Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tattler Product Review: The Trash Cans of Sierra Madre

"My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it." 
- Rodney Dangerfield 

We here at The Tattler decided that it is finally time to tackle a topic that is of interest to all the residents of this town, and that is the important matter of our city supplied trash cans. We live with them, they have an important place in our homes, we make frequent trips to visit with them, and two times every week we take a little time out to walk with them. All of which amounts to more time than many of us spend visiting with our parents. But how much do we really know about our these omnipresent items? And, more importantly, can they be considered true cans of quality?

First a little background information. The trash cans used here in Sierra Madre are manufactured in North Carolina by Toter Incorporated. Their slogan, "The World's Toughest Carts," would seem to indicate that they do not wish their trash and garden refuse receptacles to be referred to as "cans." With the proper terminology being "wheeled rollout refuse carts." My assumption here being that "can" evokes an earlier and less sophisticated time when trash receptacles were easily dented and noisy tin items with lids that never really fit. A comparison I suspect Toter finds demeaning and offensive. So I guess we need to can the "can" talk, right? 

Here is how this outfit describes itself on their website:

"Toter Incorporated is a manufacturer and marketer of high quality plastic containers and related products for residential, industrial, commercial and retail accounts. The Company has been in continuous operation since 1962, originally as a subsidiary of Rubbermaid Incorporated."

Seems humble enough, right? But as we read on we discover that Toter played a truly revolutionary role in the evolution of trash removal.

"Toter introduced the automated cart system in North America during the late 1960s, and Toter carts are the #1 selling brand today.

Fascinating. So each time we see a trash truck pick up our Toter rollout refuse carts with mighty steel arms and empty their contents into its cargo area, we are witnessing something first introduced by this very company. Think of how many millions of lives have been touched (and backs of garbage men saved) by what over 40 years ago was little more than a gleam in a Toter trash planner's eye.

I took some time to inspect my rollout refuse carts, and this is what I discovered. First it is requested on each of my 3 carts (trash, garden refuse, and recycling) to always keep the lid closed. This seems logical as we should always wish to keep trash and its odors in strict isolation. And there are important instructions on how to operate the carts as well:

- Always close lid before moving cart
- Close lid
- Grasp Handle
- Tilt cart
- Push or pull to roll
- Do not overload
- Handle with care on inclines or steps (runaway carts could be a hazard!)
- Do not drag cart
- Wash out periodically with water

All very common sense recommendations, but it is always good to hear positive things that reinforce our sense of what is right and proper in life.

So are they quality carts? I think so. My sky blue recycling cart lost its lid a while back, but still seems to be able to get the job done. My only real complaint would be the noise they make while being rolled to and from the curb. And especially the noise they make when my neighbors are rolling them around. One neighbor in particular does his trash ritual late in the evening, and during that traditionally quiet hour the noise can seem far louder than it would be at any other time. If somehow these wheeled rollout refuse carts could be equipped with rubber tires I think that not only would this problem be solved, but Toter could also achieve a kind of perfection that is so rare in life.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Update: Take the Last Train to SCAGsville

I really do fear for this country sometimes. And while I guess it is a good thing that $819 billion in borrowed foreign capital is being pumped into our economy as a way of helping people get jobs, rebuilding infrastructure and (hopefully) bringing back prosperity to a country whose fiscal bearings are now seriously out of whack, there are some articles of faith that I can no longer subscribe to. And a lot of questions just are not being asked. Like who exactly does this money go to, and what kind of people are these who will be the shepherds of such vast sums of our cash? Will they be honest brokers who know exactly what it is that is needed? Or will it merely fall into the hands of the usual seedy cast of characters, those knowing how to work the system, who understand which buttons to push, and speak the kind of language that will cause brain-dead legislators and bureaucrats in places like Sacramento to open up the public coffers and just let all that money flow. Will it be like the banking bailout, where connected people took hundreds of billions of our cash and used it in part to give themselves huge Christmas bonuses and buy new corporate jets? 

I fear that the answer to that one has to be yes.

We started to look into El Monte Transit Village because of the connection a few involved in this project have to Sierra Madre. It was basically a gotcha exercise designed to let some folks know that we haven't forgotten what it is they tried to do to this town, and that we are still watching. But as the details of what they're up to now became more clear, it brought with it a deeper understanding of not only how obviously rotten the redevelopment world is, but also how much this is part of a larger way of doing business. One that involves cynically conceived ploys based on false promises of societal improvement, the tendency of many elected officials to prioritize the desires of lobbyists and pressure groups over ours, and lots and lots of money. The fiscal heart of America has in some ways passed from private industry to government, and there is now a whole new class of people who are amassing considerable wealth tapping public resources for no other reason than personal aggrandizement. And this thing in El Monte now strikes me as being an unfortunate example.

Last December the San Gabriel Valley Tribune ran an article entitled "El Monte transit center gets boost from federal grant." Here is part of what it had to say:

"With a $43 million grant from the federal government in hand, a much anticipated new El Monte Transit Center is expected to go from dream to reality in 2 years ... The project is the anchor of a half-billion-dollar transit-oriented development the city plans to build around the new transit center. Known as the El Monte Transit Village, the development is expected to bring nearly 2,000 new homes and stores to the area adjacent to the bus station ..."

Also:

"Before any development can begin, the city must also shift areas of parkland on the site ... To do this the city will use a $26.5 million grant it was awarded by the state from funds approved voters for high-density, transit-oriented development."

We do know that the $26.5 million mentioned above was pulled back by a cash starved Sacramento. At least temporarily. How this will effect the project is unclear. Later in the article:

"Once all phases are completed, the 65-acre development would include 1,850 residential units, 500,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, 500,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater, a hotel, and other facilities ... Approximately 20 percent of the residential units would be considered affordable."

Now we can identify here nearly $70 million in government money being spent to finance this thing. And God only knows how much more is involved. But what is the real rationale? While it is fine to improve an existing bus station and make public transportation for El Monte more efficient and pleasant to use, what exactly does that have to do with building what will be 10 story office buildings, shopping pavilions, a luxury hotel, and for the most part high-end condos?

"City officials are confident the new transit center will make development viable. 'It's next to one of the busiest bus hubs in the country,' Gondek said. 'Proximity to economic activity does matter in a world with scarcer resources and climate warming up.'"

So there you have it, build a million square feet in new office space and shopping areas, and for the most part luxury condos, and you're helping to save the world from global warming because they'll all be near to a bus station. 

"'We think this timing works to our advantage. As the market starts to pickup, this inventory will start to be online,' Titan Group Chief Administrative Officer Barry Sedlick said."

