Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SCAG: "Where Fantasy Meets Absurdity"

Last night Don Watts nailed SCAG once again. "Where fantasy meets absurdity" is how he termed the planning conceits of this bizarre organization. One backed up by the full power of our state and federal governments, of course. Which I guess makes SCAG kind of like the crazy aunt your parents forced you to be nice to when you were a kid. And last night that crazy aunt once again had the full attention of Sierra Madre's elected officials.

One of the most time honored criticisms of authoritarian central planning bureaucracies like SCAG is that they do not have any real insight into what is needed at the local level. Nor do they particularly care. SCAG can certainly crank out mighty proclamations and theories regarding how they think the world ought to be, but after their otherworldly ponderings get boiled down to actual numbers and forced upon local governments, you end up with the kind of thing we saw at last night's City Council meeting. Reasonably intelligent people wasting a whole lot of time creating a document designed merely to placate a bunch effete bureaucrats. Something that has absolutely no real value to anyone whatsoever, but did consume a few weeks worth of time, effort and staff salary to create.

Look at it this way. Left to their own devices would the elected officials of Sierra Madre and our City staff ever willingly sit down and attempt to predict how many more jobs and houses there will be here in 11 years? I don't think so. And why that arbitrary 11 years figure? Why not 14? Or 103? And why houses and jobs? Why not doorknobs? Or fish tanks? Or what about how many fish tanks will have doorknobs in Sierra Madre by the year 2093? If we're going to waste our time and tax money on nonsense, why not go for the gusto?

As if any numbers on jobs and housing City staff cooks up in 2009 are going to have validity for folks in the year 2020. That is, if anyone in 2020 will even know of their existence. Which I doubt.

Of course, trying to explain this to SCAG Commissar Ikhrata could be equally futile. After all, that's probably how they did it when he was a young planner in the Soviet Union. And outside of a famine or two, things there weren't so bad, right? At least until the entire system collapsed under the weight of a similar inherent madness.

So in the spirit of bringing this incident to that full measure of absurdity Don spoke about, we are going to try and summarize what exactly was said by the meeting participants. Because despite the farcical premise of the topic, wise things were said. At least by a few.

Our City Planner Danny Castro, batting leadoff, gave his second (or possibly third) presentation on what housing and jobs projections we should present to SCAG. Unfortunately, in the last three years we have net zero new households. Factual information SCAG would probably wish not to hear because it does not show growth. Showing growth being a priority over actual growth, I suppose. SCAG has demanded that we project 140 new houses by the year 2020, but based on what? Commissar Ikhrata's mood swings? Danny does not speculate in that way. He did offer up the number of 72 houses, I guess in hopes of getting SCAG off our backs. And on jobs SCAG wants us to say we'll have 267 new ones by 2020. Danny only offered up 82. Apparently pizza consumption is down in Sierra Madre.

John Buchanan found Danny's numbers objectionable. And while he did ramble on about the topic (as always), I am not certain he said much that made sense. He did say something about Sierra Madre dropping Howie's as a development site until 2025. Apparently he arrived at this through a process of deductive reasoning. Howie's, if developed in the way John imagines it should be, would apparently create much new housing and jobs if made properly gargantuan. But Danny left that opportunity out according to John. Which he then proclaimed to be a very negative thing to do. John then made the odd statement that "we're telling people that the Howie's lot will sit there dead for 10 or 20 years."

Now I don't know about you, but I find Taylor's to be a delightful store. I shop there often because of the high quality meats and produce they sell. For a City Councilman to proclaim the site of our city's finest grocery store "dead" is unfortunate. I'm not sure the business climate in town is such that we can afford to denigrate something like Taylor's in this way.

Then the verbose Councilman Buchanan concluded his sense siesta by inadvertently revealing one of the core problems of government in this state. Staring into his crystal ball, he proclaimed that after 3 years the economy will pick up, and with it the number of jobs in Sierra Madre. And if we assume our jobs number will not grow at the SCAG correct level, we are actually projecting the "decline of this town." With the consequence of "hurting our chances for funding." Which begs this question: if we make up some big fancy employment growth numbers, we'll get more money from Sacramento? If that is how it really works, then it is no wonder the government of California is a fiscal waste site.

Don Watts is always on a roll when the topic of SCAG comes up. "We don't have major growth in this town and it has been that way for years. But we have been mandated to say these things to a dysfunctional government." Don then spoke about how nothing will be built in this town for the next two years because there is nothing of any real size or paradigm changing import in the planning process at this time. He then said the City Council should just approve Danny's numbers because enough time has been wasted on this nonsense already.

