Friday, July 31, 2009

PPIC Poll: Support For AB 32 Declines For The 2nd Straight Year

Now this poll doesn't deal with SB 375, which, for lack of a better term, should probably be referred to as the "BIA Bill." BIA in that the lobbying organization for the construction and redevelopment industries probably scored the greatest victory of its storied existence when it convinced our post-evolutionary representatives in Sacramento that erecting huge amounts of high-density housing in already built-out communities would somehow save the planet from Global Warming.

What was discussed with the citizens by the friendly pollsters at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) was AB 32, also known as the Greenhouse Gas Law. AB 32 advocates such things as the production of low emission automobiles and controlling what comes out of smokestacks. A far more reasonable appoach than what its prodigal son, SB 375, threatens us with. And while it is unfortunate that the now overshadowed AB 32 is the focus of this survey, we'll take whatever information we can get. Here's how the PPIC reports it:

Solid majorities of Californians favor state policies to curb global warming, according to a survey released today ... But in a year that has seen both a worsening recession and state budget crisis, residents' support for urgent action on climate change has slipped and a partisan divide on the issue has widened.

Most residents (66%) support the 2006 California law (AB 32) that requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Support has declined 7 points from July 2008 (73%) and 12 points from 2007 (78%). The decline is sharpest among Republicans (57% 2008, 43% today).

Now AB 32, at least on the surface, is obviously something that does not seem threatening to your average voter. It deals mainly with automobile and smokestack emissions as the source of greenhouse gases, with the solution being the reduction of just that through the creation of cleaner and more efficient technologies. But even with a law that puts the burden mostly on the industrial creators of greenhouse gases and not the consumers of their products, enthusiasm on the topic has begun to wane a bit.

While most see global warming as a threat (47% very serious, 28% somewhat serious) to the economy and quality of life in the state, the percentage of residents who categorize the threat as very serious has declined over the past two years (54% 2007, 52% 2008, 47% today.) Residents are divided over whether the state government should take action to reduce emissions right away (48%) or wait until the economy and state budget situation improve (46%). In July 2008, when the plan to implement AB 32 was being discussed, a majority (57%) said the government should adopt it right away rather than wait (36%).

But as I said above, this really is an out-of-date consideration. Most of the people questioned for this poll probably felt that they were being asked about things such as automakers being required to sell them cars that emit lower levels of greenhouse gases. A quaint concept that really is far less relevant today than it was a couple years back. Because the boys in Sacramento apparently aren't all that concerned about improving the energy efficiency of cars anymore. They have much bigger fish to fry.

What those polled were not asked about is the far more draconian SB 375. I can only wonder how people would react upon being informed that redevelopers sanctioned by the state and backed by the courts might be seizing entire neighborhoods of their cities in order to build massive amounts of high-density multiple-use structures designed in part to house the economically disadvantaged. And I'd really like to see a poll that would get the reaction of these same people upon being informed that packing thousands of new residents into their towns (with all the resulting problems that go with such radically engineered social change) is being done to somehow reduce greenhouse gases.

Somehow I think their support for such an initiative would fade a bit.

A related Los Angeles Times article about this poll can he found here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Three Story Thursday

The news is starting to pile up again, so today we're going to cover three items in one shot. Have to do that once in a while because, let's face it, if we're going to try and cover a lot of issues on this site we really need to take them on as they arrive. And some days they just all come at once. So here goes everything.

The Pasadena Star News is running with a story today that I think is pretty important. The City Council in Glendale has now put their City on record as opposing the 710 Tunnel. This in the face of considerable pressure from Caltrans, various Sacramento lobbyists, and the omnipresent SCAG. Here's the story:

Glendale officials vote to oppose 710 tunnel: City officials voted to oppose a proposed tunnel project that would connect the end of the 710 Freeway to the 210 Freeway at Tuesday night's meeting ... Glendale's vote puts it with La Canada Flintridge and South Pasadena as opposing the project ... In the resolution, which passed by a vote of 4-1, city officials cite increased traffic along the 210 Freeway north of the 134 Freeway as the main reason to oppose the project.

Since Sierra Madre is as much affected by traffic on the 210 Freeway as our 3 sister cities in the beautiful San Gabriel Valley, maybe we need to get this agendized during Public Comments at our next City Council meeting? Filling this already murky valley with increased airborne toxins from the huge potential increase in truck traffic coming out of the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro will do irreparable harm to both seniors and young children. Our stake is no less than any other city in the San Gabriel Valley. We need to make our voices heard.

And there is more to this Glendale story. The leading opposition voice there is a City Councilman by the name of Ara Najarian. And Najarian is also the new chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the very organization that will eventually vote on the project. This is a guy who is speaking out strongly on the issue, and his leadership is making a big difference. The Glendale News Press ran a story recently about a bogus poll run by Caltrans lobbyist Nat "The Police Poet" Read and his so-called 710 Freeway Coalition in an attempt to derail growing opposition to tunnel. This is how Mr. Najarian responded to the situation:

"I think his poll and his survey is a joke," said Councilman Ara Najarian ... "And to infer that the 710 Coalition needs to do a poll to tell us what our residents are concerned about is really kind of a desperate attempt for them to sell the tunnel to Glendale" ... "If the 710 tunnel people think that South Pasadena was the fly in their soup, they are going to be dealing with the residents of Glendale and its surrounding areas," he said. "We are going to be a force to be reckoned with on this matter."

You really have to respect a guy willing to speak out like that. Maybe we can get him to stop by a week from Tuesday to add his voice to an effort to get this issue before our City Council?

Meanwhile in Santa Barbara there is quite a debate on the issue of, you got it, high-density housing in mixed-use developments. Seems to be going around these days. The specific problem there seems to be something known by the acronym MODA, which stands for Mobility Oriented Development Area. The idea being that if you house citizens in MODA units they will also work close by and therefore not require automobiles. Automobiles, of course, being the only culprit in the global warming pantheon that high-density addicted city planners seem to want to consider. And so confident are these planners that new residents will happily sit in their boxes automobile-free that MODA units will come with no parking of any kind attached. This from the Santa Barbara Independent article Can't Get There From Here:

As part of the MODA concept, City Hall would have to seriously relax - "decouple" is the term favored by city planners - its current parking requirements. By eliminating the space developers must set aside for parking - roughly 300 square feet per parking space - the cost of land would presumably be reduced. And with a decent public transit system in place, cars would become optional and not necessities. That, at least, is the theory.

Seems to be the assumption of most planners attempting to convince our fine California cities to introduce vast new lower income high-density housing into the middle of their quaint boutique neighborhoods. And that all this disfigurement of their city will be worth it because these new people won't drive cars, thus saving the world from Global Warming. Here's an example of the resulting skepticism:

Critics of the MODA approach also worry that if the new "de-coupled" units are not required to provide adequate parking as part of a strategy to bring the cost of development down, then MODA residents and their visitors will park on public streets, thus creating a whole new planning nightmare.

