Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Michelle Zack Responds To Some Of Her Critics Here On The Tattler

I don't know if you've noticed, but after a post has been around for a week or so, any additional comments made automatically go into the moderation file. Where they sit until I review and release them. The reason for this is that there are now around 340 unique articles on this site, and those wishing to show their displeasure with my efforts might begin to populate some of the older articles with comments that could be described as Cumquatesque. The idea being that I would never notice until somebody else did, and then it would be too late. Such attempts to degrade this site have happened before, and I am grateful to the Google folks for including this function with their easy to use and completely free blog service.

But the other good thing about this moderation option is that some really great comments on older articles do get made, and I get to read them. Otherwise they'd just go out onto the site where they could easily be missed. As an example, the PUSD articles continue to attract comments, and some of them are quite thoughtful and heartfelt. Readers who followed those conversations a few weeks back might want to go there and check out some of the newer posts. They're among the best made.

And I was pleasantly surprised on New Year's Eve to find a post stuck in moderation from Michelle Zack. Michelle, as I hope you know, recently published a book of some local historical importance called Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre. And, errant fool that I am, I praised this book quite effusively. Something that doesn't come naturally to this typer and, believe me, the pain was intense.

Now I took some heat for this as well, and from people whose umbrage I had not experienced before. Which is fine, if I was a sensitive - or sensible - soul I would not be doing this night after night. It does keep me out of the local taverns and home in the evening, however. Which is a good thing.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of Ms. Zack's book is that it contains absolutely no reference to the Measure V election. Measure V was without a doubt the single most defining event of the last decade in Sierra Madre, and some of those commenting found its absence to be inexcusable. Others suggested that Ms. Zack might have some sort of agenda, or that this was possibly caused by an investor mandate. Kind of like what we've seen lately with The Mountain Views News.

Now I will say that I too was disappointed by Measure V's absence in this book. One because I'd have hoped my supporting role in that effort might have gotten me a mention there. Nobody passed out flyers with more panache than I did. And let's face it, if it wasn't for Measure V and all that went along with it, I wouldn't be carrying on with this blog. The Measure V imbroglio awoke me from a lifelong delusional political slumber and I became a believer in the ongoing fight to save some important things. That being a way of life, this town, and the sense of place it has given me. Trust me, I never felt that way when I was living in New Jersey.

But all that said, there is a big message contained in Michelle's book, one that I found to be quite exciting and gratifying. She has written one of the most stirring and credible defenses for preserving our way of life in the small foothill cities of the San Gabriel Valley that I've ever read. And she also explicitly denounces invasive overdevelopment as being the enemy of these things. Which is why I do not believe this history book is in any way propaganda for redevelopers as some have suggested. Nor do I think for one second that when John Buchanan gratuitously waved this book around at a recent City Council meeting it was because he'd actually read it. My take is that he assumed it must be important because of its size.

This book elegantly makes the case for Sierra Madre's preservation. And in 2010 that is not only the defining issue we are fighting for, but will also be the cause that will defeat its enemies and send them packing this April.

Anyway, here is what Michelle Zack writes in her defense:

For the record, I would like it to be known that as the author I had complete independence in my scholarship and in all editorial decisions regarding Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre. I would not have agreed to write a history under any other circumstances - and this was set in writing in my contract. To its credit, the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society fully honored my independence as an author, and in no instance suggested what should and should not be included. It was my own judgement (and the approach taken by most credible historians), not to engage in current political discussion other than in broad strokes, which I did when I wrote that arguments over preservation are at the core of what SM is as a community. To do otherwise would be to write something other than a history, because time and distance are needed for historical perspective. I hope that the many discussions about different views of SM's development over time contained in the book are helpful to those today working through what this city wants to be for its many various camps of citizens. This is hard, and very important work; if successful, no camp will be completely happy.

The rest of Michelle Zack's comments here on The Tattler can be found with the original article.


  1. I bought Michelle's book as a Christmas gift...I found it to be beautifully written. The book is a must for everyone living in Sierra Madre...it's the reason we all fight for the preservation of this gem of a city.

  2. If the dirts thought they were going to get some kind of propaganda milage out of Zack's book, then they're even dumber than I thought. There are a lot of words in this book for them to eat.

    Bon appetit!

  3. I now have had the opportunity to read Ms. Zack's book cover to cover and concur that it is worthy of most of the praised bestowed upon it.

    And, in general, I agree with Ms. Zack's cocnlusion that time and distance are needed for historical perspective. I say "in general," because I do not believe that you need that much time and distance to write with perspective regarding the impact of up to 325 condos in a confined area, four-story buildings and aboveground parking lots. That sort of development, which was proposed in the the donwtown specific plan and which served as the impetus for Measure V, would have destroyed Sierra Madre's small town character. You do not need time and distance to reach that most obvious conclusion.

