Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Decorum Police

Trying to gauge the other side's tactics in this election can be a bit of an intuitive exercise. It's not that what they are communicating is particularly complex or in any way intellectually challenging, because it isn't. Rather the opposite is true. They are putting out about as vacuous and content free a campaign message as I have ever seen in my many years of paying way too much attention to this stuff. Apparently for them electability and political appeal has absolutely nothing to do with government policies or dealing with the harsh realities facing small California cities here at the beginning of the rather edgy 21st century. Rather it is all about, well, being pleasant. Or else.

Sometimes you have to wonder if they think they're talking to children. And that by trivializing the important issues now facing us, or insinuating to the voters that such things are beyond their ability to understand, all they are really doing is fighting for power. In other words, it's just standard slick politics from the usual suspects, wrapped in a thick politically correct nougat.

Now I'm not exactly sure how they can see this as being a winning tactic. From what I've seen most of the people who rouse themselves to vote in our elections have a pretty good understanding of what politics is all about. And, as someone once so wisely pointed out, it ain't exactly beanbag. Rather it is an exchange of differing philosophies and opinions on one of the most important topics we face as a people living in a democratic society, and that is how we govern ourselves. I'm not sure the Shirley Temple thing is really to the point here.

As a matter of fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say that such forced amity during a campaign, or even on our City Council, really isn't the way we should want to go. Because let's face it, if the five people sitting there looked like that happy yellow guy up in the corner all the time, how much of value would really be getting done? The real world just doesn't work like that. People who govern a city should be passionately involved in making things work as well as they possibly can. And if they aren't arguing, or disagreeing, or even occasionally howling at the moon, they just aren't doing the job. Disagreement, no matter how noisy or annoying, is often just the thing to drive a process that creates good solutions.

Of course, from history we can cite governments where everyone was on the same page and always appeared to get along quite nicely. Soviet Russia would be a good example. Mussolini's Italy would be another. And I suspect that in North Korea this kind of unity is still revered. Nobody much argued or got involved in unpleasant discord in those places. Or at least not in public. What went on behind the scenes was a very different story, however. They're still finding the bodies.

Democracies are, of course, quite different. People argue about politics, policies, and agendas around the clock. It is an entire industry in itself. Just tune into any cable news channel or talk radio station and you will hear people going on in loud indignant voices about all kinds of topics. Not to mention what happens in Washington DC or Sacramento most days. It is a messy, distressing, and maddening way of getting business done, but do you know what? It's also the best this old world has to offer these days. And it is through such dispute and conflict that the best solutions are often forged.

But to hear the Three Moscateers talk about it, you would think that people running for office should do nothing more radical than discuss the proper posture for your pinkie finger when holding a wine glass. And that arguing about politics and how we should govern this city, or exactly how we fit into that big bad world out there beyond the Michillinda Curtain, is something akin to the worst kind of behavior imaginable. For them the highest possible ideal that anyone can strive for is to, well, don't worry and be happy. And if you refuse to live up to their behavioral standards of correct political behavior? Well then you are probably an awful person and nobody would ever want to invite you to their house for cucumber sandwiches.

Apparently there are two ways to run a campaign this year. The first is to discuss the issues, talk about city politics, and examine the records of both the incumbents and those running for a City Council gig for the first time. Or more if you're The Eagle.

The other way is to run a soap opera campaign. This tactic, which is used instead of discussing such things as city policies and the records of our candidates, seeks to trivialize everything to a personal level. "So and so was mean to me," being one line being used lately. Or "So and so didn't get to be Mayor, and it was his turn!" is another. And then there's "the Skilled Nursing Facility is ugly, and it's all your fault!" gambit. That this comes off as sounding childish and vacuous is not by mistake. Take the important issues out of politics, and with it the passion and disagreements, and that is pretty much all you'll have left. Meaningless dramas and passive aggressive appeals that have precious little to do with taking care of the real business of Sierra Madre.

Remember, the seven people participating in this election are running for City Council, and not Town Diva. And if the rough and tumble of a political election fight doesn't suit your more refined temperament, perhaps you should find something else to do with your time. Because chances are that sort of thing won't be going away any time soon, no matter what you've heard.

Besides, isn't it true that all being nice ever got us was One Carter, or the endless revolving door debt of our Community Redevelopment Agency?

