Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As Goes El Monte, So Goes El Monte Transit Village?

Update: El Monte Avoids Bankruptcy (PSN 7/01/09) "El Monte averted bankruptcy Tuesday night after all four of its employee unions, including the Police Officers' Association, agreed to cuts in benefits to help the city's budget deficit." Does this mean that the money being saved will go towards saving El Monte Transit Village? If some of that money is used for that purpose, how will the unions react?
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While the rest of the world sits transfixed and stares into their television sets at the endless coverage of the passing of Michael Jackson, many here at The Tattler choose to look to other things. Myself included. As a f'rinstance, I was pumping some gas into my fuel efficient Saturn Ion at a filling station in Pasadena yesterday, and a portly fellow walked up to me wanting to know if I might be interested in purchasing one of the obviously bootlegged Michael Jackson commemorative t-shirts he was proudly holding in his hand. "Who?" I asked. "Michael Jackson, man. The King of Pop." "Pop?" I replied. "I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about." The gentlemen stopped, looked at me closely for a second, and then walked quickly away. Who knows, maybe he thought I was dangerous.

Now if he had tried to sell me a "John Leung's L.A. County Weekend Getaway" t-shirt, or one that said, "My City Councilman Belongs To SCAG, And All I Got Was This Cheesy Condo," I'd have bought the whole damned bunch. Because when it comes to media sensations that I can get into, that is where it's really at. Obviously that t-shirt bootlegger is a guy who just doesn't understand the real interests of his potential customers.

Sometimes when I get really bored at work I go to the Pasadena Star News website and look for stuff. Most of the time the search for items of interest is a futile one, and I am forced to return to earning a living. But then sometimes I strike pay dirt, and then get to share what I've found with you. And that is what happened around 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

For those of you not familiar with the PSN site, one of the features there is a Top 10 "Most Viewed" list. These are the stories getting the most hits at whatever particular hour you might happen to be visiting. And at 3 PM yesterday there were two El Monte stories that had made this roll of honor, and they were listed numbers 4 and 5.

Story #4 - Officials: El Monte transit project in spotlight, but still viable (06/28/2009 8:46 PM) "While questions linger over the future of the development, city officials believe it remains on track ... 'This project has tremendous merit and potential,' said El Monte City Manager Jim Mussenden. 'We have been making great progress on this and that momentum will continue.' ... The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is confident the transit center/bus depot portion of the project will be completed at the end of 2010, according to Tim Lindholm, MTA Director of capital projects ... 'We have been working hand in hand, but if they have problems, it's not going to slow our project,' Lindholm said ... Meanwhile, El Monte is still in the process of obtaining more money for the Transit Village, Mussenden said."

Now what is significant here is that while the MTA is getting its bus station done, the Transit Village portion is still much in need of investment, especially with the Titan Group in Dutch. With El Monte, despite its much noted lack of folding money, having to make up the difference. Which takes us to article ...

Story #5 - El Monte considers bankruptcy (06/29/2009 01:28 AM) "The city council will consider Tuesday whether to initiate Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings for El Monte if council members cannot immediately find a way to completely fix the city's $12 million budget deficit ... 'If I don't have a balanced budget by the end of the evening, we have to initiate Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings,' said City Manager Jim Mussenden."

Perhaps there are circumstances that I am not cognizant of here, but how can the City of El Monte possibly be raising (or, should we say, borrowing?) money to build a "Transit Village" while at the same time going into bankruptcy because they can't pay their cops?

Now what this sequence of articles could be telling us is that the City of El Monte and its Transit Village might very well have reached the breaking point. With John Leung and Bart Doyle's Titan Group in seeming disarray, the State of California about to issue Confederate-style scrip, and El Monte's own financial situation parlous to the point of bankruptcy, what we could very well have read here is a report on the demise of the entire project.

There was one other new article up on the PSN site yesterday, "Leftovers from City Hall: Leung's Colleagues shocked." In it was contained this passage: "Leung and his colleague, Jean Lang, were arrested by El Monte police on allegations they bilked two private investors out of $1 million ... They were released from jail on Tuesday, and no charges have been filed. Police expect to bring their case back to the District Attorney's office this week."

As always, The Tattler is standing by.

Monday, June 29, 2009

SB 375 Also Pushes Through The Building Of The 710 Tunnel

Laurie Barlow over at The Greensward Civitas blog has been digging into the consequences of SB 375, and she completes a picture that draws together all of the consequences. Consequences which, if brought to fruition, would be devastating to not only to the ecological integrity of the San Gabriel Valley, but the entire L.A. basin as well. The so-called "Global Warming Bill" continues to be exposed as being anything but Earth friendly.

Here is how Laurie breaks it down:

"SB 375 essentially establishes unofficial growth boundaries, but in exchange it strips local governments of the protections under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) for projects that have transportation or housing elements within urban boundaries, and enforces the imposed housing numbers developed by SCAG. Devil's bargain, just like Prop 13 has turned out to be. Major proposed regional transit projects (which are actually cargo transit networks), such as the 710 Connector in South Pasadena, would no longer be stoppable by small communities using CEQA, it strips cities of local control. It pits anticipated regional growth against the integrity of the local communities."

Boiled down into Tattler-speak what is being said here is that SB 375 is a law passed by Sacramento that will put a stop to small communities such as Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, or Crescenta Valley, bringing up environmental considerations when faced with forced high-density development or, God forbid, something as destructive as the proposed 710 tunnel. A hole that will funnel huge amounts of new traffic onto the 210, further fouling our air and causing traffic nightmares.

Laurie continues:

"This agenda by SCAG is to increase the shipping and cargo infrastructure from the Port in San Pedro, a major contributor to carbon emissions and the underlying cause of massive amounts of energy use, pollution and waste generation, as well as the significant water consumption created by construction projects. SCAG is simply chasing the regional profits at the expense of the residents - the usual model of privatize profit, push the consequences to the public sector."

The Port of Long Beach is one of the major entranceways to the American market for the cheaply made Asian goods that now dominate the shelves of stores coast to coast. And once off loaded from cargo ships these goods must be placed on trucks that will take them on their way. And the one problem with this situation is the 710. The fact that it doesn't directly connect to anything creates a lot of headaches for the "transportation sector." And you know when SB 375 was being considered in Sacramento they made their displeasure known.

So why would SCAG be working to enable the funneling of cheaply made Asian goods to a job depressed American market? As we've said before, it always comes down to money. Small cities such as ours have now been stripped of rights that have been ours for decades, all because we've been deemed inconvenient to those who might wish to change us in ways we don't want to be changed. With the only real consideration here being the cash to be made. And don't be deceived by all the Greenwash being applied. Believe me, as far as these kinds of folks are concerned, that's just marketing.