Like I said, I do fear for this country sometimes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Great Night For The People Of Sierra Madre

"When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses." - Shirley Chisholm

So what could possibly be wrong here? After years of being promised an empowered Canyon Zoning Committee by less forthcoming earlier incarnations of the Sierra Madre City Council, and after years of hearing how The Canyon might actually even get a Zoning Law (something that also never quite seemed to happen), all of these things actually came to a happy conclusion Tuesday evening. And the people picked to run it? Residents with over 30 years here in town, people who combine unique professional qualifications and a strong dedication to the place they've called home for much of their adult lives. Democracy in action, right? People calling the shots on the affairs of their own neighborhood despite the wishes of those whose outside agendas might not be in line with what the people living there want.

Isn't this pretty much the American civic dream we all learned about in Social Studies class? Citizens taking real responsibility for their community affairs and circumstances? Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Well, apparently John Buchanan and Joe Mosca for two. You see, it would appear that the strongly preservationist bent of the 5 people chosen by the City Council majority to run the Canyon Zoning Committee didn't make them feel exactly comfortable. And if your loyalties are with the folks who would want to build generic lot to lot McMansions in this unique and beautiful place rather than adhering to the wishes of those actually living there, you'd probably have thought you were having a pretty bad night as well. And it definitely was an unfortunate evening for privileged remote control governance and those who seek economic advantage through the imposing of bad faith on good people.

And it was great TV as well. I mean, what could possibly be more entertaining than watching those two squirm? The attempt to portray oneself as caring deeply about something while engaging in actions that are 180 degrees to the south of your performance is never easy, and I am happy to report that John and Joe both failed miserably in that difficult role.

One more item from Tuesday evening. Once again a comedic interlude was provided by the Mountain Views "Observer." Although this time it didn't involve the paper's publisher running around the room loudly threatening to sue any City Council member daring to say things she'd prefer nobody ever hear. No, this week it was about legal advertising that the City paid to see in the MVO, but for some reason didn't make it to print within the promised time. Because of this lapse a discussion on the important matter of solar panels had to be shelved for another meeting.

Dorothy put it best. There is no place like home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sierra Madre's Legal Advertising Costs: Some Very Strange Numbers

I've come across some rather interesting numbers, and I'm not quite sure what to make of them. So I'm tossing this out to you guys. What exactly is it that these numbers tell us?

What I'm referring to here are the costs to the City of Sierra Madre for running legal advertising in this town's adjudicated newspaper. Up until August of 2007 the publication that carried our legal notices was the Mountain Views News. Or least in recent years. After it was acquired by the Mount Wilson Observer (which then changed its moniker to Mountain Views-Observer, possibly to give the impression that an authentic merger of publishing philosophies had taken place rather than just a grab for city advertising), Sierra Madre's business was transferred to this new entity.

So here's a breakdown of the legal advertising costs:

Year 2002 - cost $2,188.00
Year 2003 - cost $7,863.00
Year 2004 - cost $3,028.00
Year 2005 - cost $12,850.00
Year 2006 - cost $34,465.60
Year 2007 through to the merger - cost $21,500.00
Year 2008 - cost $9,253.50

What I can't quite get my mind around are the ballooning costs for years 2006 and 2007. Costs which, if you add them up, come to a combined total of nearly $56,000. Or more than double the previous 4 years combined! 

So what is the explanation? Here are 3 questions that come to mind:

1) Did we have an explosion of legal advertising in those two years? Do you recall any phone book sized Mtn Views News editions stacked up outside The Bottle Shop?
2) Was this just another indication of the fiscal carelessness that so typified the free spending administrations of Mayors Buchanan and Joffe?
3) Was there a political angle involved here? This was during the furor over Measure V and the lavishly funded campaign to defeat it. Could this possibly have been a way for a pro-high density development city administration to secure the loyalty of the MVN's outspoken publisher?

One thing that is for certain, once the old regime was voted out of office our legal advertising costs plummeted substantially. And if it was those 2006 and 2007 numbers that drove the Mount Wilson Observer's publisher to acquire the MVN, then I think it is safe to say that somebody got punk'd.

One more point. In the state of California there is an antiquated law that requires cities to place legal advertising in adjudicated newspapers claiming town residency. And if there isn't such a newspaper in town, then this advertising must be run in a paper that is locally distributed. Either way this involves the spending of thousands of dollars in scarce funds yearly to accomplish something that could be done on any city's website for free.

Considering the financial hardships of 2009, it is time that law was changed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Art Talk: Is the Developer @ One Carter Actually Sierra Madre's Very Own Christo?

Are you at all familiar with the work of an artist who goes by the name of Christo? He's gotten lots of press over the years for not only his ability to erect these huge fabric works that cover vast acres of land (thus the unfortunate term "Landscape Artist"), but also the astonishing ability to raise the millions of dollars it takes to turn his dreams into reality. 


Christo is, of course, a true celebrity wildly adored by the art world and critics everywhere, and often his works are greeted with the kinds of effusive praise that I've quoted here below:

"The effect is astounding. To be in the presence of one of these artworks is to have your reality rocked. You can see things you have never seen before. You also get to see the fabric manifest things that cannot usually be seen, like the wind blowing, or the sun reflected in ways it had not before .. The effect lasts longer than the actual work of art. Years after every physical trace has been removed and the materials recycled, original visitors can still see and feel them in their minds .."

And if you find this as impressive as I do, I have some very special news for you today. It appears that artistic genius has manifested itself in a place many in the art world would have found to be unlikely in the extreme. Can you believe that here in Sierra Madre, on the muddy and rock strewn slopes of the construction site known as One Carter, artisans of strikingly similar skill and vision have been busily constructing landscape art all their own, work of a singular grace?  

Behold Sierra Madre, we give you "Protective Plastic Rain Sheathing That Rises To The Sun." 

Now my meager words cannot do honor to what we are witnessing. So we here at the Sierra Madre Tattler have brought in the world renowned art critic Arthur Cornrye-Michellinda to give his description of what it is we are seeing here. Arthur?

"Yes, Sir Eric, here we are awed by tactile materials prosaic yet mighty, textile but possessing an ethereal power heretofore unappreciated. 'Protective Plastic Rain Sheathing That Rises To The Sun' takes us from the slough of day to day human existence and invites our spirits to soar to places of which we have never dared before dream. Who could fail to sense the true greatness when brought before so majestic a sight? Do you have a Kleenex? I fear that I am about to cry."

The next time you are in the neighborhood, please do stop by and see what all of the excitement is about, will you? "Protective Plastic Rain Sheathing That Rises To The Sun" will be in place until the rainy season draws to a close, or the mountain liquifies and flows down Baldwin Avenue and out onto the 210. Whichever happens first. And at this point, it's anybody's guess.

