Monday, August 16, 2010

Sierra Madre's First Corporatist City Council?

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini

At The Tattler we are fond of interesting new ideas, particularly when we're talking about politics and government. Because let's face it, there is no quicker way for an idea to get old fast than to have it put into practice. Here in California we are currently living with the consequences of many once fine ideas gone wrong, and now there are suddenly none left to fix the messes their implementation created.

Sacramento, of course, is recognized as one of the leading legislative and governmental basket cases in the nation. And hardly the kind of place we'd want telling us how to run our business. After all, look at how poorly they're doing with their own affairs.

In the past we've discussed national politics on this site, but we have tried to not make a habit of it. As Sierra Madre is an independent city, we felt that we should limit the discussion to things that reflect the need to maintain our unencumbered status. But now, and especially with our new City Council in place, we are probably going to have to move on from that quaint notion. The current cabal is in the process of taking Sierra Madre not only into a decidedly more regionalist perspective, but also aligning us with the centralized planning regimes of Washington and Sacramento. Particularly on the topic of so-called "sustainable development," which is actually just a greenwashed phrase for lots of high-density construction that mostly benefits corporate interests and their lobbyists. And as we have seen with the water rate controversy, they're even amenable to taking millions in encumbered Federal money to do it.

All of which means that important city responsibilities such as development planning will soon be aligned with national policies that run counter to our cherished notions of Sierra Madre as an independently run city in charge of its own destiny. Joe Mosca has often said that under his leadership we would be working more closely with other cities to "help solve our problems." This despite the fact that what we have here is really so much better than those whose help he'd seek. Of course, to those who follow Mosca's malarkey closely, "working with other cities" actually means aligning our little star with the policies of massive Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as SCAG, the Federally funded central planning authority tasked with enforcing unwanted development schemes designed by people who live thousands of miles away and couldn't care less about this place. That is, if they even know of its existence.

One of the more interesting and novel notions to hit the news wires lately comes from a seemingly unlikely source, the Libertarian gone Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Now you might or might not agree with what Ron Paul has had to say as a politician, but as a social critic he does have his moments. His perceptions can be astonishing at times, sometimes controversial, and he has become quite a media goldmine for notable quotes. Here are a few that I picked up from quotelucy.com:

"You don't have freedom because you are a hyphenated American; you have freedom because you are an individual, and that should be protected."

"You want to get rid of drug crime in this country? Fine, let's just get rid of all the drug laws."

"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas."

Hardly the kinds of statements you'd expect to hear from what many regard as a most conservative Republican. These are rather the insights of a committed Libertarian (or should I say contrarian?) who truly enjoys taking established wisdom and turning it on its head.

So in this spirit I am going to cite a portion of an opinion piece (click here) that first appeared on the Talking Points Memo website. It discusses Ron Paul's perspectives on what for many on the political right is an article of faith regarding President Barack Obama. That Paul both skewers that accepted faith and then goes on to imply something even worse could be involved is characteristic of the Texas Congressman.

Ron Paul: President Obama Is Not A Socialist - Near the end of the third day of this year's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, it was time for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to take the stage. Paul, fresh off his victory in the CPAC straw poll, gave a characteristically fired-up speech that took on the views of the Republican party establishment.

"The question has been raised about whether or not our president is a socialist," Paul said. "I am sure there are some people here who believe it. But in the technical sense, in the economic definition of what a socialist is, no, he's not a socialist."

"He's a corporatist," Paul continued. "And unfortunately we have corporatists inside the Republican party and that means you take care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country."

Paul said examples of President Obama's "corporatism" were evident in the health care reform bill he signed into law last month. He said the mandate in the bill put the power over health care in the hands of corporations rather than private citizens. But he said the bill wasn't the only place where corporatism is creeping into Washington.

"We see it in the financial institutions, we see it in the military-industrial complex," he said. "And now we see it in the medical-industrial complex."

What Paul is saying here hits home. Foreign corporations, located mostly in countries where health care is handled by the government, have a tremendous competitive advantage over U.S. corporations who must foot the bill for employee medical costs themselves. By at least partially removing that financial burden from domestic corporations they become better able to compete in a global economy. This is why you heard precious few corporations (outside of health insurance companies) complaining about Obamacare. Despite all the news coverage about how this would be a boon to the uninsured, they understood it was actually far more about their interests.