One man's Mobility Oriented Development Area is another man's Transit Village I suppose. My personal take is that people fortunate enough to be housed in low-cost housing will begin to experience the happy sensation that comes with having some discretionary cash to spend. And like any other red-blooded Americans the first thing they will want to do with it is get themselves a fine new automobile. Just because they live near a bus stop is no reason to assume that they're going to fall in love with the idea of taking one to work everyday. This being is the cognitive flaw at the heart of all these kinds of projects.

Take it from someone who rode New York City public transportation for 10 years, cars are much nicer. And people will not give them up that easily. If more planner advocates of high-density development actually took the public transportation that they see as being the panacea for the world's ills, they might understand that.

And then there is this:

The debate over density has roiled Santa Barbara's once solid coalition of slow-growthers and environmentalists for more than ten years now, with both sides casting aspersions on the other's motivations. Critics of high density development have been derided as racists, while affordable housing and "smart growth" advocates have been dismissed as developer stooges, whether wittingly or otherwise.

My my. Makes you wonder if the sudden resurgence of "Green issues" in our little town has more to do with a divide and conquer political strategy than anything else. Considering the two developer stooges pushing it here, I'd be inclined to say yes.

Now in the past few weeks we have discussed the greenhouse gas producing potential of both automobiles and high-density development. With both producing quite a bit of the stuff. But apparently there is something else that is also contributing to Global Warming. And I can't for the life of me figure how I missed it. This from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

Which causes more greenhouse gas emissions, rearing cattle or driving cars? Surprise! According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent - 18 percent - than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

So there you have it. And as far as we here at The Tattler can tell, the world's worst greenhouse gas producing polluter could very well live within shouting distance of here. Yep, and we think we now know who the guy is. Because he has been spotted coming out of his condo at Monrovia Commons, getting into his 8 cylinder Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, and then heading over to T-Burger for two big all beef half pound cheeseburgers.

The veritable triple play of world ending behaviors.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The City Council Met, And Some Important Things Were Decided

Well, there was one big disappointment for me. The $300,000 General Plan consultant was neither proposed or debated last night. I was so looking forward to that one. If there is one topic that I really enjoy writing about, it's how the Old Guard members of the City Council love to propose spending mad money on consultants, and for just about anything imaginable. And this consultant, as far as I can tell, could possibly have even exceeded the cost of that once upon a time Top Secret document known as the DSP. To put it acronymically. Which isn't a real word, but it should be.

Of course, now that we know the names of the new members of the General Plan Committee, there will be a renewed urgency on the part of the O.G. to get a consultant in there pronto. Because as we all know, neither one of these esteemed gents will go a single step further in politics here in the uni-party State of California should a new General Plan emerge from Sierra Madre that does not meet the goals set by their patrons in the BIA, CAR, SCAG, SGVCOG, LCC, LAMSGVGC, and the rest of the alphabet soup of deranged city wreckers.

Just the way things go around in these parts. Produce or perish.

Now it is the theory of many here that the reason Joe Mosca made his quixotic quest for the Mayor's seat several months back is because of the General Plan Committee. And that the prospect of a committee staffed by people who would not be happily pushing the agenda that Joe subscribes to (can we say BIACARSCAGSGVCOGLCCLAMSGVGC?) was something not only horrifying to the tad, but also equally distressing to those whose favor he so desperately desires. You see, it's not just that Joe wants to see lots of condos built here. It is also that Sierra Madre was supposed to be an early stepping stone on the path to bigger and better things for him. And if you watch closely enough, you will see in Joe's face a man whose dreams are dying. One City Council meeting at a time. And now the only thing standing between Joe Mosca and career disaster is next April's election. Because if the Old Guard fails to recapture the City Council in 2010, Joe is politically a dead issue. Those people will drop him like a bad habit.

So congratulations to Ken Anholt, Denise Delmar, Leslee Hinton, Debbie Sheridan, and Teryl Willis on being selected for the General Plan Committee! Can we say Dream Team?

Couple of other things happened that caught my eye. The White Elephant known as One Crater was trotted out for yet another shampooing. What is this, the 28th time? The project that just keeps on taking apparently has more lives than all the cats in the valley. This ecological disaster zone obviously is in desperate need of work, so what else can we do but allow the current dirt pushers their chance at making it into something more than a latent mudslide? Particularly with the rainy season not all that far away? And while it is good that CS One Carter was put under what appears to be a tight 5 (or was it 6) month schedule, who is to say they won't come back and ask for yet more time in January? After all, our other bad dates did.

Nice to see that original Gang of Four member John Buchanan has grown weary of all the One Carter delays. And watching him attempt to ham up some indignation over the whole sad affair was the source of some comedy here at the Maundry Compound last night. But wouldn't it have been nice if perhaps he hadn't voted to turn the entire mountain over to the vastly inept Dorn Platz in the first place? It was all kind of like listening to Mrs. O'Leary and her cow complaining about the poor quality of Chicago's Fire Department.

One other observation on One Carter. Let's say the current owners get all that infrastructure work done, put the storm sewers in place, and meet all the requirements that they are obliged to fulfill. And sitting there a-shining in the beautiful Sierra Madre sun would be perfectly laid out lots with nicely paved roads connecting them. Is anybody really going to plunk down the $800,000 needed to buy one? Maybe I'm just out of touch with the whole McMansion thing, but doesn't that seem just a little bit pricey to you? Usually when you drop that kind of money you get a house with that lot.

Who knows, after this whole thing finally collapses under the weight of its own absurdity, perhaps One Carter will finally find some peace as something useful. Maybe as a vineyard?

Chateau Buchanan they could call it. Home of the world famous Two Buch Chuck.

Oh, and on that Hart Park House/Sierra Madre Room tip. Maybe it's because I work in an entirely different kind of business, but couldn't we just go to a bunch of contractors and see if any of them might want to take on the whole project for, let's say, $300,000? Times are tough out there right now, particularly for contractors. And that really is a serious sum. Just ask the question. Can't hurt, and right now you just never know what people might be willing to do.

If I was the Mayor I'd make Donald Trump's "The Art of the Deal" required reading for all City staff. From my perspective they really could use a little toughening up. Seriously. Not going back to the same contractors for a second bid after your boss decided the first one stunk? Because they might not like it?

You wouldn't last very long on The Apprentice saying stuff like that. No-Sir-Ree-Bob.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sacramento's Not So Funny Money

So if it was late 1864 and you happened to be a resident of one of the remaining few regions left to the Confederate States of America, you might very well have gotten something very similar to what we've reproduced here. (Click on the document to enlarge.) It probably would have been a little more 19th century retro in appearance, with maybe a picture of Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee to dress it up a bit. But the purpose behind it would have been basically the same. Because what you are looking at is scrip issued by a failed government that cannot pay its debts.

Of course, this is California, and it is still very much 2009. And what we see here is the tax refund "check" issued by Sacramento and mailed to someone I know. Schoolteachers, such as my friend, are paid 10 months out of the year. And during those 2 months they have off they're pretty much on their own. But, and as many of them have learned, if you get an extension on paying your State income taxes, your refund check will arrive during the off season when you really need the scratch. And you use that money to live on until school is back in session. So imagine the surprise you would have experienced when you received this little beauty. Because, and as it says right on this document, you won't be cashing it until October. Summer job here we come. That is, if you can find one.

