Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comment of the Month: May 2009

(Something new here. On the last Sunday of every month we're going to single out what we think is the Best Comment of the Month on The Tattler. There really is some great writing being contributed here and some of it deserves to stand on its own. This month's COTM was found on the "Bill Coburn's Creative Editing" thread, written by one of our regular commentators, Day.)

Somebody please help me get to the logic of our situation.

1) Realtors & Developers want more development in the downtown, on Montecito, and in the hillsides;
2) Faithful to the C.A.R. handbook strategies, they infiltrate the city government and put a spotlight on themselves being involved in the community - hyper "meet and greets;"
3) Their strategies work to the point that a city council does not defend the Hillside Management Zone, but rather approves excessive development in the hillsides with conditions that cannot be controlled or enforced;
4) The city spends more than a quarter million dollars on a ruinous development plan for the downtown, with some of its proponents fighting desperately to hide the Environmental Impact Report;
5) The residents wake up and ask, "Who has been selling the city out from under us?"

Because of the honest people who stepped forward (Zimmerman, Watts, MacGillivray, Shollenberger, the Dunns, Old Kentucky, and many more), our town has weathered a rapid development plague that has caused terrible damage.

And we are criticized for our responses, our opinions, our reactions to this highly charged political situation? The slow-growth people are NOT the ones who resort to pornography to make personal attacks, we are not the ones who want to remake the town in the image of a mini Beverly Hills, we are not the ones who don't care what happens to the hillsides, and we are not the ones who sneak around damaging tires, breaking car windows, and ruining mailboxes. 

Yes, sometimes people make 'snarkier' comments than I would like to see, and yes, there are personal attacks, but give is a break - we've been under siege for a long time. And the people who are throwing the worst blows deny it, and attack us for responding.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bill Coburn's Creative Editing

There is a new letter up on the Sierra Madre News.net site, or at least part of a letter. I know that it is a part of a letter because I received the same e-mail from its author that Bill Coburn did. 

The letter deals with a big topic here this week, Larry Wilson's column smearing the reputation of Sierra Madre. This letter was written by a concerned Sierra Madrean named
Melanie Shewmaker. And everything I am using in this article is with her permission. As we recently discussed with the unfortunate Anna Laws misappropriation, it is very important to get the approval of a person regarding how and where you are using their words and image. To do otherwise is less than ethical in my opinion. It is also unkind to the person involved as it represents a gross betrayal of trust.

After I saw the bowdlerized version of this letter on Bill's site, I e-mailed Melanie and asked her about it. She e-mailed back expressing some dismay at what was (and was not) printed there. I immediately sent her a note back and asked if I could write about the situation on this blog, and she replied this way:

"You may use whatever you would like! It is important for people to be able to form an opinion based on the whole truth of the original article and my letter, not just omit. It is just as bad as lying. And journalists are responsible for reporting the whole truth, not just segments for ratings or political correctness. I would also like for residents to see that we will defend ourselves rather than sit back and let someone outside of our community to unnecessarily and unconstructively criticize us. Also, we know we have problems, but we shouldn't publicize it or allow non-residents to make it any of their business."

So this is how we're going to handle the problem. I am going to reprint here the portion of Melanie's letter that Bill did print, and then go into the parts that he decided to hide from his readers. We'll finish up with my opinion on why Bill did this. 

Here is the portion of Melanie's letter that Bill Coburn actually did print:

"I read an article in the Pasadena Star News this morning which reflected a very negative opinion of our community. The comments about residents were derived from blogs from our local papers. I promptly sent a letter to the editor disputing his opinion. I have included the article and response below ... However, I wanted to write you to encourage the residents of Sierra Madre to take caution when blogging so that our reputation isn't tarnished in the other local publications. By no means am I indicating that the source of the material in the blogs came from Sierra Madre News.net (note: Sierra Madre Tattler in my copy) or that opinions should not be expressed. I simply would like for our neighbors to know the result of bad mouthing each other in blogs."

Bill then adds: "I've included a link to the article in question." However, it is not a link to the original version of the Larry Wilson column that Melanie supplied in her e-mail. The link Bill provides goes to the amended on-line only version of the column, one that because of careful after-the-fact editing has a decidedly different meaning from the version she was commenting upon. What Bill points to here did not appear in the newspaper. (The Tattler provided an in depth examination of Larry's print debacle Thursday, and the original version of his column is available for you there. If you have not read Larry's column yet, please do before reading any further here.)

Before we move on to the portion of Melanie's communique that was hacked off, I'd like to make one quick point. By printing only the first part of her letter Bill seems want people to have the impression that the sole cause for Bill Wilson's article was people expressing their viewpoints on blogs. And since the only true and functioning blog in Sierra Madre right now is the one you are reading, well, you get the idea.

Here is the portion of Melanie's e-mail that Bill did not print. This was what she referred to as her response to Wilson's column. Something she promised in the portion of the letter Bill did print, but somehow never made it on to his blog.

"When reading 'Good, Bad Mingle In Foothill Villages,' I am appalled at the comments that Larry Wilson made with regards to the residents of Sierra Madre. I find it hard to fathom that we are just a city of intolerant homophobes who call our neighbors 'narcissists' and 'psychopaths.' In fact, we are the exact opposite. He should have known better than to form an opinion solely off blogs ... If Larry needs an opinion, here is one: It is time for him to find a new line of work. Not only are the topics sporadic, but the lack of consistency is a written train wreck. On many occasions, I have wondered how a man with such poor literary skills and offensive, illegitimate remarks makes a living as a writer. (Yes, I read 'Holocaust in Full Color' and could easily understand why the Poles were highly offended.) If Larry is still wondering why people do not frequent the village in Altadena, maybe he should consider the poor reputation of the city before offending the residents of another city."

Puts a decidedly different flavor to the proceedings, right?

So why did Bill Coburn do this? It is my opinion that he saw this as an opportunity to bring attention to Larry's attack on a certain political faction within Sierra Madre while making it look like it was all the doing of another person. In this case, Melanie Shewmaker. Bill, I believe, is in complete accord with the political agenda being put forth by Larry Wilson. And that the people of Sierra Madre who discuss local politics on The Tattler are disreputable and should not be heeded is a message that is very much a part of that agenda. The reason Larry is now pushing this viewpoint (and in two Pasadena Star News columns within three weeks no less!) is because he is attempting to prop up the quickly fading political fortunes of his friend, Joe Mosca. The investigative reporting on this blog has been devastating to Joe, and I suspect Larry was asked to step in and help.

