Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The News Lizard

It has been decided by the editorial staff here at the Sierra Madre Tattler that we have been spending entirely too much time on this water rate hike issue. Not that this isn't an important story, mind you. It's just that until the City begins with its postcards, mailers, emergency radio station alerts, SMTV 3 broadcasts, public assemblies, informational seminars, debates, water walks, lunch and learns, dog and pony shows, parades, groveling, accusing, and volunteers going door to door dressed up as rusty pipes, there just isn't all that much new information to report right now.

So in order to relieve this temporary condition, we have brought in The News Lizard. You might not be familiar with him yet, but chances are pretty good you have met his less reputable brother, The Lounge Lizard. You'll have to take my word on it, these fellows, though closely related, have very little in common outside of the intense focus they bring to their respective concerns. All should rest assured they'll be allowed to read on without being asked if "you come here often."

News Lizard? Take it away!

Good day, Tattlers. Many of you will recall the coverage here regarding the Anthony Adams Recall. Our soon to retire Assemblyman had been the target of a campaign by outraged former supporters asking for his head because he broke a pledge to never vote for a tax hike while serving in the California State Assembly. The recall failed, but a shaken Anthony Adams decided to give up his office voluntarily, with his term ending at the finish of this year.

But there is one more part to this puzzle that needs to be reported on. And like most things touched by the snakebit Assemblyman, it turns out to be something rather farcical. This from Sacramento Bee news writer Dan Walters in a column he calls "Anthony Adams' shift on tax vote backfires."

... It soon became apparent, however, that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders were rewarding Adams for his tax vote in the form of a budget "trailer bill" that amended redevelopment law. The measure allowed Glendora, a city in Adams' Southern California district, to retain about $2.6 million a year in property taxes from redevelopment that otherwise would go to other local governments and schools in Los Angeles County.

The other shoe dropped recently when a state appellate court ruled that Glendora's redevelopment plan is illegal because the city had not proved the existence of urban blight as required by law, upholding a lower court ruling in a lawsuit brought against Glendora by the County of Los Angeles ... Unless overturned by the state Supreme Court, the city's loss means that it may not get the $2.6 million per year that was Adams' reward for his budget vote because its redevelopment plan is invalid.

It's certainly an ironic twist to the Adams saga. He survived the recall threat but gave up his seat this year rather than face a potential loss to a Republican challenger. In the end, his favor to Glendora crumbled into dust.

The only thing we need to find out now is who the personal beneficiaries of this redevelopment scam would have been. Must have been somebody of local importance. It certainly couldn't have been because, as the local high school fight song would have it, Adams' "heart beats true for Glendora."

More Bell Fallout

One of the benefits of the City of Bell situation is we are now getting all kinds of great data on what individual towns and taxpayers are paying for things. As an example, according to the Los Angeles Times it turns of that the residents of Bell, in a city not noted for its wealth, have been paying the second highest property taxes in the county. The point of this article being that poorer cities paradoxically often have the highest area property taxes.

Sierra Madre pays the 25th highest percentage in property taxes in Los Angeles County. Which means that property owners here are paying a greater percentage in property taxes than 62 other cities in the L.A. County area. Some of them, like Beverly Hills, with a far higher average per capita income than ours. Here are the cities where folks pay less than we do, in descending order:

Diamond Bar, Walnut, Lancaster, Pasadena, Paramount, South El Monte, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Claremont, Hawthorne, Pico Rivera, Covina, Irwindale, South Pasadena, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Long Beach, Signal Hill, Santa Monica, Avalon, Arcadia, Whittier, La Verne, San Dimas, Rosemead, San Marino, Glendora, Santa Fe Springs, Malibu, Bradbury, Duarte, La Canada Flintridge, Lawndale, Alhambra, La Puente, Downey, Beverly Hills, La Mirada, Norwalk, West Covina, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village, Azusa, Temple City, El Segundo, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Glendale, Burbank, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Artesia, Cerritos, Hermosa Beach, La Habra Heights, Bellflower.

We'll need to revisit this list after the Gang of Four gives away the farm in their negotiations with the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association next year. You know they'll be asking for more of something after that one is over. Who knows, maybe we can go from Top 25 to Top 10.

