Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SGVCOG Meets @ Sierra Madre City Hall and Uses the Seats

Perhaps they've grown weary of the Edison owned buildings they usually meet in. Or maybe there was some sort of conflict in Solar Power and government money being discussed at a building owned by a company financially committed to the enterprise? Or maybe it is just a holdover from when a hospitable Joe Mosca would have had something to do with our hosting such a COGgy Confab. But apparently we provided a roof for a San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting yesterday, and I'm not certain we were invited. But thank God for enterprising party crashers.

The topic, according to a handout provided to me via the magic of e-mail, was AB 811, which is apparently a consequence of AB 32, the greenhouse gas measure passed by Sacramento. You know, the one that doesn't remove CEQA review rights from the purview of California's cities. More of a carrot than a stick, it largely seeks proactive ways of nudging the unwilling towards accepting what are purportedly cleaner energy standards rather than merely turning such municipal decisions over to the Courts as is the case with its more draconian sibling, SB 375.

Here is how AB 811 is described on a site that calls itself California Green Solutions:

California passed AB 811 in September 2008 to assist municipalities with retrofitting residential and commercial properties by providing low interest loans for energy efficient installations that are paid for using tax assessments.

Rather succinct. Wikipedia, where those in the know go to write about things they care to share, makes the pithy more profound with this pronouncement:

The passage of AB 811 makes it more imperative to provide an energy efficiency community program. AB 811 states: "This act is an urgency statute..." Cities and counties can now: (1) Make energy-efficiency and renewable energy affordable for California citizens (2) Increase property values (3) Improve the efficiency and indoor air quality of residential & commercial properties (4) Reduce the burning of dirty fuels and hence, pollution (5) Lower greenhouse gas emissions (6) Empower constituents with the fiscal security of of distributed energy.

In other words, Sacramento wants to give you a low interest loan to buy yourself some of that exciting new solar energy technology we've all been hearing so much about. Which I guess is a good enough deal. You get solar panels at a reduced interest rate, your electricity becomes free, and neither the City of Sierra Madre nor their cash collectors at Southern California Edison have yet to figure out a way to tax you on it yet. What a great way to avoid paying the 100% UUT tax increase! Or at least that part dealing with electricity consumption.

Plus won't your crib look positively styling with some of those modernistic solar panels glistening up there on the roof for all to see? You'd be the envy of your block, that's for sure. Sunshine proud, the greenest guy around, a veritable paragon of proprietary virtue personified. All on Uncle Sugar's borrowed dime. I'm asking you, where is the downside here?

And apparently SGVCOG is chill with the concept. Of solar energy, that is. As far as I know nothing was said about utility tax evasion yesterday. Here is how the COGsters worded it in an enthusiastic letter penned to Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission:

Dear Chairman Douglas - The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) is pleased to submit this letter of support for the County of Los Angeles grant applications to the California Energy Commission under the State Energy Program (SEP) Category #1 - Municipal Financing Program and Category #2 - California Comprehensive residential Building Retrofit Program ... The County of Los Angeles has committed nearly $12 million of its $15.4 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant funds to develop and implement a Countywide AB 811 municipal financing program and community-scale building retrofit program. The County will make this program available to property owners in the 88 cities located within the County's boundaries. The SGVCOG intends to support its member cities efforts to join the County's program where it is available.

Well, I guess that was a nice thing for them to do. Of course, if I had $12 million dollars sitting around to buy people solar panels I'd probably get some happy letters, too. So am I reading this correctly? Does this mean that soon we will be able to go down to City Hall and snap up one of these low interest loans? And locally this will be a City Staff administered program?

But even if that is the case, I'm thinking that this cash won't last for very long. 88 cities into $12 million dollars comes to around $137,000 per burgh. Which I calculate as roughly the cost of solar panels for 6 buildings. And that doesn't include all those unincorporated spaces out there, which I assume will also have their mitts out. And if it is divvied out proportionally based on population, our cut of the action will be even smaller, I'm afraid.