Joe Mosca apparently reached deep into his bag of opposable personalities and pulled out his Little Miss Sunshine suit. After offering a particularly chipper and content-free defense of SB 375, he then proclaimed that everyone is on the same page in this SCAG matter, and that perhaps we should all join hands and celebrate ourselves. Which, when you consider John Buchanan's emphatic "no" vote later in the evening, is about as fatuous a statement as any Joe has made to date. Which is saying a lot. Look for a video in a couple of days.

Kurt Zimmerman called SCAG's numbers to a nightmare. He noted that staff had put a lot of time and effort into ginning up some numbers of our own, but there wasn't a lot of quality data to base them on. He then looked over at Joey Sunshine and expressed some doubt about "the same page" thing. Kurt voiced the very logical concern that by sending these numbers in we'll be seen as admitting to growth and jobs that probably won't happen. Possibly resulting in SCAG ratcheting up these fantasy numbers even higher. And should we really be all that concerned about maybe losing a bus line? Something few here use anyway? The real concern in Sierra Madre is over dramatic growth. A far more important consideration to the vast majority of people living here than a couple of empty SCAG buses.

Which brings us to Mayor MacGillvray. MaryAnn finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to balance the considerable pressure from those opposed to our even being in SCAG (the author raises his hand), with the rather grim choices offered by the duplicitous Sacramento agendas driving all this. She defended City staff's methodology, claiming there is a reality to these calculations that we can defend to SCAG. We are safer in the long run by being conservative than by being foolishly optimistic, she stated, because if we go that route we could be forced to accept SCAG numbers that "will change the fabric of the community."

Some of which I have a problem with. But then the Mayor offered up this statement:

"This is not so much about projecting future visions as it is an issue of local government maintaining control over where growth occurs."

And that, my friends, is the stone cold truth. These people want to take that control away from cities like ours and place it in the hands of Sacramento. Where it can all be sold to the highest bidder. And they have the guns and money to do it.

In the end the City Council approved Danny's numbers. Only John Buchanan voted no.


  1. Taylors is a great place.The produce is always high quality, and they carry good dairy products.
    Buchanan is supposed to be for business in town?He was very insulting to Taylors.They are not "dead"

  2. How dare John say that about Taylor's Market. They carry something for every budget. If more people shopped there instead of at the "here on Wednesday gone on Thursday" farmers market staffed by out-of-towners then Taylors could expand.

  3. Did Joey have his afternoon nap or take a nice pill before the meeting? As usual, he sure talked up the wonders of SCAG. Looks like he has turned in his election papers and is on the campaign trail.

  4. I agree 7:15. He was playing both sides so hard it was dizzying.
    He claimed that everybody wants to "preserve" Sierrta Madre.
    Yeah, we've got to define that word "preserve" when it's used or give up using it all together.
    As in I want to preserve Sierra Madre by satisfying SCAG, developing mansions in the hillsides and retail/condo mixes downtown.
    I'll go for Don Watts idea of "preserving"

  5. Channel 3 watcher,
    I think Joe is refering to the number 4 definition.

    Main Entry: 1pre·serve
    Pronunciation: \pri-ˈzərv\
    Function: verb
    Inflected Form(s): pre·served; pre·serv·ing
    Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin praeservare, from Late Latin, to observe beforehand, from Latin prae- + servare to keep, guard, observe — more at conserve
    Date: 14th century
    transitive verb
    1 : to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction : protect
    2 a : to keep alive, intact, or free from decay b : maintain
    3 a : to keep or save from decomposition b : to can, pickle, or similarly prepare for future use
    4 : to keep up and reserve for personal or special use

    Neuroblast Films

  6. I think #3 might have defined John Buchanan last night. He was pickled.

  7. I am grateful to the Mayor for running such efficient meetings. Makes it a lot easier to keep informed.

  8. Oh where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy?November 11, 2009 at 7:50 AM

    Bill is back. As the Mayor said "get the hook". He was up at least 5 times with nothing to say. Wasted at least 15 minutes. Don't get me wrong I like Bill but enough is enough.

  9. The Eagle flies on Friday. The rest of the week he kind of hangs around.

  10. I think Bill is good for everybody. He's honest, and he doesn't talk beyond a few minutes - though he did go on too long last night at that one point.
    What freaked me out was when Joe said Bill had lightened the mood and made Joe feel comfortable to talk. That's not good. If Mosca and Buchanan cut out all the therefores and so forths and so ons (Mosca actually used that last night - "so forth and so on") and just got to their points, we'd save an hour of meeting time, easy.
    Let's not elect any more verbose people!