Personally I find it odd that the discussing of politics and City affairs is perceived by our friends supporting the decidedly passive-aggressive campaign of "poor" Joe Mosca to somehow be a bad thing. Most cities beg their citizens to get involved in civic affairs. My perception is that because the affairs and associations of Joe Mosca really can't stand very much scrutiny, his supporters have resorted to infantile gossip and gross misrepresentation as an attempt to distract attention away from their boy's glaring weaknesses. But that they would support a daily newspaper columnist's woefully inaccurate and repeated attacks against their own City? 

Of course, that Larry's two columns in support of their concerns have been, to use Melanie's words, "train wrecks," certainly did a lot to devitalize the effort. Maybe these folks really aren't as much as they claim to be after all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Did You Know That May 26 Was The Day The Downtown Smoking Ordinance Took Effect?

After all the excitement a few months back you would have thought that May 26 was going trigger some kind of paranormal event here in little old Sierra Madre. Like maybe the skies would turn blood red, the streets melt and flow down the mountain, little green guys crawl out of the storm sewers to gnaw on expensive SUV tires, you know, the true beginning of the end times, precursor to an apocalypse that would change everything in the world as we've ever known it.

(Click on the picture to the left and it will enlarge so you can read the details.)

But you know what? Things look pretty much like business as usual to me. I'm usually at Beantown around 8 most evenings. My kids and I like to ride our bikes there, and we usually drop by for some ice cream before the long trek back up the hill. And you know what? It is just so much nicer these days. The air is clean with the smell of burning tobacco no longer hanging over the area. There are smokers of course, but they don't do their cigarette rituals anywhere near Beantown. Rather they troop up the street to Neil Vance Photography (great Little League guy), watch the collage of photographs rolling on the plasma screen TV in the front window, and placidly smoke. 

It's peace in our time. 

Kind of hard to believe that people were actually saying the things they were in the run-up to the City Council decision to restrict downtown smoking. Here's a typical quote:

"We feel we're being demonized. We feel cigarettes are being demonized. We are being made second class citizens. It's only a little further down the line that we'll be told to smoke in alleys or out in back."

You only have to look at the giggling kids smoking out in front of Neil Vance's TV screen to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Now there were many dire predictions of a downtown economic collapse as well should any kind of smoking restrictions be legislated, dining areas or no. But I am happy to report that, at least anecdotally, downtown Sierra Madre seems to be its bustling old self most evenings this week. Lots of folks in the restaurants, with many of them seated outside in the cool, and now fresh, air. Happy and relaxed.

If you haven't been down that way to take in the sights lately, you really should. It's one of the truly great things about this town. Ride your bike.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anybody Getting The Impression That Larry Wilson Has A Serious Problem With Sierra Madre?

(Note: Since the on-line version of the column cited here has been altered, I've now posted a scan of Larry's column as it appeared in yesterday's Pasadena Star News. The errors and factual absurdities are intact. Click on the column to expand the size.)

Now you'd think that one of the more regular columnists in our local daily newspaper of record, The Pasadena Star News, would have his needs met by writing just one column in the course of a month about a certain Foothill City that he doesn't like so very much. But apparently Larry Wilson's problems with Sierra Madre run so deep that he has now written 2 columns within 20 days of each other lambasting our quaint little village for crimes against his highly selective sense of proper political etiquette.

His earlier column about Sierra Madre ran on May 6, and you can read my observations about it here. Basically Larry's column on that fateful day (entitled "Sticking To Their Story") dealt with his reflections upon Joe Mosca's defeat in his recent bid for the Mayor of Sierra Madre gig. Apparently while seated at Beantown enjoying whatever it is he enjoys, Larry happened to notice two Stroller Moms not being polite to each other. From this he drew the conclusion that everyone in Sierra Madre is mean, and it was this kind of meanness that caused poor Joe Mosca to be denied his dream job again. And, as you can read in my expose, there were some factual errors in Larry's efforts, along with some stretches that would even challenge Elastic Man.

So now Larry has written his second Sierra Madre bashing piece in 20 days. This one is entitled "Good, Bad Mingle In Foothill Villages." In it he unsuccessfully compares Sierra Madre with Altadena. And as a way of getting to the bottom of this matter, let's examine some of the truly bizarre factual and grammatical errors Larry has made in this column. Because they are the stepping stones that shall lead us unto the deep inner nougat of Larry Land. And as you will see, for someone writing a column in a self-proclaimed major California Daily, this guy is just ridiculously sloppy.

1) "Sierra Madre is 85 percent white, 1 percent American American, 6 percent Latino." Um, now I don't want to seem too proud here, but I'd say all Sierra Madreanos are 100% American American. To suggest otherwise would be to walk on the fighting side of me. And the last time I checked 85 + 1 + 6 = 92. So what happened to the other 8% of this town? Are they American American Americans?

2) "... and (Altadena) couldn't stop La Vina the way Sierra Madre stopped 1 Carter." So if the good people of Sierra Madre stopped the One Carter Estates development, what are all those guys up on that hill doing with those bulldozers and backhoes? Re-enacting the heavy machinery scene from Jackass The Movie 2? Uh, Larry? The thing that Sierra Madre stopped was high-density development in our picturesque downtown area. You know, where Beantown is? If you're going to beat up a town knowledgeably, perhaps you should first acquaint yourself with the signature political event of its last 5 years.

3) "(Sierra Madre has) had a more vibrant business climate, perhaps because of its smallness, a tourist virtue, and fame in the hiking era." I'm not really sure when the hiking era first began but yeah, we're all about it. Next time try the word "area."

Now to explain the 4th bungled item we will have to properly set it up. What we have is a quote from Larry's May 23rd column, "Hyphen Makes World, Er, Valley Of Difference." Here he criticizes the grammatical laxity of a rustic polemicist.

"Where were these people when Mrs. Wells was diagraming sentences and discussing the finer points of 'it's' and 'its' on the fifth-grade blackboard?"

In the spirit of poorly diagrammed sentences, we now bring you to the 4th Level of the Journey to Larry Land:

4) "Altadena has Crips and tough talk within its Town Council ..." Now the way Larry has this one worded you'd think that he was claiming some of the Councilfolk in Altadena run around in blue gang jumpers all day long talking tough. I'm sure he didn't mean it that way, but shouldn't someone who posits himself as Grammar Nanny in one column take special care in making sure his sentences are properly constructed in his next effort? Otherwise you might suffer the embarrassment of sounding like you're saying a town made up of predominantly African Americans voted gang members into some of the more important jobs in their local City government.