  4. Michelle is a class act, Sierra Madre is fortunate to have this book, It will be read long after we are all gone.

  5. Had it not been for Kurt Zimmerman, Don Watts, Kevin Dunn and SMRRD, our town of Sierra Madre would already be another victim of inappropriate development. We would be bankrupt and on our way to becoming part of the County of L.A.

    Pasadena and Monrovia are currently under attack to build "ant colony" type "low income" housing units, provided by the Government. This is tragic.

    Please don't let this happen to Sierra Madre.
    Support candidates for 2010 city council who will follow the lead of Zimmerman, MacGillivray and Watts.......speaking of WATTS.....
    We need to RETURN DON to the city council. We are fortunate enough to have this warrior for the people willing to go another term to stop insane development and Sacramento bullying of the people, and inevitable eminent domain, if the lobbyists for Sacramento development take back the city of Sierra Madre.
    Fight back, Sierra Madre, the home you save is highly likely to be YOUR OWN.
    Reject lobbyists for development and Sacramento, reject them, even if you think they are "nice" people. Nice people do NOT betray the people.

  6. A brilliant history professor, who worked in eleven languages, had the saying that you must have 70 years from a time period, in order to see clearly what went on.
    Let's hope in 70 years, our small town will still be here, and not all be like that big crater at the top of Baldwin.

  7. Ms. Zack's book is a reminder of what all of us want to preserve in our Sierra Madre.

    College anony, at 9:46 makes an excellent observation. Let's all think about that for a moment.

  8. While I agree pretty much with what is being said here, I also want to hear everybody else's opinions. Controversy is good and democratic. And truth telling is one of the the things that keeps our city strong and the dirts on the run.

  9. Just imagine the task of going over the politics of the last decade or so.
    Interviews with Bart Doyle, Forrest Harding, Rick Simpson, Glenn Lambdin, interspersed with interviews of the people who actually work for preservation. A journalist would have to carry around a lie detector.

  10. We don't have to be original in determining a course of action for Sierra Madre. Quite close by is the preserved area of "Old Town Pasadena". with charming and popular 20th Century buildings, alleys, and many ties to historic Pasadena. Just south of "Old Town" sits the poster child for Sacramento and SCAG's eforts in urban redevelopment complete with mass transit and lots of parking garages. It is an archetectural monstrosity and nothing more than a "blob" of a complex. Unfortunately it has become the model for much of Pasadena. What a shame!

    I have no idea how "Old Town" got preserved, but someone in our town must know how it happened in the face of the "big money" being thrown around. Someone made "Old Town" happen.

  11. Native CalifornianJanuary 5, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    Old Town Pasadena was a DSPish effort to be sure.
    Fair Oaks and Colorado used to be the most dodgy part of Pasadena. Now it's home to the likes of J Crew, Sur La Table, and the Gap.
    I preferred the bums.

  12. Thank you for your researchJanuary 5, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    Thank you Sir Eric for your insight into this controversial book. I have heard both bad and good on this book. Having John praise it gave me reason to be concerned. It is good to have these discussions. I agree with you 10:32. This is what true democracy is: great rhetoric!

  13. Whatever it takes to save our town from the Mosca wrecking ball. We should leave no rock unturned.

  14. a buyer of used booksJanuary 5, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Ms. Zack had a specific goal and seems to have successfully completed it.
    I haven't read the book as it's too pricey, but I hope somewhere in it she mentions that the town has been characterized by intense political struggles - back to the famous dog poisoning of the Mt Rushmore sculptor's pets.

  15. She did cover Gutzon Borglum's story. He was a figure of some controversy, you know. He had an affinity for the KKK.

  16. Yeah, 12:19, I'll bet that wasn't mentioned in the book.
    Was the fist fights between residents back in the days of the old city hall building on the North side of the Blvd?
    Politics in Sierra Madre have always been contentous.

  17. I can hardly wait for the book written by the Tattler groupies with all of the REAL history of Sierra Madre. Until then I would offer that Ms. Zack is the author and the Historical Society is the patron. It's her/their book. If you don't like the contents, the tenor, or the cost, well then, write your own and stop whining.

  18. 12:30 - True, very true. And didn't each and every one of those begin with a pledge to run clean and positive campaigns?

  19. 12:42 - Yeah, but political events in SM can get so surreal, who'd believe it? A sitting Mayor endorsing a pornographic site on the front page of the local daily? How in God's sweet name would you explain that one?

  20. How about if we count up the violations of the General Plan?

  21. Unrelated news. Anthony Adams announced today he will not seek reelection.

    Buh bye!

  22. Another un-ethical politician to chicken out of running for re-election. The people are angry.
    We are MAD AS HELL and we WON'T TAKE IT ANY LONGER!!!!!!!!!!!