This has been Art Talk with Sir Eric Maundry.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Take the Last Train to SCAGsville

Having written recently about how the Sacramento financial debacle has cost SCAG's "El Monte Transit Village" a cool $26.5 million big ones (check this link for Sierra Madre's connection to all of this), I figured it was time to get over there and see what all the excitement is about. As far as I'm concerned too many so-called bloggers write only about what they read on the internet, and really should get out more often. And besides, after reading the hype provided on The City Project website, who wouldn't want to go? Check this out:

"City Council Approves El Monte Transit Village - The City Council on Sept 4, 2007, approved the El Monte Transit Village, a comprehensive 65 acre mixed-use transit oriented development that will help revitalize the remarkably diverse community of El Monte, CA, with up to 1,850 residential units including affordable housing, about 491,000 square feet of retail and office space, better parks to improve physical and psychic health with links to the Emerald Necklace along the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River, thousands of jobs for local workers, enhanced bus and rail service near the most successful bus lane in the country and the busiest bus station west of Chicago, green construction, and regional educational facilities. The project includes important lessons for transit oriented development throughout the nation and California, and for revitalizing the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers."

All the appropriate buzzwords are there, right? SCAG's "Compass Blueprint" also offers some insight. And the CoStar Group's site has some pretty exciting information to share with us as well. In their Sept 17, 2007 piece entitled "Titan Group Bringing $1.2 Billion Transit Village to El Monte," author Sasha Pardy waxes equally rhapsodic:

"The El Monte, CA City Council approved a $1.2 billion, transit-oriented, mixed-use development to be developed around Metro El Monte's bus hub. Dubbed El Monte Transit Village, the project sits atop 60 acres on the I-10 Freeway at Santa Anita Blvd., a main corridor of the San Gabriel Valley. To be developed by the Titan Group, Transit Village is planned to include 560,000 square feet of retail, 1,850 residences, 500,000 square feet of office space, a 200-room hotel, and 11 acres of green space. Central to the design is a system of pedestrian walkways and trails with direct access to the Metro Bus Hub and Metrolink station."

Some pretty substantial claims being made here, and I could not wait to check it all out. But when I got there I realized the build-up must have inflated my expectations a bit, because all I felt was some major disappointment. And it's not that they haven't really gotten this thing underway yet, it's just that what is in place already is, well, not quite as splendid as the $1.2 billion price tag would indicate. Especially when you consider that at least a portion of this huge dollar figure is coming out of our taxes.

Let's start with the bus station. It turned out that "the busiest bus station west of Chicago" is a rather dilapidated cement structure that wasn't busy at all. As a matter of fact, it was pretty sparsely populated. Below are a couple of photos that I think illustrate my point.
And the "better parks to improve physical and psychic health with links to the Emerald Necklace along the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River" bit turned out to be a cement bottomed algae bloomed trickle serving mostly as a target for drained liquor bottles hurled from the trailer camps on the other side. The rest of the site was comprised of a down-at-the-heels Chevy dealer, bus parking lots, some one-story industrial buildings, a dentist's office, a fire station with a training facility out back, and a couple of ballfields. All of which will have to be leveled to make room for SCAGsville.

Here's some numbers that don't quite add up. 1,805 residential units, 1,560,000 combined square feet of stores and offices, plus 11 acres of grass, all in an area comprising a mere 60acres, or 2,613,600 square feet? These buildings are going to have to be rather tall to shake hands with those kinds of numbers. And if you've ever lived in an area with a lot of tall buildings packed into a small area, you know that we're talking about a neighborhood where the sun won't shine.

But look, let's step beyond the obvious charade here. SCAG has a serious problem. On the one hand they are under orders from Sacramento and their other funding sources to come up with some real solutions to the immense traffic problems on our freeways. There are just too many cars and too little driving space for a county of 7 million people. But SCAG is also compelled by their patrons in the BIA and other pressure groups to help them wedge high-density redevelopment into communities that don't want it. And these are, of course, highly conflicting agendas. How can you possibly saddle traditional suburban residential communities with high density redevelopment and not create even more auto traffic? It's just not possible. So SCAG, along with the crafty redevelopers at Titan, cooked up the "Transit Village" concept. The idea being to construct large high-density settlements in urban neighborhoods with a mass transit facility at its core. The assumption here is that people buying condos in these "transit villages" will somehow feel compelled to hike a few blocks to a bus depot rather than just get into their cars like they would anywhere else. And with the El Monte Transit Village being right next to the 10 Freeway, why would somebody want to waste valuable time walking to a METRO station? Obviously just because you situate people near mass transit is no guarantee they'll ever care to use it.

As always, the real agenda here is the amount of money to be made building boondoggles like the one El Monte got suckered into approving. With the rest of this being world salvation happy talk designed to con the congenitally gullible and cozen massive funding out of Sacramento and Washington. And to think these are pretty much the same people that wanted to redevelop downtown Sierra Madre ...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Does State Senator Bob Huff Have Against Seabiscuit?

I got the latest edition of Huff Headlines in my e-mail the other day, and I tucked it away in the save file for a bit. All so that I could ponder what our guy from the 29th Senate District of California had to say when I had the proper amount of time.

There is a lot to recommend here. State budget woes are a problem that need to be dealt with, and possible tax hikes are always troubling, especially when Republicans start talking about them. Of course, the 50th anniversary of the City of Walnut had me reminiscing a bit. But then I came to that part of the missive dealing with something very near and dear to my heart, Santa Anita Racetrack. Here is what Bob had to say:

One of the most important parts of my job as a Senator is to represent the needs of the local business community. Economic development and small business growth in particular, is an invaluable part of our livelihood and quality of life. This month, I would like to highlight the Santa Anita Racetrack.

All well and good, I guess. A little on the earnest side for my taste, but what the heck. But as I read on the good vibes went south, turning to both shock and dismay. 

Having originally opened on December 25, 1930, Santa Anita Park became known as "The Great Race Place" and was home to the infamous racehorse Seabiscuit.

Infamous? Seabiscuit? One of the most beloved sports figures of all time? We're talking Sandy Koufax class of sports hero here. Babe Ruth. Magic Johnson. Willie Mays. What's so infamous about Seabiscuit? That's like comparing him to Jack the Ripper or Sid Vicious or something.

Here is what the publicity release for Lauren Hillenbrand's classic sports biography Seabiscuit: An American Legend had to say:

Competing in the cruelest years of the Depression, the rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense and fanatical following, inspiring an avalanche of merchandising, and establishing himself as the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 - receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or any other public figure.

In 2003 Universal Pictures released the movie Seabiscuit, which was inspired by the Hillenbrand book. You can view the trailer here.