And finally, there is this truly bizarre little item:

5) "If you're gay, you've been 'sent from West Hollywood' to overdevelop the town." Now as far as I'm aware, few if any developers are headquartered in West Hollywood, nor are they gay. But hey, who knows? Maybe Larry has some insight into the love secrets of the BIA? Could it be that he is even tighter with Bart Doyle than we ever knew? Will our next Downtown Specific Plan be heavy on 3 story fashion emporiums and fabulous hair style boutiques? Then again, perhaps Larry has merely inserted a penny loafer into his mouth again.

Now if you go to the altered on-line version of Larry's Sierra Madre vs. Altadena column, and then scroll to the bottom, you will see a number of comments that are not favorable to what he's had to say here. My favorite comes from someone named Melanie:

When reading 'Good, Bad Mingle In Foothill Villages,' I am appalled at the comments that Larry Wilson made with regards to the residents of Sierra Madre. I find it hard to fathom that we are just a city of intolerant homophobes who call our neighbors 'narcissists' and 'psychopaths.' In fact, we are the exact opposite. He should know better than to form an opinion based solely on what he reads on blogs ... If Larry needs an opinion, here is one: It is time for him to find a new line of work. Not only are the topics sporadic, but the lack of consistency is a written train wreck. On many occasions I have wondered how a man with such poor literary skills and offensive, illegitimate remarks makes a living as a writer."

And just so you shouldn't think that Larry is exclusively a single city offender, here is an article that appeared on the always thought-provoking Pasadena Sub Rosa website recently:

April 26, 2009: Star News' Larry Wilson Denounced On Front Pages Of Online Polish Newspapers?

"Home town newspaper editor and blogger Larry Wilson has nearly incited a possible international incident on blogs in Poland in reaction to his blog post online at the Pasadena Star News about a (false) 'Polish Holocaust.' As the Polish bloggers accurately point out there literally was no 'Polish Holocaust,' but instead a Nazi Holocaust that occurred in occupied Poland."

As you can see, when it comes to being an unmitigated jackass, our man Larry Wilson is truly a figure of international scope.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Anna Laws Sets The Record Straight

I spoke with a very annoyed Anna Laws on Sunday. A volunteer who has become involved in many aspects of our City government, particularly those involving fiscal policy (she will be serving on the panel tasked with unraveling some of the mysteries surrounding the Utility Users Tax and how those moneys have been used), Anna has become synonymous with the kind of highly skilled retired professional who gives so much to Sierra Madre. Her integrity and high ethical standards are second to none.

You might have seen an article featuring Anna in the latest edition of the Mountain Views News, a publication with a poor reputation here in Sierra Madre. And that is the problem. While Anna Laws was interviewed for a tribute to Volunteerism by someone claiming to be a legitimate writer, and later had her picture taken by a photographer who stopped by her home, neither of these persons informed her that the story would appear in this particular paper. "I never would have allowed any of this to happen had I known it would end up being published in the Mountain Views News," Anna told me.

The perpetrators of this deception were Jan Reed, the writer referred to previously, and Bill Coburn, who took the picture I've reproduced above. It was Bill who informed Anna that the feature was to be posted on his SierraMadreNews.net site. "I distinctly remember Bill saying this, because he pointed out that he had fallen behind in his work, and it might be a while before it appears," she said.

Both Jan Reed and Bill Coburn have a working association with the Mountain Views News, but since articles and photography are often printed there without credits (such as with the article on Anna), not many here in town would be aware of this. And neither of these individuals are listed among the paper's contributors, so checking there would have been futile as well.

And despite her patient attempts to point out some of the inaccuracies in the initial draft of the article, Jan Reed still got Anna's role in the Ad Hoc Tax Committee's deliberations on the UUT rate hike wrong. Anna did NOT audit the Ad Hoc committee's recommendations to the City Council on the tax hike. What she did do is attend the meetings. If you audit a college class, that means you're attending the lectures but not taking the tests for credit. A meaning of the word that apparently escaped Ms. Reed.

Why does the Mountain Views News have to resort to such unscrupulous tactics to get quality interviews? Again, it is a matter of the paper's low reputation in the community. Many of the City's more respected residents would prefer not to appear in this paper because of its unsavory associations. So apparently the MVN has been forced to rely on devious stratagems to obtain good content. 

Certainly this incident is not going to help the Mountain Views News repair its already badly tarnished reputation here in Sierra Madre.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No Show Joe?

Now we've often heard about how hardworking Joe Mosca is (from himself mostly, but John Buchanan has also shared that opinion with us as well), and something that is often cited as proof of his industrious ways is the curriculum vitae he's posted on his Council Member biography page. It truly is a great gaggle of governance gigs. Here is how it reads:

(Joe) serves as the City Council liaison to the Sierra Madre Community Services Commission and to the Sierra Madre Elementary School. Additionally, he represents the community as a member of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, League of California Cities, Environmental Quality Committee, Los Angeles Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council, Southern California Association of Governments, Community, Environment, and Human Development Committee, Pasadena Unified School District Management Adult Advisory Committee, and PUSD Work Group on Technology. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Sierra Madre and he is a member of several other community service and professional organizations in the community and throughout Los Angeles County.

It is quite a full plate he's got there. To me the most important of the many responsibilities Joe has taken on is his membership in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and specifically its Community, Environment, and Human Development committee (CEHD). It is this confab of local government types that cooks up our Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers. Now I've covered the topic of our unfair RHNA numbers in the past (see here and here), and I don't want to go into it too deeply today. But in a nutshell the CEHD comes up with the number of "housing units" Sierra Madre must allow to be built or face financial sanction from Sacramento. That eminent domain might be used to seize peoples' homes so that space can be made available for building the high-density multi-unit low income housing supposedly necessary to reach our RHNA goal only exacerbates this unhappy situation.

So you can understand that having representation on the CEHD committee is a very important thing. There are families living in Sierra Madre whose homes are possibly at risk, and we need somebody in there who will fight for us on these matters. Of course, there are many in town who strongly doubt that is who Joe is really fighting for, and if he really has any problem with the RHNA situation at all. What follows should only help to reinforce that impression.