  11. It looks like Joe is going back to his campaign themes of 2006.
    Fully expecting everyone to forget his actions for the last four
    years. He must hold Sierra Madre voters in very low esteem.

  12. in defense of honest john buchanan, if your dream for the corner of SM and Baldwin is 70 condos and a bunch of empty storefronts, the Taylor's corner is dead. If you value great food, friendly service, and an owner who will stay late to help with an order for a steak starved carnivore (me), the corner is full of life as it should be.

  13. Joe and John were boring, annoying and mostly wrong, lobbying for special interest, as usual.
    MaryAnn, Kurt and Don were on target, doing what they were elected to do, representing the people of Sierra Madre, as usual.

  14. Big Fan of Taylor'sNovember 11, 2009 at 8:50 AM

    It would be good to remember it's not the City's decision, nor the citizens' decision on what ultimately is the fate for the Howie's Market site -- it's the Prudential Realty broker's and the dirts who bought into the LLC who hold the paper. The multimillion dollar purchase price and asking price for that piece of property don't "pencil out" (remember that phrase?) in our favor, nor in Taylor's favor. Mr. Taylor only has a month to month agreement. I suspect his annual gross of top quality fairly priced goods and services wouldn't equal the selling price of one unit in the multi story complex they've been trying to shove down our collective throats.

  15. Ahh, so Johnny B was delivering his plaintive wail on behalf of the Downtown Investors Club last night? Those nitwits must light candles to SCAG every night before they go to hang by their feet from the rafters.

  16. you got that right, Ed at 8:53.

    Those two are more than any honest citizen.

  17. Nice. So Sierra Madre is supposed to turn itself upside down to accommodate some bad investors? I'm sorry, but the DIC is neither a bank or a car company. They don't qualify.

  18. So who's in favor of parking favoritism for Mary's Market? What do they want? Five dedicated 2-hour spots for the market seven days a week from 7:00 am until 5:00 pm. Currently there are two 2-hour spots and two 20 minutes spots (but not designated for the market) Monday through Saturday. There are 20 spots in the public parking lot. Mary's Market used to have an additional parking place which a former proprieter turned into a patio. The Dapper's issued a warning - give them parking or they'll take their business (read $7.00 sandwiches) and go home. My take is that they'll go away as soon as they get the parking and sell the "cafe" business.

  19. The current Howies owners believed their real estate broker and the old city manager. Remember they were trying to scare everyone with the BIG BOX pharmacy lie? They also were led to believe the city would sell them the city owned parking lot. That was also blown out of the water by Debbie Sheridan when she said they needed a 4/5 vote. Paid over the market. Now they are stuck. Too bad so sad.

  20. Steamers was severely restricted when they tried to open because they didn't have adequate parking! Eventually they closed in spite of foot/street traffic. Why do the Dappers think they should get perks/preferential treatment from the City when it was denied to other businesses?

  21. I don't know exactly what Mary's Market thinks it is holding over this city. It is nice, and sitting outside in the shade with a bottle of cold water on a hot summer day is pleasant. But if they believe we'll be thrown into a galloping panic over their implied threat, well, I'm afraid they're wrong.

    There sure are a lot of entitled people in this town.

  22. Petition carrier the firstNovember 11, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    Mary's is a neat little place, and there should be some changes to that parking lot. There are some people who have houses with no parking, and I hear there are some people who live in their cars in the lot. Those changes are already in process with the Canyon Zone committee. But at the same time, I can't even keep track of who owns Mary's, because the owners are changing so much. Maybe people are buying it with the wrong expectations? It's a nice little business for someone who doesn't need much.

  23. Congregationalist, Steamers had much more parking in the surrounding area than anyplace in the canyon.

  24. I heard Jeff Dapper is a friend of the pontificating John Buchanan?
    The CANYON ZONING COMMITTEE is dealing with the parking issues. They are not biased and will do the right thing.
    Why did these people have to go to the city council and imply they would go elsewhere if they didn't get what they wanted.
    I live in the canyon and have noticed they have some rather large "meetings" up there, and the attendees are all of the "dirt" catagory.
    There is more to this than parking careful.
    If any canyon zoning committee member is reading this, please take note. Don't let these people bully you!

  25. Hey readers, the meeting the night of the windstorm is playing on KGEM. Even better, they've added a fast forward function!