So who would be doing this to cities such as ours? How did this happen? Now immediate suspicions would be cast on the usual suspects in Sacramento. The lobbyists of the BIA and CAR were involved, of course. SB 375, if it is enacted in full, would mean billions of dollars in new business for the people these organizations represent. And then there are the many corrupt politicians who've made a good living for years giving lobbyists such as these what they want.

But we shouldn't overlook the role local politicians play as well. SCAG, of course, plays a big part here. As do SCAG's junior partners such as the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. And who chairs the SGVCOG committee in charge of enforcing SB 375 here in the San Gabriel Valley? Would you believe our own Joe Mosca?

Joe Mosca chairs the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee Energy Working Group for SGVCOG. And among this committee's duties is working on getting SB 375 done right here in the SGV. This from the minutes from this committees May 20th meeting which was held right here in Sierra Madre:

SB 375 Update - Staff reviewed the most recent developments regarding SB 375 including the issues of sub-delegation and regional targets. An SB 375 briefing is scheduled ... It is very important the elected officials, city managers, and planning staff attend this meeting as the San Gabriel Valley considers its strategy for implementation."

Pretty chilling. After reading these committee minutes it becomes obvious that there is no doubt among these people that SB 375 will become a part of our lives. Whether we want it or not. And why? Because people like Joe Mosca apparently believe that persons such as us no longer have any say in these matters. And all they have to do is use the club handed to them by Sacramento and the building trades lobbies that organizations like SGVCOG really work for. 

So when the effects of SB 375 start to be felt here, be it the 710 tunnel or an entire new Sierra Madre DSP that we can no longer stop, at least we won't have to go far to find a guilty party. He's right down there at City Hall telling his tall tales every other Tuesday night.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Most Clueless Headline Ever?

We just don't seem to have much luck with our weekly news journalists in this town. One because their associations always seem to be with the usual small town real estate hustlers that we all hold in such high regard. But also because they're kind of lazy and just never seem to put in the effort necessary to understand what is really going on.

And every once in a while they lay an egg of such magnitude that the effects rumble through town like an aftershock, causing The Tattler news room phone lines to light up for hours. Which is a good thing. Besides, who else are people going to call? Susan Henderson?

So one of the calls I got Thursday was from our hard working City Manager Elaine Aguilar. And usually when I get a call from Elaine it can only mean that word has gotten to her that somebody has misquoted City budget numbers again, and that she needs to put that wandering genii back in its bottle. Which, given the high quality of news reporting in this town, has become something of a full time job for her. And I am always available to assist in damage control.

As an aside, it has been my contention for awhile that Elaine needs to start using press releases as a way of getting information out to our esteemed local news weeklies. With the data spelled out in ways that are clear, unmistakable, and simple. Maybe she could include a set of wood blocks with each of these press releases? It couldn't hurt.

So anyway, I asked Elaine about her appearance on the front page of The Sierra Made Weekly beneath the headline, "City Manager: Sierra Madre Has No Surplus." She replied in a way that confirmed my belief that she wasn't very pleased. And why should she be? It is obviously something that is as far from the truth as you can possibly get without going to Monrovia. And since this Weekly article covered the very City Council meeting where surpluses were actually discussed, well, you get the idea. Too much sunshine, as they say.

So here's the real picture. In the Fiscal Year 09-10, the City of Sierra Madre will have a surplus of $86,000. And in Fiscal Year 10-11 that surplus will grow to a very handsome $541,000. This comes from a document called the General Fund Summary, and can be obtained from City Hall for the cost of a phone call.

Now we here at The Tattler did reprint that fateful day some passages from a Pasadena Star News article entitled, "Sierra Madre in better financial shape than its neighbors." And this article spoke of surpluses of $800,000 and $1.1 million, far larger than what City Hall is putting out. And while it is unfortunate that those numbers are not accurate, at least the PSN is aware that we do have surpluses. 

There is one other unfortunate and mistaken notion in this Sierra Madre Weekly article that requires some maintenance from their friends at The Tattler. Here is the paragraph in doubt:

"In response to the controversy, City officials are making the rounds telling citizens that they should be grateful for the UUT, even if it seems like an unnecessary burden at the moment. It's saving the City's budget and ll those popular services - like the Police and Fire departments - that it funds."

The patronizing air of the quoted passage aside, this really is a remarkably poorly informed statement. Not just from the misrepresentation that our City employees are out campaigning to keep the Utility User Tax hike, which they most decidedly are not. But to suggest that people working for the City of Sierra Madre have taken it upon themselves to promote tax policy is just, well, civics challenged. 

Here in Sierra Madre, as in most other places where democratic rule is the accepted form of governance, policy matters are something handled by elected officials. Our City employees do not go out and campaign for things, especially those as politically charged as the UUT. 

I mean, who do these people think we are? Sacramento?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rob Stockly Fights To Save Something That Isn't Exactly Under Attack

I have often pondered some of the seemingly delusional aspects inherent in the appeals of the political opposition. But seeing how they really can't discuss the true motives driving their agendas, what choice do they have than to engage in fantasy? So for them enabling the construction of high density building developments is called "a green strategy" or "fighting global warming." Spending what is really a lot of money is praised as "a good use of our valuable financial resources." And "Preserving Sierra Madre" ends up becoming something that looks like One Carter, a jagged muddy scar up the side of a mountain that used to be home to some of the most pristine wilderness found anywhere in the San Gabriel Valley. There really is very little connection between their words and actions, with the purpose being more to deceive than inform.

But then there are times when what we see from these folks even loses that tenuous grasp on the more popular versions of reality, and soars off into deep space on wings that only they can see.

And recently something appeared in my e-mail box that I think is truly a fine example of the latter phenomenon.

"Dear Friends - We all are painfully aware of the widespread effect of the current recession. This is particularly true of the impact on highly prized community values such as education and basic municipal services. It is a time for heightened vigilance and involvement to solve the challenges that face us, so I am encouraging you to make a very affirmative statement that the Sierra Madre Library epitomizes the sense of place that defines our town. On Independence Day, I believe we should honor the ideal of democracy and memory of the Founding Fathers by making signs to hold up during Sierra Madre's annual parade that convey our determination that the Library must be a priority for the City Council and that libraries be supported by our federal and state officials as well. I suggest something simple like 'We Support Our Library' or more imaginative like 'I cannot live without books - T. Jefferson.' Make it fun, but the message must be positive. Wouldn't it be amazing if such signs and show of support randomly but pervasively appeared up and down the parade route? What if people held up their library cards as the City Council members drove by? My call to action is simple, but only the first step to developing community advocates for the Library and expressing this sentiment to our elected officials and other residents. We are citizens first, not merely taxpayers, and we must therefore get busy advocating for what makes Sierra Madre a special place or we will fade into the suburban landscape and be left to wonder what happened. Your fellow library-loving patriot, Rob Stockly .. P.S. While the element of surprise appeals to my baser instincts, and appearances of serendipity will disappear if this notion actually takes flight and more than 10 folks have signs. Besides, the goal is too (sic) show overwhelming support for our library. So feel free to judiciously (i.e. try to avoid the nattering nabobs of negativism* that dwell among us) share this idea with others."

