I've finally figured out what John Buchanan and Joe Mosca's problem is. They just can't say what is really on their minds. Everything they attempt to do is for one purpose only, development. It is the reason why they are here and not hanging around some golf course with the rest of the guys from the powerplant. But they'll never actually come out and say this because they know the hue and cry in this town would be deafening. So they just kind of tippy toe around the issues, occasionally raising a small question here and there in hopes of somehow steering the conversation away from such dreaded things as popular democracy, or what the town actually wants. But they never really take things any farther.
Their peculiar situation has pretty much robbed these two fellows of the ability to get very much done. They control this City Council by a 4 to 1 majority, yet somehow still manage to lose no matter what the topic. The reason for this being delightfully simple. They support an agenda that is so overwhelmingly unpopular in this town that they dare not even mention it. And since it is really all they know, there is very little else of importance that they have to say. Which leaves the two of them about as metaphorically bound and gagged as Hannibal Lecter being rolled around on his little warehouse wheel cart.
There were really only two issues up for discussion tonight. One was the water protest, and the other was the General Plan Steering Committee. And has been the case since this City Council was organized, it was once again the Keystone Kouncilmembers versus MaryAnn and the people of Sierra Madre. This was mostly an exercise in damage control and politics on their part because, let's face it, things haven't been going so very well for them lately.
The water protest issue quickly went from tragedy to low farce. The numbers were read, and the narrow and legalistic technicalities that permitted 270 or so protest forms to be thrown out carried the day. However, sensing which way the political winds were blowing on this issue, the Keystoners decided to not make use of this grubby victory, instead opting to initiate something euphemistically known as "community outreach." The assumption being that a couple of thousand Sierra Madreans signed protest forms because they didn't know any better, and all it will take to bring them around is some postcards and e-mail from City Hall.
However, rather than doing any actual reaching out to discover what the community is thinking, this instead turns out to be a plan that will make use of every possible communication and media tool available to the City to sell the water rate hike. In other words, they're going to try and ram this one down the community's throat.
Here is a list of the assets City Hall hopes to exploit in order to peddle something so incredibly unpopular that almost 50% of the water rate paying population of Sierra Madre signed forms and petitions to stop it:
1) Walk and Talk - This used to be called the "Water Walk," but the name had to be changed when people began to ask City Staff to prove that they could recreate something only Jesus can do. This would include a tour of the water works and permission to rub the Siemens tanks. All based on the risky assumption that any of their supporters who might attend are capable of doing both at the same time.
2) SMTV3 - Taking a cue from the old Soviet Union, City Staff intends to create (and at God knows what price) a half an hour propaganda film on our water woes and why those who allowed things to get this bad deserve more of our money. The plan is to show this film over and over again on SMTV3. I would hope they would want to complete the effect by filming it in a grainy black and white.
3) Community Presentations - Boiling down their water film down to 5 minutes, and then coupling it to the wonders of PowerPoint, individuals who live off our taxes would then fan out across the community to do fund raising support for City Hall's costly version of a less popular reality.
4) Rerun Joe Mosca's Re-election Campaign - Apparently this is Joe's idea. That being to make use of all the civic clubs and society groups to help organize the effort to win support for a big fat water rate hike. Which is basically the same tactic used to elect Joe Mosca and his Bobbleheads.
5) Panel Discussions - Supposed experts on the subject would be invited to crack water-wise in front of an empty room. People opposing the hike would be asked to participate, but since they won't also be allowed access to any of the other aspects of the media blitz, I would recommend politely refusing this honor.
6) Use the AM Radio Station - The thing is barely up and running and already it is being used for political propaganda. Anybody not see that one coming? Hopefully they'll get that siren fixed soon so concerned citizens will be able to sound the Blowhard Alert System (BAS).
7) E-Blasts - I doubt that those residents who handed their e-mail address over to the City ever believed that it would be used to spam them.
8) Mailers, post cards, and notices. Apparently there is to be a whole schedule of them, and at $1,500 a pop. Kind of like back in the heyday of the "No on V" mailings.
9) The Looney Views News. It wasn't mentioned because, let's face it, even these people are ashamed to associate themselves with this rag. But you know that this taxpayer supported venue will be used by City Hall on a weekly basis.
Now if all of that isn't wacky enough, there was a revelation that MaryAnn MacGillivray coaxed out of a very reluctant Sandra Levin. That being as long as the next water gouge stays below the maximum dollar limits of its previous incarnation, Prop 218 cannot be used again. Something that I suspect some of the Keystoners might believe strips the residents of their one real recourse. I guess we're just going to have to fill them in on some little numbers known as ballot initiatives. And I'm using the plural here because there is no way that we should stop with just one.
Too Much Democracy for John and Joe?
It is becoming obvious even to me that Denise Delmer is not only one very smart lady, she is also an incredibly focused one as well. And she came up with this uniquely American notion that the people of this City should be allowed to chart the destiny of their own community. Pretty wild idea, eh? Imagine, an independent city free from the grim confines of consultant driven regionalism. Or a General Plan that reads like the DSP. No wonder John and Joe looked so dour.
Under her plan, the General Plan Steering Committee would invite in as many volunteers as possible to give their viewpoints on where they would want to see Sierra Madre in ten years. This wouldn't be a committee per se, because they would then be similarly constrained by the Brown Act. Which is where the real beauty of this thing can be found. Because as volunteers they wouldn't be subject to the Brown Act, which means they can get together any old time they want to talk about the General Plan and what they want it to be. All without expensive legal babysitters and City Staff hovering over them. In the process creating a true peoples' document.
The Mayor seemed quite adamant at one point that no matter how these volunteers were organized, it would be a Brown Act situation. It took a patient explanation from our highly compensated City Attorney to show him the errors in his assumption.
Now John and Joe were obviously troubled by this vision of so much freedom. Which I guess is why they asked Denice to repeat herself over and over. Maybe they thought that if they asked often enough the meaning of her words might change. Their only barely hidden agenda, development, requires the hiring of expensive consultants who would then work to plug into our General Plan key elements designed to enable the central planning mandates of Sacramento as spelled out by SB 375. Their obvious hope is to establish General Plan subcommittees that they could then staff with their compliant cronies, propping them up with highly compensated consultants who would then do the actual damage. Leaving the subcommittee members themselves free to attend dinners honoring their dedication and hard work.
None of which happened last night. Thanks to one very determined and resourceful lady.
One More Thing
Anybody catch Joe's repeated snickering over his calling out the names and addresses of residents walking up to the podium for public comment? They don't call him Eddie Haskell for nothing, you know.