrity to the office. Kudos to Betty Chu for stepping forward in this fight.

  7. Who will step up for the Sierra Madre fight?

  8. It is going to take some big losses at the ballot box to make politicians realize that cities cannot just be exploited by these people. We've become a one party state and that party is in so deep with the BIA, CAR, and bottom feeders like these Titan guys that we have very little representation at all. You have to wonder if California even qualifies as a democracy any more.

  9. If California has become something less than a democracy, then the fault lies with us.

  10. We have good people fighting for us here in Sierra Madre.
    Mayor MacGillivray, Kurt Zimmerman, Don Watts, Sir Eric Maundry. They won't give up the fight and we all need to support them all.

  11. An off message post, but Our View: Sheriff contracts crucial for cities in the Pasadena Star news editorials offers a look at costs associated with contracting LA County Sheriff's vs local Police Departments. Best discussion I've seen so far.

  12. This woman who is running for Congress, Janet Chu....pal of the Titan Development.....was she a part of the State legislator that has gotten us into the damn bankrupt mess we're in?
    Anyone associated with this should NEVER be elected to a public office....just what we DON'T need in Congress right now....another shady development Dem.
    Betty Chu was a Councilmember and a Mayor of Monterey Park. I'll take her creditials anytime.
    If we had an fair press, who tells the people the truth, like Sir Eric does, we wouldn't be in this awful mess we are in.

  13. Sir Eric, thank you for putting the spotlight on Betty Chu, a woman of integrity, and detailing the shameful history of her opponent, and her opponent's husband.
    AB 20 passing was bad, bad news. It just shows that Eng was a better salesman for the development community - no doubt he was/will be handsomely rewarded.
    Did AB 20, like its two previous incarnations, let CRAs skip the blight portion of their duty? I thought that community blight was the reason for the existence of CRAs. It's always been a joke that Sierra Madre has a CRA, because we don't actually have blight. El Monte does.
    Here's hoping that Betty Chu's campaign office will print out your article & distribute it as widely as they can.

  14. Too bad Judy Chu doesn't call herself Judy ChuEng. Or Judy Lackey to Development. Or best of all, Judy AB1167+AB2157=AB20. With Judy & Mike, El Monte loses.

  15. South Pas neighborJuly 2, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    Did the voters know that they were getting a tag team in the state assembly? Was that all aboveboard, the gal served now lets get her man in the job??

  16. Tattler, thanks for expanding the field. You're right that we have to pay attention to others who have got the guts to stand up to the development oligarchy. CA is mighty messed up thanks to the efforts of politicos like Mike Eng and Judy Chu.

  17. EM, so good, here it is again:
    " some ways she is fighting for the same things that we are fighting for here. The rights of cities to defend themselves against the unchecked depredations of runaway redevelopment and its enablers in Sacramento and Washington DC being very much at the top of her list. This is now the sleeping giant of California politics, and Betty Chu knows that. If she can pull off an upset and win this race, it will be a tremendous victory for all of us."

  18. So Eng & J.Chu are giving back the money they got from Titan...does that mean they'll take back the bill they got passed for Titan in the state assembly?

  19. The PSN article makes it clear that a Republican has a slim-to-nothin chance of getting elected. But maybe, just maybe there'll be enough disgust with both major parties among the actual voters so that people will consider who the honest person is. Great last line from the PSN writer, "Immediately following the debate, Judy Chu rushed out the door. She had to catch a flight to D.C." No time to shoot the breeze with the hometown crowd.

  20. 4:29, sounds like Judy is like our Joe.

  21. 5:17 - It's like there is a certain kind of democratic politician in this state. And they will say anything and do anything to get the kind of monstrosities Bart Doyle wants funded and built. It's like this is the 1950s, and redevelopment is our mafia.

  22. Day at 3:49:
    Mayor MacGillivray even says we's up at ONE CARTER, you know that beautiful hillside land that was full of trees and wildlife?
    We can ALWAYS thank Buchanan, Joffe, Stockly and Torres for giving that away to the likes of a criminal like Greg Galletly, is he still in business? I heard our dear friend Rob Stockly was involved in some sort of bank loan to him.
    Is that why Rob doesn't work at the bank anymore?
    Just curious.

  23. Ever notice that when it comes time to chop budgets things like schools and hospitals get clobbered, but money for things like the El Monte Transit Village do not? Good indication of where the priorities are in California right now.

  24. 5:46
    damn, you got that right......when are the people gonna rise up, get organized and stop these crooks and bums?

  25. Supporting Betty Chu aagainst the Eng-Chu is a start!

  26. 5:44, I stand corrected.
    Carter and Stonehouse, luxury blight.

  27. El Monte Transit Village is a crime against humanity.
    Anyone connected with that abomination should be tarred and feathered and run out of town!

  28. I was in Pasadena today at delmar and pasadena ave, there is a giant apartment complex unfinished that reminds me of the chicken coops at a tyson farm in arkansas...

  29. LOL 8:39
    Now hold on! Last time I drove from Little Rock to Hot Springs, there were some damn good looking chicken coops along the country side.
    A right sight better than those apartments in Pasadena.
    Just think, the dirts wanted to build these in downtown Sierra Madre!

  30. Rumor has it the architect most in favor with SCAG these days
    comes from Pyongyang.

  31. Old Kentucky 9:01PM
    I think these buildings are the Senior Transitional Housing facility (from Independent to Assisted??). Not sure. I wonder about their earthquake soundness and how soundproof the rooms would be... Our Granny Flats would be much nicer. May I ask what is the status of the Senior Care company interested in the old Skilled Nursing Facility.
    Great job, Eric. Thank you kindly.

  32. I think it is becoming obvious that powerful interests in this state have pulled some strings and Mr. Leung has seen all the prison time he will serve in this matter already. The El Monte PD has been told to shut their mouths, and the DA isn't taking their calls anymore.

    This is Soviet California in action, and justice doesn't play a part.


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