Speaking of which

Someone e-mailed in earlier today and pointed out a rather clueless item on the Los Angeles Times "L.A. Now" blog. The gist of the piece being that after giving some careful consideration to replacing their PD with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, the Pomona City Council decided to keep "its nearly century-old police force." This despite the travails of a more than $14 million dollar budget deficit. The article then went on to drop this little clinker:

The Sheriff recently took over patrols in Maywood and Cudahy, and there were talks of a transition in Sierra Madre.

I'm pretty sure that we never quite got to any transition phase. There were some bids put out to see if maybe we could get police services at a better price. And one offer came in that would have actually saved us over a million dollars a year had it been accepted. But this was all quashed when our new and decidedly more emo City Council came in, effectively removing the one decent bargaining chip we had going into our upcoming SMPOA negotiations.

The end result being we have now beefed up the force to 31 officers. Which means that every 10th car you see here in town today is a police cruiser attempting to look like it has something important to do.

Why developers are big campaign contributors

This from another Tattler reader:

"Here's a new one and this is real cute. As I've said, most of the small "community" bank loans are really made to developers and construction companies. Right now it's either no demand or there's demand because the business is failing. So a new program to push money to small banks is really a way to get money in the hands of the development industry. What a coincidence. These people are big political contributors. Almost all the 100+ bank failures this year are community banks heavily involved in lending for real estate development."

This is the article our correspondent was referring to:

Program risks $30B to save weak banks - In fresh wave of bailouts, Obama plan directs $30 billion to aid community banks.

People are fed up with bank bailouts that risk taxpayer billions. The government's apparent solution: call them something else.

Congress is at work on a new program that would send $30 billion to struggling community banks, in a process similar to the huge federal bailouts of big banks during the financial crisis. This time, money is more likely to disappear as a result of bank failures or fraud.

I guess that Sierra Madre Rule #1 ("Everything in the end is about real estate development and money") applies nationally as well. Which I suppose explains things like SB 375 and "Smart Growth." Condos are going to save the world from Global Warming, you know. And pigs are now getting ready to fly to the moon.

It's now official, the entire country is drunk on Developer Kool Aid.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go catch some insects. Even a News Lizard has got to eat, you know.

55 comments:

  1. Great stuff, NL.
    I heard Tim Conway Jr. KFI-640 talk radio, discuusing the property tax issue from the L.A. Times.

    He pointed out the highest property taxes in Los Angeles County have the POOREST SCHOOLS. Isn't that where property tax dollars are suppose to go? To better schools?
    Seems that's always their big push to raise our taxes...."it's for the schools" No....it's NOT for the schools.

    IMPORTANT MEETING TONIGHT:
    City Council Chambers...7:00 pm.
    General Plan Committee......it's VERY important that people in the communtity attend to support Denise Delmar, Teryl Willis, Ken Anhalt, Leslee Hinton, and Deb Sheridan. They are working very, very, dilegently for us all, and for the future of the town. 4 members of the city council are trying to undermine their efforts, in my humble opinion.
    Please attend and show your support.

    TONIGHT! CITY COUNCIL......be there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Correction to start timeAugust 3, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    General Plan Steering Committee is scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm tonight in Council Chambers!!!

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  3. Thanks, for the correction 8:43.
    Old Kentucky made two grievous errors.
    Didn't spell check and got the wrong time.


    TONIGHT.......SIX O'CLOCK.......SIX O'CLOCK
    Place.......City Council Chambers

    BE THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. When did public service become the gathering place for Gordon Gecko types (no offense News Lizard), for people who were proud of their lack of scruples?

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  5. Rumor has it, Water Wizard John Buchanan has found a new source of water on his property, and will save the day for development, by starting his own water company.

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  6. morning AnonymousAugust 3, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    Tattler, your article begs the question, what the heck is in the developer kool aid that has so successfully taken over. Can it really be just money - or is it power - or threats - or what. Why are developers the ones who are leading the parade to densities that kill towns.