On the SCAG site there is a section dedicated to the Community, Economic and Human Development committee. If you click here you will be taken to a page that links with the CEHD's 2008 & 2009 Agendas and Minutes. Here we can find not only the topics discussed at each of these meetings, but also the attendance of each individual member of that committee. And here is how Joe Mosca's record on the attendance question stacks up:

Mar 5, 2009 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Feb 5, 2009 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Jan 8, 2009 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - (Link not functioning)
December, 2008 - (No meeting)
Nov 6, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Oct 2, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Sep 4, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Present
Aug 7, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
July, 2008 ... (No meeting)
Jun 5, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
May 8, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Apr 3, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG - Not Present
Mar 6, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG ... Not Present
Feb 7, 2008 ... Mosca, Joseph ... SGVCOG ... Not Present

Obviously what we are seeing here is pretty dismal attendance from our Councilman at these important SCAG/CEHD gatherings. And out of the 30 members to this committee, Joe's record is by far the worst. Considering the possible consequences to some home owners in Sierra Madre from CEHD decisions it would be expected that the person sent to serve in this capacity would at least show up for some of the meetings. But apparently Joe Mosca feels he has better things to do with his time.

I would hope that Joe has been attending at least some of the meetings held by the other organizations he claims membership in. After all, when a Councilman is permitted by the Mayor to join such things it is expected that he will adequately represent the interests of our City. Because otherwise it might appear that all Joe has been doing here is something fairly typical of nascent bureaucrats. Title collecting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Please Attend Tomorrow's Sierra Madre Memorial Day Services

VFW Post 3208 is holding its Memorial Day services tomorrow, May 25th, 11 am at Pioneer Cemetery. Sierra Madre Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray will be delivering the keynote address.

I was trying to find something that adequately communicates the true meaning of Memorial Day, and perhaps the most informative article I could find comes from an Air Force website that provides news for those currently serving our country. It was written by Lt. Col. Mitchell Culp, and is entitled Memorial Day Remembrance. I'm reprinting much of it here.

Contrary to popular belief, Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer. To many people, especially the nation's thousands of combat veterans, this day has a history stretching all the way back to the Civil War and is an important reminder of those who died in the service of their country.

The story of Memorial Day begins almost 150 years ago, in the summer of 1865, when a local druggist, Henry Welles, mentioned to some friends at a gathering that while praising the living veterans of the Civil War, "it would be well to remember the patriotic dead by placing flowers on their graves." Nothing became of this suggestion until he renewed the idea the following spring to Army Gen. John Murray.

General Murray himself was a Civil War hero and intensely patriotic. He supported the idea completely and marshaled veterans' support. Plans were developed for a more complete celebration by a local citizen's committee headed by Mr. Welles and General Murray.

On May 5, 1866, the village (Waterloo, New York) was decorated with flags at half staff, draped with evergreens and mourning black. Veterans, civic societies and residents, led by General Murray, marched to the strains of music to the three village cemeteries. One year later, on May 5, 1867, the ceremonies were repeated.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War Soldiers. Army Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the veterans' organization, Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30 as Decoration Day by General Order 11 on May 5, 1868. This was two years after the 1866 commemoration in Waterloo N.Y. By Congressional proclamation in 1966, Waterloo was cited as the birthplace of this important holiday.

After World War 1, the day came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. wars, and was renamed. Since 1971, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, and by religious services, parades and speeches nationwide. Flags, insignia, and flowers are placed on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries.

For many, this day carries no special meaning except perhaps an extra day off from work and school, a barbecue, the start of summer holiday season, and for stores, the opportunity to hold their annual Memorial Day Weekend sale. In reality, the holiday is observed in honor of our nation's armed service personnel who were killed in wartime. It is tradition to mark the holiday by flying the national flag at half staff until noon and numerous memorial ceremonies held throughout the United States.

Here's an idea that was suggested to me by several people who called this morning. It is time that the City of Sierra Madre honored its true heroes, our World War II veterans. Many will be at tomorrow's ceremony. Let's e-mail our Fourth of July Committee Chairman and nominate these men as our Fourth of July Grand Marshals. The deadline to nominate is tomorrow, Veteran's Day, so please do not delay! The e-mail address to do so is matthewbosse@hotmail.com .

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Joe Mosca's DSP Vote Flip Flop As Revealed By Three "inSierraMadre.com" Articles

I spent some time this evening digging around the archives of the old inSierraMadre.com blog, and came across some rather interesting Joe Mosca information. In particular material that clearly spells out the abandonment of his campaign promise to put the Downtown Specific Plan up for a public vote.

On June 19 of 2oo6 inSierraMadre.com posted a letter that was written by Joe Mosca stating his position on a DSP vote. It was very similar to what he had said during his run for a Sierra Madre City Council seat a few months previously. Here are the relevant passages from this document:

The current DSP is not perfect and it has some flaws that need to be changed. But it is a start for our City to begin the discussion on what the future of our downtown should look like. Up next for the DSP is the release of the Environmental Impact Report, which (is) mandated by the State to study all environmental impacts the DSP can have on our city and how best to preserve our community ... Also, the City has begun meetings for Sierra Madre residents to have their voices heard as to what they envision this DSP should include and not include. Once the DSP has taken shape and the process has been completed in the coming months, it will be put to a vote by the people of Sierra Madre, hopefully with our County elections this fall ... In the end, I hope we are successful in shaping the document into something that will protect and preserve our community. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Sierra Madre to decide. I believe in and will support a city-wide vote on the DSP.

And why wouldn't Joe want to deliver on this promised "city-wide vote on the DSP?" After all, in a subsequent inSierraMadre.com article, "Fresh out of the gate, the draft DSP" (June 21, 2006), Joe Mosca praises this version of the DSP highly:

"It's a great start to reshaping the document and making it our document," said Council member Joe Mosca. There is a lot of work to do, Mosca added, but "we're moving in a positive direction" toward creating a DSP that will limit development downtown and comply with our zoning laws.

As we all know, Joe's position on the DSP vote, perhaps the cornerstone of his election campaign, shifted radically in the months following his elevation to the City Council. And it certainly wasn't put on the ballot for the fall of 2006 election. Why? Because something had changed.

On March 17 of 2oo7 inSierraMadre.com published an interview with Joe Mosca. This interview took place shortly after he had been informed that petitions to recall him were being passed around the community. The blog we're citing here was (and still is) sympathetic to Joe, and the question pitched to him is an obvious softball. But even under these most favorable of conditions he couldn't double-talk his way out of his predicament on the DSP vote matter.

inSM: The recall papers say that you are breaking campaign promises. You say you still support a vote of the Downtown Specific Plan, but you are just saying that you're supporting it at a different time than maybe some of the other council members do. 