Have I missed something? Has there been an outbreak of book burning here in Sierra Madre? Demonstrations against the debilitating effects of reading? Boycott Dr. Seuss petitioners in Kersting Court? Threats to take a bulldozer to the nice little brick building that houses our City Library? I'm really at a bit of a loss here. Is there somebody in town that doesn't profess to love our Library? To the point where they want to do it harm? And if so, who is this malcontent? Because I got to tell you, anybody who doesn't like libraries or books is walking on the fighting side of me! And I have a house (and garage) full of the things to prove it.

But you know, I suspect there is an agenda at work here. Isn't there always? Because there is no movement in this City to do away with our Library. And the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax dollars we spend every year to sustain it is proof of our devotion. Besides, what politician representing the interests of the Downtown Investors Club would get all that worked up about a library? This just doesn't strike me as being authentic outrage here. The enthusiasm for money being far more their style.

No, the poorly kept secret is Rob Stockly, along with John Buchanan, is not really interested in preserving our present library. What they're actually getting at here is knocking down our existing library and building a very large new one. (See link here.) Buchanan has been talking endlessly about a new library for quite some time, and sees this as the opportunity to leave behind something resembling a legacy. A fitting monument to his years of service and sacrifice. And I'm sure that if somebody wanted to call it the John Buchanan Memorial Library, well, he wouldn't mind one little bit.

And while it might be nice to have a new library, there is this one little problem. It would cost an awful lot of money. And Rob and John would have to build up a tidal wave of popular support to make an expense like that appealing to the tax payers. Which I guess in their minds makes even politicizing something as beloved as our heretofore non-partisan 4th of July Parade justifiable.

Now here is something else that we need to consider. How many high ticket items have our friends been pushing in the last month or so? Here is my list. Feel free to add your own!

1) The $300,000 General Plan Consultant. This is justified by the Sultans of Spend as being necessary because City staff is too busy to do that sort of thing themselves. And to not do it would be mean. Besides, if you're going to sneak a new DSP in there somewhere, wouldn't you need the services of highly paid professionals that can keep the secret? We wouldn't want Joe getting distraught again.

2) $2.5 Million (est.) so we can lend residents money to buy Solar Energy Systems. What good is municipal solvency when you can save the world the Edison way? And who knows? At $20 to $5oK a pop, we could be talking about a whole lot more!

3) New Fire and Paramedic Trucks. Let's see ... $400K for a new E1 Engine, $210K for a Water Tender, $30K for a new vehicle for our Fire Chief, $16K for something called a Pool Car, and $133K for new Paramedic ambulances. Cha-ching! $789,000! And heaven forfend should anyone dare suggest we buy used!

4) Finally, and still in the early stages of message development mind you, $5,000,000 for our new John Buchanan Memorial Library. Because after all, wouldn't "T. Jefferson" want it that way?

Can it be after years of spending us into near fiscal insolvency, the habit is so deeply ingrained in that element of our political community they've been driven to madness by our current budgetary surplus? And they can't help but want to spend like there is no tomorrow? Which is where we will be if they get their way here.

But there is something else. You do know that there is a sunset clause to that darned old Utility User Tax, right? And that if you don't get your dibs in now the opportunity to build your special dream on the taxpayers' backs might never come this way again? Another contributing factor, I'm sure.

One more thing. Since Sierra Madre is a General Law City we are governed by our ordinances. We could no more get rid of the library than we could legally run a City without public schools. By ordinance we have to have a free Library. This from City code:

2.16.010 Established: Pursuant to the provisions of an Act of the State of California, entitled "An Act to provide for the Establishment and Maintenance of Public Libraries within Municipalities," approved March 23, 1901, and of all acts supplementary thereto or amendatory thereof, there shall be, and there is established in and for the city, a free public library for the use and benefit of the city.

There is no way this town could legally do away with our Library even if it wanted to. Stockly's claims are absurd.
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(*Actually the correct version of the term Rob Stockly slaughters above is "nattering nabobs of negativity." It was originally spoken by an elected government official later forced from office for taking kickbacks named Spiro Agnew. So while most politicians cite the likes of Teddy Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln, Rob has chosen a different kind of visionary to quote. But did you know that if you rearrange the letters of this phrase you'll come up with the anagram "fat annoying bitter voting base?" Maybe that is what Rob is getting at here. Because it certainly does describe the D.I.C.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

And Now, For Some Good News ...

"(Measure V) is poorly written and has the potential to put the city at risk for numerous expensive lawsuits that we cannot afford ... It has the potential to be an unaffordable financial drain on the city." - Glenn Lambdin quoted from a 2007 interview @ Sierramadrenews.net

I'm sure that you can recall during the Measure V campaign the wild claims made by some that should 2-30-13 become the law, the City of Sierra Madre would be thrown into a state of economic collapse that it would never recover from. Massive debt at City Hall, empty stores, low income housing all over the hillsides, "one story big box national retail" popping up all over downtown, and whatever else those folks were making up at that time.

So can you image the looks of horror that would have passed across the faces of the naysayers had they been able to look into the future and see a headline like the one in today's Pasadena Star News?


SIERRA MADRE - City leaders have passed a $19.8 million budget for next year that includes modest spending cuts and fee hikes nearly across the board ... The 2-year plan adopted Monday night for fiscal years 2009-11 manages to avoid some of the more drastic cuts that other neighboring cities have had to make during the recession, officials said ... "A lot of cities are facing sales tax drops, but Sierra Madre doesn't have a sales tax base," city spokeswoman Elisa Weaver said. "We're not feeling the effects as much because we've never relied on it for our budget." ... The city projects $7.2 million in general fund revenues and $6.4 million in general fund expenditures in the 2009-2010 fiscal year starting July 1, followed by $7.9 million in general fund revenues and $6.8 million in expenditures in 2010 - 2011.

Ahh, what a difference having strong leadership makes, eh? And with an $800,000 General Fund surplus in 2009-2010, and a $1.1 million surplus the following year, maybe we can even get a little UUT tax relief going on? I know, everyone likes to have a little extra money in the bank, but why should City Hall be enjoying such a thing when many of the people paying the taxes around here do not? Just a thought. These are difficult times, you know.