Now the official term for this item is not scrip, or funny money, or Confederate money, or even a "bag full of lottery tickets." Sacramento would never use terminology as crass as that. No, and as is usual when government screws up badly, neutral language must be crafted to make it seem like things aren't as bad as they really are. And in this case that neutral language is Registered Warrant. Here is how our State Controller defines it:

A registered warrant is a "promise to pay," with interest, that is issued by the State when there is not enough cash to meet all the State's payment obligations. Registered warrants are legally negotiable instruments that bear a maturity date of October 2, 2009. IOUs may be redeemed, with interest, by the State Treasurer on or after October 2, 2009 ... These IOUs are issued in the place of regular warrants, or checks. The interest rate, set by the State Pooled Money investment Board on July 2, 2009, is 3.75% per year.

3.75% per year? Talk about your sub-prime interest rate.

Of course, having money garnished from your paycheck because the State does not trust you to save up enough on your own to pay your income tax bill is bad enough. But to have it turn out that it is those who are taking that money who can't cover their debts, well, that might seem galling to some. Especially those stuck with temporarily useless paper like my friend. But our State government does not believe in equally shared obligation. These are people that, while paid by us, do not actually work for us anymore. They've taken on a life of their own.

So when Sacramento comes around to places like Sierra Madre to take away $300,000 in our property tax money, or our CRA money, or remove our rights to CEQA reviews of any potential toxic impact caused by State imposed redevelopment projects, or to tell us what we can and cannot include in our General Plan anymore, just remember one thing. They are the exact same people that couldn't find it in themselves to cover a schoolteacher's income tax refund check.

And as such are persons completely without honor.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Candidate For California Assembly That Actually Gets It?

I was checking out some of the articles on the City Watch site last night. City Watch deals with California politics from a City of Los Angeles perspective. And a lot of what is covered there affects us whether we like it or not. Act locally, think regionally might be one way of putting it.

I came across a piece written by a guy named David Coffin. David, as his City Watch article points out, is running in the 51st California Assembly District special election on September 1st. Something that really didn't excite me all that much, I must admit. But I plowed on, and I'm glad I did.

Turns out David Coffin isn't just another paid for Donklephant mouthing whatever meaningless platitudes you usually get from the major parties. He is a successful business owner and aeronautics engineer (he's worked on the B-2, F-18, C-17 and F-22 projects) who is running for Assembly as an Independent. And he is doing this because he is authentically concerned about what is going on in our crazy state. One of the big issues of concern for him is the insanity of pushing high-density development when there are not the natural resources in place to sustain it. With the resource of biggest concern being water.

I'm going to post a portion of the article here. David isn't running in our Assembly District, so I'm not sure how much we can do from here. The 51st A.D. covers the area from LAX and through Gardena. However, the guy certainly is a kindred spirit. And as we discover more and more people standing up and questioning the kinds of madness that pass for governance in this state, I think we have a duty to honor their courage. Because taking on the powerful folks who have a big economic stake in runaway development takes some guts. And it is nice to know we aren't alone.

Drought Cause: Poor Planning, Over-Development: Drought has many forms, but Mother Nature is only a bit player in today's water crisis. Our drought is caused primarily by poor planning and over-development. State Senate bill SB 610 was supposed to protect water supply but it contains a huge loophole that allows planners and developers to use outdated water management plans that promise sufficient water supplies for growth but never deliver.

So how does this happen? It happens because we ignore our resources when we set housing goals. Every seven years a Regional Housing Needs Assessment is handed down by the State that sets housing targets for Southern California cities to meet. Even when those cities don't have the jobs or the infrastructure to support it.

The California Department of Finance recently 'projected' that Southern California's population will double between 2000 and 2050 from 18.7 million people to 30.3 million! With those numbers in hand and without any real regard to water availability, the Southern California Associations ('SCAG') cited the need for 699,368 new housing units.

Pretty much sounds like what is going on around here, right? Sacramento's current push for huge new development in Southern California is based on population growth projections that have yet to pan out. Currently an awful lot of people are leaving the state, and far fewer coming in. This has led to the very real possibility that California will lose a seat in Congress for the first time in state history. Something which calls into question SCAG's suspect and probably BIA-driven projections.

Here is how these issues are spelled out on the David Coffin for California Assembly website:

Infrastructure & Our Water Supply: We have a water shortage because of California's insistence to meet population projections that they predict will double by 2050. State and local planning is out of sync with the realities of our regions resources and infrastructure. Southern California cannot be allowed to continue to grow unchecked to the point where growth strangles our quality of life. Nature has imposed limitations on our region that needs to be recognized by the State of California and its local government the Southern California Association of Governments ("SCAG").

Planning: STOP RUBBER STAMPING DEVELOPMENTS THAT DON'T FIT. No more accepting Sacramento's gospel that we need housing for another 15 million people that would double our population in Southern California and 30 million in the state when we KNOW that we do not have the infrastructure (water, streets, electricity) or services to sustain that kind of growth. California's planning policy needs to be based first of the availability of resources, not faith in projections.

Environment: Planning policies developed by the state and policed by SCAG that encourage doubling the region's population can only hurt the environment and our residents. More people, more cars, more solid waste, more sewage all challenge the efforts to create a green environment.

Here in Sierra Madre we have two City Councilmen who await the day when they would be put back into power and allowed to unleash things like SB 375 on this town. Something that would result in massive over-development, degrading both the beauty of this town and the quality of life we now enjoy. And while they cynically mouth nonsense about high-density development being a "Green" initiative, their true concerns are little more than creating an opportunity for their patrons in the redevelopment and realty industries to make money. After all, if these two characters were as Green as they claimed to be, wouldn't they have connected the dots between our limited water resources and the increased demand new development would bring?

As always, those apples never fall far from the Sacramento tree.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

THE Magazine's Steve Tobia Wants To Save The World With Style

I don't know if you receive THE Magazine in THE Mail, but I do. THE Magazine, as it describes itself, "is a luxury lifestyle publication for the affluent and educated residents in the Pasadena Foothills Region, Southern California's new urban region of economic social power." And for the life of me I can't figure out why I've been included on their mailing list. Because if I match the economic criteria THE Magazine has set to qualify for inclusion on their register of the chosen, then the claims being made for this publication on their website could be about as full of malarkey as Paddy's pig.

Which, being something of an expert on malarkey, I suspect is the case. After all, there are products advertised in this publication that (should I be given one), would raise enough money to pay off my mortgage when properly pawned. Which leads me to believe that this magazine really isn't completely for the authentically moneyed, or for people who are all that sophisticated, either. Rather a lot of it is for those who are impressed by that sort of stuff, and dream of a time when they too can participate in the ostentatious consumerism flogged there.

