Friday, November 20, 2009

Santa Claus Evicted From Kersting Court

Perhaps it is a sign of the tough economic times we're living through these days. Or maybe it was just a misunderstanding. And there is a possibility that the Jolly Old Elf was cruelly used in a misguided powerplay that backfired. But the word in town yesterday is that when the beloved yearly Sierra Madre tradition of Dickens Village comes together next weekend, Santa will not be where everybody thinks he should be.

I have to level with you, I'm not quite sure which way to go with this story. I've heard from more people than you might expect for a matter like this, and there are two very distinct story lines here. And I just don't have enough evidence to make a definitive decision on who, if anyone, is at fault. I will make something of a call towards the end of this article, I have an obligation to at least do that. But I'm not completely comfortable here. Feel free to weigh in.

The first version of the story goes something like this. Members of the Sierra Madre Police Department demanded an extra $400 to close Baldwin Avenue and man the barricades during the Dickens Village shindig coming up in a week or so. And the Chamber of Commerce, perhaps feeling the pinch of a challenging economy, just doesn't have that kind of cash available right now. So rather than sell the furniture from their Auburn Avenue offices, they decided to forgo much of their traditional rollout for this yearly event and shuffle Santa over to the less desirable Renaissance Plaza. Which, in case you don't know where to find it, is about a block east of The Bottle Shop.

Now Kersting Court would still be part of this celebration, but with Baldwin Avenue now open to traffic as usual, the many nicknack booths and art kiosks would have to be be situated there. Along with the Nativity Scene, Star of David, and the usual hastily scrawled cardboard signs dedicated to Festivus. And that means no room for Jolly Old Saint Nick at the Inn. Apparently some of the more senior members of the Chamber are none too pleased about being forced to do this, and expressed their displeasure to people I spoke with yesterday.

That is apparently one side to the events I've described. The City Hall version is somewhat different. The Chamber wanted to set up a childrens' train on Baldwin this year, along with those arts and crafts kiosks. And the cost of shutting down Baldwin and paying Sierra Madre Police Officers to man the ramparts would be around $1,200. The City offered to pay 2/3s of that cost, or $800, leaving the other $400 for the Chamber to pick up. But the Chamber, in an unfortunate moment of pique typical of those given to episodes of entitled behavior, refused to cough up any dough whatsoever. Didn't think they should have to. So they took their Santa and went to Renaissance Plaza instead. A place that many feel suffers from a lack of sunshine.

Now I don't want to let you into my other world too much, but my day job is in the entertainment field. And I do stage outdoor events from time to time. Some of them pretty big, and not always on the fashionable side of town. And when I have security requirements I always hire off duty L.A. police. They're pros and comfortable with crowd control. I've never had any problems. And I've got to be straight with you, for $1,200 I could hire a sergeant and around eight regular cops, no questions asked. And for something like Dickens Village, which is not a high impact security situation in my opinion, I'd spend less than a third of that amount. Probably two off duty police officers and some rent-a-cops would be fine.

For security costs at a commercial Christmas event in Mayberry $1,200 is some pretty wack money. And I'm not sure we should be spending our tax revenues like that. Even for Santa Claus.

There is another angle in the mix that clouds our picture a bit. This story had the Chamber moving Santa to Renaissance Plaza because it would encourage people to shop more. The claim being Kersting Court events only drive people into Starbucks or up the street to Beantown. But if that was the true original intent, why all the effort to get the City to shut down Baldwin and foot the entire security bill? Or all the talk about that kiddie train? I sense a disconnect.

You know, I heard a very nice story yesterday as well. Talbot's of Pasadena donated brand new $400 gowns to Sierra Madre's Rose Parade Princesses. Beautiful dresses I've been told, and each of our four Rose Parade royalty will get to keep them after the parade is over. The dresses becoming cherished keepsakes, reminders of a great event in their lives.

You really have to admire that kind of class.

52 comments:

  1. That really is a good point. Why do we have to hire Sierra Madre cops for these things? We could save a lot of money hiring out.

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  2. I'll vote for anyone who will fire the cops ,recind the UUT hike,and push for the overdue forensic audit.Who is ruining(I mean running) the city;the pople's will or the hired hands,City Hall included!

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  3. Just a note: It's NOT the members (officers) of the police department, or the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association who set the standard for security at special events in the city. It's departmant management. Someone needs ask Chief Diaz what happened to the police-community partnership? She should also be reminded that she is not planning the Rose Parade.

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  4. Why should the city need to pay anything? It is this wacked-out belief that the government should pay for everthing that has our entire economy in the crapper. Government shouldn't pay for your auto and they sure as he!! shouldn't be paying for Santa.

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  5. Another example of government by fiat!Well what does our CC have to say..speak up!