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  7. 9:58

    It's obviously for the easy $$$$ score.
    The combination of unscrupulous developers, unscrupulous real estate brokers, unscrupulous banks which finance these deals, and last but not least:
    UNSCRUPULOUS POLITICIANS, local, state and federal. Bottom line, however, it's the money.
    It's like Don Watts once told us, these developers and their friends can make a decent profit off of fair deals, deals that conform to Measure V....the people's wish.
    But, it's that EXTRA $$$$$, they can't resist, why? Because they are greedy and they lack integrity. They rationalize, it's just "business", no, it is not. It's GREED.

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  8. The police force has always been the biggest item on our budget.
    The extra officers are for training some of the others so that in a couple of years the department can cut down on overtime and be more efficient.

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  9. A couple of dozen homes here, a Candy Land Condo development there, an upscale four story apartment complex, and another Muir-Sol quad-plex or two... I'm having trouble seeing that as a reason the entities enumerated above are in such hell bent devilishly hot pursuit of a little three square miles of privately owned mostly single family homes in a sorry state of disrepair and aging apartments. And its protected by clown firemen, not even real firefighters. A struggling school district. A decidedly crappy strip mall laughingly called a downtown. And an admittedly crumbling infrastructure. Bond debt tettering on the edge of default. 45% of its population are seniors and notoriously tight with their money. What is the real reason politicians, developers, realtors, and giant utility companies even look twice? What are we missing here? Now if they could level the whole damn town, gate up three sides and advertise it as an exclusive foothill Christian community protected by cannons and armed militia it still has no ski slopes, no beach front, no airport for the Gulfstreams, and I'm sorry but Chelsea wannabes are not going to choose the Villa for their interfaith nuptials.

    What is it about Sierra Madre that draws the worst of the worst intent on dislodging the intransigents who refuse to give up their right to protest?

    That's the million dollar question.

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  10. Amen 11:21!
    It must be some kind of plan to scrap it all and start again - sort of like people intended to do to Montecito, and the downtown.
    Specific plans to specifically tear down places in order to make everything look like the southeast corner of California and First Avenue in Arcadia, or hundreds of other overbuilt underused cement blocks.

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  11. The plan for Sierra Madre lives in the DSP documents in the library.
    Any resident can see exactly what was going to happen.
    Very scary

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  12. 11:20 I have yet to witness a Police Dept that was interested more in efficiency than overtime. Interests are: Overtime, Sue the City, Early Retirement with rediculous benefits, Disability Compensation ( 66% of inflated Pay "tax free")for life, Uniform Reimbursment, Healthcare for life, and assistance from the POA (Police Officers Association) to maximize above Interests

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  13. 12:19 Be what is it may, Chief Diaz is wanting to bring the department into the 21st century and increase the standard of the department. Let's give her some credit. Hope she can overcome the joke of a police department in the San Gabriel Valley that is Sierra Madre. The same one that Josh Moran is always praising as a wonderful example of his dream mayberry police force.

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  14. I am not a financial wizard, but I can tell there's something very wrong about the way our city handles its money.
    Looks like there have been so many errors that people have just decided to wipe the slate clean and start again.
    That wouldn't wotk with an individual's finance, so why does anyoine think it will work with the city?

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  15. pretty good karmaAugust 3, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    Sad but true 12:19.
    However, the police department, like the fire department, is the third rail in Sierra Madre politics. If you dare to suggest we do without either of them by finding more economical and efficient methods, you will be vilified as beyond despicable.Case in point, the slander against then mayor Macgilvry that she was out to get rid of the fire department, and that paroxysm of self sacrifice from Bamburger.

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  16. Good remarks 1:40. Chief Diaz is a born cop, and good for her. She stepped into a badly run department, some truly juvenile attitudes, and Enid Joffee's handiwork in the police contract negotiations.

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  17. We pay more property taxes here than people pay in Malibu? In La Canada? What kinda screwy system is that?

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  18. Malibu skates in lots of ways.
    You know that every time it burns down, it's your tax money that helps it build again? That's one of the reasons there's the chapter "The case for Letting Malibu Burn" in Mike Davis' The Ecology of Fear.