At Santa Anita Park stands a statue of Seabiscuit. And every year thousands of race fans take the Seabiscuit tour, visiting the celebrated horse's stall and hearing all about his legendary feats. And having made trip myself, I can tell you there was nothing "infamous" about it. Bob? You owe this horse an apology.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

710 Tunnel: The Big Lie On Air Quality

Apparently we weren't the only ones discussing the Joe Mathews piece on building the I-710 Freeway Extension. See yesterday's post for the Tattler take. And Damien Newton, whose article "'New America Foundation' Columnist Calls for 710 Expansion" is now up on the L.A. Streetsblog site, also laid into both Joe and the organization he is a part of ...

If you're wondering how a representative of a group that claims to 'invest in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States,' can push a massive road expansion project when progressive thinkers understand that highway expansion has failed as a long-term answer to congestion, you're not alone. And let's be clear, if Mathews is serious about this project being a part of the president's stimulus plan, then he's talking about the widening plan that would devastate downtown South Pasadena to say nothing of the environmental damage as a welcome mat for truckers.

A key point here is the environmental impact one. Despite the sales pitch, the 710 expansion is mostly about providing inland access for the massive truck traffic coming out of the Port of Los Angeles. As America became more and more addicted to imports from the cheap labor states of Asia, truck traffic from Long Beach increased exponentially. To the point where the 710 corridor has become recognized as one of the most polluted in the U.S. And, of course, if the 710 tunnel is built that traffic will route onto the 210, blessing our neck of the San Gabriel Valley with the same kinds of air quality devastation seen in cities such as Bell, Paramount, and Compton.

Which, of course, is why the usual suspects have been trotted out in an attempt to explain it all away. This from something called the State Route 710 Tunnel Technical Study ...

In 2006, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) commissioned a Tunnel Feasibility Assessment Study, which concluded that constructing an underground tunnel to connect the SR-710 is feasible. Because a tunnel connection would relieve regional and local congestion, and improve air quality, it gained the support of METRO, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

I don't know about you, but personally I think it's safe to assume that any conclusion this bunch comes up with is pretty much the opposite of what is popularly known as 'truth.'

The air quality claim of the 710 Tunnel Technical Study is little more than propaganda designed to help sell what is locally an immensely unpopular project. And people are speaking out. An article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (10/30/07 - "Researcher: Tunnel could lead to more pollution") discussed the findings of Rob McConnell, the deputy director of the USC-UCLA Children's Environmental Health Center.

Rob McConnell ... told officials that heavy stop-and-go traffic inside the tunnel could raise pollution levels levels significantly within South Pasadena. It could also potentially pose health risks to people living, working, and attending schools near the freeway, he said ... Children who lived within 550 yards of a freeway for the first 10 years of their lives grow up to have lower lung capacity than their peers who live a mile away, the USC study showed . McConnell said previous USC-UCLA studies have shown children living within a block of a freeway have an 89 percent chance of developing asthma than those not living near major traffic arteries ... plans for the 710 tunnel show the proposed freeway "is going to cut quite close to various schools," he said.

A report put together by Friends of the Earth called Road To Ruin, which lists its 27 worst highway projects in the country, had this to say about how the 710 tunnel would impact our air quality (pgs. 10, 11):

Though SR 710 supporters claim that the highway would improve air quality, the South Coast Air Quality Management District criticized Caltrans' use of an obsolete air pollution emission model, and the EPA has criticized numerous flaws in Caltrans' analysis of SR 710's impact on air quality and communities. A federal district court based its 1999 injunction against the project partly on flaws in Caltrans' emissions analysis ... SR 710 is projected to double the number of vehicle trips through the corridor - to 200,000 per day - and many of those vehicles would be diesel trucks. The Air Quality Management District's 2002 Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study found that air pollution-related cancer risk was elevated across the Los Angeles Basin; that cars, trucks and other vehicles were primary sources of some carcinogenic air pollutants; and that the highest risk often occurred near major roads.

One more thought. Do you recall SCAG's claim that high-density housing would somehow help obviate the traffic congestion that bedevils our part of the world? Well, here is its ancillary. More car and truck traffic will help improve air quality. 

Even George Orwell would be amazed by these guys.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Should Obama Break South Pasadena?

That was the chilling title of an article up yesterday on LA Observed. Here is the gist of that piece:

"Journalist Joe Mathews has become the latest advocate of a narrow SoCal position to argue that taking his side is somehow a test of whether President Barack Obama truly means to 'get beyond old disputes and divides' and to 'rebuild the country's infrastructure.' What's the grand litmus test this time? The missing link on the 710 freeway through South Pasadena." 

Interesting. A small southern California city successfully stands up to forces far larger and more powerful than itself, and in the process preserves a way of life that is the envy of many. Sound familiar? But, of course, neither South Pasadena or Sierra Madre has yet to be tested by the might of the Federal Government. And it looks like there are some who are now just aching to bring in the most powerful government on the face of the earth to deal with the likes of, well, us.

On Fox & Hounds, a site you really need to check as often as you can, Pasadena resident Joe Mathews fleshes out his statist dream:

For half a century, the 710 has been unfinished. It was supposed to go all the way from the Port of Long Beach up to Pasadena, where it would connect to the 210 Freeway, allowing drivers and truckers to skirt downtown LA on their way northwest ... But the highway stops 6 miles short of the 210 in Pasadena, dumping drivers onto the surface streets of Alhambra. Why? The power of one very well organized special interest: the residents and city fathers of South Pasadena.

Fascinating viewpoint. A community defends its city and way of life, and for this they need to be not only roundly condemned, but also forced to have an 8 lane freeway rammed right through the center of their town. No less a punishment would suffice. So much for the rights of individuals and a system of laws that defends the weak from the tyranny of powerful central governments run amuck. Obviously when Mr. Mathews comes around, you'll need to hide the kittens and little puppies. Joe continues:

Coverage of the dispute focuses on the decision-making of state transportation officials, and the role of local bond money in paying for it. But this is fundamentally a federal issue, and Obama has a role to play in forcing the project forward. 

Let's put this into perspective. Sacramento and its various entities have been trying to get the 710 finished for 50 years, and have met with nothing but defeat at that hands of those annoying South Pasadena people. After decades of failure, the folks who believe that no mere mortals should dare to stand in the way of such mighty things as superhighways are chafing from a rash of epic proportions. And now, in their madness, they believe they have a president who will bring to bear all his mighty power and help them realize their dreams.

Fortunately, Barack Obama is not an idiot. Or at least I don't think he is. And a politician who won the presidency by promising to defend the rights and interests of the struggling middle class would not seem likely to saddle up the troops and descend on South Pasadena so that billions can be spent to finish yet one more godforsaken L.A. freeway. (Or, as one commenter to Joe's screed nicely put it, "I would hope that the new administration puts OUR money where it will generate the highest return, and not on some project that makes it easier for the Joe Mathews of this world to get to Chinatown for dim sum faster.")