But no matter, in a time when many cities are in terrible financial shape, Sierra Madre looks to be coming through strong. And we can all take a lot of pride in that.

Anyway, and strictly for laughs, let's go back to that 2007 Sierramadrenews.net interview with our favorite prophet of doom, Glenn "Darth" Lambdin, and get his take on what things would be looking like right around now...

SGVW: What do you feel are the three most critical long-term issues currently facing the city?

Glenn Lambdin: Money, money, money. Our general fund reserves are half of what they were seven years ago. What people need to remember is that those reserves are not a result of wise saving and planning, but rather are a result of refinanced bonds in 1998. It's like refinancing one's home and taking out some equity cash. We really don't have any mechanisms to replenish those funds. We are getting closer and closer to financial crisis.

Poor Glenn. How hard it must be to go through life and never be right.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SB 375 Strips City Governments Of Much Of Their Control Over Local Development

We discussed some of the problems inherent in Senate Bill 375 the other day. Our conclusion was that the justification behind this bill was based on the faulty scientific conclusion that motor vehicles, rather than buildings, are the preeminent contributor of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. And we quoted from various articles that supported our assertion. Yet it would appear that SB 375 will paradoxically enable a massive new building boom in California, and all in the name of reducing greenhouse gases! And done in a way that guarantees none of us will have much say in the matter. Very odd, and very wrong.

And as a kind of review, we'll reprise a couple of these previous cites, and then compare them to statements from SB 375 itself. The first is from an article entitled Buildings Major Source Of Greenhouse Gases, Expert Says." Discussed here is the work of an architect named Connie Wallace. We'll quote a passage: The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in this nation and around the world is the buildings in which we live and work - not gas guzzling SUVs and other widely recognized energy consumers that we hear so much about - an internationally recognized architect and authority on preventing global warming said here this weekend.

The Washington Post, in an article entitled "To Reduce Greenhouse Gases Start by Shrinking Buildings," carried the argument a step further: New Mexico architect Edward Mazria has a proposal to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. His target: buildings ... Most people do not connect the two, but in the United States, buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gases. And half of these buildings are houses.

A site called Good discussed an article in Mother Jones Magazine on this topic: But the plain fact, as Mother Jones points out, is that buildings, in the electricity they use to run and the materials they require to build, are responsible for nearly half of our nation's carbon footprint. Transportation? Twenty-seven percent.

And finally, a Green blog called Climate Feedback had this to say: "Buildings account for up to half of all energy consumption, and are the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions."

But in the "Legislative Counsel's Digest" for Senate Bill No. 375, building structures aren't even mentioned. Rather the blame for greenhouse gas and global warming falls entirely upon cars and trucks. 

Section 1 (a): The transportation sector contributes over 40 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the State of California; automobiles and light trucks alone contribute almost 30 percent. The transportation sector is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases of any sector.

Section 1 (d): In addition, automobiles and light trucks account for 50 percent of air pollution in California and 70 percent of its consumption of petroleum. 

So how do you account for the discrepancy between what you can read almost everywhere else, and what the politicians in Sacramento stated as a justification for passing this bill? Is their need to please the realty and building trades lobbies so strong that they would embrace junk science? In the process triggering massive change in the way our local communities are structured and maintained? And all in the name of allowing these privileged lobbies free reign to build pretty much whatever it is they want. Despite the wishes of the people who live and pay taxes in the communities affected, of course.

But what is even more disturbing is how Senate Bill 375 seems to strip away some of the basic controls Cities have had over zoning and redevelopment, something that has been a part of the social contract here in California since the state's inception. I will quote from several passages that highlight this point.

Existing law requires the housing element, among other things, to contain a program which sets forth a 5-year schedule of actions of the local government to implement the goals and objectives of the housing element. Existing law requires the program to identify actions that will be undertaken to make sites available to accommodate various housing needs, including, in certain cases, the rezoning of sites to accommodate 100% of the need for housing for very low and low-income housing.

A process we are all too familiar with. But apparently things are different now that SB 375 has been enacted. Now if a City fails to comply with all of the above it doesn't just lose a grant or two, rather it can be taken to task by a Court which will, for all intents and purposes, assume control over development within that City.

"This bill would instead require the program to set forth a schedule of actions during the planning period, as defined, and require each action to have a timetable for implementation. The bill would generally require rezoning of certain sites to accommodate certain housing needs within specified times ... and would require the local government to hold a noticed public hearing with 30 days after the deadline for compliance expires. The bill would ... prohibit a local government that fails to complete a required rezoning within the timeframe required from disapproving a housing development project, as defined, or from taking various other actions that would render the project infeasible, and would allow the project applicant or any interested person to bring action to enforce these provisions. 

(Just what Sierra Madre needs. A Sacramento created inducement to sue the City every time building plans don't get approved to someone's liking. Like we don't have enough of that already. But here is where it really gets truly ugly ...)

The bill would also allow a court to compel a local government to complete the rezoning within specified times and to impose sanctions on the local government if the court order or judgement is not carried out, and would provide that in certain cases the local government shall bear the burden of proof relative to actions brought to compel compliance with specified deadlines and requirements.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this basically strip Cities of their right to control their own destinies, and put those powers into the hands of the courts and greedy litigants, including developers? And doesn't this basically reduce City governments to rubber stamp operations compelled to perform whatever functions the local regional planning organizations deem necessary?

And then it gets worse. In what is probably one of the great acts of unintended irony ever, Sacramento, through SB 375, has now suspended the right Cities have traditionally enjoyed to an environmental review of many construction projects within their borders. All in the name of saving the world from greenhouse gases, global warming, and a degraded ecology. Here is how SB 375 rolls it out:

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a lead agency to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of, an environmental impact report (EIR) on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment ... 

Which is how things have been for a while. Local governments having the right to bring a halt to those projects that would harm the environment, thus assuring the continued health and well-being of the people living there. But SB 375, a bill that is supposed to help fix the environment, doesn't seem to care about that. Instead it strips this valuable tool from the hands of local government in any case that involves the issues covered in this bill.

This bill would exempt from CEQA a transit priority project, as defined, that meets certain requirements and that is declared by the legislative body of a local jurisdiction to be a sustainable communities project. The transit priority project would need to be consistent with a metropolitan planning organization's (SCAG) sustainable communities strategy or an alternative planning strategy that has been determined by the State Air Resources Board to achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions target. The bill would provide for limited CEQA review of various other transit priority projects.

In other words, your friendly local SCAG representatives (or those like them), will now have the right to decide whether your City has any say about which projects are healthy for you and your kids, or not. And should your piddling concerns get in the way of building, let's say, a Titan-style transit village? Well, there are Courts empowered to deal with the likes of you.

