There are distant rumbles of dissatisfaction from within the big development and realty trades over the Sierra Madre Eminent Domain Measure that is on our April 13th ballot. And even if Johnny B and Joe Mosca voted to put it on there, we can never be too certain about their motives. My guess is they didn't want to appear to be politically on the wrong side of an issue that is about as popular as cancer.
But there certainly is an odd switchback in H. Susan Henderson's convoluted examination of this measure. Talking to both sides of an issue has certainly been her trademark for years now, but given that she completely airbrushed out the two most important aspects of our eminent domain ballot measure, refusing to even acknowledge them, can we assume that Susan was doing her usual political grunt work on behalf of the development and realty trades? And that includes an only lightly veiled opposition to outlawing the possible use of eminent domain by any City of Sierra Madre government or its agencies, now and forever?
Here is what Susan states in her front page article entitled Eminent Domain Measure - Yes Or No?
It would appear then, given the lack of teeth in the state's Constitutional change that even if the local measure passes, it would be for naught ... Why the Sierra Madre measure is even on the ballot is widely debated in town, many suggesting that putting it on the ballot amounts to political positioning and grandstanding by Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray who brought the matter before the council, especially since there is already a Sierra Madre Redevelopment Agency prohibition against it ...
Houston, we have a problem. There is no "Sierra Madre Redevelopment Agency." That appears to be nothing more than another all too common malapropism from the MVN's publisher. As most residents are aware, we do have something called a Community Redevelopment Agency. And while this CRA has been restricted in the use of eminent domain, that curb only applies within the small geographical area where the agency has some relevance. And then only on those items under its purview. The CRA zone covers the downtown area alone, which means the rest of the city remains virtually unprotected. Something the Eminent Domain Measure would remedy if passed.
Additionally, the measure also prohibits our City government from ever participating in any use of Eminent Domain. These two important points are what is at the very heart of this ballot initiative. It protects all of Sierra Madre, and not just the downtown strip. Here is how this ballot measure is described in the upcoming voter informational handout for the April 13th election:
(This) measure will permanently eliminate eminent domain for private economic development in the entire City of Sierra Madre. And it will go a step further by prohibiting the City from facilitating, funding or consenting to the use of City property or resources in connection with the exercise of the power of eminent domain by any other agency without the owner's consent when the purpose is to convey property to a private party or developer.
This measure deals with Sierra Madre's possible use of Eminent Domain within City limits. It doesn't have much if anything to do with the only marginally relevant state and national issues Susan dredged up for this article. If passed, the Eminent Domain Measure prohibits the City government from ever participating in the use of property seizure for private gain. This measure takes our extremely limited CRA restrictions and expands them to cover the entire City, while additionally preventing any future Sierra Madre government from even thinking about using it.
So those are the issues that make this Eminent Domain Measure so important for Sierra Madre. And that, unfortunately, is the very material Henderson left out of an article that claimed to analyze this issue. Rather we get a lot of kitchen sink journalism about stuff like Prop 99, a rather sketchy analysis of various Court decisions, and then a couple of contradictory statements about how a State Constitutional Amendment might affect us. But since this is to be a citywide vote on an Eminent Domain law that will apply exclusively to Sierra Madre, it can only be assumed that Ms. Henderson was merely sandbagging an issue she saw as being troublesome for those whose interests she represents.
Of course, all of this does beg the following question. If MaryAnn is grandstanding on the issue of eliminating Eminent Domain in Sierra Madre as Susan suggests, why does Joe Mosca take inappropriate credit for it on his recent postcard? Despite the fact that this law won't even exist until it is voted upon - and hopefully approved - on April 13th?
On a melancholy note, it was very difficult for me to read Hail Hamilton's column this week. Hail was a staunch ally and close friend during the Measure V campaign. To me he embodied not only the spirit of Sierra Madre's independence, but also those things that made it what it is today, an independent city fully in charge of its own destiny. To read an op-ed piece from him now using the language of the "No on V" campaign, and doing so in support of the big development crowd that he once so vehemently opposed, was sad.