    "Fire in Malibu has a relentless, staccato rhythm. The rugged coastline is scourged by a large fire, on average, every two and a half years, and at least once a decade a blaze in the chaparral grows into a terrifying firestorm consuming hundreds of homes in an inexorable march across the mountains to the sea. In one week last month, 10 homes and 14,000 acres of brush went up in smoke.
    And it will only get worse. Such periodic disasters are inevitable as long as private residential development is tolerated in the fire ecology of the Santa Monicas."

    Or in the foothills of Sierra Madre....

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  19. The fight is the same all over our country, developers versus regular people who just want a place to live, work and raise their kids, and not stacked up on top of each other. The developers don't stay in the communities they 'enhance' and that says a lot right there.

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  20. The blight of political families and vulturous friendsAugust 3, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    No mystery in Glendora, The other half of Mr. Moseley, former city attorney of El Monte, Mr. Development only if he gets a piece if not first dibs of any property in El Monte, is Mr. Leech, of Moseley and Leech or vice versus, and this is blowback. This is part of the good old boy Moy, Moseley, Leech, lets get John Leung what ever he wants illegal legal masthead of cherry pickers, eminent domainers where there is no blight, fallout. When Jim Mussenden was caught trolling, I remarked that he learned his bad habits from the gifting of immigration investment and those folks who hid behind a foreign trade zone door, to some of the city staff who were at the resignation emergency meeting, I believe Jim was set up on purpose, to remove him. With the help of Pomona, or it would have been squashed, versus being all over the papers. Jim lives in Glendora. As above so below. I personally had dealings with that SOB Leech. Glendora best terminate that old scheming spider. I will not shed a tear for those politicians and their lawyers that contrive to make blight for eminent domain where there is none, in order to wrest private parties property with redevelopment and city money out of their hands to do a favor and profit on the backside. Ask them about the breakfast club, Moseley Leech Clayton judge van somebody. For years they had breakfast and discussed and divvied up the cream of the city deals. I hope that decision echoes all over Southern California. And god forgive me, I hope they end up penniless in the street.

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  21. This is about Adams and Glendora, but its a perfect fit here too:

    "The only thing we need to find out now is who the personal beneficiaries of this redevelopment scam would have been"

    So where's the list of people who would benefit from the Sierra Madre downtown specific plan.

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  22. 2:20 Your right that fire will eventually consume 1 Carter and Stone Gulch. Just a matter of when. That leaves Sierra Madre responsible since they approved the permits. A bigger deal are the Canyons with "debris basins" just above. It is a matter of time until they fill up, overflow, and destroy the houses at 1 Carter and Stone Gultch (the deceptively flat alluvial plain at Stone Gultch is where the next alluvial flow will stop, right on top of the 20+ new houses. Google "debris basins" and read the state standards for the "dams" that go unregulated because they are catagorized as "depris basins". Maybe the Sierra Madre Fault will destroy these canyon homes before the monsoon rains do. Don't worry though. The LLC Developers have left, disolved their Corporation and left Sierra Madre holding the financial bag.

    P.S. The fine print in homowners and flood insurance policies rules out payments for "mud flow". Would the debris coming off Mt Wilson be mud? I wonder.

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  23. That paradox that Bell is paying the 2nd highest property taxes in the county is the worst unethical evil. They knowingly took from the poor to give to the rich. A story as old as time.

    The CC and the Mayor knew what they were doing to their people and did it without any guilt.

    This story of GREED and DECEPTION will never have a punishment to equal the crime. Somehow the victims must be repaid.

    At a time when Americans are caught up in so much ugliness towards the illegals, let us stop and pause about all our hard working BELL neighbors who were USED and remember that all of us should
    "love thy neighbors as thyselves."

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  24. 3:23, you are a realtor's nightmare with all those facts.
    Anyone who sells a lot at the Gulch or Gate is supposed to thoroughly inform the buyers of the many and splendid hazards.
    What do you bet the bad news will be buried under many, many dull pieces of paper?

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  25. The shameful politicians and city staff of Bell will pay alright. Every one of them will be in jail.

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  26. Too bad we cannot PROTEST the sale of Gulch and Gate.....