Of course, the Obama Administration would hardly be our first "corporatist" presidency. Similar accusations can be leveled at George W. Bush. After all, he took this country to war for the benefit of a few oil corporations. And I'm sure the case can be made for other recent presidencies as well.

So to the point of today's post, is the Mosca-Buchanan City Council "corporatist?" I would argue that yes, it is. Both Mosca and Buchanan are employed (or, as has been pointed out by some, underemployed) by large energy corporations that would benefit greatly should Sierra Madre succumb to the large scale redevelopment mandates of Washington and Sacramento. And both strongly advocate policies that push forward the business agendas of interests they work for. More housing in Sierra Madre meaning more cash paying consumers for these large gas and electricity companies.

This can also be shown in their embracing of "regionalism." SCAG, as we have said, is supported with Federal tax dollars. And there is no greater priority in the Obama administration these days than "sustainable development." As you know, the prime beneficiary of such massive redevelopment in cities such as ours would be big corporate organizations.

One of the major forces pushing for redevelopment regionally would be the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, an organization often aligned with the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIA) and California Association of Realtors (CAR). Both were instrumental in lining up 10s of thousands of dollars in corporate money to fight Measure V a few years back.

Besides the BIA and CAR, the SGVEP is also affiliated with Southern California Edison, Sempra Energy, The Pasadena Star News, Samuelson and Fetter LLC, and the Pacific Palms Resort & Conference Center. An entity owned by Majestic Realty's now legendary neo-NFL stadium builder Ed Roski, Jr.

I realize that to equate the virulent fascism of 1930s Europe with the corporate Babbitry we see here in the SGV is a bit of a stretch. After all, we haven't seen any cadres of the Downtown Investors' Club goosestepping down Sierra Madre Boulevard. At least not yet. But there is something decidedly undemocratic and reactionary about this arrangement. It is as if this City Hall is now at war with our open and inclusive political traditions. Traditions that are as old as the town itself. Can it be the people of Sierra Madre no longer have a place at that table?

A corporatist City Council would not in any way be interested in the wishes of the people living in their town. Rather, and as we can see in Sierra Madre, the DSP-style development corporate interests ardently desire is now the first - and apparently only - priority of this city government. To them the taxpayers are not a partner, nor can they even be considered to be an interested party. Rather they are a potential problem. One that must be properly managed so that there is no interference with planning for the large scale development they fully expect to see here in a few years.

Which explains the absurd struggle over control of the General Plan Committee. It is also why the City found the impressive scale of the water rate protest to be so shocking. It was a direct blow to both them and the interests of parties whose needs they've tried so hard to represent.

Hopefully we'll be able to deliver a couple more of them very soon.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

44 comments:

  1. Yes,Winston..you are ours. Oh, and incidentally to mix metaphors, if I am number 2 who is number 1.

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  2. You are number 6.

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  3. I'm not sure that being compared to Mussolini is going to
    make the Mosca gang very happy. But they comparison is
    not incorrect.

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  4. Many people have the wrong idea about sustainablilty. True, it can mean high density/mixed use development, but it also means solar panels, green roofs, how buildings are built, community gardens, trees, alternative fuel vabicles, equal access to government, jobs, education, and recreation for all residents, and equal protection from potential hazards and nuisances,equal access to government, jobs, education, and recreation for all residents, and equal protection from potential hazards and nuisances, policies to strengthen the local economy, policies to make parks and recreation areas accessible to the whole community, to reduce water and energy use on public lands and in municipal facilities, and to protect the environment, and and enhance natural resources, sensitive habitat, and agricultural land, as well as policies to protect air and water quality.

    Bottom line is if you want to have the above items included in the update of the General Plan you need to be there to voice your opinion. If not, certain agendas of high density building in the name of sustainability will be advanced. If this happens Sierra Madre has only Sierra Madre to blame.