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  6. virginia, i mean 7:36, the "police community partnership" died on july 4, 2007, when chief diaz booked a middle aged dad for felony assault with a water gun.

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  7. It certainly looks as if we need more than audit!

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  8. Maybe the kids should learn early...nowadays the GOVERNMENT controls everything, that includes, Santa.

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  9. Chamber: If Santa is not in Kersting Court for the children I will not spend one penny in Town this holiday season. I suggest everyone call the chamber and say you are boycotting local merchants if Santa is held hostage.

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  10. Sounds like city hall, the chamber, and the police are just getting into the Christmas spirit early.

    Has anyone in those organizations read Dickens, that fiercest of social critic? A Dicken's village means child factory laborers (not toy trains or face painting), starving orphans, searing poverty, rampant prostitution, gross corruption in religious and political authorities, and hard lives leading to early deaths.
    Ho ho ho.

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  11. Great article today Sir Eric.
    Maybe someone in City Hall will put it together and follow your lead in hiring cheaper, but still effective security, or is that too much to hope for?
    I suspect that if residents reviewed City Hall expenditures they would find many, many ways to save money.
    The residents care about the money because it's theirs.
    City staff? Not so much.
    They treat it like it's Monopoly game money.

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  12. Stop the Santa SubsidyNovember 20, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    Since when did the taxpayers become the ones who had to carry the world on their backs. Car companies, banks, the real estate development industry, and now Santa Claus?

    Give me a break!

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  13. Overall Most Beautiful and Composite Queen MoonbeamNovember 20, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    While Talbots is indeed to be praised for their generosity, rather than saying the girls will have those dresses as keepsakes of a "great event" in their lives, how about keepsakes of the time the girls' worth was based on what they looked like. With a little luck and experience, maybe some of those keepsakes will end up at the Salvation Army thrift store.

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  14. C'mon Moonbeam, don't be such a sourpuss. To suggest that this is all the Rose Parade Princesses have in their heads at this moment in their lives is a bit presumptuous on your part.

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  15. Overall Most Beautiful and Composite Queen MoonbeamNovember 20, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    The Overall Most Beautiful and Composite Queen Moonbeam has spoken from her perfectly pouted slightly provocative and painted lips.
    It's not the Princesses who have empty heads - it's the people around them who have encouraged them, who think beauty pageants of any kind have merit
    Oh yeah, there's the cash. That's a great lesson - do this to your looks sweetheart and I'll give you some money.
    http://www.moonbeampageant.com/

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  16. Perhaps there is another reason in favor of Raanassance Plaza although probably not to popular. Streets are where we restrict cars. When streets are baracaded off with cops to police things can go very wrong. The Santa Monica Farmers Market where an elderly driver mistook the accelerator for the break and crashed through the baracade killing several people comes to mind. These incidents become major lawsuits. (extra liability insurance needed). All things considered the streets should be left for the traffic and the celebration in a place where people are safe.
    Common sense should prevail. As I said a not too popular observation.

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  17. Aren't pageants dead yet?November 20, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    Ah c'mon Queen Moonbeam. It's just a little nostalgia, a little pretense from the days that women wore girdles.

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  18. I'm with you 9:21. That plaza isn't a bad place, and having some festivity could be nice.

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  19. Festivus CelebratorNovember 20, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    Thank you for the mention of Festivus. I celebrate the day myself, and it is nice to see some recognition here in Sierra Madre. I saw the signs taped to lamp posts last year, and was greatly heartened at the sight. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before more permanent installations can be displayed.

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  20. Queen Moonbeam, why do you presume this to be a beauty pageant? The Rose Princesses I have met have been intelligent, articulate, poised and engaged - though not in all cases what I would term "beauties." This is consistent with my understanding that the white coats are seeking an ambassador for their event - not eye candy. You need to move beyond outdated stereotypes.

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  21. 9:40, that's great news! So it won't matter anymore what the girls look like. Pretty soon there will be Rose Queens who are fat or too skinny?
    And just by the way, "intelligent, articulate, poised and engaged" has always been the rationale to parade the pretty women around.

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  22. Overall Most Beautiful and Composite Queen MoonbeamNovember 20, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Queen Moonbeam responds:
    Of course it's a beauty pageant.

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  23. QMB: They have floats too, you know. And cowboys, horses, local TV hambones. I don't understand your obsession here. Is it just because you were called out?

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  24. WMB: look, i am all about pretty women. in fact, i married one. she also happens to be a lawyer and really smart.

    and it's true. when the world hires someone to be an ambassador - male or female - they look for someone who isn't fat or dumpy. the real issue is why you presume these intelligent, poised and articulate young women - almost all of whom go on to be high achievers - to be ding dongs harmed by this experience.