    I wonder how much Adams got in "rewards" from the evil development interests he represents?

  23. He'll come back as a Sacramento lobbyist. The only question is who he'll be shilling for.

  24. I'm afraid you're right, 4:03.


  25. Now if only Joe would follow Adam's example and wake up to the fact that he is held in low esteem by a majority of the people...

  26. He won't do that, because he is delusional.
    He thinks because a few old ladies that hang out downtown think he's "nice".....that everyone does.
    The Women's Club, The Civic Club and the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis are not enough votes to carry him.....not even close.
    Joe will be handed the defeat he so richly deserves.
    You can't betray the folks in Sierra Madre and expect them to forget.
    Mosca has a terrible record of "service" on our city council.
    He consistently voted for development interests at least 95% of the time.
    He never attended meetings at SCAG, never represented the people of Sierra Madre's best interests in anything.
    You can't just show up at city activities, be charming to old ladies and expect that to get you elected again.
    He has also been rude and impudent to Mayor MacGillivray and citizens who disagree with his record and have called him out on it.
    Joe's FINISHED, stick a fork in him, he's well done!

  27. On behalf of old ladies, I just want to say my friends and I have always known the boy was a flippity gibbet.

  28. Joe and Susan seem to have a lot of interest in older citizens. But all they do is ask for things. Joe wants their votes, Susan wants their money.

  29. Old Town,

    From what I heard it was the mayor's wife who saved Old Town Pasadena. I don't remember which mayor's wife, but she took Old Town as her pet project and those I've talked to said she was pretty much the driving force behind getting it preserved and getting business in there. Now there is an Old Town business association that is in charge of organizing the district and keeping it "well managed".

    Old Town used to be a pit and I like the businesses there much better. Sierra Madre is not a pit, and it hardly needs an Old Town makeover.

  30. Amen 5:06. Sierra Madre is a comfortable place and it doesn't need to be fancied up.

  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  32. 5:09 - that is if you consider block after block of cookie cutter condos and chain shops "fancied up."

  33. 5:13, J Crew is definitely in the fancied up category. And the posters praising Old Town Pasadena were referring to the buildings that have been saved, not which chain rents them.

  34. Once all the renovations were done and Old Town became so popular, I stopped going there. It's just too much of a hassle to get through the all that traffic and map out where to park, for how long.

  35. I like to wait in line outside the Cheesecake Factory. It makes me feel like I'm part of something important.

  36. been there, done thatJanuary 5, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    I hear that 5:31.
    A few years ago I parked on the street, fed a meter, went to lunch, and came back at the same time as the meter maid was pulling up to my car, and the time limit was expiring.
    If memory serves, it was a $75 ticket.
    Sort of cooled my appetite for Old Town Pasadena.

  37. Pasadena is a parking ticket based economy.

  38. Pasadena Playhouse FanJanuary 5, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    Recently read the Pasadena City Council is now planning to take down the Pasadena Playhouse area and build condo's and "fix" that up too! wow! Let us take down another relish of architecture and the theatre and hand it over to development. Are we going to watch that happen silently? Or are we going to rise up with the citizens of Pasadena, since they are our neighbors, and none of us wants this to happen either.

  39. Pasadenans for a Livable City filed a lawsuit against this project. You can help them with a tax-deductible donation via Pasadena Heritage. Call PH at 626-441-6333


  40. 5:35

    Never go to lunch in Old Town unless you ride a bus or park in the 2 public structures. I know folks that have been ticketed for parking when they weren't even parked on the street at the time. This is what happens when you outsource parking enforcement, and the contractor has to make a profit on the service by issuing tickets.

  41. 7:47?

    You mean to say that people other than the Pasadena Police can issue tickets?

  42. Sure, everybody knows that the parking "service" is outsourced, they do this for many cities. It's simply a traffic management service now, not police duty. Don't know how that got started or when, but apparently it's perfectly legal and produces good income, just like the photo red lights go "ca-ching!" on holidays and weekends at certain intersections in Pasadena near the freeway and all over the state.

    Traffic "safety" is just a money machine now, as well as a good source of insurance company profit and parking lot owners. These cars are massive financial black holes beyond just their purchase and maintenance costs. Wastes a lot of everybody's time, too, plus sitting on the 210 parking lot.

  43. More info on the photo enforcement



  44. Hey! All of you who are complaining of the parking problems in Old Town should be riding the Gold Line. The parking at Sierra Madre Villa Station is free and the ride to Old Town is a nominal cost. My favorite stop is at Holly Street. It gets you close to the less traveled part of Old Town north of Colorado.

  45. 10:52, sounds great for when I have all that discretionary time.
    Now, with kids and work, ain't gonna happen.