The first thing of real importance was MaryAnn discussing our victory at SCAG. But I'm saving that for another article when I have all the numbers in front of me. In short the hardball tactics of MaryAnn, Don and Kurt paid off for all of us. Proving once again that surrender monkey strategies just don't work when you're negotiating with our favorite regional planning authority. But more on that one soon.
Next up was was public comment, the highlight being Fay Angus's reading off of Joe Mosca for the misleading campaign literature he's been handing out on his campaign walks. As you might have read here before, Joe has been claiming credit for a lot of things that really aren't his doing. Raising $3 million all by his lonesome for the efforts to fight the Santa Anita Fire being one of them. Protecting "our city from unreasonable development" being another equally absurd claim. Classic cheesy campaign tactics that you can get away with in a lot of L.A. County cities, but not in Sierra Madre. And Fay was quite clear about how she felt regarding "misrepresentation" on the candidate's part. Joe, who got that shiny uncomfortable look he gets when public comment turns against him, asked Mayor MacGillivray if he could speak. MaryAnn cast him a wary eye, but nodded her assent. Joe then proceeded to launch an attack on what he ironically called Fay's "attack" politics which, when you consider just how proper and refined a person his target is, made several people in the room gasp. It definitely was not his finest moment.
Now I've been trying to puzzle out what exactly Joe's campaign tactics are for this campaign. And I think that I have figured it out. Rather than discussing anything relating to his performance in office so far, which at best is nothing much to write home about, he has decided to run what I call a "soap opera campaign." That is, rather than allowing his opponents to dwell for too long upon some of the unfortunate incidents of his tenure here (his flip on the DSP vote being an example), Joe has decided he is going to try to make the race all about personalities. And while that might seem titillating to his fans, I am not sure how it is going to play with voters whose concerns are a bit more pragmatic. Most people would prefer a good discussion on the issues rather than all that endless drama.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars 75th Anniversary presentation went very well, and I thought that all involved did a great job. Mayor MacGillivray cited them for their generosity in raising money for some very good causes in town, including the $15,000 they raised for improvements at our Little League fields. Something they would never have talked about themselves. There is something to be said for charity given without any expectation of recompense. It was nice to see everyone in the room standing up and applauding out of respect for these guys. They remain heroes even now.
Going to reel through the next batch of stuff pretty quickly because it's late and I want to go to bed. The Emergency AM Radio Station project got a big boost from the City Council, all agreeing that it is a worthy project deserving the support of everyone. Hank Landsberg was put in charge of the project, which makes sense since he has been a guiding light for this project all along. The Wistaria Festival got its T.U.P., though it did come with some conversation about insurance.
Historic Preservation issues received a lengthy and in depth workout. The City seems to be moving towards establishing some sort of advisory committee on the topic. Sierra Madre has some truly classic homes, and they do add to the quality and viability of the community. I did like the observation Don Watts made about how a history of these homes needs to be written as well. Something to breathe real life into all the nails and wood. It would take an architect to see the romance in what for some is just a Home & Gardens kind of thing.
Streaming Public Meetings Through The Internet would apparently involve a volunteer force to maintain all of our many meetings on whatever site is chosen to host them. And since the bulk of our volunteers in town are people whose media preferences are decidedly analog, well, you get the picture. I think the preference of the City Council was that we test the concept out by having live streaming of their meetings be the test case. But the impression I got was that most if not all felt that a little more drawing board time is probably necessary.
Emergencies And Mandatory Evacuations turned out to be the night's most unpleasant administrative chore, and it fell upon Elaine Aguilar to handle it. People in places like the Canyon have become a bit weary of being asked to flee their homes every time it rains, and they've been voicing their resentment. And the word is that lately these evacuations are being generally ignored by the affected. But Elaine soldiered on, and she did bring up a couple of important points. There will come a day when people will have wished they had gotten up and out when they were asked to do so. Our beautiful mountains can turn vicious on occasion, and you wouldn't want to be in their way when they turn bad.
The League of California Cities has an answer to Sacramento's bad habit of property tax confiscation, and it is called The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety And Transportation Protection Act Of 2010. Something that it will take about a million signatures to get on the ballot. But the idea here is that small cities such as ours have a difficult time planning things out sometimes because they just don't know when Sacramento is going to show up with its siphon and suck up all of our hard earned tax money. The City Council unanimously expressed their support for the measure, and hopefully this worthy effort succeeds. There are petitions at City Hall if you want to go out and get a couple hundred thousand signatures.
OK, and after that things got a little sticky. It didn't start right away, but once the ball got rolling it was quite a sight to see.
The Dust Control Ordinance was the next item up for consideration, and this one has its roots deep in one of the most contentious issues this town has faced in its recent history. The dust we're talking about here is One Carter dust, that ill fated and seemingly endless development project that was unwisely set in motion by one of our lousier City Councils a number of years back. Stripped of most of its natural vegetation by the fine folks at Dorn Platz, it quickly turned into a dust bowl. And so the residents up there, sick of having to breath unhealthy particulate matter every time the wind blew, began lobbying for this ordinance. Something that would require the offending developers to hose down the dust or face stiff fines. Now much of this hinged upon Bruce Inman giving a presentation, and since he wasn't available for such a thing the matter wasn't completely aired out. But the City Council did decide to direct staff to put together a dust ordinance for them to look at later. And if you thought that Johnny B and Joe were kind of tentative in their support of the project, well, so did I. We'll just have to see how this one plays out.
Now my pet cause, unromantically described in the agenda as "Ordinance No. 1306 Requiring Maintenance Of Vacant Commercial Property," came up next. Personally I prefer the term Blight Law because it is just so much more sunny and cheerful. The obvious target of this is the Skilled Nursing Facility, though nobody in a position of authority seemed to want to bring that elephant out into the open last night. What makes this issue particularly delicious is that for years the forces opposed to Measure V have tried to affix responsibility for this eyesore upon those who supported keeping our town small and organic. And what this Blight Law does is wrench that issue from their hands and focuses the blame where it really belongs, on the LLC that owns the place. Changes were suggested by the City Council for the ordinance, and it was returned to staff for further polishing.
The final act was in many ways the most dramatic. Who would have ever thought that the topic of Newspaper Adjudication could be the cause of such high drama? But when you're talking about Susan Henderson, you're talking heavy attitude. And for those who enjoy that sort of thing, she did not disappoint. The contrast between the fussy little newspaper and the angry woman who runs it couldn't have been greater than it was last evening.
But you know, we've been down this route before, and I'm growing tired of running this woman down. We all know what she's about, so why should I go on about it now? The reduction of what was a simple business request into a personal confrontation, the inappropriate insults (the use of the word "liar" was particularly unfortunate), the claims of victimhood when called upon to comply with what is merely standard City procedure, none of this was really surprising. It almost seemed like a routine.
In my opinion Kurt Zimmerman was dead right in his claims that we are not getting our money's worth from the Mountain Views News. The questions he raised about poor distribution and publication gaps seem worthy of serious consideration to me. But for Susan to just hurl insults at the City Council, and then turn her back and storm out of the room will only harm her cause in the long run.
Fay Angus, as is her wont, summed up the confrontation best. If and when they finally broadcast this meeting on balky old SMTV3 you will really have to see it.