    We should post the BUYER BEWARE at the front of the properties.......

    Unfortunately, California has not caught up with other states where a real estate deal must have an attorney represent both seller and buyer so both are FULLY informed.

    Thus, nothing gets buried, especially the TRUTH.
    We would not have had so many bad mortages.

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  27. The News Lizard rocks!

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  28. 3:58......actually all real estate deals require a Natural Hazard Disclosure report, or NHD, tops in the industry, you can order one for any property in California.

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  29. Mystery Shoppers Save LivesAugust 3, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    3:23 gee that makes me want to run up and drop a half million for an empty lot then build a mini mansion probably another half million, so I can get burned and crispy fried or drowned in a Tsunami of water overflow, now lets see where is my checkbook? Did anyone call long dragon realty and ask how many lots are available? Is there a Tatt couple who could pose as potential buyers and find out? Video with sound would be nice. Neuro could do it, I'd go with him but it would obviously look like a may december romance, and then they would be calling me a cougar, and then the congregational church would pray for me. Has anybody shopped the properties?

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  30. Still no comments on Bill Coburn's site. Can it be that his readers are taking remedial English courses at Sierra Madre College?

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  31. on a city agenda tonightAugust 3, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Who wants to go to the 2010 US-China Real Estate Summit, host city is San gabriel 300- 350 chinese meet 200 American top industry leaders. Aug 25 to the 27. News Lizard please review this website, it is loaded with welcomes from a lot of tattled on figures of interests, it looks like the creme de la creme of monied beggered interests will be there.

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  32. Oh 6:01, what a great idea!
    I don't think anyone has done that, though it seems that from time to time people post about lots being sold, but no formal records have been reported - so who knows.
    And yes 5:57, the NHD is law, but if it's buried under a million other things - or presented with all of the cheerfulness a realtor can muster (and that's some world class cheerfulness) let's just say the impact can be 'mitigated'

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  33. The situation in Glendora is about the same as most cities....
    First the city declares an area "blighted" and forms a redevelopment zone. As part of this new zoning, development or re-modeling must be approved by an appointed or elected body. The only projects approved are usually new commercial for the potential sales tax dollars or high density to meet the "affordable" housing goals.
    Usually, this restrictive process works to deflate the value of property in the zone..next the city steps in and buys, or takes, the property. It is then packaged as a project and sold to a developer for LESS than the city paid.

    This process is why the "real estate" folks are so heavily involved in local development standards. During a brisk real estate market, they are able to block any competition by buying land directly from their contacts at the city and usually for far less than market value.
    When the market is down, they are able to negotiate a great price and often special financing or other entitlements that the average guy would never get.
    It has become a cottage industry and most every city has worked to declare large redevelopment zones so they can mandate who will, and who will not, get to use the property.
    In Glendora's case, the County was convinced that the City was mis-using the process and that no real "blight" existed. Trust me, getting the County to file suit took a lot of work and effort on the part of a few local citizens.

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  34. Misuse of the process is a polite way to say itAugust 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM

    Gilman,

    Unrequited blight, occurs wherever Moseley and Leech are. They have been the death of people. The only redeeming part of this recession is that the biggest gluttonous highly invested in
    individuals are stuck with the most loss as holders of property they aquired by means of eminent domain. Glendora needs to force Leech to resign. Like Bell and Covina got rid of Lee.

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  35. Leech won't be replaced anytime soon. He is well thought of by the powers to be and has become highly invested in Glendora.

    He is simply a symptom of an all too common problem in our local cities.....overpaid legal advice with no stake in the community they serve.

    I would love to see the City Attorney position become an elected office as in our bigger city's such as Los Angeles.....but I am not holding my breath.

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  36. Hey August 3, 2010 @ 4:00pm, look REAL close to our very own city officials and you might be surprized of their salaries too. Oh, and by the way, these city officials are also "double dippin".

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  37. Crawford, please put up a list of all the city staff and their salaries and if they are "double dippin" we need to post that up too.

    I also like the idea of electing a city attorney.
    Kurt Zimmerman? Are you available?