THE Magazine strikes me as being very much a child of its time. Which by my calculation was around 2007. You might recall that was the celebrated moment when the more foolhardy among us were refinancing their vastly overvalued homes with uncapped interest-only subprime loans, then taking the acquired booty and buying the kinds of products one finds in THE Magazine. And let's face it, nobody is more susceptible to naive consumerism than the temporarily affluent. But now it is mid-2009, the house is in receivership, the golden doorknobs, platinum johns and fussy statuary are up for bids on eBay, and the banks holding the paper on these parvenu palaces of pretension are whining to Uncle Sam for big chunks of our tax money to help them stave off bankruptcy.

In other words, it truly is a time of economic crisis when Americans are no longer capable or willing to plunk down some large coin for expensive automobiles, accessories, or designer clothing. After all, the fiscal health of the world depends upon us to doing just that. And since so few of us are committed to that sort of consumer behavior these days, we truly must be in a time of economic crisis.

And this is where Steve Tobia and his Sierra Madre-based THE Magazine have boldly stepped forward. In the September edition Steve deals out a challenge to his readership. That is to save America by purchasing fashion at local boutique clothing stores. And no big box fashion, please! Here is how he lays it all out:

THE Magazine's Local Economic Stimulus Package

Imagine: If Each of the 20,000 affluent households that receive THE Magazine committed to spending just $1,000 in New Fall Fashion at LOCALLY OWNED boutiques from September 10th though October 10th - WE CAN GENERATE $20 MILLION IN SALES FOR LOCAL BOUTIQUES.

If Each Local Family brought their old clothes to these participating LOCALLY OWNED boutiques throughout the month of September and October (and) placed them in "GOODWILL Career Closet" Donation Boxes WE CAN HELP 20,000 PEOPLE WHO NEED NEW CLOTHES.

If Each Local Boutique Donated 10% new sales from September 10th through October 10th when old clothes are donated WE CAN RAISE $2 MILLION FOR THESE CHARITIES IN ONE MONTH.

The Math: 20,000 affluent households x $1,000 each in new clothes = $20 million. 10% of $20 million in gross sales = $2 million for charity in one month.

Now far be it from me to gainsay the work of Steve and what I am sure is an honorable attempt at doing something positive about the economic crisis and the effect that it has had on many living in the San Gabriel Valley. But honestly, even if I had a spare grand to spend on clothes, I'm not sure I'd even know how to wear the kind of stuff you get at a boutique. And if you did sport that kind of stuff where I work they'd assume you have to be at court that day. And not in a lawyerly capacity.

Now we here at the Maundry Compound do fill up bags with old clothes every once in a while. And usually we give them to the Vietnam Veterans of America. Who, by the way, have a very good used clothing store over in Duarte, not too far from Costco. Not exactly a boutique per se, but they do have lots of good deals, especially in children's clothing. Believe me, when you shop there your kids'll be wearing some highly unique and idiosyncratic t-shirts from places nobody has even heard of.

I suppose I could drop my stuff off at a clothing boutique. But I am going to have to warn those concerned about what exactly it is they'll be getting.

1) Wrangler blue jeans from Wal*Mart. These I buy for around $15 a pair. They're very comfortable, and last for a surprisingly long time. I have several pair now that started out as dark blue and, though repeated washings, have faded to a very appealing cornflower color.

2) Arrow shirts from Sears. I'm not sure if this qualifies as "big box fashion" or not, but I do know that most clothing boutiques do not carry Arrow shirts. And I love the things. Retro as all get out. You can't beat anything made of cotton, and Arrow has the good sense to cut their shirts long so that you can actually tuck them in deep enough to ensure they'll stay that way. And that's important for us taller gentlemen. And cool? I think so.

3) Tube socks and sneakers from Costco. You can't beat their tube socks. White with gray heels and toes, plus a generous padding for the sole that guarantees you'll glide through the day. And you just never know what kind of sneakers you'll find there. Right now I'm sporting a pair of Filas that have got to be the homeliest shoes in town. They look a little like the boots people recovering from foot surgery might wear, though not quite so large. Simply glorious.

4) Ariat work boots from The Boot Barn. Now here is the one luxury I do afford myself. They look like cowboy boots, but they don't have the high heel or pointy toe thing going on. Which are useful if you ride horses, but why would I want to pretend I do? Ariats are incredibly comfortable with heels hard enough to give you some serious attitudinal presence if you drag them across the floor properly. They usually last about 3 years, so I'm figuring I could cough up my present pair by early 2011.

I'm not sure that I qualify for THE Magazine's Local Economic Stimulus Package effort. So I'm guessing they'll need to drop that number of affluent households participating to 19,999. Which is still a pretty decent effort, I must say.

I wish them the best of luck.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mommy? Why Did That Man Say They're Taking Away My Library?

I was looking through various websites at some of the pictures from our 4th of July parade, and came across a couple of shots depicting some young children standing in front of our city library waving their cards while their parents held signs begging the place be saved. I stared at these images for a couple of minutes, and just couldn't help wondering why someone would lie to their kids like that. It was all just so cheap a political stunt.

At our last City Council meeting some obviously perplexed residents stepped up to the podium to ask questions about this odd situation. I believe it was Fay Angus, a renowned writer and long time champion of our library, who expressed it best. "Why would anyone claim that our library is in danger of being taken away when it so obviously isn't?" Nobody really had an answer. Then the same question was directed at John Buchanan, an individual many suspect played a role in this canard. John, knowing a lost cause when he saw one, did the lawyerly thing and dummied up. It was then that Mayor MacGillivray spoke the words that were obvious to all. "This is a non-issue."

You might recall a few days back we discussed the East Montecito Specific Plan. And one of the points made was that if you want to tear down a neighborhood and replace it, you're going to have to work real hard to convince people that the place deserves destruction. And a way you might attempt to do this is launch a public relations campaign running the place down. And in the case of East Montecito, the language used to attempt the deed went like this:

"This customary type of single-use planning has yielded sprawl-type development, characterized by homogenous and monotonous buildings that ignore the street and have large curb-cuts, little interconnectivity with surrounding neighborhoods or urban fabric, and the kind of segregation of uses that would otherwise fit well together. This kind of undistinguished development is easily recognizable all over Southern California and, to some degree, in certain areas of Sierra Madre."

A rather cold and technocratic way of describing what is basically a pleasant tree-lined residential street, right? Of course, some of the jargon is funny. "Curb-cuts" being planner jabber for a driveway that leads to the front yard. And then there is: "... little interconnectivity with surrounding neighborhoods or urban fabric." I think that is what most of us would refer to as a community that offers privacy.

Now a few years back there was a move afoot to tear down our existing library and replace it with something far larger. It would have been very expensive, and it probably would have resulted in the razing of an existing structure or two to free up the necessary space. And there were some other problems as well. The biggest being that not a lot of people in Sierra Madre really saw any point in going to all that trouble.

A poll was conducted to see just how much support there would be for a new library facility. And the results were not very positive for those hoping to tear down our library and build a new one. You see, some people actually liked things the way they were.

- Asked if the were generally satisfied with the City's library services, 78% said yes, and 7% said no.
- When respondents were asked if they would support an assessment of $75 per household per year for 30 years (for a new library), 48% said they would support the assessment, 38% said they would not, and 14% did not know ... Clearly there is work to be done. In order to be successful, a local library bond must receive at least 66 2/3s% of the total votes cast.