JM: When Council Member Zimmerman proposed the vote we weren't there. We hadn't even gone through the process ... The draft was nothing that I would even go out and support, so why would I vote to put something on the ballot when I'm not even willing to support it myself? What I supported was a process, having some hope that this document could eventually turn into a document that would make sense for our community. That's what I supported. Going through the process to put that together, get the environmental studies together, find out everything, and then, at the end, put it to a public vote if it eventually made it to the point where it could be a consensus document and we could all support it. At least the bulk of us could support this document and say, 'This is a good document, vote for it.' Then I would support putting it out on the ballot. If it's something that we could never get together and never get consensus with, then it's not going to go any further. It's just going to die. I'm not going to spend money out of the city's coffers to put something on the ballot that doesn't make sense at all."

So the DSP document that Joe praised in June of 2006 he now claimed was "nothing" in March of 2007. And he went from being a candidate who advocated putting the DSP on the ballot so the people of Sierra Madre could put the matter to rest, to the City Councilman who refused to honor that campaign promise until he was absolutely sure that it would pass. Suddenly it was no longer up to the people to decide, it was up to Joe Mosca. Not just a flip flop, but the confiscation of powers he had promised to the voters of Sierra Madre.

People had a very good idea what an approved Downtown Specific Plan would have meant for this city. Blocks of condominiums much in the style of what we can now see at Monrovia Commons. Few beyond the Downtown Investment Club wanted this, and the reason why Joe Mosca was elected in 2oo6 was because he had promised to let the people vote on this question. But now Joe no longer wanted to let the people take control on this issue. He wanted to call the shots. It was at this point that Joe became an advocate for the DSP rather than someone opposed to it. He broke faith with his supporters and never once looked back.

And why? Because the people Joe was really answering to had a lot at stake in the DSP surviving, and it was obvious that if it were put on the ballot it would be overwhelmingly defeated. So it was Joe's job to prevent that from happening. And like the obedient apparatchik he is, he did just that.

Joe's inability to keep his signature campaign promise to the people of Sierra Madre put this City through one of the most politically divisive periods in its 102 year history. The effects are still very much with us today.  

(Note @ 9:00 pm: This is a slightly expanded version of the article that originally appeared earlier today. Another advantage of blogs over newspapers, articles can evolve as new information becomes available.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The $250 An Hour Troll

So yesterday, and for the second time in a 72 hours, this site was vigorously assaulted by a most extraordinary troll. Usually when you're talking about a blog troll, you're talking about some obscene little fellow who doesn't have a clue, but does whatever he can to disrupt things. Here is a description of what is an average troll.

"I believe that most trolls are sad people, living their lonely lives vicariously through those they see as strong and successful. Disrupting a stable newsgroup gives the illusion of power, just as for a few, stalking a strong person allows them to think they are strong, too. For trolls, any response is 'recognition,' they are unable to distinguish between irritation and admiration, their ego grows directly in proportion to the response, regardless of the form or content of that response. Remember that trolls are cowards, they'll usually post just enough to get an argument going, then sit back and count the responses (Yes, that's what they do!)"

But alas, we have not been the object of that kind of affection. No, in our case it would appear that we're being trolled by a gentleman of some sophistication in the fields of both law and city affairs. His mastery of bureaucratic jargon is good, as is his understanding of mundane governmental procedure. And while his technique leans towards bafflement rather than abuse, it is still very much the work of a troll. Here's an example of his work:

"You want to go after absentee landlords? Fine, you follow a similar program for the SNF, you make sure rental properties have business licenses, you attach fines to renewals, and file them with the state franchise tax board as well as the secretary of state to attach to corporate filings. While you're at it, make low-cost redevelopment loans available to fix up properties that qualify."

Meaningless gibberish, but delivered with the confidence of someone who has mastered the ins and outs of government jargon. A local policy wonk on steroids. Of course, the notion that some absentee real estate investor deserves "low cost redevelopment loans to fix up properties" he himself allowed to slip into disrepair does grate a bit. Though I must admit that it does seem to be the way things are done in California these days. And also a reason why the state is stone cold broke.

So I had a chance to talk with several knowledgeable folks this evening about our sophisticated troll, and the answers I got were actually kind of gratifying. The topic we discussed yesterday - Glendale's levying of stiff fines on negligent absentee landlords and banks for allowing unoccupied investment properties to become blighted - is apparently a very big issue in this area. And redevelopers, banks, and real estate investment groups are in a foaming state of rage about it. And despite their loud and vociferous opposition cities all over California are now adopting laws very similar to what Glendale has just enacted. And hopefully we will soon as well.

And what this means to the various concerned industries is money. Rather than just buying up cheap foreclosed properties and letting them sit neglected and empty until the market improves, cities that have enacted blight laws are forcing these knuckleheads to keep their properties up to code. Something that has the potential to cost these dudes millions of dollars in maintenance costs, not to mention fines. And they are none too happy about it. Their only priority is making money and they don't give a damn about what happens to towns like ours.

Now our $250 an hour troll has shown up for two different articles. The first one was our piece linking the stealth infiltration tactics of the California Association of Realtors to the political organizing practices of '60s radical Saul Alinsky. And the other was our report yesterday on Glendale's newly enacted Blight Law. Both of these stories, of course, involve real estate and investment. Obviously subjects near and dear to our troll's little charred heart

So here's what I was told by somebody very much in the know. This blog was attacked by someone who is something more than a mere troll. Rather our friend gives all the indication of being an attorney with extensive experience in both government and real estate. And as we saw yesterday, this person seems to have little more to do with his time than sit on a computer and attack this blog. So the question being asked is this: Has The Tattler become so much of a threat to some folks that they've engaged someone to attack it? Can it be that they did this with the intention of disrupting the conversations taking place here? Not certain if that is actually the case, but the question needs to be asked. And I have seen many blogs killed off because of trolls, it isn't all that an uncommon a thing. But that, of course, won't happen here.

So I'm going to take some pride in this. The Tattler is apparently doing its job so well that it has now become the target of professionals. Which means that our intended targets are feeling what we're doing here. And that is a good thing. We are doing our job.

One more issue: The Tattler is now a moderated blog. This means that when you post I have to manually clear it before your words will show up on the site. Which also means there will be a delay before your post appears. I'm not all that happy about this, and I think it will discourage a few folks while depriving the blog of some of its spontaneity. But what choice do I have? To do otherwise would mean having to look at another 100 posts from our frantic and highly disruptive troll friend.

