Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Agenda Man: Night Of The Big Spenders!

You can tell that the Shenanigan Era is back by the way the City Council meeting agendas are written. Rather than the clear and open language we've become accustomed to for the last couple of years, now we can see a return to the dense bureaucratic squawk of the bad old days. And even if you find the writing to be abstruse and richly pointless, you can sense that what it really means is the Gang of Four is preparing to get its spend on. And we're talking about some serious cash. Big time Sacramento style spending that will involve indebtedness for years to come.

Of course, the agenda for tonight's meeting isn't without its moments of droll comedy. That we're forking over another $10 grand to our so-called Community Redevelopment Agency should certainly be a poignant reminder that it's probably going to be be sucked up by Sacramento in the next round of confiscations. Which, while it is certainly better that the state should use this money to help fund California's public education system than what it was originally intended for, wouldn't it be even better if we didn't have a CRA at all? As far as our property taxes go, Sierra Madre's CRA has become the equivalent of the Gulf Oil Leak. Our money keeps gushing out and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. Better to just plug the damn thing and shut the whole mess down.

Then there are the deliberations our City Council will engage in over the very serious matter of the Temporary Use Permit (or "TUP" for the acronym infected) for "Stonegate At Sierra Madre." Which I guess is the name some marketer came up for what is more commonly referred to here in town as "McMansions On the Hill." Hopefully John Buchanan will cut the ribbon.

Now in the past there had been discussions regarding signage up there on the rocky road to nowhere. And it was generally agreed that the sign should be small, unobtrusive, very temporary, and in no way like the kinds of big old things you can see out on the 210 freeway hawking banks and lite beer. However, we are in the new era now, and I suspect we'll be hearing talk about how important it is that this TUP be for a sign that is noticeable and clear. After all, there are some big old houses to be sold. Hopefully the Stonegate sign won't come with flashing multi-colored lights and a North Korean-style public address system.

And you just know the Go4 is dying to disband our current General Plan Committee and spend that $300,000 on a consultant that will cook up the SB 375 compliant document they so ardently desire. The last thing any of them want is a General Plan that will in any way assert the traditional independence of Sierra Madre. That is something they most decidedly wish to see come to an end. It gets in the way of business.

Not to be in any way dismissive of their importance, but these kinds of items are just low hanging fruit. Certainly subjects that we are very familiar with. However, did you know that there is something new mixed into this agenda? And it is revealed to us in only the vaguest of terms? Snuck in, as it were, upon little cat paws in hopes that none of you would notice? That can be seen way down there at item #4. The sucker punch is delivered this way:

Discussion - 2010-2011 Assessment Districts - Engineer's Report And Resolutions Of Intention No.'s 10-33, 10-34, And 10-35 ... Recommendation that the City Council defer increases in the amounts of these assessments; and adopt Resolution No. 10-33 initiating assessment proceedings for FY 2010-2011 and directing the City Engineer to prepare and file and (sic) Engineer's Report; and Adopt Resolution No. 10-34 approving the Engineer's Report for FY 2010-2011; and adopt Resolution of Intention No. 10-35, to levy the assessments for FY 2010-2011 and set the Public Hearing on said assessments for July 13, 2010. Additionally, staff seeks direction whether a feasibility study on the establishment of a city wide street assessment should be undertaken.

This is most likely the initial foray into Joe Mosca's campaign threat to raise around $5 million big ones to pave our streets. Rather than the fiscally responsible pay-as-we-go approach to repairing our streets, Joe would rather do it Sacramento-style and borrow a lot of money through the bond process, effectively saddling us with 20 years of significant new debt. The service alone would end up being around half the amount, or $2.5 million dollars.

Of course, by the time all that money comes due in 20 years, Joe and anyone else involved will be long gone. As would the effects of the street repairs. But that would hardly be their problem. And, as anyone not born yesterday can tell you, "feasibility study" most certainly means consultants. Someone to hold the hands of City Staff as they traipse down the primrose path of bond issuance.