If you can't cope with the nitty gritty of a campaign, how are you going to handle the City Council job where things can get really tough? Because in the end that will never change. And just because you've appointed yourself a Special Agent in the Decorum Police, are you really doing anything different than those you've criticized? I don't think so. It is as much an aggressive power play as anything else you will see or hear in this election.


  1. Being really, really, really nice for a man, and baby talk by an adult woman, is a protective device--how can you be mad at someone who is so nice or who can be mad at a baby? Also, you get to practice walking on egg shells with these types of people as they are so easliy offended. We do not need more of this in Sierra Madre or on our City Council. We need persistent, no-nonsense City Council members who will firmly stand up for the needs of Sierra Madre and make hard decisions for local control for our town.

  2. Please read yesterday's blog comment:

    Be Aware at 8:09 pm. It was excellent. Thanks to whoever wrote that.

    John Crawford, Don Watts and Pat Alcorn are the ONLY candidates for city council who deserve your vote. They are in touch with reality and have the knowledge and maturity to deal with it.

  3. The Best DecisionMarch 11, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    It is very obvious to even a half a brain that we do not need anyone on the city council who is a sorority girl that needs a group hug for the town and a lost boy who just moved back to town that knows nothing but what he is told by real estate mom and Bart Doyle.

    Leadership means strong people who stand up for issues for the PEOPLE, not their OWN narcissistic me, me, me oh everyone look at me the liar who cares nothing about YOU.

    WE need Council Members without ulterior motives. The real motive is local control for our town and electing John, Don and Pat!!!!

  4. The choices are pretty clear. 3 candidates who are little more than rubberstamps and cover for over development, or the 3 candidates who will actually stick up for this town. It is gut check time.

  5. Time to take off the gloves and tell it like it is. People need to know the truth. Call all three out on the rug.
    Joe is a liar,
    Nancy is a nothing,
    Josh is someone you don't want your daughter to bring home or handle your money.

  6. You might add, Joe is not only a liar but a lobbyist for special interests.

    Just what is wrong with California politicians.

  7. Josh Moran: Would you buy a used car from this man?

  8. Sacramento is filled with Joe Moscas. Our state capital is
    a magnet for the second rate and underachieving.

  9. You hit the nail squarely on the head, and if any of them does get on the Council, it quickly becomes a very sobering experience. The perdiem should be 2000/month not 200.

  10. What per diem? How does it work for the Council?

  11. Councilcritters now get $250 a month for their pain. Covers expenses. Considering what they're asked to do, 8:09 believes they're due for a raise.

  12. I wish Sal would get back in the election newspaper business. The man knows his stuff. If you are reading this Sal, how about it? The dirts like you quiet.

  13. More shameful shenanigans perhaps!Is the Sierra Madre Post Office illegally withholding a certain letter addressed to the citizens regarding the coming election? Humm

  14. Are the illegal Moran signs removed from City Property yet..or is this another stall by Volpe!

  15. Well, Anonymous at 9:04 am, if they are isn't it a Federal offense? Call the SM Postmaster and ask where the letter is, (626) 836-3596.

  16. Well, Anonymous at 9:13 am, call Officer Volpe at 355-1414 and ask if all illegal signs that were reported up to and including yesterday have been removed. Yes, it really is that simple! They work for us - make 'em earn their pay.

  17. What we need to do is get a paper like the Weekly to start the adjudication of their paper in S.M. Encourage them to start the process of adjudication, that way a year from now, the city will have a choice to let out a contract to the Weekly or the "Weakly".

  18. Transparency is great. I like the problem-solving that's being discussed in this board. Puts everybody on notice that it's no longer business as usual.

  19. When you're telling the truth you
    have nuthin' to hide.

  20. It hasn't been business as usual since 2006 when Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts were electect to the City Council! It has been a long hard slog and now with the MacGillivray Council we're reaping the results of standing up to insults, shenanigans, and insider dealing that has brought us to this point. Vote Alcorn, Crawford and Watts to continue the trend. Residents who care about the community, not just socializing!

  21. People who drink wine with their pinky pointing out like a shaved poodle tail
    are abhorrent to me. I needed to say
    that. It really frosts me.

  22. Ah, Mr. Finewine, you are a true gentleman and oenophile. Your remarks are always on point, at least mostly.

  23. What did you call me??

  24. Oenophile is a term meaning "wine lover."

  25. 9:04, What are you talking about? The post office doesn't have a right to refuse mail delivery -- unless you don't pay for the postage!