But that said, there is something that needs to be mentioned. And as a lifelong legacy Democrat this is not a lesson that came easily to me. Mainline organization Democrats in our little corner of the world are for the most part a badly compromised bunch who sold out their natural constituency in order to better support some pretty rotten people. And it is safe to say that the Los Angeles County Democratic Party is hand in glove with organizations that would love to "redevelop" the quaint little towns (i.e. tear them down so they can build ugly crap and make lots of money) that grace this part of our world. The thought that the Federal Government might step in to help them realize their dreams has got to be pure ecstasy for these guys. And there can be no doubt that breaking South Pasadena would be a huge step forward in their efforts to redevelop the San Gabriel Valley.  

And who knows, maybe this kind of corruption does extend all the way to the top of the Democratic Party. I personally doubt it. I mean, would the likes of Barack Obama really want to associate himself with local L.A. County transportation and real estate hustlers plus those who so willingly handle their dirty laundry? He would have to be an awfully small individual to see any value in that kind of action.

But I guess we're going to find out.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

School Daze

What you'll find here are several brief snapshots excised from three notable articles covering this story. Links are provided if you somehow feel the need to read all of this stuff. But what's involved are Measure Y funds that somehow just, well, disappeared. Money that was supposed to help repair schools, but apparently didn't quite make it to class. We the voting public passed Measure Y a few years ago, and due to our generosity $240 million dollars was turned over to our very own Pasadena Unified School District. What happened to it after that nobody seems to completely know.

Snapshot #1: PUSD Leaders Urge Prosecution of Measure Y Fraud. Apparently the L.A. County District Attorney wasn't quite sure he wanted to prosecute the malefactors. This from a press release put out by the PUSD last December:
"We urge the District Attorney to re-open its investigation of Measure Y fraud on the Washington Middle School project," said Superintendent Edwin Diaz, who joined PUSD in March 2007. "Our forensic investigator uncovered a trail of improper and illegal activity and we strongly believe that the perpetrators should be criminally prosecuted. Tomorrow, I will urge the Board of Education to begin civil proceedings against those who we believe misappropriated scarce education dollars from our schools."

Snapshot #2: Seems pretty clear, right? Somebody stole money from the PUSD, and their forensic gumshoe proved it. So why wouldn't the D.A. touch this case, one that involved shady contractors stealing taxpayer money? In the article "One more look," published in December, the Pasadena Weekly had this to say:

However, when (Pasadena) detectives submitted their evidence, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges because the school district's Measure Y record keeping was not adequate to secure a conviction.

Now that is unfortunate. Somebody made off with over $200,000 in PUSD funds, and they don't even have the paperwork to prove it. In the real world something like that might actually get you in trouble with the boss. Even if you had a rough childhood. The Pasadena Weekly continues with more disheartening information:

In the newly released documents, forensic auditor Michael Ammermon ... states that between November 2006 and July 2007 the district paid $216,904 to Jessie Yzaguirre, 52, of La Crescenta, an unlicensed contractor. According to Ammermon, Yzaguirre used Advent Construction Co.'s name and business license number, along with a contact within the district, in order to receive money for work on renovation projects at Washington Middle School.

So the PUSD gave almost $217,000 in our cash to an unlicensed contractor using somebody else's ticket, and now they're surprised and outraged to discover that they were ripped off? Is it just me, or does the word 'chump' come to mind?

The final snapshot. In an article printed last week ("Documents allegedly show misuse of Measure Y funds"), the Pasadena Star News revealed an interesting dynamic involved in the disappearance of these funds:

When the discrepancies were discovered, district officials met several times with (Mark) Kingsbury, the assistant construction coordinator for Measure Y projects, who approved the invoices in question ... A month later Ammermon conducted a taped interview with Yzaguirre, who said he paid Kingsbury between $500 and $3,500 in $100 bills for every project he billed for, according to records ... "It is the only way I can get work or he won't hire me," Yzaguirre said in the interview ... Yzaguirre estimated he gave Kingsbury between $40,000 and $60,000 - "maybe more" - of the $216,000 he received from the PUSD, according to the documents.

And just when you'd thought you'd heard enough, the Star News had to go and add this:

The day after his alleged confession, Yzaguirre recanted in a garbled letter faxed to the district. He said his drug addiction caused him to fabricate the story about paying off Kingsbury.

Well, there you go. The PUSD, through its Measure Y construction coordinator, funneled nearly $217,000 in school repair funds to a guy whose addictions are so bad he doesn't seem to be able to tell whether he is telling the truth or lying. Sure hope the kids weren't around when he was hanging out at school.

You know, it's a good thing we just passed Measure TT, the "Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre School Improvement Bond," valued at $350 million. I mean, they're going to need at least some of it to replace the cash they lost from the previous school improvement bond. Right?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Update On The One Carter Water Meter Situation

Just got off the phone with Mayor Kurt Zimmerman. Upon reading yesterday's article on the One Carter water meter situation he contacted City Manager Elaine Aguilar. Elaine has now addressed this issue and an operational meter has been put into place. Additionally the City is generating an invoice to recover the costs of the One Carter Estates estimated water usage.
      
The Mayor extended his thanks to The Tattler for bringing this matter to his attention. As I was quick to point out, this report was the result of the efforts of a community of people who care deeply about Sierra Madre.

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for Annoying News!

It's Tuesday, and there is no time like now to review some of the annoying news from the last week.

Go East, young man? Californians look for the exit
LOS ANGELES - Mike Reilly spent his lifetime chasing the California dream. This year he's going to look for it in Colorado ... With a house purchase near Denver in the works, the 38-year-old engineering contractor plans to move his family 1,200 miles away from his home state's lemon groves, sunshine and beaches. For him years of rising taxes, dead-end schools, unchecked illegal immigration and clogged traffic have robbed the Golden State of its allure ... The number of people leaving California for another state outstripped the number moving in from another state during the year ending on July 1, 2008. California lost a net of 144,000 people during that period - more than any other state, according to census estimates. That is about equal to the population of Syracuse, N.Y.    
(***Tattler: Isn't one of the arguments in favor of planned high-density development that millions of people will be moving here in the not too distant future? So when did that all change?)