So what did the advocates of a new library set out to do in order to freshen those polling numbers a bit? They used pretty much the same method as those who desired to plow under East Montecito, and started bad mouth the library. Here is some of the language they used in their attempt to accomplish that end:

- Rodent infestation.
- Nonexistent building sprinkler system/fire suppression system
- Access to restrooms is too steep
- Hallways to restrooms are too narrow
- Parking area and walkway entrances are too steep
- Solid walls are inadequate to withstand an earthquake
- Inefficient indoor lighting
- Noise levels are too high
- Acoustics are very poor, no buffers between any rooms so noise travels uninterrupted
- Restrooms: limited number
- No dedicated Young Adult area
- Trip & Fall exposure great due to crowding
- Earthquake could be severe (large retention falls upon City; EQ insurance not purchased)
- Fire, no fire suppression system could result in great loss to collection (a large city asset)

Sounds like you'd be taking your life into your hands just walking into a building like that, you know? If the earthquakes don't get you, the rats surely will. But did it occur to them that you don't put sprinklers in a library because of the unfortunate effect it could have on the books?

You know what the irony here is, right? The gentlefolk who organized the "Save the Library" demonstration a few weeks ago are pretty much the same people responsible for advocating its destruction back then.

Funny how things go around.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Pasadena Star News Doesn't Read Itself

A month or two back I called the Pasadena Star News because I was trying to figure out who wrote one of their editorials. They had written something or other about Sierra Madre, and I figured if I spoke to enough people there someone would spill the beans. But it turns out that is a big secret for the inner sanctums of our local newspaper of record, and no matter what kind of routine I ran on them (pleased citizen wanting to send a cookie bouquet, angry reader, the guy who is about to cancel his subscription for any one of a million reasons, or, my favorite, the guy who has a lot of great ideas and thinks they should use some of them), none of my usual tricks worked. These guys held on to their big secret like they were CIA agents or something.

And now I think I know why. It's in case they make a mistake. Because if you're going to share an opinion about how the world should be run, and within that opinion is included a big old throbbing blunder, well, at least you have that veil of secrecy to hide behind. I can only imagine that Larry Wilson has wished for such a luxury from time to time.

Now I have to admit to something. I have grown fond of the Pasadena Star News. They have some pretty decent reporters, and the paper has an earnest and unpretentious way of going after the news. Their on-line features such as Topix, while certainly a bit rough at times, can also be an interesting workout for those of us who enjoy arguing politics with fabulously agitated people. And the PSN certainly does a much better job reporting on the affairs of our favorite town than that pair of junk weeklies we're cursed with.

So I have to tell you that I take no real pleasure in relating the following. Well, not too much, anyway. But it is kind of funny. And apparently I read their paper way more than they do.

Today's PSN editorial is entitled Our View: Cities should take the deal. And it contains an opinion that should be of keen interest to Sierra Madre, along with the many fine readers of this blog. That being cities such as ours should give some real consideration to dumping their costly police departments and bringing in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Very topical stuff. But then they go and ruin it all with the following:

"In tiny Sierra Madre, as in other small cities in these tight economic times, having its own police department is like having a millstone tied around its neck. It has nearly drowned them in a sea of red ink. That's why the City Council is looking at contracting out its police services with the Sheriff's Department or the Pasadena or Arcadia police departments."

I can only hope and pray Elaine Aguilar doesn't see that. She takes this sort of thing very seriously.

Now on June 24 (not all that long ago), the Pasadena Star News ran an article called Sierra Madre in better financial shape than many of its neighbors. And in it was the following paragraph:

"(Sierra Madre) 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."

Now does THAT sound like a city drowning in red ink? I should say not. And while those figures are a little bit on the rich side, we really are running some rather nice surpluses these days, thank you. Mostly due to that 100% UUT increase we somehow got conned into voting ourselves.

But what makes this all a little exasperating is that the PSN's editorial department actually published a viewpoint recently (June 5) that talked not only about Sierra Madre's budgetary surpluses, but also how we need to get the UUT hike back on the ballot and voted out of existence.

Here is a telling excerpt from Our View: Sierra Madre should reconsider tax:

"As we noted in this space last March, whoops! An outside audit found an extra $1 million that hadn't been properly accounted for ... In little Sierra Madre, population 11,000 souls, that's real money. As we noted previously, it makes the difference between what would have been an operating deficit at the end of this month, the close of this city's fiscal year, of $315,000; instead, the city will be in the black with a surplus of approximately $46,000."

Drowning in a sea of red ink my foot.

Now, my dear Pasadena Star News friends, here's the real reasons why we're considering sending our Police Department packing. The first being they sue us a lot. We spend a ton of loot on lawyers to defend ourselves from junk lawsuits over nonsense like PD locker searches. It is both expensive and offensive to have these ingrates going after us this way. Especially after we voluntarily raised our own taxes to give them their damned raise. And secondly, we want to take YOUR advice and get rid of the UUT increase. And the best way of doing that is cutting the costs of law enforcement in this town, something that accounts for 52% of our General Fund expenditures. And if these studies the City Council is working on pan out, and the numbers look right, we might actually be able to do that by bringing in Lee Baca's outfit. Who knows?

Maybe I should call the Pasadena Star News today and pretend to be the guy that wants to help them out by editing the editorials covering Sierra Madre. And then again, maybe not. I do have a day job, and we all know that if you don't focus, you can make mistakes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The LA Weekly Takes On The Great Los Angeles Greenwashing Craze

In case you might have thought that we here at The Tattler were just about the only people going on about this stuff, the alternative paper of record the LA Weekly recently printed a rather amazing expose of just exactly how the language and images of the Green concern have been hijacked by such disinterested parties as redevelopers, real estate peddlers, and the so-called Green Politicians that serve them. Even the oil companies are in on it. People who are to the environment what fur trappers are to baby seals. It isn't a pretty picture.

The article is entitled Envirowimps: LA's Big Green Groups Get Comfy. And while you really should click on the link I've provided and read the whole thing, I will reprise a couple of passages because of their relevance to what we are seeing here in Sierra Madre. Watching the likes of Joe Mosca and John Buchanan cynically pushing their BIA high-density redevelopment agenda as somehow being "green" in city council meeting after meeting as if it was received wisdom from some almighty source kind of demands at least a bit of discussion. And if you put these two gents into the context of this LA Weekly piece you will see that they are just a couple of garden variety LA County pols pushing the same tainted nonsense as the rest of the rotten bunch. And apparently there are a lot of these characters out there.

The first of two topics that we have raised here recently are SB 375, the Sacramento enacted law (thanks Anthony Adams!) that, while claiming to be a measure that will cut greenhouse gases and the global warming they cause, is actually little more than a license for redevelopers to push high-density development upon unwilling communities now stripped of the legal protections to resist them. The other one being transit villages like The Stuart in Pasadena, or the now apparently endangered El Monte Transit Village. An equally cynical concept, and one that can cause considerable health damage to the small children living in them.