  26. Example of parking abuse: 1) former Mayor has 2-covered 2-uncovered parking places. Parks 2 vehicles on street because he's converted his 2 garages into office space; 2) local businessman owns apartment over 6 garages; rents them out for storage, not parking; 3) homeowner has 1 parking spot for rental and family with 3 vehicles and 3 drivers; 4) 2 recently built houses with garages on street so narrow vehicles can't make the turn - used as storage; 5) homeowner routinely "keys" vehicles parked at curb in front of house - but try and prove it. Add to that 3 properties (9 units total) with multiple cars and drivers and no parking!!! All of this within a brief walk of the market. METERS ARE THE ANSWER!!!

  27. Rock who jumps in shoesNovember 11, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    Sir Eric, do tell..

    It is very important to the UN Agenda 21 Investors Club, that the "these" community councils be formed such as SCAG, it makes it easier to take nations, states, cities, from behind without crisco, and divy the profits gleaned. It trickles down through SCAG.

    The UN decided to sustain ourselves we must live in cluster condos, and take mass transit,
    Irvine is a model city, but a lot of cities grouped together to fight scag and the rhna numbers, the case is online.

    SCAG meetings need to be witnessed and attended by local city folk, right now because they desperately want to pretend they can go on like they were with redevelopment, but the money is gone..The money is gone trickle down trickle up..

    What and how do the sons of the sons of pirates tell their children? Guess you have to drop out of school and your future will consist of "carrying hod" or concrete to repair the infrastructure.

    Even poor Leon Panetta of the CIA is stating the deficit is dangerous to national security..

    So SCAG really needs to promote those building projects, jobs, provided at 500 thousand a whack for a green card funding through the keep the homeland safe agency so at least the three letter agencies can get paid.

    Sierra Madre must be a stone in the shoe of SCAG.

    Watch out for wily flank attacks..

    Great Story today, Mr. Maundry

  28. Wow 10:32, hope you email that to the Canyon Zone Comm.
    Thanks for posting.

  29. Why is Council Member Buchanan so insistent that the Howie's market property be transformed into some sort of mega-development?

    What's his beef with having a small market in town?

  30. Last time I checked, MTA wasn't threatening to eliminate any bus lines that service our town. Also, I have not read or heard that any of the state/federal funds we receive for public transportation are going to be eliminated.

    So, why is Council Member Buchanan stating that our public transportation is threatened unless we generate new jobs and build more homes/condos?

  31. As always, it's a good thing when Council Member Zimmerman is not on the same page with Council Member Buchanan

  32. Actually and thankfully, Kurt was reading from a different book than John last night?

  33. Poster 9:28, I think competition fron the pre-exisitng coffee shops (Bean Town and Starbucks) had more to do with Steamers' demise than your alleged parking restrictions.

    Except for Sunday when the Cong Church is full, I have never had a problem finding parking in that area of town.

  34. Is it just me or do other people think Joe Mosca's speeches always consist of ummm, blah blah blah, me, me, me, ummm, blah, blah, blah, me, me, me, ummm, blah blah blah, me, me, me.

  35. Anonymous at 1:16 pm, in all fairness you left out the ummm, blah blah blah,I, I, I, ummm, ummm, ummm... we must strive for accuracy!

  36. I think Joe does all that because he believes it makes him
    seem humble, thoughtful and sincere.

    Which also means he knows he is none of them.

  37. Say it ain't soNovember 11, 2009 at 1:47 PM

    Did anyone else hear the Director of Public Works say that Public Works only just started to keep track of how much they spend to repair/ground down hardscape?

  38. I will listen for that, say it ain't so.
    I will also listen for Don Watts' suggestion that the UUT stay at 10% for the next year, and not increase to 12% before it moves back down.

  39. Remember the UUT can be 12% for four years. That's 2010 until 2014. Lots of people missed that part.

  40. Thanks Don, but what about Kurt's suggestion that we repeal that damn tax!

  41. There was a lot of weeping and wailing and cries of impossible at that suggestion.
    Of course, we could always cut back city hall staff to a minimum, and just focus on the most basic essentials. That would save a lot of money.

  42. Cut Community Services and Personnel staff. They keep adding people. At least 4 in the last 18 months.

  43. I shop at Taylor's Old Fashion Meat market for my produce and meat. They have good variety and the staff is very accommodating. I also shop at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and Albertson's. My point is that it is a privilege to have a local market to serve our community ... and it is not entitlement. Eric, thank for the great coverage.


  45. In case your breathlessly awaiting the 50 Grand User Fee Study from The NBS Company, here is what the Butte County Board of Supervisors got.