Isn't that always the way? Just when you think something sounds really good, and you get all excited about it, reality intrudes. But I guess your chances are better than lottery odds. Maybe that's how we should do it. Get one of those clear plastic spinning drums with the numbered balls in it, and bring in Vanna White. With the happy winner getting a low interest loan, courtesy of the City of Sierra Madre, COG, Edison, the County of Los Angeles, Chairman Karen Douglas, and Helios. And if you are a lucky number holder, you'll be literally walking on sunshine.

I have a question. How come when SGVCOG gets together down there at our City Hall nobody ever thinks to invite us? If they are going to be lending out government dough at minimal costs, you'd think some residents might like to attend. It really is an interesting topic if you think about it.

41 comments:

  1. Maybe we charge the SGVCOG a little room rent? They do
    look like nice people, though. Such crisp business attire.

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  2. It should have been recorded/televised.

    Neuroblast Films

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  3. I'm not very sharp about finances, but isn't this kind of a bad time to encourage people to increase their debt?

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  4. Was this was a closed meeting, and unpublicized? No mention of it on the city web site.

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  5. So who would collect the payments on these loans?

    City Hall? The County?

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  6. here's my question. Since obviously the money won't go very far, what will the criteria be for deciding who would get a low cost loan? First come first serve? A nice sunny yard? Good lookin' people? I mean, if you're going to create a program like this, shouldn't it be open to everyone?

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  7. Ed, the people who will get the low cost loans will be the people who can afford them, unless the governmental bodies distributing them have not noticed what happens when people are saddled with too much debt. So if the people can afford the loans, maybe they can afford the panels without loans? Sounds like shenanigans to me, but maybe living in California has made me too skeptical.

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  8. Maybe the meeting was not open to the public because they were scared that Heather Allen might get up and ask a question or two. Then we'd have a video of Heather Allen demolishing SGVCOG.

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  9. re8:34....Sooo true..just another scam by the same cast of characters

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  10. Isn't this a little bit like a pyramid scheme? We pay the money in taxes, then the state turns around and lends us our money back with interest?

    What's next, E-Z Pay Day Check Cashing at City Hall?

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  11. Actually the concept is economically advantageous for commercial property owners. It will allow the property owner to make energy saving improvements to the building without gutting their cash flow. Besides solar these funds can be used for energy efficient windows, air conditioning, cool roofs, etc. The property owner will still pay for the improvements over a longer period of time. There will not be the huge upfront costs which in these economic times might deter an owner from making these improvements.

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  12. Good news for commercial business owners, I guess. Do we have any here who could benefit? And again, the amount of money available for any sizable plant could be gone in a single gulp.

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  13. Thanks for the explanation 9:04. So it's a loan for businesses that own real estate, and it sounds like it would be good for them, and incidentally good for the environment. However, I would probably not choose to put my tax dollars there. I thought that was the part of the economy that's best left to run itself.

    And another thanks to Sir Eric for moderating the comments. Any delay is nowhere near as annoying as reading comments that have gotten lost in personal attacks and that weird kind of aggression that pops up from time to time.

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  14. I would much rather see my tax dollars helping small businesses, which employ my friends, neighbors,and families than having it go to reseed the Capitol Mall or other wasteful projects. The installation of these energy efficient product ie. windows, HVAC, roofs, etc will create jobs. I am not refering to solar installations which is another debate for another time. By the way, these loans unlike home loans will be paid back even if the property is sold or even foreclosed on. The debt remains a property tax liability, just like an assessment.

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  15. Is the City expected to augment these funds? The amounts available seem so meagre. And for Sierra Madre we are talking residential, correct? Not a lot of commercial anything in this town beyond restaurants.

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  16. The city does not have the funds to assist. So don't worry about funds coming from our meger General Fund. Homeowners and commercial alike can use this program. Any property owner in the downtown/Montecito area could bennefit from this program. If someone bought the SNF, this would really help with upgrades to the HVAC and windows if Sierra Madre is taking part in this program. They might also qualify if the program is being administered by the County of Los Angeles.

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  17. 10:30, There are a lot of buildings (well, "a lot" relative to our town's size anyway!) that are commercial, along the Boulevard and along Baldwin. All those buildings could green up & it wouldn't be bad.