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  5. Good point, 8:09

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  6. I'm sure that when the time comes all of what you advocate will be supported by this City Council, 8:09. But they will also ram through high density development because that is why they're hear. The language of the green movement has been co-opted by people just as these. There is no greater proof of that than their advocacy of the notion that high density development is "green." Los Angels County is one of the densest in the world, and you can see the green effects of that every day on the horizon. At the heart of this debate is development and money, not solar panels and compost heaps. Everything else is pretty much marketing and greenwash.

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  7. Did i misunderstand here? The general plan is going to have requirements that I buy solar panels for my house?

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  8. Z.P.G.yall,and co,opt the co,option by the co,opters. So long

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  9. It appears that Sacramento's idea of a good General Plan is one that says what they want it to say. And has Joe Mosca or John Buchanan ever disagreed with any Sacramento mandate, no moatter how unfair or unworkable? Not that I can recall.

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  10. The massive disinformation campaign memorialized in SB 375 by the state legislature is being used to ramrod tremendous amounts of new development that decimate resources, creates traffic and pollution, and far exceeds what water supplies we currently have.

    It's the usual tripe that fuels the rationale for greed, the banks don't have a monopoly on that.

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  11. I have a simple system for trust. If it involves Joe Mosca, John Buchanan, the Bobbleheads, Susan Henderson, Bill Coburn, City Hall, or anyone associated with them, I assume the worst. It saves a lot of energy and more often than not the assumption is correct.

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  12. Generally speaking I believe the word "mitigate" to be overused. However, in the case of the General Plan Update, we have an opportunity to mitigate "green" updates that the Council will attempt to put in place. Will we prevail? Not 100% to be sure. Everything about Sierra Madre falls into a 50-50 split. But somewhere between John Buchanan's definition of "green" and MaryAnn MacGillivray's "People's Document" seems a reasonable expectation. On the timeline we're two years away from the draft submittal. Much will take place between now and them. Make sure your voice and concerns are heard!

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  13. Your point of today's post is a good and valid one. That Joe and John's views are tied up in their employment is galling particularly when they try to force their company's ideas on the whole city. We all know by now that Washington and Sacramento are the driving force on todays mandates for a "green" city. How many times has Joe traveled to Washington to lobby for Sempra?

    I do think, though that the Ron Paul quotes were out of place for your blog. The Tattler group are a people of many different political persuasions and one sentence could turn people off. . . .or do you want to start a discussion of Bush vs. Obama?

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  14. Point taken, though the purpose was to air out the concept of "corporatism" rather than the policies of any presidents. They were intended to serve as an example of the idea in action, rather than any endorsement of anyone's views. These are not always easy concepts to deal with, it took me months to write this article. I've been working on it for quite some time. All that said though, I have to confess I think Paul makes a good point. Corporations do control a lot of things in this country, and the big loser in that process is democracy. What we are seeing in Sierra Madre on the development question had its genesis in Sacramento and now Washington. The active players are invested interests and politicians. The voice of the people is being squeezed out.

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  15. Wow 8:09, sustainability as you describe it is the panacea for the world's ills, the utopia that has so long eluded humans' grasp. And you better watch out, because less scrupulous people are sneaking around behind your idealistic back.

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  16. Mod, you say that corporatism is an interesting new idea, but the forces that create it are as old as the hills.
    The greedy have taken over the good, again.

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  17. What sickens me is that a lightweight like Joe Mosca will deliver this fine little town over to mposcagian type of orgs just to advance himself, byebye town, hello Senator Mosca.

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  18. I think that the biggest weapon the developers have is that people do not understand what they are up against. I'm not sure I agree with everything that is being said here, but I appreciate the fact that it is being said.

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  19. The new urban planners coming out of college do want to save the world. They want to make good cities for healthy citizens. They just don't realize that the corporate powers that be will only allow them just so much freedom. It's the illusion of freedom that they create their plans in, and on the ground it's big bad reality. Not free.

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  20. 10:02 sez, thanks Mod. I love an intelligent discussion, not like we get from City Hall.

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  21. There is a certain irony in that the language of the New Left of the 60s and 70s has now become fodder for corporate sales pitches in 2010. Condos are going to save the world, you say? Do tell.

