John Buchanan is a Choki Motobu level Black Belt Master of the Unfounded Hypothetical.
This moment of awareness came to me during his insistent questioning of Karin Schnaider during her moment of glory at the podium last night. She had brought in the audit on time, it was done accurately, and we are running a surplus. All of which stands in stark contrast to what went on during John Buchanan's first term on the City Council. And sensing that the energy in the room had flowed from him and to Karin, John pounced.
"What if people had sick time that they had used, but then there was sick time they didn't use? Isn't that an unfunded liability?" Karin patiently explained that this information is all contained in the handouts the Councilmembers had been provided with, and the matter is already handled. But that was hardly the point. Because by artfully employing an unfounded hypothetical, in this case a pointless feigned concern over the effect of employee sick pay on the City budget, John had recaptured his special place in the room.
Another recent example of John's artistry in the use of the unfounded hypothetical was in the matter of supplying SCAG with growth numbers. All part of some dubious exercise designed to help our regional planning organization issue some paper on the future transportation needs in the area. The rational portion of the City Council wanted to make these figures as small as possible out of a fear that SCAG would use them as a justification for inflating our RHNA numbers in a couple of years. And thus challenged, John stepped up with some truly momentous usage. "If we send in low numbers, it could be interpreted elsewhere that we're telling people Sierra Madre is in economic decline!" A masterful use of the unfounded hypothetical, here designed to prop up some absurdly inaccurate SCAG assumptions.
Of course, Johnny B's greatest unfounded hypothetical was used in justifying a vote to demolish the pristine woodlands at One Carter. "If we don't give in to these developers," said he, "we'll end up spending huge amounts of money defending ourselves in court!" As we all know, John and the rest of the Gang of Four City Council gave Dorn Platz everything they wanted at One Carter. And, of course, we ended up in court spending huge amounts of money.
The true highlight of this meeting for me came at the very end. Because it was then that the long delayed Big Four Agenda Items were called to attention and set in motion for City Council consideration in the very near future. It's been a long time coming. Let us savor them here together. Everybody hold hands and repeat after me:
#1) An Explanation of the History of the Blown Audits During the Shenanigan Era. Here John Buchanan, the last surviving elected official of that disastrous time, will be called upon to explain just how a City government could screw up as badly as it did on the audit issue. Amongst other things.
#2) The Blight Ordinance. Once this baby is up and running Downtown Investment Club members will think twice before they allow their properties to sink into the kind of wretched decay epitomized by the Skilled Nursing Facility. Fines a-plenty heading their way!
#3) Cop Shopping. Now we all want an Andy of Mayberry style police force here in Sierra Madre. Because that is just the kind of town we are. But the lawsuit happy grouches of the Sierra Madre Police Department don't always see things quite that way. So with our MOU (an acronym that basically means "deal") with the SMPD just about up, what better way to begin our negotiations with their Union than to show up with a couple of competitive bids? They didn't do that kind of thing back in the Shenanigan years, but shouldn't running Sierra Madre like a business be the approach we always take?
#4) Adjudication Issues and Our City Newspaper. I feel privileged to even be able to type this one. It looks like the erratic publishing schedule and mysterious circulation figures of the Mountain Views News are going to get some real hard-nosed scrutiny from the City of Sierra Madre. Can you hear it? Off there in the distance? It could very well be the sound of somebody's Karma bell a-ring a-ding dinging. Besides, it's the digital age now. Let's just spare the trees and put our legal notices on-line.
How sweet it is!