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  18. Ugh. I hate taking money from these people. There is always some sort of catch.

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  19. There has been a positive interest by Financial Institutions because this would be a very safe investment opportunity. Some groups are actually considering a pooling of funds being made available to either cities or counties.

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  20. 11:14 No catch. No one is taking or giving anything. It is a secure loan.

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  21. 10:52, you bring up that always interesting point, the financial condition of the city.
    Ever since I started following city politics, there have been alarming cries about the fact that the city is going broke - year after year after year. And yet, very high salaries and benefits are given to city employees, the staff is always growing, potentially devastating foolishness like the DSP takes huge bites out of the budget, in short, what is said about the money doesn't match what is done with the money.
    Sure would be nice to have an independent audit to get it all straightened out.
    And while we're talking about wasteful uses of taxpayers dollars? Let's trim city hall down to essentials.

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  22. So the money involved could be more than $12M?

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  23. No catch? Like we won't have to create a General Plan that allows for the building of a couple hundred so-called green condos downtown? All in the name of curbing global warming through enabling high density development in what is now a low density town?

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  24. What ever happened to the blaring fog horn that used to toot at 12:00 noon? Lets develop a code.
    1 toot for noon. 2 rapid toots for a council meeting start. 1 rapid toot followed by a long toot to call our volunteer firemen. Two long toots to check out channel 3 for imp. info. Three short toots to announce evacuations eminent. And 4 long toots to warn the end of the world is at hand.

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  25. 11:21. I'm with you. I think we need some sort of audit/investigation.

    But, I've been to the City Council meetings and only Council Member Zimmerman is pushing for that audit/investigation.

    Sadly, the Mayor and Council Member Watts, who ususally vote with Zimmerman, don't want to rock the boat. And, there is no way that Council Members Buchanan and Mosca would ever vote for such an audit/investigation.

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  26. 11:19 a.m., what groups?

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  27. 12:04, and five toots the Mountain Views News is late.

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  28. 1:40 unfortunately, if I told you I would have to kill you. Actually, it is a consortium and the funds would be raised on the open market through a Statement of Offering. This type of investment is the type you probably have in your mutual fund account and don't even know it. They have a "no widows or orphans" clause in it.

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  29. Very interesting discovery, Sir Eric! (Kudos to the super sleuth who took that photo!)

    A bit off topic, but worthwhile to mention:

    Please attend the Veteran's Day Celebration honoring all who served - Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 1pm. Location - Sierra Madre Memorial Park Veteran's Wall ... sponsored by the Sierra Madre VFW ... Refreshments following the ceremony. Thanks!

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  30. 2:08, would you by chance be a member of the consortium?

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  31. The consortium? For tinted windows and lo-flush toilets?

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  32. . . . took a group of environmental science students to the top viewing blacony of the Los Angeles Times building in 1980. We looked down on all the flat roofs where there could have been miles and miles of solar collector panels, none of which would ever be shaded by the annoying trees! So, where are those photovoltaic panels? Nowhere! Anytime soon? The sooner the better. CalTech students built solar panels into carport covers at a parking lot on campus that would otherwise be hideously hot and now is cooler and alternative fuel productive. This can happen anywhere so why not in downtown Sierra Madre. (By the way those high school students built a solar hot water heater and used it in science lab for a number of years)

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  33. 3:50 Nope. Nothing evil. Just know some of the players.

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  34. 4:45, and those players would be.....

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  35. I wonder what's in it for Enid Joffe, the former Edison lobbyist and rip off artist?

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  36. Oh wait! She may still be a rip-off artist.

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  37. I wonder what's in it for Enid Joffe the former Edison lobbyist and current solar power company owner?

    ;-)

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  38. Did someone turn the lights off?

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  39. 5:24 - the sun went down. Time to fire up those coal burning Edison generators out in the desert.

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  40. Good, the site is being moderated again. Saw a bumper sticker the yesterday: top line--Humankind; following line: Be Both.

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  41. let's have one big long horn blowing when Miss Susie pays all the people she owes money to. or goes to jail for not paying!

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