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  38. Gilman, thank you for that informative post, laying out how the corruption actually works. I know it's going on, but can't see the mechanics, the machinery that is used to stuff the greedy and cut out the regular citizen.

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  39. Doubtful of any real changeAugust 4, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Gilman, with the trend in electing DIRTS I'm afraid you would see Bart Doyle elected City Attorney. Don't forget an election doesn't guarantee honesty...

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  40. 8:21 am, if you're so hot to see a list of all city staff, their salaries, and whatever you call "double dippin", fill out a Public Info Request and post the results. However, what you are more likely to see are salaries for the Executives, and a position title with salary ranges for staff. Even in Sierra Madre employees have a right to privacy.

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  41. This am's PSN reported that John Chiang directed all cities and counties in California to provide a report of employees' and elected officials' salaries so they can be posted on the controller's website.

    "The new rule will require governments to provide salaries for each classification of elected official and ublic employee."

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  42. Bell is a blessing in disguise, and 8:36, the city staff are PAID BY THE RESIDENTS. We have a right to now what they cost us.

    State orders citys to disclose pay

    http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/state&id=7591309

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  43. Gilman, I do not have the case nor the details of the case. I assure you that his other half, his legal partner, as city attorney had to sign and review any development agreed to, bonds sold to/for, city council/city council posing as the redevelopment agency. Which got El Monte certainly defrauded and close to bankruptcy, over the folks they deal with.

    I am sure the the county prosecutors have looked into this. Glendora knows they have looked into this. Leech is certainly aware of it. Moseley was forced to resign, it cost the city more money,and another squashed scandal after Titan.

    Moseley and Leech are a very small inbred firm, they share everything. The bell is tolling for Leech. What are the penalties for a city who tries to commit blight fraud, do they go to jail
    or have their development agency and funds taken away for ever?

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  44. City of Sierra Madre website, city news update:
    City Salary Information
    Our staff is sittin' pretty

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  45. Why is the word "volunteer" by the $80,000-a-year fire chief?

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  46. working for a livingAugust 4, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Check out the city pay but don't forget to calculate the RETIREMENT BENEFITS, which many of us in the private sector no longer have.

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  47. The city salaries will be a litmus test. People making more will say OK, people making less will say Whaaaaat?
    Whaaaaaaat?

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  48. The earths magnetic field is under assaultAugust 4, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    I am getting dizzier than I usually am and have change the website format disorientation. Is this a result of the giant tsumani solar flare that left the Sun, on Sunday and was supposed to be here Tuesday? Or it could be the space quakes also, news lizard where is Sir Eric?

    This blog formatting is limited, but reptilian green and red font, is not making me feel warm and toasty.

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  49. I've been messing around with the look of the place. It will be changing color a lot over the next few days. My recommendation is sunglasses.

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  50. I like the website's new look!

    While driving by city hall last night, my eyes caught sight of a horrifying scene.

    Susan (I'm not a crook) Henderson (yeah, ya are), struttin' down the sidewalk with one of the city council women, the tap dancer.

    Was Walsh at the meeting they had at city hall or just hangin' out with her new best friend, Harriet Poole Henderson????

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  51. There he is, he gave me maundry faceAugust 4, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    As long as you are okay, Sir Eric Maundry..
    I went to cool text and played with putting the Sierra madre tattler in flames, one is carved that would look great but they are saving as bit maps. I like cheap sunglasses..Carry on dear editor, forgive my squeak

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  52. Kurt Zimmerman for City Attorney!!!!!!!

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  53. Looked at the city announcement of salaries - so the city attorney fees are not part of that chart?

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  54. 10:31, Someone said Ms Levin makes 12 grand a month, it was in the newspaper, probably LA times, that she makes 145 thousand a year Of course we don't know how much in La Habra Heights probably similiar amount.

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  55. My favorite part of the Sierra Madre aspect of this is that the budgeting has been done in a way to disguise just how top-heavy our city administration has become. The ascribing the costs of this administration to all the little departments, it is not so easily discovered. Sir Eric, don't forget to add in the cost of the assistants and the assistants' secretaries, etc.

    Gravy train time--but we can't afford to train our fire department any longer.

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