But no worries, things will be fine. Let them do whatever they want. We're still standing, and still getting it done.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Glendale Deals With A Major Cause Of Blight: Real Estate Speculators

One of the major causes of blight is real estate speculation. Banks and investors buy up foreclosed homes and then allow them to sit. Their hope being that when the market eventually improves the value of their holdings will increase as well and they can make some cash. But until that time comes, they allow these properties to fall into disrepair. Why bother fixing them up until the time comes to sell them? It's just cheaper that way.

The result of this practice in times like these is that neighborhoods and property values are threatened by derelict properties overrun with weeds and occupied by buildings in the process of deteriorating rapidly.

The best example of this dynamic at work here in Sierra Madre would be the Skilled Nursing Facility. Owned by an entity that is apparently holding out for better times (such as a City Council that would allow the fellow to build three story condominiums with street level shops), this property has been a blighted eyesore on our community for quite some time now.

Ironically, the high-density development advocates here in town have taken to blaming our current City Council for the condition of the Skilled Nursing Facility when the enabler of this blight is actually one of their own.

So Glendale, refusing to put up with such nonsense from that quarter, has taken advantage of a state law that empowers cities to take action should they choose to do so. An article in the Glendale News Press ("City Targets Untidy Homes") lays it out this way:

"Banks and housing speculators could face fines of up to $1,000 per day for failing to keep vacant properties up to code under a proposal scheduled to go to the City Council on Tuesday ... The proposed law would authorize the city to exercise its authority granted under state law to hold new owners of foreclosed properties accountable for maintaining their parcels. The new regulations would not affect original tenants who are undergoing foreclosure ... according to the proposal ... With potential fines of $1,000 a day, speculators and banks will likely be encouraged to price more in line with what the market can offer, or spend a little to ensure that the residence remains up to code."

The law was passed by the Glendale City Council last Tuesday evening.

Of course, there was one party that was not initially pleased by these developments. The Glendale Association of Realtors was unhappy about a particular aspect of this matter. The cause of their miff being this law would not allow them to enter homes that are still occupied. Which, if you think about it, is probably for both civil liberties concerns and their own personal safety. This delayed a City Council vote on the matter by two weeks. You'd think they'd have wanted to help the neighborhoods there by getting derelict properties fixed as quickly as possible.

So would a law like this work for Sierra Madre should it be enacted here? I think so. Why should financial institutions and speculators be allowed to let properties decay so that they can save a couple of bucks on maintenance? Why should our neighborhoods suffer while they wait for the housing market to improve? It certainly doesn't help home owners concerned about the quality of their neighborhood and the value of their property.

And wouldn't it be nice to stick it to the guy that allowed the Skilled Nursing Facility to go to seed? A thousand bucks a day for an entire year would be $365,000! That would both help pay some bills and encourage him to get the place fixed up.

(Note: Comments section for this post has been disabled. For some this appears to have been much too exciting a topic and they just couldn't contain themselves. That's what happens when you hit the target, I guess.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beth Buck's Wacky Predictions

Someone forwarded me some vintage stuff from late 2006, and it made for very amusing reading. And the article we're going to be looking at today was written by none other than that previous Mountain Views News doyenne of disaster, Beth Buck. It really is quite a slice of recent history. But what makes it even more enjoyable is just how wrong everything she predicted here turned out to be. I've selected some key passages from this article to highlight just that, predictions for the future that turned out to be hilariously inaccurate. So here goes, a plunge into the madness of our recent past. 

Key readings from: "Sierra Madre Needs You Now" by Beth Buck

"Because of the issue and the urgency facing us today, I am placing my editorial, this week only, on the Homepage. It's lengthy, for which I apologize; it's complete, because you must have all the facts; and it is the most important public writing I have ever done."

(Tattler - Since Beth's "public writing" does not live with us now in any current form outside of this forum, how does one tell what was truly the most important? It's utter lack of influence or relevance today would suggest that perhaps none of it was ever very important at all.)

Let's take a long hard look at initiative 2-30-13, or the name it should be known by - "How to kill a wonderful small town through ignorance and lack of caring."

(Tattler - Last time I looked 2-30-13 became the law, and the town is still standing.)

Initiative 2-30-13 will force the residents of Sierra Madre to vote on every downtown project that's above the arbitrary limits they set for us - NOT SET BY THE GENERAL PLAN. Regardless of the property size, its location, whatever unique design or style of architecture it might embrace or whatever desirable new store it might bring for our convenience or pleasure ... A costly special election would have to be held and then the project would be denied.

(Tattler - We haven't had a single election of this kind yet. And the General Plan is still very much with us today, much to the chagrin of a certain downtown religious institution noted for its hostility to Measure V.)

The "notice of intent" has been published, the stage is set and this merry group of marauders will soon be knocking on your door asking you to sign a petition which will sign away the future of your town, the value of your property and the chance of ever seeing a lively and vital downtown business district in Sierra Madre. Instead you'll be signing up for new taxes, more boarded up buildings and a nice big box pharmacy at the entry to our town.

(Tattler - Hmm, no box pharmacy yet. Property values are down, but not as badly as some other places. The downtown business district is still with us, complete with the same single boarded up building. And the only political leaders still supporting the UUT hike we got stuck with are Measure V opponents. And don't forget the funny numbers used to get it passed. And Lord knows John and Joe are doing everything they can to hang on to it.)

But don't worry, although it'll be squat and ugly, depreciate the value of our downtown and forever do away with our "quaint and charming" image (it's hard to be quaint and charming with a Walgreen's or Rite Aid on your most visible and prestigious parcel of real estate) it'll only be 1-story, with lots of parking spaces...

(Tattler: Again, there are no box pharmacies in Sierra Madre today. Beth seemed to have been quite hung up about pharmacies.)

And "well within the limit" means no variance, no public hearings, no City Council to blame, no vote of the people, no stopping it. No kidding. Just the beginning of the end of Sierra Madre as we know it... And how long do you think our current retail businesses will stay?

(Tattler: The businesses are still here. The town is still here. Beth Buck is not here. And the City Council and City Hall still hold hearings.)

Good job, Council members Watts and Zimmerman. Well done SMRRD. Pass this initiative and you've passed a death sentence on our City.

(Tattler: Last time I checked the city was still standing. And actually running a budgetary surplus, unlike so many other towns and cities around this country.)