L.A. County's chief land use planner is fired
Bruce W. McClendon, the chief land use planner for Los Angeles County, was fired Friday by the county's chief executive ... McClendon said he was called to a meeting with William T Fujioka and told he was terminated from his $191,028-a-year job as head of the Department of Regional Planning ... McClandon, reached by telephone, said he believed he had been fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on county supervisors' aides. He said he had given Fujioka information that showed that aides to the county supervisors routinely sought to improperly influence decisions of whether to permit development plans ... "It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," said McClendon, 62 ... He said he recently began consulting with attorneys in preparation for filing a whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit ... Aides to supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky declined to comment on the allegations.    
(***Tattler: Key sentence - "He said he had given Fujioka information that showed that aides to the county supervisors routinely sought to improperly influence decisions of whether to permit development plans." Based on the kinds of things we've seen, this hardly seems surprising. Free Bruce!)
 
Light Rail May be Light Years Away
At a Government Affairs Meeting at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce last week, attendees and members found out that the planned Foothill Extension of the Gold Line light rail from Sierra Madre Villa through Arcadia may not happen as early as originally hoped. In fact, an Arcadia Gold Line Station still has a long way to go, perhaps more than 10 years ... With the general economy in a general slump and state IOUs perhaps on the way, who knows if this will ever come to pass ... The draft for the plan, which was released this week, set the completion date for the Gold Line for 2017, based on when the project would start to receive Measure R tax money.
(Tattler: At least eight years to extend the Gold Line less than 5 miles east? At that rate the 210 Trolly won't make its vaunted arc to Ontario Airport until the year 2270.)

Funky Japanese Bus Stations
"Have you ever seen bus stations that nice? They are funky, yummy and unbelievably nice. I would like to spend some time there. I even think everything will be fine, even if the bus doesn't arrive on time. Did you catch me, lol?
(Tattler: Someone needs to take a minute and cheer down ..)
 
I guess that'll be enough ..

Monday, January 19, 2009

Resident Reports That The Famous One Carter Water Meter Has Been Broken For At Least 6 Months

You might recall a contro- versy from September of 2007 involving the misuse of City water at the One Carter Estates building site. This was at the height of an extended drought, severe water restrictions were in place for all residents, and rumors that our reserves might actually run out were gaining traction. Yet somehow the developers at One Carter had been given carte blanche by administrators at City Hall to spray truckloads of fresh drinking water around the site as a way of controlling dust. The water being taken from a nearby fire plug. 

This matter came to the attention of the town as damning photos taken by concerned Sierra Madre residents appeared on the front page of the Mountain Views "Observer." This despite what in retrospect were well-founded misgivings on the part of the photographers about the desire of the publisher of that paper to report this story accurately. And an article did accompany these photos, but it was something that many regarded as being little more than a whitewash of what for some paid officials at City Hall was an acutely embarrassing situation.

The method used to handle this public relations challenge was a simple one. It was to be carefully explained that the City was being well paid for the use of that water. And not just that, there was a special meter in place to guarantee that honest payments were made as well. Three times in the 9/6/07 MVO article cited below ("Water Abuse? Residents Raise Concerns Over Water Use At 1 Carter"), those very explanations were reinforced.

"The tankers, which have been seen filling up three, sometimes four times a day, use the water for dust control at the sight (sic). 'Dust control is mandated at all construction sites,' according to Sierra Madre Fire Marshall Rich Snyder, 'they don't have a choice. And they actually pay for it. We rent meters to developers so that we can monitor their use of city water,' said Snyder."

And again:

"James Carlson of the Public Works Department confirmed that the meters are rented out. In this particular instance, John Laing Homes, current developer of the 1 Carter site, paid a deposit of $1,716.00. They are charged the normal rate of $1.79 per unit (100 cubic feet or 748 gallons.) 

And one more time:

"A sub-contractor, Acosta Construction, is the firm actually working on the grading at 1 Carter. According to James Bon, site superintendent, the tanker ... holds about 4,000 gallons of water. 'It is never filled without being attached to the meter. Without the water the dust would be unbearable for the people of Sierra Madre."

So that was then. The controversy was swept under the rug (so to speak), and most people moved on. But not everyone. Residents unfortunate enough to live by the One Carter debacle continued to monitor the situation. The seismic vibrations from heavy construction equipment, fears of potential landslides, truck traffic, plus the stress of living by a major work site, would make doing otherwise impossible.

Today I spoke with a Carter Avenue resident about what those living near the site are experiencing. Retired, this person keeps a keen eye on events there. And, remembering the water controversy of September 2007, has kept a particularly close eye on the famous One Carter water meter. So what exactly is going on? Apparently the numbers on this meter haven't budged in more than 6 months despite continued "dust abatement" water use. They just don't move anymore. Our eyewitness brought this to the attention of supervisors working at the site, and they also claimed to have noticed that the meter no longer works. But apparently nobody, and I'm guessing that would have to include the city employees paid to read meters (after all, how else would we know what to bill the contractors?), has made a move to have it replaced.

I can only assume that once its public relations purpose was past, the meter's continued operation was deemed to be no longer of much concern. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Fine Local Example Of How Redevelopment Operates

Local luminary Bart Doyle spoke at last year's SCAG Regional Housing Summit, an event sponsored in part by the BIA and the California Association of Realtors. You might remember them from the huge amounts of cash they ponied up in the failed campaign to defeat Measure V. Anyway, as a way of hipping the dazzled attendees to the lofty importance of those speaking to them at The Summit, bios were handed out, Bart's included. Here is what it said:

Bart Doyle is a former Councilmember of the City of Sierra Madre, California. He previously served the city in the capacity of Mayor, beginning in 1996 and again in 1999. Within the Southern Association of Governments (SCAG), he served as a member of the Community, Economic and Human Development Committee. In addition, he has held the title of President of the San Gabriel Council of Governments as well as Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's San Gabriel Valley Service Sector Board.

Now what exactly is the Community, Economic, and Human Development Committee (CEHDC)? It is the committee within the belly of the SCAG ogre that decides the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers. RHNA numbers are used to force feed high density housing development into unwilling towns, something backed up by the full muscle of Sacramento. You might recall that it was this very board that laid the 138 "unit" RHNA number on Sierra Madre. But if you think our number was bad, check out the incredible 94,000 RHNA number laid on San Bernardino County in 2000! You can read all about that one here.

Now let's see, Bart Doyle belongs to SCAG, but also is a member of the CEHDC, which is the dovecote of dudes that decides RHNA numbers. And as we can see by the San Bernardino County debacle, they're not exactly shy about it. But consider this, Bart is also a senior executive of one of the biggest redevelopment outfits in L.A. County. The same one responsible for that El Monte Transit Village we discussed yesterday. And who stands to profit the most from the building of RHNA mandated high-density housing? Redevelopers, of course.

Really ties the bow, doesn't it?