In one of the more memorable comments left on this board, Dr. Staccato said the following: "I have read two alarming facts that California is truly going off the rails. 1) the notion that you can build your way to lower greenhouse emissions and 2) that there's been a successful move by the BIA/CAR industrial complex to remove environmental review of transit development from CEQA. Personally, I am outraged by the whole thing. Sierra Madre ought to get out of SCAG but it won't change the voodoo that's going on in Sacramento."

SB 375 has left California a far less free place. Under the New SB 375 Order the State will inform the "regional governments" (SCAG) what it expects, and they in turn will command now powerless City Councils what it is they must do. All to be rigidly enforced by the Courts. Totalitarianism with a smiley button for a face. One that strips municipalities of the right to control their own affairs and opens them up to plundering for little more than profit.

No wonder people are fleeing the state in droves. And once the ramifications of SB 375 really start to sink in, that rush to the border could very well become a tsunami.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Second Person Arrested In Leung Affair - Transit Village Project Could Be In Jeopardy

Fourth Update: Pasadena Star News (6/24 - 9:29 PM) "Lawmakers Distance Themselves From El Monte Transit Center Developers .." Looks like the elected enablers are scurrying from the USS Titan. And another Titan/El Monte project - The Pacific Place Expansion - is being scrutinized by the beset city.
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Third Update: Pasadena Star News (6/24 - 10:01 AM) "State Board of Equalization member Judy Chu, the Democratic nominee for the open 32nd congressional district seat, will return donations from two development company executives arrested on suspicion of embezzlement and forgery, according to her staff ..."
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Second Update: LA Times (6/23 - 11:13 PM) "A search warrant was served on Titan Group's offices, police said." Looks like this happened late today as part of the DA's request for more information.
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Update
: (From the Pasadena Star News (6/23 - 1:15 PM) "The District Attorney's office sent back a case that accused developer James Leung and his business associate Jean Lang of fraud, embezzlement and forgery ... Leung, President and chief executive officer of Titan Group, and Titan executive Lang will be released from prison today, Distrct Attorney Spokeswoman Jane Robison said ... 'We've asked for further information on each suspect, and no charges will be filed today,' Robison said."
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"Developer John Leung, president of the Titan Group, said building dense housing is another key to accommodating growing populations and offering affordable housing. 'Growth is imminent,' he said. 'So we have to be looking at how we can grow better.' For example, Leung pointed out that the entire population of the United States could live in Texas if it were built to the same density as Paris, France. 'I don't think anybody could tell me Paris doesn't look good,' he said." - From the 2006 SGVTribune article, "Experts Examine Housing Crisis."
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It now appears that a second individual has been arrested in the unfolding El Monte fraud case involving the president of The Titan Group, John Leung. This from today's Pasadena Star News:

"Police arrested a second person alleged to be part of a 'major fraud case' involving loan documents submitted by elected water director and developer John Leung, authorities said Monday ... Jean Lang, 51, an El Monte resident and business associate of Leung's, is being held in lieu of $ million bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynnwood ... Lang and Leung, 53, the president and chief executive officer of The Titan Group, each face felony counts of embezzlement, grand theft, burglary, and fraud, police said."

The possible denouement of the SCAG ballyhooed El Monte Transit Village project seems linked to $70 million in grant money. Here's how the PSN explains it:

"While authorities said the city is not a victim, officials nonetheless fear the impact the arrests will have on a long-planned $1 billion transit project in the city ... Titan Group is in exclusive talks with the city to build the El Monte Transit Village - a 65 acre residential and commercial complex planned for Santa Anita Avenue of the 10 freeway ... On Monday, uncertainty loomed over what will happen with $70 million worth of grant money that has been awarded to the project, and who in Titan - if anyone - will replace Leung should charges stick ... Portions of the grant money awarded to the city, its redevelopment agaency, and Titan will be revoked if it can't complete planning of the project by 2010."

The article goes on to say that Leung has been the key figure at Titan on the project, and that his trip to the pokey does present some serious challenges to both El Monte and the survival of the Transit Village. Having its dominant figure in the can would have the potential to crimp Titan's ability to move and groove in a meaningful developer kind of way. And even Sacramento wouldn't fork over any more cash to someone with a prison address. Or at least we'd hope.

Then our man Bart makes his print debut in this affair, stepping up with this statement:

"Bart Doyle, chief operating officer of the Titan Group, would not comment on how Leung's arrest will affect the Transit Village Project. 'Titan is not being sued, and Ms. Lang and Mr. Leung have retained their own criminal council,' Doyle said."

Of course, pointing out that Titan not being sued is important. A statement designed to limit speculation and protect the franchise, I suppose. Then again, the night is young. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Doyle can hold this shipwreck together and keep credit lines open.

A question that should be asked is this: If some of the $70 million in grant money ends up being forfeited because obligations are not met in time, will the impoverished El Monte be left holding the bag? This is a City currently facing an $8 million deficit, and was recently forced to lay off 17 cops, firing over 100 other employees as well.

Needless to say, The Tattler will continue to follow the developments in this case. Expect further updates as more information becomes available.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tattler Breaking News: El Monte Developer Accused Of Fraud, Embezzlement

We ran a couple of articles a while back about the El Monte Transit Village. The company that cooked up this little (at least partially) tax payer funded redevelopment project is called The Titan Group. The COO there, according to this SCAG site on the matter (see page 8), is none other than our man Bart Doyle. Obviously he must be having a very interesting couple days at work. Looks like his boss has strayed from the paths of business propriety.

From a report on the L.A. Times website:

El Monte developer accused of fraud, embezzlement

"An El Monte developer behind the city's $1.2 billion redevelopment project has been arrested and is expected to be charged this week with fraud and embezzlement, police said today ... John Leung, president and chief executive of El Monte-based Titan Group, was arrested late Friday afternoon, said Capt. Marcy Vail of the El Monte Police Department. He is being held in lieu of $1 million in bail ... Leung, 53, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday on five felony counts of forgery, fraud, embezzlement, grand theft and burglary and an additional count of dissuading a witness than can be filed either as a felony or misdemeanor, Vail said."

Later:

"Leung's company is behind the proposed El Monte Transit Village, a 65 acre mixed-use development, including retail space, residential units and office space, to be built around the El Monte Bus Transit Station. The company did not immediately return a request for comment."

(Photo is of John Leung and Bart Doyle in happier times. Backround is a map of the El Monte Transit Village.)

Is The 'San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments' Pushing A Greenhouse Gas Agenda That Will Only Help Make Global Warming Worse?