Pretty wild. So much for Beth Buck's predictions, eh?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet The Owner Of The Sierra Madre Cumquat

(Pictured: Members of the Sierra Madre Downtown Investors Club on a recent outing to Goldberg Park to inspect the natural stone benches. While claiming to be pleased with what they saw, they still wished to go home as soon as possible.)
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Neuroblast Films posted a video of B.D. Howes on their site yesterday. At the time this clip was filmed, B.D. was the President of the Sierra Madre Rotary Club, and the video shows him presenting a rather large check to a very grateful City Council to help defray some of the expenses associated with keeping our library open.

All of which was magnanimous and highly commendable, but there is a kind of conundrum attached as well. How is it that this prosperous gentleman engaged in good works is also the domain owner of notorious and - in their heyday - pornographic websites such as Downtowndirt.org and The Cumquat? And is this as much a contradiction as it first appears, or is there actually a kind of logic here? One that combines both the regard a certain strata of Sierra Madreans holds for people such as themselves, coupled with a searing contempt for those in town who fail to meet their standards?

I've often thought that there really is a kind of class warfare aspect to the question of who does and does not support big development here in Sierra Madre. Like all societal generalizations there are a lot of ready exceptions, and you are welcome to point them out. But I think that if you dig deep enough you'll find there is a core of truth here.

Those most likely to oppose runaway development would be working and family people. Those who realize that they have a very good thing going in our town, and that their chances of ever finding this sort of thing again are not very probable. These are mostly people who spend their entire paychecks on getting by, shell out for monthly mortgages and car loans, and are forced by circumstances to send their kids to public schools that they sadly realize are only barely adequate. Yet to live here is a kind of dream come true, and they resist any kind of change that could threaten something that has given so much value to their lives.

On the other hand, the people who would support big development tend to belong to the investor class. Many of them are highly paid professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and developers. They do not sweat the monthly bills, preferring instead to allow those they do business with to draw money straight from their bank accounts. They have surplus cash for investments, and many speculated heavily on downtown properties during the real estate boom of a few years ago. They are clubbish and well-connected to power, and tend to join just about anything that they feel favors their sense of personal worth. And they would never understand why anyone would not want to be like them.

Many have spoken of the divisions in this town, but never with any kind of analysis or reasoned exploration into why they exist. So let me tell you how I see it. Using the Tattler Rule that it is always about money, the divide we're really talking about here is between the privileged and the work-a-day commuter/pickup truck class. Those fiscally leisured enough to enjoy this town whenever they feel the need, versus those who rarely see the sun here except on the weekends.

Which takes us to the owner of the Sierra Madre Cumquat. B. D. Howes has become, in my mind, a kind of metaphor for the mores and attitudes of his class. He is a well-to-do man, owning a large dental concern, and many other properties as well. And he has the leisure necessary to participate in club life, becoming the President of the Rotary Club just last year. And he does participate in charitable enterprises. These are all admirable things and should not in themselves be disparaged.

So then how do explain his ownership of the Sierra Madre Cumquat? My take is that this is no contradiction. When those opposed to Measure V launched their assault on its proponents, they were doing so from the vantage of money and privilege. Measure V opponents had nearly $200,000 to spend to defeat their opponents. And they also paraded about a long list of what the Loony Views News likes to call "the pillars of our community." Mayors, lawyers, doctors, wealthy business men, all folks seemingly convinced of the worthiness of that cause. The veritable village elite.

And who were those who supported Measure V? Working people, the retired, and the elderly, mostly. Measure V proponents raised around $30,000 for the cause, spending it most on black & white postcards and flyers. And yet somehow, and much to the consternation of the investor class, they won. And they are deeply resented for this even now.

So it makes sense that some of Sierra Madre's so-called leading citizens would have unleashed things such as The Sierra Madre Cumquat upon their political enemies. It was not just a political tool designed to degrade and humiliate those who stood between them and the rewards they expected to reap from their real estate investments. It was also an indication of just how deep the contempt that the elite sector of this community held for the rest of this town.

And that the Mayor of Sierra Madre at that time, John Buchanan, should have endorsed such a thing from the front page of the Pasadena Star News makes perfectly good sense as well. He was merely speaking the prejudices and attitudes of his class. And that he appeared gobsmacked when he was called out on this also works. After all, nobody he knew had a problem with it.

So does it makes sense that the charitable and rather elite B.D. Howes should own The Cumquat? Of course it does. After all, wasn't it always the property of that segment of this community? And, of course, now we know it still is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The California Association Of Realtors Channels Saul Alinsky

Somebody obviously trying to egg me on dropped off a copy of the California Association Of Realtors(R) little red book on how to infiltrate local governments and bend them to the will of its intended audience, housing inventory hungry real estate employees. It's official title is Strategies For Fighting The Slow Growth Movement At The Local Level. That "will," of course, being to build lots of shoddy get rich quick condo type junk and then taking the money and running as fast as your little legs will take you.

But the more I read this tortuously worded document (something I call the "chipmunks on anti-depressants" style of writing), the more it reminded me of something else. And then it dawned on me. They've channeled that old rascal Saul Alinsky!

For those of you not in the know, Saul Alinsky was a 60s radical highly esteemed for his organizing abilities. And unlike his bearded and long-haired groovacious brethren, Saul preached the doctrine that the best way to turn an organization towards your way of thinking is to become a part of it. And that meant cleaning up your act, cutting your hair, slapping on a tie and becoming a functioning cog within the very thing you are in the process of demolishing.

Saul Alinsky became something of a conservative bugaboo during the 2008 elections. Along with William Ayers, Saul was supposedly one of those guys from 40 years ago exercising an evil influence over Barack Obama. However, with the economy collapsing all about voters' ears, and gas prices going though the roof, somehow the public was not electrified by these revelations of ancient hippy treachery, preferring instead to put a fresh face in the White House.

But back to the point of this article. Bob Dill, author of the article I'm citing below, "Understanding the Alinsky Method of Community Organizing," describes the work of our guy Saul thusly:

"In her 1991 book, 'Educating for a New World Order,' Beverly K. Eakman describes the Delphi Technique and Alinsky Method in detail. The technique is used in situations where the 'community organizer, change agent, advocate, agitator or facilitator' desiring to achieve change uses proven psychological techniques and deception to manipulate groups of people to agree to something they currently oppose. The technique works and the targets rarely, if ever, know they are being manipulated."