First let's deal with the Orwellian concept that building huge generic condo complexes in LA County will save the world:

Under the current crop of politicians, developers have marketed, or "green-washed," huge buildings to the Los Angeles public as "sustainable" - meaning healthy for the environment over the long term - when critics say they actually create more traffic congestion, more pollution and a plainly lower quality of life ... In Hollywood, the political turf of green-friendly City Council President Eric Garcetti and 4th District City Councilman Tom LaBonge, Bob Blue saw one proposed skyscraper or giant condo complex after another come before the community group he chaired, the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. Outsize projects that ignore local zoning restrictions are now peddled by developers as good because they are "LEED" buildings, meaning they offer such features as low-flush toilets, on-site renewable energy and improved indoor-air-quality standards ... lost in the push for LEED certification has been the pressing question of whether the environmental benefits of these buildings outweigh the negatives. Do these big structures cause more emissions by attracting increased traffic and encouraging congested streets filled with idling cars, for example, than they claim to reduce? In truth, nobody knows - including the many cities such as L.A. whose development approvals now require LEED standards. "But if you have a project that would normally be four stories high and now has 20 stories," says Blue, who supports the concept of LEED design, "it still adds enormous weight to the infrastructure." There is a "net increase in power, water, sewer, traffic, pollution and impact to the immediate surrounding area." The community activist adds, "I think that this is being missed by everybody."

We have seen similar pro-development sentiments pushed by the two Sierra Madre Councilman whose names I mentioned above. One of them, Joe Mosca, actually heads the SCAG/SGVCOG associated committee tasked with enforcing the high-density housing edicts demanded by SB 375 here in the San Gabriel Valley. That this would be dressed up as somehow being Green because the toilets are low-flow and some of the power produced by solar panels can be seen as representative of the general hype. The devastating traffic increases and demands on such fragile resources as water, power, plus the overall negative impact on the quality of life here, makes all of this a fool's bargain.

The LA Weekly continues:

Blue's hardly alone in his criticism. Rex Frankel, a widely respected independent voice in L.A.'s environmental movement and director of the think tank ConnectingCalifornia.org, says, "If you're using LEED to justify greater density, it's a false tradeoff ... we'll still face more time in traffic, increased smog and other impacts. It's just another example of green-washing."

The other issue that concerns this typer is that of so-called Transit Villages. Sold to many cities across the country as being somehow environmentally helpful, in practice they have become something quite different. And this article covers those concerns as well.

One example can be seen in the new trend of land speculators and developers proposing apartment and condo complexes near freeways,in many cases arguing that the buildings are "sustainable" because they bring workers closer to jobs. The developments often get the blessing of L.A. City council- to the horror of health experts. The University of Southern California and other research institutions now know for certain that children living in these projects are burdened with serious, often lifelong lung and respiratory illnesses caused by a relentless stream of traffic nearby. "They are putting individuals at risk," says USC professor of preventive medicine Jim Gauderman, of the politicians, developers and greens. His 2007 study made that clear.

Friends of ours took up temporary quarters at The Stuart while the house they just bought was being refurbished. They described the experience as being horrible. Most notable to them was the steady roar of the traffic on the 210. And as the parents of young children they understood the dangers and couldn't wait for their month there to end. And as I saw when we visited, this complex is in no way permanent housing for anyone. Most of those living there are only in place for a short period of time, and the management is constantly not only in search of new tenants, but also trying to keep the ones they already have.

The perspective that we need to take here in Sierra Madre is that none of this really has very much to do with creating "sustainable" buildings designed to save the world from global warming. Instead it is just the latest con ginned up by a development industry hungry for building space in places such as the highly profitable LA County market. 

Previously we were told that high-density housing was something we were obliged to accept in our community because it would create affordable living quarters for the less provident among us. And when that didn't work, the BIA and CAR types concocted an entirely new sales pitch, that building big condos complexes will some how save the world from global warming.

It's time some folks grew up a little and recognized this for what it really is, marketing designed by powerful interests to sucker in the gullible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Tale Of Two Planets

It's funny, but every once in a while you can read something out there that actually smacks of the truth. It doesn't happen too much, and more often than not it's because somebody either made a mistake or just blabbed too much. Sometimes it even takes the comparison of two or more articles to tease out the real meaning of things. And that is what we plan on doing today. Because the contrast is truly revealing of the kind of cant and propaganda that often passes for legitimate debate in this town.

The cause of the situation we are about to explore today is the recent initiative presented by our City Council to find a way to cut the General Fund budget through out-sourcing some of our city services. And since the Sierra Madre Police Department will soon account for 52% of that General Fund, it is only natural that other law enforcement options be at least explored.

The first nugget of half-truth comes from the article on our possibly "contracting out for police services" that ran last Friday in the Pasadena Star News. In this piece Sierra Madre City Councilman Joe Mosca attempts to make a case for maintaining our Police Force exactly as it is today. His reason for this being the wonderful sense of community and shared responsibility they enjoy with the residents of this town.

"Having your own police department, from a community perspective, allows for the type of policing that Sierra Madreans have become accustomed to," Mosca said. "The police know the residents' names, know the folks in the community, and work with residents to make sure the streets of Sierra Madre are as safe as possible."

(Where I grew up you actually didn't want the Police to know your name. And if they did it was for reasons you wished had never happened. But that's something we can talk about another time.)

Now Joe's description here makes the current condition sound down right paradisiacal. A community working together with its Police to keep the town not just free of criminals and crime, but also to build a society based on trust and caring. The kind of synergy that most people hope for in a community, but so rarely exists out there in the real world.

And here's the comparison. Over on the Sierra Madre Weekly site there is a rather rambling letter from someone identifying themself as being a "Local law enforcement employee." And the viewpoint that "Llee" shares with us certainly does not mesh with what we're hearing from Joe. It is a rather long piece of writing, so we're going to pull out a single salient portion of this interesting and revealing post and trust you the reader to check out the whole thing on your own later. Believe me, it's worth it.

If you want officers to treat SMPD and your city as more than a door mat they use to get their foot in the law enforcement door, then pay them fairly and treat them with respect. Their equipment is substandard compared to other agencies because they do penny-pinch whether you know it or not. If you want officers to act professionally, then give them a decent wage. If you do not, don't expect them to stick around long enough to really care about your city and your problems. The citizens overwhelmingly ooze a disrespectful attitude towards police employees. I for one could not tolerate serving people like those that live in this city. High maintenance residents and business owners forcing officers to be at their beck and call is worth much more than what they're paid. Officers are required to swallow their pride, and be YES-men and women and basically do whatever the residents want. What six figure would SM residents demand in pay to roll over and put up with the BS like the SMPD employees have to?

Now I might be reading a little too much into this, but don't the accounts of Joe Mosca and "Llee" strike you as being a bit distant from one another? The first would have us think that everything is just as good as it could possibly be, while the other speaks of an oppressed force crushed under the boot of an ungrateful and self-indulgent community of privileged career adolescents.