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  25. Hey, Moon
    Most of the Tattler readers don't care much for spam......if you want to advertise your website, call Harriet Susan Henderson......she accepts all ads, oh wait, no one reads that paper.
    Anyway, go advertise your beauty contests somewhere else.

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  26. Buooty pagunts are grate. We need more of them to edicate usselves.

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  27. $1,200 hires a sargeant and 8 cops?
    That's helpful information to evaluate in considering what we pay our officers for this kind of work.
    Who's in charge of the budget?

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  28. I think it would be good to use the Renaissance plaza. The whole idea is to give a boost to the local businesses, and there are businesses along the plaza too.

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  29. Once it was in the Renaissance Plaza. Stroller and children caused quite a sidewalk jam that is why it was moved to Kersting Court. At Kersting Court,the street is blocked off, kids are safe, and more of a community spirit. This year the Chamber is the Grench Who Stole Santa.

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  30. 12:14, with that experience behind the organizers, think it can be improved? It just seems like it would be good to spread the activities around.

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  31. 11:58 Looks like the problem is that since we are forced to use SMPD they can ask a maximum rate. There is no bidding process.

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  32. With people using that crosswalk from Kersting Ct to Renaissance Plaza, it is going to be one hot corner. Street crossing kids, cars, and a 4 way stop. Bad mix.

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  33. Maybe we can ask Chief Diaz the next time we see her on a "photo-shoot" as she walks the beat of Sierra Madre.

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  34. Call the Chamber, they are the Grenches.

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  35. Remember it was our wonderful Mayor Enid Joffe who penned the historical agreement with the POA which set the rules.

    Thanks a heap kind lady.

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  36. So what this all boils down to is the Chamber of Commerce didn't want to spend $400?

    Jiminy.

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  37. Since when do we need police for Dicken's village anyway? Are we expecting someone to steal Santa's slay while hundreds of children look on in disbelief?

    I guess that's what happens when Homeland Security takes over the local police departments.

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  38. Ahh, the weekend is here. Time to put aside our weekday cares and enjoy some down time in our beautiful city by the foothills. Anybody have any special plans for this weeknd?

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  39. Change the name from Dicken's Village we live in Sierra Madre

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  40. Loadin'my shotgun, goin'Santa huntin' venisons really good with a dry rub and a good merlot! I've had it with Xmas and all the BS advertising behind it...BA HUMBUG! cuck fhristmas!

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  41. That is why there is Festivus, friend. It's the holiday for the rest of us.

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  42. do i hear a revolution with the police? maybe Sir Eric could get a few fellas to dress up as some Keystone Cops and close off Baldwin next weekend. Ya think?

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  43. The Queen and Court has always been an outreach mechanism that goes back to the old Valley Hunt debutante tradition that started the parade. That was the big attraction from the beginning, used to only be open to "the right girls" selected privately. Now the first cut group from the public cattle call gets a dance party for all the girls and their dates, prior to the final selection. It's actually a fun way to get the youth involved, they have a good time.

    It does look good on the resume, too, since the princesses' public appearances give them the kind of connections that many college kids never get. It's like working for the Olympics, you never forget it, and it's a year of VERY intensive training and supervision. Opens a lot of doors.

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  44. The whole thing was set up for advertising.
    Sell this land by showing sunshine, oranges and pretty girls, in the middle of winter.

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  45. Let me get this straight. The City was going to pay $800 of our dollars while the Chamber only has to pay $400? And they still said no?

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  46. 12:47 - pretty wild, eh? Personally, I think the Chamber should pay us for the use of Kersting Court and whatever else they want. It's like they think we owe them a living or something.

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  47. Well, actually, the Parade evolved from a simple little local booster deal to attract more easterners into a massive infrastructure that feeds police, fire, sheriff (overtime) and many vendors that are supported by this event. Monies from all of this end up in interesting places, primarily with upper management and LA County supervisors. Not squeaky clean white panama suits...

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  48. Maybe we should just turn downtown into low income housing. Take the existing buildings and make them into little apartments. I'm sure the surviving and more popular businesses would welcome the additional clientele, plus it would take care of those %#@&*%#! RHNA numbers.

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  49. You don't want Section 8 vouchers, believe me. Then you get blight, guaranteed, and the camel's nose under the tent.

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  50. We get blight, anyway. Look at what the dirtbags who own the SNF have done to the place. We should have fined those guys all the way to China by now.

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  51. 8:43, who does own the SNF?
    Who owns Howies?
    I mean who, as in names of people, not the LLC title.

    During the DSP show, local architect Fred Wesley was hired to design the 55 condos/mixed use/underground parking at the SNF.
    So who hired him?

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