One more thing. On January 9, 2007, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SCAG lite), met to debate RHNA numbers. The SGVCOG is made of up SGV area City Councilmembers, Joe Mosca included. The meeting was called to order at 12:15  PM. You know what time it adjourned? 1:20 PM. Hardly time enough to finish a second cup of coffee. More anecdotal evidence that this is an organization that functions as little more than a rubberstamp for the BIA and the other concerned organizations really calling the housing shots.

(Note: SCAG/SGVCOG links are often down on weekends. I guess they don't dare work on their days off. Check again on Monday if you haven't been able to access them.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Former Sierra Madre Mayor Bart Doyle's El Monte Transit Village Redevelopment Project Takes A $26,500,000 State Funding Crisis Hit

An article up on the Sacramento Bee "Capitol Alert" site this morning entitled "5,300 delayed projects listed," reveals the following:

The state Department of Finance has released a 161-page, 5,300 item list of public works projects that will be suspended or delayed indefinitely because of the state's cash crunch ... The list was published as the Pooled Money Investment Board, an obscure agency that controls disbursements from the state treasury, began a meeting to determine whether last month's suspension would be modified for individual projects. 

You can access the list of suspended projects by clicking here. Scroll down to page 154 for the EMTV listing.

Among the items listed for suspension or indefinite delay due to the state cash crunch are several projects of interest to Sierra Madre. Our city faces a loss of $56,227 on an unidentified project. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (the local SCAG cabal, which lists Joe Mosca as a member) takes a $75,829 hit. But speaking of SCAG, the big loser here? Bart Doyle and his Titan Corporation's famed redevelopment project, El Monte Transit Village. The amount of the state check that won't be arriving anytime soon? A cool $26,543,000. It is one of the larger sums identified on the report.

Of course, you might be wondering why Titan would have been the beneficiary of so much of our hard earned tax money. But that's redevelopment for you ..

I'm Sorry, But Public Transportation Isn't Going To Save The World

Here's a picture I took when I was out picking up some lunch in the big city the other day. Now I don't have any serious problems with public transportation, it's a good thing and it does get people from place to place. And we all do need to get from place to place. But what bothers me a little bit is some of the inane propaganda that goes along with it. Notice the Metro banner with the picture of the cars? There's four of them and they are all belching exhaust. And just in case you missed the ecologically motivated message here, the word Mean is spelled out in bold letters. Now to the right we see the big M logo for Metro with the word Green next to it. Unmistakable point. But you do know what this sign is hanging on, right?  It's a bus. A big old roaring diesel two piper in this case. So since when are buses Green and not Mean like those unfortunate cars? 

You'd think that the folks designing these Metro marketing campaigns would maybe get their situational irony on for a minute or two when they're cooking this stuff up. Or at least loosen their eyebrows.

Now I grew up in the New York megalopolis, and I rode public transportation since I was about 15 years old. And I have to be honest with you, the concept that buses and subways might be world saving Green technologies would have been lost on me at the time. To me they were what you took when you didn't have the cash for a cab. The buses smelled like exhaust, the subways stunk of incontinent derelicts (in summer the bouquet was particularly pungent), and they were noisy and crowded and you just didn't leap out of bed in the morning all excited about riding them. 

But now it is 2009, I live in L.A. County, and the big push is to take the bus. Or the train. The message is everywhere. And among the reasons given is that by riding public transportation you will somehow help save the planet from global warming, smog, melting ice caps and rising oceans. But I've got to level with you. Buses aren't going to save the world. Diesel is as polluting as gasoline, growing bio fuels requires petroleum based fertilizers, natural gas is a highly finite resource that isn't quite as clean as you've been told, and the electricity that drives those little trains? It comes from coal, oil, gas, and nuclear fueled power plants. None of which enjoy a happy reputation for being the salvation of the Earth's green trees and little creatures.

So yeah, public transportation is just fine, and I have even been seen taking it from time to time. Especially when I need to go to downtown L.A. But please, don't tell me that when I do I'm saving the world. By doing so you are making an absurd mockery of some of the very serious problems we're facing these days.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tattler Product Review: The Dover Parkersburg 610 Galvinized Metal Water Bucket (2-Gallon)

(Note: I did not write this product review. Rather it comes to us from the pages of Amazon.com and apparently represents the opinion of an actual customer. A friend of mine pointed this out to me and I thought it important enough to share.)


This Bucket Changed My Life! May 13, 2003
By Ari Brouillette

The highly versatile Dover Parkersburg 610 two Gallon Galvanized Metal Water Bucket was recommended to me by my friend Jim. Jim is something of an amateur consumer products testing buff and assured me that when it came to galvanized buckets the Dover Parkersburg reigns supreme! Jim had previously turned me on to the Swiffer WetJet Mop Total Cleaning System and the Hoover Quik-Broom S2561 so I knew he wouldn't (mess) around when it came to my metal bucket needs.

At first glance the Dover Parkersburg 610 is clearly a step above the competition, the smooth galvanized exterior is indicative of the more modern electracoat process which produces much less bubbling and insures a uniform surface. Jagged Edges? Not on this baby! Also of note are the two horizontal ripples which are placed 6 inches from the base. A simple structural analysis and crush test showed the slight corragative additions to be more than simple decorations, they actually produce an increase in tensile strength of 35.7% when compared to smooth walled galvanized buckets of the same carrying capacity.

Although I have used the Dover Parkersburg less since installing indoor plumbing, I display it with pride knowing that I own the best 2 gallon galvanized bucket in town.

Three comments of note:

Warren Campbell asks: But how does it stack up against the Dover Parkersburg 12 Qt galvanized Metal Water Bucket 612?

David Cormier asks: What are the stacking capabilities of the Dover Parkersburg 610? Is the corragative additions a problem for multi stacking? Is weight an issue when stacking more than 5 buckets?

Bons says: Thank you, sir! I had hemmed and hawed for hours over whether or not the Dover Parkersburg 610 was the one for me. I just wasn't sure it was what I needed. But thanks to your review I had the courage to go ahead and get one. I will never trust another bucket for my water porting needs ever again!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Kurt Zimmerman Really Said

Yesterday we discussed Susan Henderson's futile attempt this week to bury the testimony and findings of what we're calling the Deuxamis Trial. Her efforts met with predictable failure as such requests rarely meet with success in the State of California. Even the records of most divorce cases remain open to public scrutiny despite the obvious painful personal aspects of such things.

And besides, shouldn't being found liable in a trial have at least some consequences? And wouldn't society being allowed to freely examine the evidence of one's now proven malfeasance be among them? Would it really make any sense for a Court to deny the public knowledge of what exactly it was that sank the defendant? Of course not. It's not like you lose your case and the very next day everything goes back to the way it was. Susan's quest here was absurd from the start and stone cold dead on arrival.