The good news here is that, like the water rate hike that has so many in town up in arms, this can be stopped if 51% of the folks in town decide that they don't want to face 20 years of paying service on a $5 million dollar street repair bond. If you follow this link you'll be taken to something known as the Streets and Highways Code Section 22585 - 22595. And, unlike the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting, the issues in question are laid out in clear and unmistakable language. Let me cite the two most relevant passages:

22585. Proceedings for the formation of an assessment district shall be initiated by resolution. The resolution shall:

(a) Propose the formation of an assessment district pursuant to this part.
(b) Describe the improvements.
(c) Describe the proposed assessment district and specify a distinctive designation for the district.
(d) order the engineer to prepare and file a report in accordance with Article 4.

The descriptions need not to be detailed but shall be sufficient if they enable the engineer to generally identify the nature, location, and extent of the improvements and the location of the assessment district.

And then there is this:

22593. Proceedings for the formation of the assessment district shall be abandoned if there is a majority protest, as defined in Section 53753 of the Government Code.

Which is why the hearing is being proposed for July 13, 2010. It will be the same night as the hearing on the water rate hike. Some coincidence, eh?

So it looks like not only are the Moscateers trying to raise our water rates 40%, but they're also going to try and whack us upside the head with a $5 million dollar bond that will eventually cost the taxpayers of this town around $7.5 million to repay. All with intention, I believe, of tarting the old town up for the real love of their lives, developers and development.

And they certainly are not wasting any time.


  1. So why complain...Sierra Madre voters feel rich..They want massive up grades to grow and to become like the rest of the valley.This can't be done on a dime..Lots of folks will become rich..it's a win win for all.

  2. Feeling rich on borrowed money. Yes, that is how the rest of the Valley did it. Care to buy a foreclosed home? Or a chunk of that big old Pasadena debt? Of course, higher water rates are really quite the thing this year. I don't know how the more stylish Sierra Madreans ever did without it.

  3. Good point. I know that every time I open up my water bill and see how low it is, I am personally offended.

    How can our city insult me like this?

  4. Is that how Mosca did it? He told all those fools that they will
    be getting rich? Anybody see the stock market this morning?

  5. Well hopefully the emails that have been flying around regarding the water increase will prove successful .... my neighbors are up in arms and have all sent in letters of protest!

  6. I heard Joe say that if we let the hike go through the City will be able to pipe Evian. Won't the rest of the Valley be so jealous! I hear THE Magazine is planning a feature about it.

  7. All the naive or greedy people who voted in this Gang of 4 and a new and destructive shenanigan year cycle, you're going to get what you deserve. Don't blame MaryAnn MacGillivray.
    She tried to save Sierra Madre.
    To all the complacent idiots who didn't even vote in the last election....you will get what you deserve, unfortunately, you'll drag down the rest of us.
    Sierra Madre is doomed.

  8. I predict the bond will not be enough, (there's never enough). All you huddled masses will be happy to eat dog food to pay for the sweet smell of paved roads.... Thanks Joe and John

  9. Let's see. $600,000 in CRA money turned over to Sacramento. $300,000 for the general plan consultant. $5 million from the bond to pay for the roads. $2.5 million to pay for the debt service. That all adds up to.... $8.4 million dollars. Way to go John and Joe!

  10. And, 8:04 am, that's in the first month alone!

  11. Duhhh, Joe sez if they build a lot of condominiums downtown, our houses will be worth more and we'll all get rich. I believe Joe because he seems sincere.

  12. Morning AnonymousMay 25, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    About shutting down the CRA?
    I heard that if we do that, we have to turn over city hall to the state, or some such - maybe buy it from the state.
    City Hall and the police department were built with CRA funds.
    There's some kind of catch that means we can't just walk away.
    Hope I'm misinformed.

  13. The promotional aspect of multi story condos at Howie's and the SNF was that we could meet the requirements by building downtown and avoid building in our neighborhoods. So this cycle it'll be that our property values will be enhanced and there'll be condo dwellers shopping in Sierra Madre at the street level boutiques?

  14. We ARE living in Orwelian times. Why would we make our improved financial situation in this town worse with unnecessary spending, when all the economic news is bad, bad, bad. It just isn't logical.

  15. good memory skillsMay 25, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    During the discussions for Measure F, the tax effort that failed, the one that Buchanan, Gillison and their buddies were pushing so hard (the library will close!!! The police Department will be gone!!!) one little lady from LA County Parks and Recreation got up at a hearing and said that if we touched a hair on the head of any of our Parks & Rec people, places, funding, we'd need to give back one million dollars. Her remarks certainly silenced the crowd for a while. So maybe there would be something due if we got out of the CRA, an exit fee.

