"Civility is a tactic, not an issue." - MaryAnn MacGillivray
Public comments kicked it off. De Alcorn stood up for MaryAnn MacGillivray by reading into the record some information that was first published here on this site. The charge that MaryAnn had turned her back on the people of Sierra Madre during the 1991 earthquake, published apparently with no corroborative investigation by the Sierra Madre Weekly, was soundly refuted. The letter that was the work of a number of people, some listed on this site as signatories, along with a letter written by former Sierra Madre Fire Chief Ed Tracy, pretty much sealed the deal on the canards published by the Weekly.
De Alcorn was followed by the editor of the Sierra Madre Weekly, John Stephens. Now believe it or not John and I used to talk to one another quite frequently when I was writing for his paper. He often asked for my opinion on Sierra Madre matters, and I was always glad to answer his questions. So when he stood in front of the Sierra Madre City Council and claimed that he had repeatedly asked The Tattler for the author's name of the letter we published here, I was puzzled. I had received no phone calls, though of course John Stephens does have my phone number. Nor did I receive any e-mails, though the address of this site is plainly visible. We did get a few anonymous posts demanding to know who wrote it, but they came off as oddly confrontational and they weren't cleared. It is ironic that Mr. Stephens, who proclaimed himself offended by what he called the anonymity of that letter, and made quite a big deal about it, apparently chose only to communicate with us through anonymously placed blog comments.
Now Mr. Stephens attempted to obviate the effects of Father Bamberger's unfortunate and false comments about MaryAnn's role in the 1991 earthquake. And he even went to the Sierra Madre Library in an attempt to find evidence proving that perhaps those comments had some merit. But what he found there caused him to regretfully admit that Bamberger's remarks were incorrect. What is sad is that had Mr. Stephens done that kind of editorial legwork before he published remarks that have obviously proven to be an embarrassment to both him and his paper (along with Bamberger I might add), this incident would never have occurred. But John didn't, and the result is that he had to come to Sierra Madre and defend the paper his lack of professionalism caused so much harm.
Mountain Views News columnist Hail Hamilton, who will now and forever be known on this site as the "honorary posterboy for the new civility," delivered what was, in the opinion of many of those I've spoken with this evening, perhaps the most venomous and strange speech ever issued from our City Council podium. References to the Mayor as "the wicked witch," and those whose opinions he does not agree with as "winged monkey goons," were so bizarre and over the top that when his ranting finally ended there were nothing but gasps of disbelief in the room. Even those who profess to dislike MaryAnn seemed like they couldn't quite deal with what they'd just heard. When the meeting was over Hail was observed practically running from the building and out into the night, with people getting out of his way as fast as they could. Letting the crazy train go by, as it were.
Thankfully people such as Fay Angus, Chris Bertrand, and Carol Parker all stepped up to the podium and delivered statements that brought relief and calm to many of the assembled. Fay was particularly gracious in presenting MaryAnn with a huge bouquet of flowers, with gifts for both Don Watts and Kurt Zimmerman.
The mystery guest of the evening will have to be known here as "The Man from Carlsbad." This gent, apparently a recent initiate into the world of lawyerdom, and at the heroic age of 61, seemed to have some kind of a problem with people speaking during public comment. In his democracy-challenged view the residents of our town should be severely curtailed in their rights to express their opinions from the podium, with only duly designated officials being allowed to speak at any length. And he'd come a long way from home to say just that. Whether this was an oddly random occurrence, or a clumsy attempt at working towards establishing a new regimen in City Council meeting discipline, remains to be seen.
Awards were presented to our departing Councilmen, and speeches were given. Don Watts delivered a sincere speech on his desire for an easing of tensions here in Sierra Madre, and was well received. Kurt Zimmerman, his puckish wit intact, stated that he had not planned to say anything much. But since the "Man From Carlsbad" had brought up the topic of inappropriately long speeches, he decided he would have to do just that. But, he reassured the faithful, he wouldn't go on for all that long.
Kurt pointed out that much of what the City Council had accomplished in the last couple of years had been the subject of some recent gainsaying in the local weeklies. So he thought he'd take the opportunity to list some of those accomplishments. Here is what Kurt saw as the best his time in office had to offer:
1) The establishment of the Paramedic Program.
2) The ordering of City finances, with audits completed, budgets balanced, and a surplus established.
3) Successfully lobbying for the $3 million dollars that covered the costs of the Santa Anita Fire. And he thanked Congressman David Dreier for his kind assistance in that effort.
4) Capital improvements, especially regarding city water.
5) Administrative and legislative accomplishments. Particularly in the area of our smoking and noise ordinances.
6) Preservation. Resisting the deleterious effects of over-development.
7) Settlements in the 1 Carter and Stonehouse debacles.
8) Measure V. Thanks to this heroic effort Sierra Madre remains a two story town.
9) Sierra Madre's planning ahead for mudslides and associated damage. When disasters struck, the City was ready.
10) The healthy and very American debates that have taken place over the last four years here in town. Big issues have been widely discussed, with the result being a greater awareness, at least amongst the participants. After all, isn't that what democracy is all about? A notion that seems almost quaint considering the suffocating and heavy handed political correctness of our recent election.
Kurt then cited something Bill Coburn had written on his site about the new Council "bringing MaryAnn back into the fold." Kurt took this as the inspiration for what he thought would be a great idea. Why not make MaryAnn the next Mayor Pro Tem? That this idea was so poorly received showed that the unity we've been hearing so much about has clearly defined limits.
Then it fell upon MaryAnn to deliver her last speech as Mayor. She discussed many of the accomplishments Kurt covered, then added a few of her own. The Canyon and General Plan Committees being noble examplars of citizen run democracy in action. And far preferable to the expensive and unsatisfactory consultants that had been so much the rule in the past.
MaryAnn issued a warning to the City about what to look out for over the next few years. SCAG, she declared, is Sacramento's enforcer of unfunded mandates. And regionalism and statism are the biggest threats to Sierra Madre's continued existence as an independent city in control of its own destiny. AB 32 and SB 375 subject us to expensive and arbitarily imposed Sacramento mandates that we are in no condition to accommodate or afford. The central state planners want to tell us whether we should drive a car or take mass transportation, what kind of house we can live in, or how many people we must make room for in our town, even if we do not have the resources or space to do so. "Quislings are everywhere," she said. "So beware."
Joe Mosca took the oath of office, as did the two newly elected members. Joe became the new Mayor by a 4 to 1 vote. John Buchanan became Mayor Pro Tem, also by a 4 to 1 vote. The one dissenting vote was MaryAnn, who told me that she does not want to be in any way responsible for the things that she believes these two individuals will do.
To me it seems obvious that an era has ended. I for one fear that the Sierra Madre we have long known and loved will soon be gone forever. Swallowed up by the massive metropolis, along with its politicians, that until now had always stopped at our city line.
After the meeting a political veteran, now working for one of our state representatives, stood in the lobby looking pensive. Turning to a gentleman who was standing by his side, he was overheard as saying, "This is the lowest it's ever been for Sierra Madre."