The first item on the list Susan Henderson attempted to supply to the Superior Court in hopes of obtaining an injunction on trial testimony and findings was the following:

"Information was leaked to the Sierra Madre Mayor who announced at a televised Council Meeting that the City of Sierra Madre should be hesitant to continue its contract with the Mountain Views Observer because he had received information that 'an adverse ruling against the paper' had been made that would effect the contractual relationship between Grace Lorraine Publications, Inc., owner of the Mountain Views Observer and the City of Sierra Madre."

As discussed yesterday, this was included in the 7 page document that Ms. Henderson would have given to the Superior Court had they been willing to accept it. And Ms. Henderson did note in this document that she was making her claims with the understanding there could be legal consequences should she be found to have perjured herself. So in light of all this, is what she said here about the Mayor of Sierra Madre really true?

Here is what Mayor Kurt Zimmerman actually said at the City Council meeting in question. This transcription was taken directly from a video tape of the meeting.

"I was advised this afternoon that a trial involving the newspaper concluded with the Court indicating that it was going to make some adverse findings and enter judgement against the defendant and I would request that the City Attorney obtain a copy of any judgement or order issued by the Court to clarify whether that judgement or order would have impact on our contract with the newspaper."

Note the clear difference. In Ms. Henderson's statement to the court she claimed the Mayor had publicly concluded that the verdict in this case "would effect the contractual relationship" between the City and her paper. But by reading the transcript of Kurt Zimmerman's statement we can see that this is decidedly false. What he did say was that he wanted the City Attorney to examine the Court documents and make sure everything was still in order, and to make certain that the City's legal advertising needs would not be put into jeopardy by the decision. In other words, this was simply a call for due diligence.

In light of what we've seen here it seems obvious that Ms. Henderson's claim to the Superior Court is not true. And had her statement been examined by the Superior Court this could have been easily discovered.

One other thing. Susan's conspiratorial claim to the Court that "information was leaked to the Sierra Madre Mayor" is nonsense. Trials in the United States of America are open to all, and members of our community attended this one. And nobody swears people to secrecy when they go into a courtroom to attend a public trial. They're allowed to talk to anyone about anything they've seen or heard. After all, and as Susan Henderson once said in a completely different context, this is still a free country.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Unfortunate Day In Court For H. Susan Henderson

"Our town deserves to know what is going on. We are not going to suppress the news." - Susan Henderson, Mt. Wilson Observer (March 2007).

Yesterday was another bad day in court for Susan Henderson. Having just recently lost in her legal imbroglio with Katina Dunn over the dissolution of Deuxamis Publishing, Inc. (something that resulted in a settlement involving $10s of thousands of dollars in penalties plus the loss of the right to the storied Sierra Madre name "Observer"), Susan again returned to those hallowed halls of judgement in hopes of having any and all information from the trial legally suppressed by the Superior Court of the State of California. Susan apparently feeling that in her case the findings of this court were something not to be shared with the public as is usually the case in free societies. Quite obviously the Founding Fathers would not have been amused.

But what could very well have been a dramatic day in court went south rather quickly for the peppery and purposeful publisher. According to several eyewitnesses (who phoned The Tattler with their exclusive reports), the Judge sent out a Research Attorney to deal with Ms. Henderson's issues. This Court employed lawyer then gathered together the few immediately concerned and quickly ushered them out into the hall for a little heart to heart. A five minute conversation ensued, after which all returned to the courtroom. At which time this Research Attorney informed the visibly crestfallen Ms. Henderson and all who cared to listen that the trial was already over and that there was absolutely nothing more to be done here.

And that was it. As one eyewitness to the event later put it to me, "They basically told her it was finished."

Now in her preparation for this non-event, Ms. Henderson, once again acting as her own attorney, prepared a 7 page document detailing what she felt were the reasons why this Court should put the kibosh on all the evidence and findings from the Deuxamis Trial and hide them someplace dark and forbidding. That is, if she could have gotten the Court to listen. And I do have in my hands a copy of this extraordinary document. I won't post all of it here today, but will pull out a couple of salient phrases that I found to be somewhat interesting.

"Comes now Defendant Henderson to this court requesting the following extraordinary relief."

I like that language! Comes now Defendant Henderson to this court. The only thing missing was a "Hear Ye" or two. Comes now Sir Eric to this Mac to write stuff for his blog. And then Ms. Henderson continued:

"1. Defendant preys to this court for an order prohibiting Plaintiff and/or her attorneys and other representatives from disseminating information obtained via Form and Special Interrogatories."

Now I am no lawyer, though I do hold a B.A. in History from an obscure New Jersey State College sometimes snidely referred to as "The Harvard on the Highway." And even I know that one never "preys to this court." Prey is something the lion is about to turn into a rump roast. Do you think it wise to call the Judge a rump roast? I don't. You'd assume that a Berkeley educated attorney would have known that. There are five requests for "orders prohibiting," and all of them use the sadly inappropriate "preys."

Then comes this rather perilous statement:

"I, H. Susan Henderson, am the Defendant in the above referenced matter and declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California, that the following is true and correct."

And in the very first statement after this perjury bit she shares the following:

"Information was leaked to the Sierra Madre Mayor who announced at a televised Council Meeting that the City of Sierra Madre should be hesitant to continue its contract with the Mountain Views-Observer because he had received information that an 'adverse ruling against the paper' had been made that would effect the contractual relationship between Grace Lorraine Publications, Inc., owner of the MVO and the City of Sierra Madre."

You know, for Susan's sake it was probably a good thing that the Court refused to deal with this document because, as anyone who witnessed the City Council meeting in question can tell you, that is one big old stinking heap of hoot she's peddling.

There are 5 other hopelessly reasoned attempts here at explaining why the Court should suppress the details and findings of this trial, and in them the words "blog" and "internet" are used 4 times. I can only wonder what that is all about. Maybe Susan will take some comfort in knowing that Sarah Palin doesn't much like blogs, either.

You know, I am starting to believe that Susan Henderson is really upset about there being some new competition in town. And I am beginning to think that what this is really all about is her apparent belief that being the publisher of the Mountain Views Observer somehow affords her the privilege of having a monopoly on the dissemination of information here, and that anybody not sharing in this leap of faith is somehow engaged in a conspiracy to discredit her. And that she actually thought senior California Superior Court officials would join her in this is, well, just not reality based.

An unfettered press is important, and that is why free speech is a cherished and Constitutionally protected right in this country. Competition in the news marketplace is how ideas are tested and strengthened, and in the end only the people can decide what information is truly worthy of them. Courts were not put here to help individuals hide information that they find inconvenient, but rather to help preserve our precious freedoms. Case closed.