  16. The paving of the streets will cost more like $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 so the final cost will be $12,000,000 to $15,000,000.

    Interesting that the Public Hearings are in July when the town is away on vacation.

    Makes me want to vomit.

  17. There used to be rumors that the Buchanans and Moscas wanted to bankrupt the town to make it more vulnerable and less able to resist development. A month in control and it appears that the strategy could be back.

  18. I'm thinking it might be worth it to give back City Hall, the Police and Fire Department, and the Parks if the CRA'll take four out of five of the Council Members and give the City staff to the unemployment department.

  19. Wouldn't the assessment need to be noticed to the public by mailer or in the legals (newspaper). How does prop 218 address assessments for the streets. Also Bruce Inman just got a load of money 5 years ago for the streets and why were they not finished. Where did that monney go. He got government monies for that, and the streets were never finished on his watch. Where did that money go???

  20. As far as Proposition 218 and the peoples' Constitutionally guaranteed right to say no to things like 40% water rate hikes and huge new bond debt, I suspect that our friends on SM Blvd were hoping nobody would notice. Maybe they'll say opposing their demands is uncivil or something.

  21. Yes the summer months when the citizens are on vacation will be when they will put these type of items on the agenda. The residential code change in the commercial area was done during the summer in 2004. The low income housing was done in the summer. They have to properly notice all of these in the newspaper ..watch the Mountain Views that is never on time. You can make them renotice if not done 10 days before the meeting. Check with the State of California Planning department and check the planning codes. They were in violation of many of them when they tried to get the Downtown Specific Plan through. Check with the Office of Planning OPR and talk to a planner they will help!

  22. Prop 218:

    Proposition 218: Background and Impact Analysis

    Local Governmental Relations Committee, Tax Committee, Legislative Committee, IMPAC Trustees, December 16, 1996

    The following is for study only and has NOT been approved by the Local Governmental Relations Committee, the Tax Committee, the Legislative Committee, the IMPAC Trustees, the Executive Committee or the Board of Directors.
    Issue: What is the status and likely impacts of Proposition 218, commonly known as the Right to Vote on Taxes Act?
    Action: Not Required
    Options: Not applicable

    Status/Summary: Proposition 218 specifically requires voter approval requirements for local taxes, assessments, and fees. The measure?s major provisions:
    • Require majority voter approval for all future local general taxes.
    • Require two-thirds voter approval for all local special taxes.
    • Require voter approval of existing local taxes enacted after January 1, 1995.
    • Require majority property owner approval of benefit assessments by mail-in ballot.
    • Prohibit property-relatedfees from exceeding costs of service provided.
    • Generally require either majority voter approval of fee payers or two-thirds approval of voters for imposition of fees.
    • Provide that the initiative power is not restricted with respect to reducing orrepealing local taxes, assessments, or fees.
    Proposition 218 will have a significant impact on California local governments, taxpayers, and businesses. REALTORS should be adequately informed regarding the measure and how local governments? responses will impact them and their businesses.

  23. I'm afraid that first Kurt Zimmerman was the Dutch boy and then MaryAnn MacGillivray was the Dutch girl holding their fingers in the dike.

  24. With the election of Mayor Mosca comes the deluge.

  25. it was dark days for Sierra Madre when John Buchanan, Joe Mosca and Josh Moran moved into town - all have an agenda and it's for their own personal overblown egos, personal profit or resume padding

    the supporters of Joe, John and Josh are under the impression that if we build millions and millions and millions of new developments, our property values will go up by sudden magic

    but the quality of life will be tossed in the trash and there won't be any reason to live in Sierra Madre - the infrastructure of the city will implode with the added weight and soon the city will need to annex into Pasadena or Arcadia

    I can promise our esteemed city leaders this, that if they build out downtown and turn it into a mass of condos, I have to stop supporting downtown businesess. I'm not interested in parking in a 3 level structure and walking to mediocre restuarants where I can drive to Old Town Pasadena and have multiple options available

    honestly, the more I learn about John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, I sincerely believe that they are both completely dense headed ego maniacs that couldn't run a business to save their lives, but they are making business decisions based on conjecture and speculation or hazy consultant rhetoric to push for an onslaught of development

    the 300k study ought to find out how many businesses would consider relocatinng or opening in Sierra Madre. they can walk door to door in Arcadia, Monrovia and Pasadena and speak with ACTUAL business owners and find out why Sierra Madre will never become a retail destination market

  26. The one way to hold this back is, ironically, to stop the water rate increase. The city can't afford to do the kind of infrastructure upgrades necessary for big development without the money they'd get from the rate hike.