Perhaps one of the most ecologically devastating pieces of legislation to come out of Sacramento in quite some time was originally designed to, believe it or not, actually serve as a solution to greenhouse gases and global warming. Yet more proof that good intentions in Sacramento rarely survive for long in the patronage mill. Every lobby requiring its own special pound of flesh.

Senate Bill 375 is, on paper, a law designed to halt the ecologically adverse effects of suburban sprawl. The idea being that if people lived in compact urban centers close to work, they would have to drive shorter distances, thus cutting the amount of greenhouse gas causing auto emissions that contribute to our global warming problem.

And how would this be accomplished? By permitting one of the most draconian high-density building booms in California history. As the solons of Sacramento would have it, they would need to help make large amounts of new housing available to all of those people returning to the urban core from their current homes out there areas now considered to be suburban sprawl. Here in the SGV that would mean huge new housing construction in those areas linked to Los Angeles by rail lines, bus routes, and plain old proximity. And certainly Sierra Madre, along with our neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley, would be targeted for such Sacramento imposed new housing demands courtesy of SB 375.

Our local regional planning syndicate, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, is right there and ready to enforce this law. And its Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee Energy Working Group, chaired by none other than our very own Joe Mosca, is doing all it can to get Frankenstein up and walking. In its report on their recent meeting, held June 17, 2009 and right here at Sierra Madre City Hall (apparently an RSVP only confab in order to keep out the riffraff), the following passage from the agenda informed us of the following:

"Staff reviewed the most recent developments regarding SB 375 including the issues of sub-delegation and regional targets. An SB 375 briefing is scheduled for June 11th from 4 - 6 pm at the Garvey Community Center in Rosemead. It is very important the elected officials, city managers, and planning staff attend this meeting as the San Gabriel Valley considers it strategy for implementation."

Now why SGVCOG would announce a June 11 meeting at a June 17th conclave is chronologically challenging. Certainly some of us might have liked to attend. But considering the source, this level of confusion is not completely unexpected.

So it looks like Sacramento, backed up by organizations such as the SGVCOG, is ready to begin implementing what would be a centrally planned population shift and building boom. Mostly in the name of cutting peoples' commuting times, but also as preparation for a large population increase that has yet to materialize. The basic assumption here being that automobile emissions are the major contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore the preeminent source of global warming. 

But is this actually true? Apparently the Green community, along with those concerned about Global Warming,  have some very different viewpoints on the ecological benefits of allowing massive high-density building projects such as the kind being pushed by SGVCOG.

The U.S. Green Building Council, an organization dedicated to ecologically responsible construction, lists these inconvenient facts:

- Buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States - more than either the transportation or industrial sectors.
- Over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector, with emissions from commercial buildings projected to grow the fastest - 1.8% a year through 2030.
- Buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S.

A blog simply known as Good has this to say:

"I'd wager that if you polled even well-informed citizens, they'd rank fuel efficiency as the number one problem we face in trying to reduce carbon emissions. And I'd bet that, if in this very column you're reading, I went on to talk about all the ways cars are destructive to the environment, not a single person would respond: 'But how important is that really?' ... But the plain fact, as Mother Jones (magazine) points out, is that buildings, the electricity they use to run and the materials they require to build, are responsible for nearly half of our nation's carbon footprint. Transportation? Twenty-seven percent. So it's safe to say that while transportation is crucial, we can't solve our carbon problem if we don't address the energy we use in our buildings."   

A site called Climate Feedback put it quite succinctly: "Buildings account for up to half of all energy consumption, and are the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions."

An article entitled "Buildings Major Source of Greenhouse Gases, Expert Says," quoted famed architect Connie Wallace this way:

"The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in this nation and around the world is the buildings in which we live and work - not gas guzzling SUVs and other widely recognized energy consumers that we hear so much about - an internationally recognized architect and authority on preventing global warming said here this weekend."

The New York Times ran an article on April of 2007 called "Buildings Called Key Source of City's Greenhouse Gases."

"Laying the groundwork for a plan to reduce the production of greenhouse gases in the city, the Bloomberg administration released a study yesterday showing that New York's roughly 950,000 buildings are responsible for a vast majority of the city's carbon dioxide emissions ... In sharp contrast to the national average of about 32 percent, the city's buildings are responsible for 79 percent of the greenhouse gases produced by the city ... Transportation systems, including mass transit, cars and trucks, are responsible for most of the remaining 21 percent of the emissions, which are considered a major factor in global warming."

And finally, an article than ran last July in The Washington Post called "To Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Start By Shrinking Buildings," put it this way:

"New Mexico architect Edward Mazrin has a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. His target: buildings ... Most people do not connect the two, but in the United States, buildings are the largest source of greenhouses gases. And half these buildings are houses ... About 25 percent of building-related greenhouse gas is produced on-site by fossil-fuel-burning furnaces and water heaters. The rest is produced off-site by the local utility that generates electricity. About half of U.S. electricity is generated at coal-fired plants, which are hugely polluting." 

So this does raise a couple of questions. If buildings are the source of the lion's share of greenhouse gases, and therefore contribute the most to global warming, why would Sacramento and their messenger boys at places like SGVCOG be pushing vast amounts of new high-density (multi-unit) housing in places like Los Angeles County? And why is it Sacramento passed SB 375, the bill that is being used by these people as the legal muscle behind this mad rush to potentially ecologically devastating new development?

The answer, of course, is that all this talk about carbon dioxide emissions, global warming, and the future of life on Planet Earth, is just greenwash being used to help sell the kind of building boom high-powered and cash-rich organizations such as the Building Industry Association and California Association of Realtors so desperately want. Sacramento had to have known that massive new housing construction would only make the greenhouse gas emission problem worse. But that never was the point. As always, in the end it is all about the building and realty industries making money. It always is.

Of course, there is another way to look at this. If smaller buildings and less densely packed neighborhoods emit lower levels of greenhouse gases, then Measure V must be the Greenest thing that has happened in the San Gabriel Valley for quite some time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Your Weekend Tattler News Review

I love Saturday mornings. Gives me some time to catch up on my reading and really dig into some of the stuff you guys send me. Plus there is something nice about writing when the sun is up. 

1) The Sierra Madre Weekly Experiences A Sequential Breakdown: Now we in no way envy the SM Weekly in its mission to somehow make John "Greenwash" Buchanan look good. And while all God's children must have at least some virtues (otherwise why would they have been made in the first place?), this particular individual does present something of a challenge. But if The Weekly is going to go forward with this work, they should at least make sure they have their facts straight first. This from a June 18th post to The Sierra Madre Weekly website:

Sierra Madre City Councilman John Buchanan briefly discussed the effects of the latest proposed state budget on Sierra Madre at the Sierra Madre City Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Buchanan was dubious about what the state's actual final budget might actually look like and how it will affect the states (sic) counties and municipalities, saying, "Like any of us can really tell." Currently, an 8% takeaway of property tax is proposed. This reduction (?) of property tax, the leading contributer of revenue to the city's general fund, will have a strong impact the (sic) budget."

