I suspect they must have discussed these political considerations with their constituency prior to the meeting. No need to offend the people they really care about. After all, this is business.
There is a certain unhealthy fascination in watching two slick lawyers engaged in what they do best, creating a false impression designed to befuddle the gullible. And Joe and John's disingenuous support for putting the question of Eminent Domain on the ballot in April was just such a performance. Because as heartfelt and honest as the move to outlaw Eminent Domain in Sierra Madre might be for many concerned residents, for these 2 individuals it is quite obvious that any local law on this matter would hardly be enough to stand up to the kind of overwhelming state power they represent. If Sacramento should decide to use SB 375 to redevelop a city like ours, any Eminent Domain law we might vote into existence would be effortlessly swept aside in the Courts. And they certainly know that.
Joe and John gave away nothing on this issue last night. They had privileged lawyerly knowledge, but rather than explain to the people they are supposed to represent what the limitations of a Sierra Madre Eminent Domain law might be, they cynically used it as an opportunity to score some cheap and gratuitous political points. It was about as oily a performance as I've seen come out of a City Council meeting in quite some time. I swear the unquiet ghost of Richard Nixon was in the room, stopping by to smile for a moment at his two proteges.
I don't know if you noticed, because he did it kind of quietly, but Don Watts delivered quite a body blow to John Buchanan's pretensions of opposing Eminent Domain. The reference was to a time when the Downtown Specific Plan appeared to be unstoppable, and how certain homeowners on Montecito Avenue, fearful of an Eminent Domain seizure of their houses, panicked and sold them. They didn't want to sell, and they had no idea that they weren't in any imminent danger, but they did so because they were afraid of their own city. And the question has to be asked, where was John Buchanan and his concern about Eminent Domain then? Did he, a City Councilman then as well, stop by these peoples' homes and reassure them that there was no danger, and they shouldn't feel the need to sell? The answer to that question is pretty obvious.
There was one comical moment. So eager was Joe to appear to be opposed to eminent domain that he practically begged MaryAnn to let him help write the paperwork. Or, failing that, letting John Buchanan do the deed. Not much of a poker player, our Joe. Of course, the sad irony here is that Councilman Mosca serves on the very SCAG committee (CEHD) that will generate the anticipated massive SB 375 RHNA numbers that helped cause this concern in the first place. Joe Mosca is very much a part of the process that could put Sierra Madre into jeopardy for Eminent Domain use by the state in a few years. Something that made his grandstanding here very much in poor taste.
I fully support the Sierra Madre Eminent Domain Law that will be up for voter consideration next April. And as I have said all along, it is a great first step. Something akin to a protest vote. But it really isn't much more than that. There will still be a long ways to go before Sierra Madre is fully protected from SB 375, the biggest private interest redevelopment scheme in California history. And let's face it, separating Joe Mosca from his City Council seat would be an even bigger step to getting that done. After all, it is pretty obvious whose interests he really represents here.
The other issue Joe and John couldn't risk appearing to oppose is the "Establishment Of Commercial Property Maintenance Standards," aka The Downtown Blight Ordinance. But this time there was no comforting insider knowledge for them to fall back on. Nothing that would ensure there would be no real consequences to those whose interests they truly represent. Which in this case is apparently the LLC members who own the Skilled Nursing Facility, the blighted property that would be the true target should this ordinance pass.
And this time Joe and John were not quite so eager to support the matter at hand. Both were cagy, evasive, and parsed out quite a school of red herring to boot. "What if it was both a business and apartments?" "What if it was mixed use?" "What if it was a big building but one guy was in it?" On and on it went. The need to obfuscate was evident, but in the end nothing seemed to stick. Staff was given guidance, and there should be something for the City Council to vote on in the not too distant future. And I suspect that is when the gloves will come off. I don't think Joe and John can really afford to let this one pass without a fight. After all, it might just take some money out of the pockets of the Downtown Investment Club, and what could possibly be worse than that?
And what's up with John Buchanan praising a book that advocates preservation here in Sierra Madre? Isn't that a little bit like Kim Il Jong becoming a spokesman for free speech?
More on this meeting tomorrow. There is another topic that we need to discuss.