  26. I don't think we're talking refusing, I think we're questioning discretion in bulk mailing which is different than first class. The PO has some discretion as to when the bulk mail gets put into the delivery process. Ever received a sale catalog after the sale is over?

  27. Being too trusting, overly considerate and willing to have peace a all costs is what led Sierra Madre to being sold off bit by bit, to the destructive influence over local government by a lobbyist for the Building Industry Association, to massive expenditures for our little town in attorney fees and misbegotten dreams of development.
    Our courtesy is beautiful and one of the great pleasures of living here, but it should never be a substitute for vigilance and defense.

  28. Hear, hear, Local Historian! Truer words have not been spoken during the last few years!

  29. Well, let's speculate what we lost when we began to stand up and talk back:

    1. A three story above street level shopping above underground parking at the corner of Baldwin and Sierra Madre Boulevard;
    2. An entire street of work/live units on Montecito;
    3. A CRA project on Baldwin from Kersting to Highland (is that what Bart was waiting for?);
    4. Passages between Sierra Madre Boulevard and the privatized parking lots both north and south of the boulevard to Hermosa;
    5. A redesigned relocated library "closer" to downtown (just read the DSP);
    6. A huge Fred Wesley project on the SNF site to house condos atop mixed use commercial;
    7. And, the piece d'resistance: an expanded Sierra Madre Congregational church to house a gymnasium, dormatories, coffee shop, handcraft arts sales, late night live music, and magazine, newspaper, book shop;
    8. An 800 student high school sitting high above Baldwin that was only avoided because the good folks behind the SMCC project knew the citizenry would never go for two mega campuses and they had more clout than Maranatha!

    And plenty more projects as well! If it hadn't been for the hard work of SMRRD including Kevin and Katina Dunn, Kurt Zimmerman, David Smith, and a whole lot of people who are reluctant to be named even today because of fear of reprisals -- that would be the legacy of the Shenanigan Years courtesy Beth Buck, Webb-Martin Realty, Prudential Realty, the CRA, the AAR, the Six Mayors, Dorn Platz, Bart Doyle and the BIA, Jim Snider, the Cumquat and that dispicable confederacy of pornographers masquerading as bloggers.

  30. Local historian: There is a housing development north of Grandview, comprised of the streets of Camillo, Lotus Lane, Valle Vista, and Acacia.
    Built in the early 1970's and known as the Nutzel Tract, they are very nice homes with lovely people living in them now. But Nutzel was a city councilman in this town at one time and although I am not sure how long before the tract development he was an elected official it always made me wonder who got a deal here? This would be a story to follow up on. Neighbors living along Foothill Ave. during the days of the first hillside ordinance hearings spoke lots about their mud messed up backyards during the Nutzel track building era. When my family moved here there were lots of empty lots scattered throughout the tract, much like what you can imagine happening with Carter and Stonehouse. We cannot let another round of city elections fall to the supporters for more of the same. No more Nutzels, Carters or Stonehouses, in the foothills or downtown. The choices in this election are clearer than ever before. Absentee voters; Alcorn, Crawford, Watts! April 13 at the polls: Alcorn, Crawford and Watts!

  31. Sierra Madre News Victory FanMarch 11, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Sal Victory Fan,

    I agree 100%.

    Salvatore Tesoro Knows His Stuff, and was generous enough to give us the information Sierra Madre needed to make a necessary and substantial change. Without Salvatore's newspaper there would never have been a SMRRD, Measure V, balanced city budget, or a slow-growth majority on the city council.

    Like a true patriot he stood up and spoke truth to power when it was dangerous to do so. He was a shining light that gave many residents a reason to believe in and participate in, the democratic process again.

    He taught us that one person can make a difference and that many people working together can make a change (for the better).

    I wish he would publish the Sierra Madre News again too. I'm even willing to put my money where my mouth is and buy a subscription or two.

    How about it Salvatore?

  32. Might as well just roll a loose cannon down Baldwin.

  33. What I noticed about the Be Nice campaign, the "promote common courtesy/end petty bickering" platform, is that it is combined with claims to that ever popular word, PRESERVE.
    If all candidates and council members past and present all want to PRESERVE Sierra Madre, why did we have to face what 1:31 so accurately posted about?