    * NBS will conduct a comprehensive User Fee Stdy
    * " will identify new areas for Fees
    * Gather & Review County Data
    * Evaluate current County Policies
    * Review County's existing schedule of Fees
    * Meet with Couunty Staff on site for "kick off"
    * Conduct 2 day on site meeting to gather staff
    time information
    * Consolidate hard data into spreadsheet for
    "model development"
    * Allocate depart cost to functions of service
    * Allocate couinty-wide overhead (support costs)
    * Calculate fullly-loaded hourly rates or the
    full cost of fee-related services
    * Determine current cost recovery levels
    * Estblish cost recovery targets for each area
    * Analyze fee characteristics to select
    appropriate fee strutures
    * Apply cost of service results
    * Conduct two review sessions with Couunty Staff
    * Consolidate full-cost defensible fees into a
    consolidated master fee schedule
    * Provide an assessment of impact of proposed
    master fee schedule
    * Provide an assessment of impact on County
    * Prepare a draft report docummenting the
    complete work of the Fee study
    * Prepare and attend two meetings to present
    findings to the Board
    * Meet with Couunty staff to prepare draft for
    County Board
    * Meet with staff to ammend any concerns of
    County Board
    * NBS recommends a 120 day schedule for the Fee
    * NBS will conduct the User Fee Study for a
    total cost not to exceed $49,980.00.

    The above lists only the first sentence of each actionable point in the contract with Butte County. You can read the whole 5 page document by "Googling NBS User Fee Study" and read the whole thing.

    If this is representative of the study and determinations to be made from a $50,000.00 consultant, Sierra Madre should consider buying the Brooklin Bridge.

    Our City Mgr and Staff should be able to gather and analyze this basic data in a couple of days, skipping a whole lot of "make work" and a 50K Payment to the NBS Consulting Company

  46. Brooklyn with a "y" please!.................. damn west coasters

  47. 3:50

  48. 1:06 Buchanan wants a mega development because he obviously has his fingers in the real estate cookie jar. Like the other dirts. It always is about money. That is why he and Joe babble on and they are called dirts, they are so dishonest and are not even good at hiding it. Our problem is that many people in town need to be informed. Remember how too many of us believed Turn Coat Joe. Thank you Mary Ann, Kurt and Don for being honest and please continue your work for all of us!

  49. 3:43 - The rationale isn't so much the nuts and bolts. Cities often turn to consultants because they think they might need them to testify in Court about something later on. An unfortunate part of municipal life these days.

    You know what people who sue my town are? A cancer.

  50. Sierra Madre, I have noticed that the cities freguently use the consultants recommended by the SCAG folks, somebody posted about a consultant here previously and I search them and they were servicing at least ten other towns.

    I read the language of the Transportation board above SCAG and part of the condition of funding received is conditional on getting the city to be involved in 14 meetings, you can see the poster above mentioning butte, you can see it in cities across the nation, someone in the sierra madre city hall is using their heads and know they have the right to dispute the SCAG figures and do their own research, and counter with their figures.. as seen at the council meeting sir eric mentioned above, the municipality is victimized by hiring the consultants, not aided in court which is also an unfortunate fact on the parts of most municipalities other than the brave city of sierra madre.

  51. J.B. knows;
    Job count means increased Transportation funding,
    Increased transportation makes Sierra Madre part of the "transportation corridor",
    The transportation corridor means an increase in housing numbers.
    Scag sets it's housing goals based upon these perceived future "needs".
    Every municipality is apportioned these numbers.
    The system is very top down, similiar to a dictatorial oligarchy, rather than the way the founders of our country meant it to be. Policy is meant to be set from local government up to our representatives, not the other way around.
    That is why, on a federal level, the original government was designed to be a confederation of states. They new a federal system meant the eventual oligarchy we have now.
    We have ceased to be a democratic republic.

  52. You can bet your sweet jeans that the Canyon Residential Zoning committee did not discuss the parking lot configuration or usage in any context except that the R1-15,000 zoning that now exists for the canyon requires 2 covered and 2 off-street parking per residence and that is all but impossible for these small, former "tent lots." The discussion is all about how to deal with the reality of the canyon and the existing sites that have no parking, one space or two spaces (a dream deal in the canyon as the residents well know) and how to deal with realistic, desired parking requirements in the canyon.

  53. is John's ego driven neurosis drug induced?

  54. nah he is just looney

  55. Iggy the Russian CommissarNovember 11, 2009 at 8:14 PM

    It is a good question, though. There must be something in it for him. How else do you explain his obsession with all this SCAG and BIA crap?

  56. i laugh at John and Joe on a regular basis when they switch daily which coffee shop they visit - one day John is seen in Bean Town and the next day he's at Starbucks - it's like they both really believe that people are influenced by them and they play down to people, I guess John sincerely believes that his intellect is superior to mine and most of us in the city, which isn't remotely the case - both have the lawyer's complex