It was quite a showdown last night in the City of Sierra Madre Council Chambers. On the one hand you had the embattled locals as they fought to maintain citizen control over the committee charged with updating Sierra Madre's General Plan. On the other you had the 4 members of the Sierra Madre City Council who represent both regional government and corporate interests here, all of whom apparently hoped to be able to seize control of a process that could prove rewarding to the largely out of town interests they care about. The notion of this being a "study session" apparently having flown out the window.
There were two contending camps in what turned out to be quite a debate. On the one side was former Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray, who voiced the opinion that the General Plan reflects the peoples' will, and it must be the feedback of the community that shapes it. After all, it is a living document that helps to give structure to the wishes of those who have chosen to spend their lives here. On the other side of the divide stood current Mayor Joe Mosca, who seemed to view this meeting as some sort of personal test. As is usually the case with Joe, his references were mostly in regards to how all of this reflected upon him personally. His message was that he would make the decisions, and that he was in charge. And Joe backed that sad and obvious measure of personal insecurity up with an unfair and snide aspersion on the effectiveness of the good hearted volunteers serving on the General Plan Steering Committee.
Mayor Mosca, who probably should never plan on a career in professional poker, was called out by Fay Angus over this unfortunate slight. After having heard an hour and a half of Joe proclaiming that he should both make the decisions and be in charge, she'd had enough. Fay stood up at the podium and informed Joe that she found his style to be both abrasive and uncivil. She told him it was the people of Sierra Madre who should decide what goes into this document, not him. Her remarks were greeted with vigorous applause.
After much foot dragging by an obviously reluctant Mosca, the Committee was finally introduced, and all delivered public comments that were positive, upbeat, and showed how the promise of this process was being delivered. All they needed now was the time and support of City Staff, plus regular (and frequent!) meeting times.
Mayor Mosca, his pique obviously still intact, then proposed a shocking change to the Committee that had the room groaning with disbelief and anger. He, along with the other City Councilmembers he is ideologically aligned with, wanted to expand the Committee by 4 members. Which, if the bizarre and uncomfortably personal outbursts of Josh Moran are to be believed, would apparently be chosen for having supported Joe and his running mates in the last election. Josh informing all that he had "seen the signs."
What would be the purpose of taking the unprecedented step of adding members to a Committee that was already on its way to doing the job it was selected to do? In my opinion it was to monkey wrench the process. By bringing in four new members most likely opposed to the concept of citizen control in Sierra Madre, things would quickly bog down as the two factions struggled to make their opinions heard. In time this would be marketed as the failure of this Committee process to work, something which would then require the City Council to step in and take over. A consultant compliant with Sacramento and regional planning mandates would logically follow.
In the end it was the dogged determination of MaryAnn MacGillivray, the numerous speakers at the podium, plus a frankly angry crowd in the City Council Chambers, that kept Mayor Mosca from making the motion that would have sanctioned the placing of 4 of his political cronies on the General Plan Steering Committee. The politically astute John Buchanan, sensing that this meeting was not a particularly glorious moment for his colleagues, agreed to a compromise that involved the inclusion of subcommittees into the mix, while also maintaining the General Plan Steering Committee with its original five members intact.
An interesting highlight of the evening was when a 27 year Sierra Madre resident named John (didn't catch his last name) called out Josh Moran for his resentful and politically motivated attack on some of the volunteers on the General Plan Steering Committee. John delivered a world class and much deserved dressing down to the Councilmember.
Lately there have been some new people showing up at City Council meetings who have been eloquently expressing some very negative opinions of the Mosca City Council. I've never met any of them, so I have no idea who they are or what their motivations might be. But if this is a sign of how Sierra Madreans are reacting to the new regime, then the early reviews cannot be considered good.
One other thing. The two new members of the City Council aligned with the current Mayor seemed remarkably in synch and scripted on the question of expanding the General Plan Steering Committee. It was almost as if they had been discussing the notion earlier. The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem might want to consider (should they ever actually decide to go down that road) whether the new members have the sophistication necessary to disguise their involvement in such activity.