Now as regular Tattler readers know, and as was originally reported in the Los Angeles Times, Governor Austrian Oak backed off on his plans to garnish the property taxes of struggling little burghs like Sierra Madre. To quote a June 12th LAT article on this matter: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today that he was withdrawing his plan to raid local governments for $1.9 billion to help balance the state's books."

To use a June 8 quote from Mr. Greenjeans on June 18 when a June 12 utterance from the Adonis of the Alps had already put the matter pretty much to rest is not what we would call informed reporting. And hardly does any favors for the object of their affection.

2) The Hard Working Citizens Of Sierra Madre: Now just to show you that everything you read in the Pasadena Star News about the Gem of the Foothills is not bad, here is a little ray of kindness from today's edition: "Despite recent signs of hope, unemployment rates in San Gabriel Valley and Pasadena-area cities reached new highs in May as California saw its unemployment rate climb to 11.5 percent - the highest on record, according to a state report released Friday ... Locally, numbers ranged from 3.2 percent in Sierra Madre to 14.1 percent in Baldwin Park."

There you go. While things are going to hell in a hand basket everywhere else, here in Sierra Madre we somehow remain both gainfully employed and somehow impervious to the economic disasters elsewhere. Can it be that's because, as Larry Wilson claims, we're just a bunch of anti-social cussed self-serving grouches lacking in the temperament for anything beyond work? Could be. But this really is good news anyway. Despite rumors earlier this year that downtown smoking restrictions would throw our City economy into a state of depression, it looks like we've somehow weathered the change.

3) Despite The Claims Of SCAG, It Looks Like People Prefer To Flee California Instead: We all know that as predictors of the future you'd stand a better chance of consulting with a Palm Reader about our regional affairs than talking to the knuckleheads at SCAG. These dregs of the bureaucratic world have been, until very recently, proclaiming that cities such as Sierra Madre need to begin planning for massive high-density development because millions of footloose souls were about to move to Southern California. We were somehow morally obligated to destroy our town in order to make room for them, I suppose. It would just be the mellow thing to do. However, it looks like it's a good thing we didn't. This from a Sacramento Bee article entitled California's hard times driving people back to the Dust Bowl:

"Fleeing the Great Depression and a drought unprecedented in American history, a vast wave of Oklahomans and Texans dubbed 'Okies' loaded everything they could onto crowded vehicles during the 1930s and headed west for California. Today, in huge numbers, their grandchildren are moving back ... From 2004 through 2007, about 275,000 Californians left the Golden State for the old Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma City and Texas, twice the number that left those two states for California, recent Internal Revenue Service figures show. In fact, the mid-South gained more residents from California during those four years than either Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. The trend continued into 2008."

Probably helps to explain all those unsold condos in every city in California not smart enough to pass their own Measure V.

4) But Apparently It's Not Just Here That This Stuff Is Happening: Up there in Berzerkely they have an explanation for this sort of thing. This from the Shrinking Cities Group:

"Today, every 6th city in the world can be defined as a 'shrinking city.' This is a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing cities, parts of cities,or metropolitan areas that are experiencing a dramatic decline in their economic and social bases. The causes of this urban decline are many and complex, though one common denominator is that each 'shrinking city' has been significantly impacted by the forces of globalization. Marked by a loss of employment opportunities and the attendant out-migration of population, many shrinking cities have suffered from the post-industrial shift from manufacturing to service industries. Other factors contributing to this decline are the so-called 'second generation' transformations in the high-tech sector (such as) the collapse of the dot.com industry in California ..."

Now lately the circus clowns at SCAG have been advocating massive new building closer to the urban core, and once again their sights are focused directly on cities such as ours. SB 375 being their new rallying cry. And if you go to the SGVCOG site (an appendage of SCAG) you will see that meetings conducted by our very own Joe "Flipper" Mosca have been exploring how to exploit this new law in ways that will benefit organizations like the BIA and CAR. But can it be that once again they are on the wrong side of demographic history? Certainly would appear that way. After all, they are idiots.

5) And Now For Something Very Close To Home: Down towards the bottom of the comments section to our article "Can You Restore A Wall Where There Never Was a Wall In The First Place?" there is the following observation. It deals with the reaction of some to the unfortunate recent event at our municipal swimming pool:

"Chlorine gas is NOT used in swimming pools, that is extremely dangerous stuff. If a chlorine gas leak had occurred whole city blocks surrounding the pool would have been evacuated. What IS used in pools is a form of chlorine liquid to treat the water, and it is added in very small increments to the pool, even while it is occupied. Whoever posted that it was a GAS leak didn't know what they were talking about, and obviously some folks took the blogosphere word as gospel without doing ANY research on their own, jumping to erroneous conclusions and then posting some pretty ridiculous comments. Use 'The Google.'"

Unfortunately I am not a scientific kind of guy (the Liberal Arts being the only curriculum suitable for proper gentlemen), and I did not pick up on that. This was a serious event, and adding gasoline to what was already a bonfire is a bad thing to do. And while I do monitor comments on this blog, I am pretty liberal about it. I like the idea that this blog has become a kind of community sounding board, and I am careful not to mess with the dynamic. So anyway, please try and be a little more careful, OK? 

I'd appreciate that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can You Restore A Wall Where There Never Was A Wall In The First Place?

It is getting to the point where it takes the better part of a week to do the articles necessary to expose all the B.S. found in one single issue of the Mountain Views News. But since it is real people who are hurt by this paper and its misrepresentations, the work is necessary. And that City Hall may have played an enabling role in the sad episode we're reporting on today only makes the matter even shoddier than it might first appear.

Let's start with the wall. As the title of this post suggests, you can't restore something that never was. You can create a wall, but it is hardly a restoration if it had no previous existence. Words are important, and they really do have meaning. And it is up to us to decide if they are the truth, or not. So stick with me.

Note the above photo from the front page of the MVN. It shows a stone wall running up along side the entrance to the One Carter Estates development. The wall that apparently the creator of this fiction believed could be described as having been restored.

Now look at the second picture, which shows what the area looked like before the devastation at One Carter began. There was no wall attached. There was some sort of step up arrangement to the right, but that does not show up in the photo from the MVN as being part of the so-called "restoration." All we see here is a stacked stone pillar held together by cement. What was there before this project began was a pristine woodland, but the developer obviously has no intention of bringing that back.