One question that I would have for "Llee" is exactly how is this oozing disrespect shown to the officers of the SMPD? Do the "high maintenance" taxpayers here habitually stick out their tongues at our men in blue? Do they regularly assault them with haughty looks and high hat attitudes? Have there been cruel and insensitive instances of mooning? Obviously I am not clear on this point.

So is there any real truth to be found in either of these two accounts? Probably not. One is the voice of a disingenuous politician fighting to keep a 100% tax hike in place for reasons that I doubt have much to do with cops. The other an unidentified individual regurgitating a technique straight out of the Lackie & Dammeier "Police Officers' Association" handbook on how to deal with situations like the one I described earlier.

Most of the cops in this part of the world are represented by something called the Police Officers' Association, or POA. And this POA is an organization put together by a law firm called Lackie & Dammeier. These two gents, former police officers themselves, have made quite a lucrative career for themselves representing officers from towns such as ours. And they've done it by using some extremely aggressive techniques. And a few of these aggressive techniques are alluded to in "Llee's" post on the SMW website.

Here are a couple of pithy pieces of advice offered by Lackie & Dammeier:

Public Message - Always keep this in mind. The public could care less about your pay, medical coverage and pension plan. All they want to know is "what is in it for them." Any public positions or statements by the association should always keep that in focus. 

Isn't that pretty much the gist of what "Llee" says in the post made on the SMW site? That we, the civilian population of Sierra Madre, only care about ourselves? And that the needs of the Police are really of no concern to us?

Here's another nugget:

Public Ridicule - Blunders by the City Manager, Mayor, or City Council members ... should be highlighted and pointed out to the public at every opportunity.

From the perspective of "Llee" the blunder here is the City Council not paying the SMPD as much as he/she thinks they should. The consequence being the endangerment of the residents of Sierra Madre by causing experienced officers to leave for better paying cities, among other things.

So there you go, the tale of two planets. Both with their own distinct agendas, and neither willing to share their thoughts in an upfront and honest way. Obviously we need to turn our backs on both and chart a course that best serves the needs of the people actually paying the bills around here. Because if we don't this nonsense will just go on and on.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The El Monte Transit Village: Sacramento Decides To Hang On To Its Money

It looks like Titan Development could very well lose a big reason for its existence. Along with a project that SCAG showered a lot of its waning prestige upon. And the City of El Monte is not very happy about it, either. The reason? It looks like Sacramento doesn't want to fork over about $40 million in state grant money because the project's developers were arrested last month for fraud, embezzlement and theft. And then there is that money already allocated.

Imagine. So when did that ever stop them before?

The Mercury News published a story on this topic last Friday called Developer arrests could halt $1 billion El Monte transit project. And for those among us who might have despaired that
we weren't going to be hearing anything more on this affair, well, read on! It's Monday, and what better day to have your faith renewed?

EL MONTE - The $1.2 billion Transit Village project failed to get two state grants totaling $40 million because of the recent arrests of the project's developers ... John Leung, president of the El Monte-based Titan Development, and Jean Lang, another Titan executive, were arrested last month on felony charges ... "We lost the grant funding because John and Jean were arrested," Councilwoman Emily Ishigaki said.

The consequences of the loss of this money and a previous grant could include the demise of the Transit Village project.

City Manager James Mussenden said now he wants to protect what money the city has secured - a $26.5 million grant awarded last year by the state. "If this money ends up being taken away, we will have just walked 10 years backwards." (and) The state told El Monte officials on June 25 that despite having a strong grant application, that it would not be awarded the grant because of the recent arrests of Leung and Lang, Mussenden said.

Now we here at The Tattler had cynically assumed that we'd heard the last of John Leung's travails, and that because of the nature of the relationship between big redevelopment concerns, Sacramento, and the other concerned parties, this matter would simply disappear into the governmental void that devours all such things. But according to this article that is not necessarily the case, and there really is some hope for future excitement.

While Leung and Lang were previously considered flight risks, El Monte Police Capt. Marcy Vail said she doesn't think that is a problem now because the pair surrendered their passports to the District Attorney ... Three weeks ago Vail said it would only require an additional couple of days to investigate a last minute tip that surfaced while detectives were filing their case with the District Attorney's office ... But with the investigation stalled and funding apparently drying up, police are refusing to release the victim's names, and detectives continue to investigate ... "It is a paper intensive case," Vail said on Thursday. "I expect them to file again by the end of next week ..."

Now there is something here that begs for speculation. If El Monte needs this project as much as certain members of its city apparatus claim, why did their Police Department put this project in danger of fiscal strangulation by arresting John Leung? Can it be that the police there operate entirely independent of such concerns, and just go about the business of law enforcement with little regards to any of the more political concerns? Can there be something else at work here?

Remember, a large amount of cops were recently laid off in El Monte due to the City's precarious financial condition, and by taking out Laing they would have gone straight at the very core of the city and business establishments there. Very much a devastating surgical strike if that is what they're about these days.

The enquiring minds here at The Tattler will be looking for more breaking news on this matter as the week goes on.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Joe Mosca Weasels Wildly

You have to wonder if perhaps the mental health professionals might have a term for it. Reality Aversion Condition? Acute Nixonophilia? Eddie Haskell Syndrome? Weaselosis Prognosis? I should hope that there would be some form of recognizable diagnosis here, because the suffering of the afflicted is real, even if they aren't completely aware of it themselves.

Now I was seated before my computer this evening enjoying some of the usual first class reportage by Alfred Lee in the Pasadena Star News on-line, when I came across some very distressing information. Apparently Joe Mosca was once again suffering from an outbreak of whatever the condition is that I was trying to explain above. Joe's afflictions are of great concern to us here at The Tattler, and I was thoroughly disheartened to see his miseries flaring up anew.

Joe Mosca's problem is that no matter what the issue, he always attempts to take each and every side of it. And this can't be an easy thing to live with. An example would be his struggles with the issue of over-development in this town. You see, he was against it before he was for it, but he's also not for it while at the same time working to make it happen. I mean, how painful can that be? If you repeatedly tell the entire town you're opposed to over-development, yet at the same exact time you're working long and hard as the head of the very SGVCOG committee tasked by Sacramento to locally implement SB 375 (the Great Satan of high density uber-development laws), well, that really is quite a predicament. And I am certain Joe feels positively split right up the middle about it.

Another example can be found in the Pasadena Star News piece that caused me so much concern. The article, Sierra Madre eyes contracting out for police services, points right to the veritable heart of Joe's anguish. You see, what is discussed is the possibility of Sierra Madre contracting out certain city services as a way of saving costs. The driving force here, the 100% Utility User Tax increase initiated to pay for some of those services, has become unpopular as of late due to certain irregularities in how it was hyped to the voters. And Joe, keenly aware of this situation as are all Tattler readers, felt the need to leap to both sides of the issue.

If we were able to realize some savings, and we did take that step, of course that would mean the utility users' tax, which was put in place for public safety, would obviously go down," he said.

As anyone who has followed the controversies surrounding this much unbeloved tax can tell you, there has been no greater champion of holding the line on the UUT hike than Joe Mosca. So for Joe to now consider the other side of this issue as well is, if not completely unexpected, at least a bit abrupt. You can only wonder what caused it.