  27. Tattler readers....Please use discretion when posting your ideas on this
    blog. (i.e. "Let's call Howard Jarvis to see if the water rate hike is
    legal" etc.) Some of these ideas are great, but the opposition reads
    these messages very carefully. (After someone posts a message, the
    opposition immediately begins to plan a way to counter attack our
    ideas.) We don't want to give away the "game plan"!

    If you have an idea, call a trusted friend and begin to put the idea
    into action. Thanks!

    Also, remember that the letters of protest MUST include the following:
    1. Name
    2. Address
    3. Statement of protest against the proposed fees.
    4. Original signature

    If any of the four parts are missing, the letter is invalid. It will
    not be counted.

  28. Due date for protest letters of Water Rate Hike: July 13. In the office of the City Clerk. Not postmarked the 13th but in the office by the 13th. Write your letter, sign it with the signture(s) of the property owner(s) at the water service billing address and walk it in to city hall. Have it date stamped in front of you and have a copy of the letter in your hand to walk out with, also date stamped. Don't wait until the last minute.

  29. I for one am going to try and listen tonight for the verbal trickery that will have to be set in motion to make us swallow all this bad money management.

  30. If you hear a giant cracking sound sometime this evening, don't assume right away that it is thunder or an earthquake. It could be the sorely tested credulity of Sierra Madre snapping.

  31. 1:21

    You got that right.
    Be careful, any living soul out there on the side of slow growth. They will monitor our efforts and there are informants who post on this blog, one comes to mind who has been fooling many of us since 2007.
    Be cautious.

  32. I think the new City Council is confused. It might be that they believe water is made by pipes, and if they put more pipes in the ground there will automatically be more water. Hopefully someone can explain to them tonight that water comes from clouds and falls to the ground in the form of rain. Only then does it goes into pipes.

  33. Where has all the money that we've been paying for water gone?
    What kind of management skills have been operating with those funds?

  34. Somebody needs to run a FOIA request past city hall so we can get a look at the money on the water dept's books. Since maintenance and salaries are the only cost (the water itself is actually free courtesy of the San Gabriels) I can't imagine there isn't a ton of cash sitting there.

  35. Hi guys...

    Should a proposed assessment district be formed to fund street improvements, Prop 218 guidelines will be mandated. This provides for a variety of protections, but it will definitely be a fight.

    Ballots will be mailed and only the affected property owners will be able to vote.

    There are a variety of issues related to the Engineer's Report which must be met and the timing of notices is important.

  36. Word to the wise: the next $ increase request from the Four Flushers will be for trash pickup. It's a UUT source that they control.

  37. Late breaking news from the Pasadena Star News.

    Water Rates May Go Up In Sierra Madre


    Quote: "If this doesn"t pass, our capital improvement program will have to stop and we will not be able to fund improvements to our water system." - Bruce Inman

  38. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I'd like to see some facts and figures. I'd like to see the CIP program for the last five years to see what was/is planned.

    New City Council - the time is ripe for ripping off the rate payers.

  39. Sierra Madre residentMay 25, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    "Show me where the money has gone"

  40. The money is under the floorboards beneath Bruce's desk. In large white canvas bags with
    dollar figures drawn on them.

  41. you guys are funny, you make laugh and giggle, but I do have to admit that this is some of the driest attempts at humor I found when I Googled......"comedy blogs+inane commentary"...this is one of the best....keep up the good work!

  42. Why don't you ask the last city council, it was on their watch.

  43. What about the UUT for our Police department? Is it still in effect?

  44. The UUT hike sunsets in a couple of years. We'll either vote ourselves an extension, or decide the SMPD isn't worth the money and opt out for something that gives us more value for less dough.

  45. I vote aye for my potty break.

  46. Bobbleheads got to go too, you know.