John Buchanan and Joe Mosca took a passive approach. John intimated that if we did not do what SCAG was demanding, some unidentified terrible things might happen. He also claimed that we should just acquiesce to their demands since SCAG wouldn't listen to us on the RTP/SCS numbers question, anyway. An odd thing for him to say since he had previously opined that this was a collaborative organization that wanted to work with us. Joe claimed that if we didn't pay the dues we were holding back from SCAG, Sierra Madre wouldn't even get a seat at the table, much less have our concerns get the hearing we wanted. Then he even went on to state in The Pasadena Star News that any attempt by Sierra Madre to fight for its rights there was tantamount to reality avoidance. "You can't just say 'no' and bury your head in the sand," said Joe. Again the inference being that we'd better knuckle under or face the music.
(As an aside, the irony in Joe's statement about all this 'no' saying is that when he was the City Councilman tasked with representing our interests at SCAG, Joe didn't even bother to show up at the meetings. Click on this link to read about Mr. Mosca's AWOL status at SCAG.)
But you want to know what? John and Joe were wrong. Three members of the City of Sierra Madre City Council, backed up by some inspired work from City Staff (big props to Danny Castro), decided to play some hardball with SCAG. We withheld our dues, threatened to leave the organization, and Mayor MacGillivray and Mayor Pro Tem Don Watts began to not only attend the meetings Joe never seemed to be able to make, but began speaking out about our rights as well. And despite all the surrender monkey warnings about the consequences of such bold acting up, we won a huge negotiation victory. Which was announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting to applause.
The issue we're talking about here is a very serious one. Sacramento passed a bill called SB 375 that pretty much dictates what exactly we can and cannot do in regards to planning for our city's future. It is a usurpation of much of this planning authority by a runaway central government, powers that traditionally have been the purview of cities such as ours. The year when this happiness starts kicking in is 2012. As a run up to all that joy was a request from SCAG that we supply them with an opinion of what our "Household, Population and Employment" estimated numbers should be in the years 2020 and 2035. All a part of the process of helping to create SCAG's 2012 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS).
The recommendation from SCAG was that we just accept their numbers. Which were quite outrageous in both their size and assumptions. In their opinion Sierra Madre would need to start planning for an increase of 140 new households by the year 2020, with an employment increase of 267. But at the same time they claimed our population would only be going up by 32 souls, which makes you wonder how exactly we were expected to fill up those 140 new households. Maybe SCAG was predicting a wave of divorces among current residents? Or that our kids would not only want to stay here, but live alone as well? And I don't know where we would be coming up with 267 new jobs in 10 years. Was SCAG going to situate a Nissan assembly plant here?
The consequence of our accepting these numbers at face value is that we would be setting ourselves up for a big fall in 2012. When our SB 375 driven RHNA numbers emerge that year, they are expected to be among the biggest we have ever seen. Something that, if enforced, could lead to our having to plan for development well beyond our capacity to sustain. And how could we possibly contest them if we had already agreed to the outlandishly large numbers SCAG was expecting us to submit for the RTP and SCS two years earlier? This had all the earmarks of a set up, and the better part of Sierra Madre's elected representatives, along with key City Staff members, decided to stand up and fight.
City Staff dug in and came up with some sound rationales for supporting numbers far smaller than the ones SCAG was demanding. Rather than 140 new households, that number was pared almost in half. The employment number was cut from 267 down to 82. And that population increase number? It went down from 32 to 17 living and breathing human beings.
Despite the warnings and threats issued by the usual suspects, MaryAnn and Don took our reduced numbers to SCAG and made them stick. They basically got in SCAG's face, spoke their minds, and refused to give in. SCAG was very concerned that we would leave their organization, something we had threatened to do. They even sent their two top executives here to beg us to stay. We were not very impressed. The symbolic $1,000 dues that would have indicated our willingness to stay in the RPO were withheld. And then MaryAnn and Don Watts proceeded to fight these guys on their home turf until they threw their hands up in the air, cried uncle, and gave us everything that we wanted.
So let me leave you with a final thought. When the crunch comes down in 2012 over those SB 375 driven RHNA numbers, which many suspect will be some of the largest to date, who are you going to want representing the interests of Sierra Madre? Elected citizens who are willing to stand up for our rights, or surrender monkeys?