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  22. What do you think it is that the developers etc. who kill Green are going to buy with their profits?
    What CAN they buy to make up for the terrible things they are doing to the land and to the people?

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  23. Oh yes 12:44.
    There were kick it up revolutionary songs in the 60's, one about Time has come today, and it found its way to a watch commercial.Quite a sell out. I don't recognize the Democratic Party anymore.

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  24. Whatever illusions I might have had about the Democrats have been destroyed by the development issue. I swear they'd walk over their mothers dead body to get a handout from a lobbyist.

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  25. I dropped out of the demo party when the primarily demo council here let the hillsides be bulldozed. In the old days, I would've expected that from repubs, & now I know its both.

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  26. What are the party affiliations of the city manager and council members in Bell?

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  27. Democrats. The Republicans have been getting some mileage out of that one.

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  28. The shameful public servants in Bell continue to be a blessing in disguise, not because they discredit one party in particular - neither major party has a record to be proud of - but because they show so clearly just how avaricious and downright sneaky public officials have become.
    Disgusting.

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  29. Regarding the general plan scrape & rape, it'll be a surprise if the damn thing even gets done.

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  30. Be better for the town if it doesn't get done. Without that they won't be able to touch anything.

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  31. State mandates say we have to do a general plan. Otherwise, they'll do one for us -- and you know what that means. Hope we can get it done with the least amount of restrictions regarding the green element. Joe and John want to support the building industry by putting in requirements that will break the average home builder/remodeler. This, all in the name of AB32 and SB375

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  32. A while ago somebody posted a link to the governments general plan rules & unless I got it wrong there are only 2 parts that have to be updated, the housing element and the eir.
    Anybody know for sure?

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  33. Sierra Madreans for Sane Financial PracticesAugust 16, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    Oh Tattler, best improvement ever,The Sierra Madre spend watch. Make it bigger.

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  34. SMSFP: Post some $ numbers and the CC meeting they were approved and I will add them to the list!

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  35. 'Splain it, please.August 16, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Somebody explain please: There is no conflict of interest that Joe and John work for energy companies and want to build and put their own employers to work here.

    There is no way that the housing element as part of the update, that the city has to wait to do the GP when j and j are gone?

    They are one big objection to everything but their own pockets.

    No one sees that. Or everyone sees that.

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  36. Nobody sees that. And they're doing everything undere their power to make sure it stays that way. Like the article said, it's all about managing the situation.

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  37. Spend watch: what are the amounts spent on? Infrastructure? City salaries, street work, facility maintenance, watering the trees in the park?

    Perhaps linking the total amounts to a pdf with the details? Plus a link to the City website with the salaries listed.

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  38. I think it's brilliant, just brilliant to list the month by month numbers - and those are from the warrants, right? So everything is included.
    Thanks Tattler. I knew the numbers were bad, but it's hard to get the straight amount together through the cityspeak.

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  39. 2:24, how about posting the links you're talking about.

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  40. Sir Eric, you write that
    "...the City found the impressive scale of the water rate protest to be so shocking"
    But the most shocking thing of all is the way the corporation of Sierra Madre city sellers has ignored the water rate protesters.
    You watch, they'll unveil their new adjusted-because-we-listen rate hike pretty quick.
    Wouldn't want that spiffy new tiered system bill to go for nothing now, would you?

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  41. 2:35 - yes, it's the warrants. A nice shorthand perspective on what is going down.

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  42. when it comes to the development agenda of Mosca and Buchanan to benefit their employers, I can tell easily when they are lying to us.

    their mouths are open.

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  43. I have wondered at how successful the pro-development side was in the last election, the way they really got their voters to show up, well twice anyway: once to vote, the other time to yell and jeer at the council reorganization. Just think how unnerving it must have been for the pro-development industry t hear Zimmerman, Watts and MacGilvrey bust SCAG for all of its cowardly ways.
    The architects weren't visible, but that smear campaign against the slow growth people was too effective to have been spontaneous.

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  44. I remember the SCAG night - It isn't crazy to think that Edney and Ihkrata left that public scolding with a chip on their shoulders and an idea or two on how to hold on to what they got. Bet there were a few phone calls out of the Mosca residence later that night.

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