Here is how this is described in the MVN: "The new owners of the 1 Carter Development have resumed with construction of the project. At least one of the historic pillars and the adjoining wall has been restored."

But as we can plainly see by examining these photos that is not the case. There was no wall. And had the unidentified person who wrote the story bothered to discuss this with any of the people adversely affected by this seemingly endless project, perhaps she would have been made aware. But they were not asked. Why? Because the opinions of the people living in the One Carter area were hardly the point of this article. The purpose instead was to make sure their viewpoints were not heard, even belittled, and replaced with something that would protect the interests of the developer.

At about 9AM the morning in question, residents in the vicinity of One Carter were subjected to incredible amounts of construction noise from the heavy machinery there. Noise that in the opinion of those close by far exceeded what is legal in Sierra Madre. City Hall was contacted, and the concerned parties communicated with both the City Manager and Bruce Inman. Then, inconceivably, 2 hours passed, and the noise continued unabated.

Here is how the MVN described what happened: "Another concern of residents is the level of noise during construction. SMPD Code Enforcement Officer Lisa Volpe was out on Thursday checking to see if the construction crew was in compliance with the Municipal Code regarding construction noise. Volpe, her hands show holding the instrument which measures noise levels, recorded noise levels in the range of 60-67 decibels. Municipal Code section 9.32.060 states that construction noise between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm, must not exceed 85 dB."

There is a problem with this report. It doesn't tell the real story. The original complaint was made at around 9AM that morning. Lisa Volpe did not show up on the scene until after 11AM. But when she finally did show up, right there with her for this inspection was the unidentified reporter from the Mountain Views News.

Now the theory held by residents that I spoke with (unlike the MVN, the Tattler does talk to people), is that City Hall, upon receiving this report of excessive noise at One Carter, did not exactly spring to immediate purposeful action in order to catch the perpetrators at their dirty work. Apparently the priority was to first contact the Mountain Views News. Which could very well explain the two hour delay. And did this also give City Hall an opportunity to tip off the developer that a noise inspection was very slowly wending its way up Baldwin? Anything can happen in two hours.

Obviously what the MVN printed in their June 13 edition (which hit the streets on June 14), did not cover this story correctly. The real story was inconvenient to the interested parties in town, and the MVN did its part to airbrush it.

The final question would have to be this. Was this "noise inspection" little more than a photo op and media event held for the sole benefit of the Mountain Views News? With City Hall showing more concern for how this story would be reported than the interests of the adversely impacted residents?

That would be my guess.

One Carter area residents have now obtained a noise measuring device of their own. Additionally a camcorder has also been acquired to film the meter should another noise event occur. This video would then be posted to YouTube by our favorite independent film company, Neuroblast Films. Backed up by an on-the-scene report from The Tattler, of course. If we cannot depend upon City Hall to enforce ordinances such as this one, or properly care for the just grievances of resident taxpayers, we'll just have to do the job ourselves.

(There will be one more MVN related post this week, and it will appear tomorrow.)
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Reading: Interesting article in today's Pasadena Star News. "Arcadia makes cuts across the board in budget." Looks like they even got the POA to play ball.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Is Susan Henderson So Excited And Happy About Us Paying More Taxes?

Week after week in the Mountain Views News we get the same steady drum beat about taxes. And what is that message? They're going up and there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing can change, no possible reform of City Hall can take place, and we are obligated to forever pay more and more money for services that frankly aren't as good as they should be, and show no clear sign of improving, either. Only becoming more expensive

And then there is Susan's red herring about "No new money." Unless somebody has been accusing City Hall of printing the stuff in a basement somewhere, it is really quite impossible to figure out where poor old Susan thinks "New Money" might have been coming from.

Now there is about $1,000,000 in previously unaccounted for money that turned up during the audits just completed. Audits that should have been done under the inept administrations of Joffe, Buchanan, and all those other people Susan supports so tirelessly. A breach in basic competence so egregious that the City was obligated to fork over $25,000 in fines to Sacramento. And had Sierra Madre continued the slack fiscal work ethic seen under those previous administrations so near and dear to the MVN, that money wouldn't have been identified and the surplus everyone is so proud of today might never have shown up on our books.

But, and as we can see from the following headline in the June 13th edition of the Mountain Views News (which hit the streets right on schedule June 14th), the canard continues, and in the largest possible type:

Sierra Madre State Of The City ... Mayor Confirms, "There Is No New Money"

No, and there are no flying pigs, abominable snowmen, werewolves, centaurs, firebirds, vampires, hydras, jabberwocks, orcs, rocs, or unicorns. And neither Odin nor The Mighty Zeus have paid us any visits lately, either. And I'm certain that if Susan had asked about the existence of any of those other equally mythological entities, Mayor MacGillivray would have denied their existence as well. As she should.

Nobody anywhere ever said there was "new money." This is nothing but an Urban Myth that Susan Henderson has invented so that she can actually discuss the fiscal accounting disaster left us from the Buchanan/Joffe shenanigan years. By constantly talking about an "extra million dollars" Susan is doing little more than attempting to avoid the elephant in the room. Which is that there was a million dollars in the accounts of Sierra Madre that the high solons of finance under those previous administrations didn't even know existed. It has only now been discovered because then Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, along with MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts, got the job done.

And the major consequence of this "accounting correction," as the more politically correct prefer to term it? In April of 2008 the people of Sierra Madre went to the polls and voted themselves a 100% Utility User Tax increase based on numbers that were over $1,000,000 less than they should have been. They were told we had a deficit when in reality we had a surplus. That is the elephant that Susan Henderson doesn't want anyone to see, and why week after week she writes about this topic in the most delusional and bizarre of ways.

But all that aside, there is one other question here that needs to be asked. What is it that Susan Henderson is thinking? As we all know, Susan likes to consider herself to be the most profound of political managerial visionaries. And despite the defeats her two candidates experienced in 2008 (one of which was the first sitting Mayor to be unceremoniously dumped by the voters here in quite some time), she continues to maintain this most regal of poses.

So assuming that this woman of vast political wisdom is currently working on fashioning the electoral landscape for 2010, what is the message she is crafting for the poor fools unlucky enough to win her support? Well, from what I've been reading, it would seem to be something like the following:

"Taxes are going up, you're going to have to pay them, nothing can be done, nothing can be changed, there is no possible reform at City Hall, you voted for it, so shut up about it and prepare to dig deeper."

Now I certainly do not claim to be a political thinker of the caliber of Susan Henderson, but in an economy as lousy as this one, and in a State that is in both fiscal and political meltdown, that doesn't strike me as being quite the message of hope and optimism that people are going to want to hear very much of next year.