Now in the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) book on fighting those mean old slow growth movements that might get in the way of them making money off new condo development (that being an awful thing in their minds), they recommend methods that are surprisingly similar to the infiltration and subversion techniques advocated by 60s radical Saul Alinsky. As you read the passage below, imagine that instead of the word REALTORS(R), you are actually reading UNDERGROUND HIPPIES. Here's an example that I've taken from their booklet:

Participate in local commissions and task forces: You can influence the debate about local issues by having REALTORS(R) sit on local commissions and task forces ... If your city government has not created such a commission or task force, take the initiative and suggest one be formed ... Participation in these forums is the best way for REALTORS(R) to get involved in the dialogue early and counter the influence that local government staff and opposition may have over elected officials."

See? People from outside with an unpopular agenda going native and becoming a part of local government with the objective of creating a situation where the will of a majority of the neighborhood people on the topic of development can be overcome. Very Saul Alinsky. Or Joe Mosca, now that I think about it.

On Wikipedia there is a brief description of something called Entryism.

"Entryism (or entrism or enterism) is a political tactic by which an organization or state encourages its members or agents to infiltrate another organization in an attempt to gain recruits, or take over entirely ... In situations where the organization being 'entered' is hostile to entryism, the entryists may engage in a degree of subterfuge to hide the fact that they are, in fact, an organization in their own right ... Entryism does not involve dissolving the small organizations into the larger one."

Here are some more examples from the C.A.R. booklet that reinforce the point I am making here. Infiltration of city governments ("Entryism") coupled with a "go native" stealth campaign intended to influence a decision despite the legitimate will of the majority of local citizens (the Alinsky Method.) And remember as you read this, substitute REALTORS(R) with UNDERGROUND HIPPIES in your mind every time you see the "R" word.

"Get REALTORS elected and appointed to local office: Having REALTORS(R) appointed to planning commissions or elected to city council provides the best assurance that your voice will be heard on important issues."

"Don't forget about staff: Government staff influences elected officials as much, if not more, than anyone else ... Staff prepares reports, studies and analysis of important issues ... REALTORS(R) must maintain open lines of communication with staff to ensure that it provides objective information to elected officials ... Similarly, it is important to have open lines of communication with elected officials, in the event that staff does not share the REALTOR(R) point of view."

"Attend local hearings: It is imperative for REALTORS(R) to attend local hearings when important issues are discussed ... Follow these steps to make the most of your attendance: Have REALTORS(R) meet before hand to agree on strategy and message ... designate a spokesperson(s) to communicate the REALTOR(R) position ... Develop talking points ... Anticipate the attendance of local media and incorporate this into your strategy. It could mean valuable 'earned media time' for your message."

There are some other examples in the C.A.R. "Fighting The Slow Growth" book that would fit the scenario I've constructed here. But it is interesting to see such a strategy being applied by these folks. Hopefully we've put their undue influence on our affairs into an entirely new light here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More About The DowntownDirt.Org Situation

(Noon update: B.D. Howes also owns the domain for The Sierra Madre Cumquat as well. Click here for documentation. It is a two-step process that involves a quick spam check.)

So the Downtowndirt.org / Cumquat logo that I posted with yesterday's article has been pulled from the DTD.org site. Which now makes it the third time we've killed off a Cumquat revival. Not to say the Dirt Squad won't crawl out from under a rock with another attempt in the future. They certainly do seem to have a problem letting go of that one. Pretty sad if you think about it.

As you can see to the left, the Cumquat logo has now been replaced with another Dirt logo, this time featuring Curly from The Three Stooges. Which, being a big Stooges fan myself, I find to be a bit of a sacrilege. I can only be grateful that they didn't use Shemp, the true comedic genius of the Howard family of artists. That would have hurt.

Not that the Three Stooges comparison isn't a good one, mind you. Considering the horrible mess they made of their attempt to defeat Measure V, or the strange tactics used in the election debacles of the Enid Joffe/Karma Bell campaigns in 2008, there certainly is something to it. Put a Beatle wig on the scowling visage of Glenn Lambdin and I swear you'd be looking at Moe himself.

Anyway, I received a call this morning from a friend of B.D. Howes, a woman named Catherine. This was a follow up to a series of e-mails. She despised both the Downtown Dirt and Cumquat sites. Her claim is that, while B.D. never really understood exactly what these blogs meant, or the tactics that were used, he bought the domain because he wanted it off the internet. And Catherine claims he did it because she asked him to do just that.

So here is where it gets sticky. How is it that, if B. D. Howes actually bought the site to keep it off the internet, DowntownDirt.org was announcing for the last few days that it is back? Catherine's explanation is that B.D. never really understood what these things were, or meant to a large part of the Sierra Madre community. He only bought it because he saw it as a way to stop some of the trouble in town. And it was Catherine that helped in this regard by insisting that he buy it and take it off the market. But, she admitted, he could have been talked into something he didn't quite understand. That there are people who know he owned the site, and talked him into allowing them to use it.

(Apparently B.D. Howes buys internet domains. They are an investment commodity bought and traded just like stocks and bonds. And he currently owns 24 of them according Domaintools.com.)

OK, so I did have some trouble with that. But here is the catch. If you go to the DowntownDirt.Org site, you will notice two things. Any reference to the The Cumquat is gone, as is any reference to the site actually launching beyond what is there now. Catherine told me that she talked B.D. and he has agreed to pull it back. Which, if this is true, means that Catherine has done a very good thing here, and needs to be thanked.

And it must be noted that B.D. Howes, a businessman of some note and success, would hardly be foolish enough to allow the kinds of things that happened on either Downtown Dirt or The Cumquat to be done on a site he owns. Jim Snider was never dragged into Court because, let's face it, he was penniless. 

There are good people in this world, and sometimes they perform small acts of heroism that benefit others. I'd like to recognize Catherine for just that. She deserves a vote of thanks for doing this. DowntownDirt.Org slinks back, vampire-like, to its grave and will hopefully stay there this time. And if I'm wrong, then so be it. But sometimes you do have to trust people, and we should never forget that.

Now, of course, this in no way absolves those who talked B.D. Howes into using his site for a relaunch of The Cumquat or Downtown Dirt. (And he is close to Joe Mosca, after all.) As a matter of fact, this rather shows to what manipulative depths the Dirt camp will go. And it doesn't mean that just because they were denied the use of DowntownDirt.Org through the efforts of Catherine they won't create something else equally nasty.

But there is one dark cloud on this otherwise sunny horizon. If Downtowndirt.org is now out of the reach of the malefactors, who put the new graphic up? 

2 Librans, they sat on a hill ..