But hold on, because when you're dealing with Joe, there is always the fine print. And if we don't read into it carefully we could very well miss the actual meaning of what he's laying down.

Mosca added that he was against contracting out fire services, saying it was "off the table" as far as he was concerned.

Now as heroic as his standing up for our Fire Fighters may be, I detect something of a swerve here. Isn't the purpose to farm out some of the costs of running City services so that we can get some relief from the UUT hike? So wouldn't contracting out fire services actually cost us more since ours is a Volunteer Fire Department? I mean, volunteers don't really get paid all that much. Just ask the staff here at The Tattler.

Red herrings aside, the real problem is that big fat raise given by the City in 2007 to our Police and their frisky union by the floundering administration of then Mayor Enid Joffe. A singularly unfortunate and poorly executed event that would have driven Sierra Madre into bankruptcy without the UUT hike. And, as Alfred Lee pointed out, the resulting numbers are not very pretty.

Sierra Madre's recently adopted budget allocates $3.4 million out of the city's $19.8 million budget toward its Police Department in 2009-10. That would account for 52 percent of the city's $6.4 million in general fund expenditures.

So, since most of the increased costs that drove the UUT hike are due to the Police Department raise, obviously what Joe must be considering in his newly found desire to get us some UUT relief is contracting out for police services, right? After all, other cities have done it, and with some success.

Well, maybe not.

"Having your own police department, from a community perspective, allows for the type of policing that Sierra Madreans have become accustomed to," Mosca said. "The police know the residents' names, know the folks in the community, and work with residents to make sure the streets of Sierra Madre are as safe as possible."

Well there you go. Pure Joe Mosca. The only player in the game today who can stand on all 4 bases at once.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What's in it for Me?

Here at Tattler World Headquarters we pay close attention to the many thoughtful comments our readers post, and we could not help but notice a flurry of responses around the idea of volunteering.

From the always perceptive and blessedly succinct Curly:
Volunteerism is important for this community, and such service needs to be honored. But giving without grace only diminishes the effect, and no matter how hard the work becomes the thing people remember most.

From our faithful friend Anonymous, who obviously has a taste for historical accuracy (as well as parenthetical remarks):
Do any of you remember the accusatory tone taken by those who volunteer excessively in town against those who don't (I believe this was in the aftermath of the DSP workshops and during the subsequent Measure V campaign)? That somehow, by virtue of their volunteer status, their opinions should carry more weight in city decisions than those of people who are not so intimately involved in the convoluted city processes (regardless of how the rest of the city residents felt about something)? Most of those "volunteers" behave like they belong to an exclusive club - not one, by the way, I would wish to join.

From the always welcome good Doctor:
...I can think of a few volunteers who were "uninvited" to volunteer. Some committees were disbanded and some of the efforts halted because the Powers did not like the outcome of the volunteer efforts and also, in some cases, did not like some of the volunteers. So it's a badge that's really a misnomer. It's not about volunteering, it's about being included in the Power structure.

Thus in the hands of the Downtown Investors Club, in the clutches of the development realty consortium, volunteering loses it's most salient characteristic: to give without expectation of any return. It is not a quid pro quo kind of deal, unless the something you get back is deeper peace and well being because you're a part of the common good. Volunteering is not intended to be used for networking, advertising, pumping up the good old meet and greets, or forwarding any agendas other than helping to answer a need. To volunteer as a infiltration strategy, to keep an eye on the potential gain rather than on the service, is to corrupt a beautiful thing.

In addition, let's consider the irony of the Downtown Investors Club claiming exclusive volunteer street cred, while in actuality there were people who have volunteered for decades supporting Measure V, circulating petitions, and speaking up at public forums. Because they didn't pound their chests and boast about their good deeds, perhaps the D.I.C. missed them. It's flat out wrong to say that Measure V supporters, slow growth advocates, did not and do not volunteer. The pro-development movers and shakers value volunteers? What better refutation of that manipulative sentiment could there than the infamous moment when Joe Mosca told one of the preeminent volunteers of Sierra Madre to "Get a Life?"

By all means, let's all volunteer whenever we can - give freely, and with grace, as Curly put it. Our city needs us, and it is good for the soul.

But for Heaven's sake, don't brag about it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Debut of Mr. Maundry

A Tattler Celebration - Hip Hip Hooray

This is the 207th post of the Sierra Madre Tattler, and as such it seems fitting to mark the occasion with a retrospective. What follows are excerpts from the very first appearance of Mr. Maundry, fighting the good fight, on the "Speakout!! Forum" of the Downtown Dirt website, March 10, 11 and 12, 2007:

..........

I understand that there is a lot of passion over Measure V. And I get it that those opposed to the initiative have a tough hill to climb given the overwhelming rejection of pro-development candidates in the previous council election. And it is heartening to see people so intimately involved in the politics and governance of their town.

But I do have to say, I am becoming increasingly turned off by a lot of the name calling and smear I see coming from the anti-Measure V right. Can it be that recent election setbacks have so set you people back and hardened your hearts that you feel the need to resort to the tactics of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh?

What's next, if you support Measure V you hate Sierra Madre?

Please, for the sake of some sort of comity in this town: stop the name calling. Because if all you people have is attack politics and smear, then you really have nothing at all.

..........

My vision for this town does not involve endless downtown construction, an army of guys with arrow signs touting the wonders of entire blocks of new overpriced condos (can you imagine what they'll be called? Sierra Madre Mountain View Villas? Happy Hills Homes? Wisteria Wonderful Wikiups? Gag!), Quiznos, Smart N' Final, and all the other dreary things that would slither into our lovely little town under the rubric of "trusting our city fathers."

In other words, I like things just as they are, thank you.

..........

That is at the very heart of the deception here. Allow developers to build the kind of generic LA County shopping and condo glut that we see in so many other towns and then we will see interest from all the usual suspects. And who will stop them from coming in?

After all, those new store fronts will have to be filled, right? Heavily invested landlords abhorring a vacuum and all.

Question for you: Who are the folks currently owning property in the "development zone?" Who are the folks currently in some kind of business partnerships with them? And how many of them financially contribute to this site and the "No on V" campaign?

..........

This next one is my personal favorite.

Wow, hasn't anyone told you they are already here. A developer now owns the Howie's site and another owns the skilled nursing facility. They will be developed. The issue is controlling the developers enough so they create a project that the people of Sierra Madre want. But stopping them from building even a reasonable project and forcing them to sell to someone who will build a quick profitable Quiznos or Smart n' Final. Your bumper sticker should say THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.

Pete? You are aware of the rather gross contradiction in this statement, right? Saying that the developers are here and going to do whatever it is they want to do, and then saying that they should be able to do just that or they will sell out and other developers will do whatever they want to do, is a little bit too much for one poor suffering paragraph.

..........

...let me leave you all with a happy song, Certainly it is my hope that this will comfort the bruised feelings of those who were so cruelly tossed and gored by Mr. Maundry this fine Monday evening.