  34. They bascially want to shut everybody up. It is a transparent and phony campaign stunt.

  35. Salvatore Tesoro III is a gifted writer and an astute politician. Without him we would never have been able to withstand the assault by the steamroller that began in 1989 when Bart Doyle moved to Sierra Madre and began his dismantling of Sierra Madre. Sadly, Tesoro has moved on in his life and it's unlikely the Sierra Madre News will be resurrected to help us face the challenges of the next few years. But not for a moment think that paper and that man didn't do more to expose the hellishness brought against the residents by an alliance of corrupt City Managers, City Councilmembers, City staff, and local business men and women including some members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis, the Rotarians and the BIA than we can ever thank him for. We are aware and enlightened because of his influence.

    Thank you Salvatore.

  36. Here's a good slogan:
    "End out of control verbosity" and we all know who the culprit is on that one.
    "Require council members to know what the words they are using actually mean."
    This last bit is inspired by one of Mr. Mosca's recent malapropisms, something like
    "The numbers will rise, uh, proportionally."
    And then he was off onto another idea.
    Proportionally to what you dufus?
    I ask again - how did he get through law school?

  37. I'm going to vote for the candidates who follow the clear and concise platform: state the issues and your position on them. Like John Crawford has done. Great postcard arrived today.

  38. Anyone needing John Crawford, Pat Alcorn or Don Watts signs.....please call 355-4776 to make your request.
    Your sign/s will be delivered asp.

    Thanks to all the nice people who have called!
    Your support is most appreciated!

  39. pull no more wool over Sierra Madre's eyesMarch 11, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    It puzzles me that people equate lively disagreements with divisiveness and discord. That would most likely come from people with a weak argument. So, I guess I am not puzzled after all. More likely it is a form of passive-agressiveness. It is absolutely true that Measure V pushed the town into two camps and it is the sad truth that this was not of our own doing. Outside money tried to win an election and marked Sierra Madreans into two distinct camps. It does no good to be mad at anyone who voted No on Measure V --they are mad enough at themselves for their deep misunderstanding of the issue then and the SB 375 issue now.

  40. 1:31..put the pipe down and go for a walk!

  41. Bless you Sal TeseroMarch 11, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Sal Tesero was one of those rare writers who was not afraid to tell the truth even if it meant being unpopular. He knew that what he had to say would strike a cord at the very heart of the truly honest character of the people of Sierra Madre who truly understood what it meant to live in a small and charming town. He saw JOE, and the rest of the bully's for what they were, and was angry for all of us.

    Unfortunately, he was not supported by many, because he was considered too radical. His logic and excellent passion for language is missed. I have thought of him so often, and wish his paper would appear in Beantown with the truth and Susan would fall off the face of the earth in one hot second. We miss you SAL, many of us miss you. Thank you for all you did.

  42. concerned citizenMarch 11, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    How is the election sign removal going? Did the code enforcement take them all off of the public right-of-ways?

  43. Shiny, happy people who gloss over real difficulties and challenges, are exactly the sort of people we do not need in politics right now. These wax figures, claim decorum while maintaining perfidy. They forget that, as Howard Zinn said, dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and that the only politicians who are worth their salt, are the ones willing to roll up their sleeves, and get down to the real, nitty-gritty work that makes for positive political change.

  44. Have a conversation with Josh Moran and you will find an immature understanding about the nature of disagreement and what it means to express opposing positions. Nancy Walsh is well spoken but has gotten stuck with insipid talk about bickering--another misunderstanding of how adults can engage in heated discussions. The label bickering or rudeness is a weak campaign platform especially when it is your darling Council Member/Candidate that is rude and cannot engage in discussion that does not trigger the "bickering." Sierra Madre is too important for this. We need real leadership to carry us forward.

  45. When our articulate Mayor speaks she reminds me so much of my days of Debate in High School and College. Two fabulous courses that have done me well all my life. One learns to listen to what is important and what needs to be silenced and forgotten.

    Unfortunately, this course has been cut in many Education budgets, and it shows in all too many public speakers. Especially Lawyers.

  46. Yard sign spotterMarch 12, 2010 at 6:58 AM

    At sunset last night five known illegal signs had not been removed. Those five have been reported to the SMPD. As you see them, continue to report their location to the police.