Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Agenda Man Goes To The Dogs

So here we are in the dog days of, um, almost October? A little later than usual I guess, but you knew it had to happen at least once this year. And 115 degree heat can be an interesting experience, especially when viewed through the window of a well air conditioned room. I mean, how did people ever live without it? So in honor of our unique weather conditions as of late, Agenda Man has decided to go to the dogs. Because what else can any of us do about it? Just don't try and get between him and his water dish.

The City Council Meeting Agenda this week is short, but decidedly unsweet. There are some things on the list that have been bouncing around for a bit, so even a City Council as decision averse as this one might just have to make one or two calls tonight. As abruptly uncivil as that might sound. But even the world's longest tap dance has to come to an end some day. So rather than delay any further ourselves, let's get involved in appraising the important issues at hand.

The Consent Calendar (aka Item # 1) manages to spend nearly a million bucks by the time it gets to the letter "g." Which is a little off the pace of the previous meeting's figure. I'm sure that will be more than made up for in the not too distant future. After all, the economic recovery requires us to spend our little hearts out. In this particular set of economic stimulous warrants the Library, Payroll, CRA, Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCCOG), Sewer Fund, Sully-Miller Contracting Company, Pasadena YMCA, UWMP, and the Recreation Center Fireside Room all get to lay claim a share of our tax money. The lucky dogs.

Someday I am going to have to figure out how to get from the tax paying side over to the tax receiving side.

Item #2 is poetically entitled Interim Moratorium Ordinance Regarding Land In The Canyon Area of the City. This is to be an extension of the previous moratorium ordinance that put on hold any further construction in the Canyon until the Canyon Zone Advisory Committee could come up with some common sense solutions for saving the unique character of what had become Sierra Madre's most threatened legacy. The CZAC's recommendations are now complete, have passed muster with the Planning Committee, and now face a final test before the City Council. But since exacting noticing procedures must be followed, it appears that the building moratorium would have run out before the City Council was able to make its final deliberations. Which means that the Canyon would have reverted to R1 zoning, unleashing God only knows what barbarity.

The time span for the extension that seems to be on everyone's mind is 6 months, so hopefully that call will be made. It is more than enough time for even this City Council to talk to all sides of the issue.

Item #3 looks to be well on its way to becoming quite a controversy in town. Not just because of what it is in itself, but also because it seems to be yet another move by our elected officials to cozen additional cash out from the pockets of what are already some pretty stressed out city taxpayers.

Why the City Council would be attempting to get even more money out of the taxpayers during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression really is a daunting question. And there is a disturbing pattern developing here. The almost 40% water rate hike, the recent revelations regarding over $22 million in hitherto unheralded water bond debt, the prospect of additional costly bonds for sewers and road paving, plus contract negotiations with the Police Officers Association that appear to be leading to yet another tax hike along the lines of the 100% UUT increase of a few years ago, all have contributed to the growing impression in town that the current City Council has decided treat us like the proverbial angry ex-wife out on the town with our Platinum American Express Card.

The topic here, of course, is a study of Sierra Madre's fee structure and its recommendation that the City start charging exponentially more money for services rendered. All courtesy of a consultant (NBS) that charged us $35,000 for their happy wisdom on the topic. Here are some examples off the "jo-el" site that we linked to yesterday as well.

Downtown District Street Light Pole Banner Hanging and Removal - was $309, under the consultant recommended new fee schedule, $1,216. So much for that Huck Finn Fishing Derby banner that gets unfurled over Baldwin every year.

Sidewalk Dining (the cost charged to restaurant owners for putting tables out on the sidewalk) - was $344, under the consultant recommended new fee schedule, $1,273. I can't imagine that too many of our struggling downtown eateries will be too excited about that. Hopefully the Rooster will be talking some down home sense to the City Council about this one.

Second Dwelling Unit Permit - was $459, under the new regime $2,242. What was that about encouraging residents to turn their granny flats into rental properties, thereby cutting our overall RHNA numbers? I guess someone figured out how to fix that problem.

Major Variance - was $2,670, in the brave new world? $5,604.00.

Minor Variance - was $748, in the nuttier future, $2,242.00.

Swimming Pool Piping Inspection - was $100, soon to balloon to $560.00.

House Sewer Connection to Public Sewer - was $100, in tomorrowland $280.00.

Sewer/Septic Inspections - was $100.00, could soon be $560.00.

The list goes on. Can you think of a worse time to be asking people for more of their money? And can you think of a worse time to be asking people for more of their money over and over again? As one poster put it yesterday, "What are they funding, a nuclear weapons program?"

Item #4 is all about the odd decision made by the Gang of 4 to suddenly add 4 new members to the General Plan Steering Committee, a group of folks who are already well into the process of updating this important document. The suspicion that many have being that Joe and John really don't want the citizen volunteer system to work in this case, preferring instead to monkey wrench the proceedings so they can spend a lot of money on outrageously expensive consultants that will give them the kind of General Plan they really want. One that would make large scale development here in the future far easier to initiate and carry out. The wishes of Sierra Madre be damned.

There is some irony here, however. Apparently 18 people have volunteered and asked to be included in the new 9 member GPSC. Many of them very good people who, entirely suspicious of the Gang of 4's motives, stepped up to help save their community from corporatist style overdevelopment. Watch the Gang of 4 completely sidestep some very highly qualified people with excellent resumes to pick their cronies from the house selling and home repair trades.

Item # 5 deals with educating the public about street sweeping. Did you know that street sweepers cannot properly clean a street when people park their cars on it? That is why the City asks folks to not park their cars in certain places when street sweepers are scheduled to do clean it.

Item #6 is all about furthering the cause of the Blight Ordinance. Something that was first proposed here on The Tattler a year or two back. Since this remarkable notion worked so nicely in gussying up the Killed Nursing Facility, the City has now identified a number of other downtown eyesores that could use a little TLC.

I wonder if the Downtown Investors Club is aware that this topic is up for discussion?


  1. Why do we pay for consultants when we pay people in City Hall? Time to fire people in City Hall since we do not need their services any more!!

    all these fee increses....time to nickel and dime. Where are all the increases' going? Which budget, which pocket, explain every penny....demand a balanced/brain/ budget first!

    None of this is necessary!!!

  2. Please attend the council meeting tonight.

    MaryAnn MacGillivray has to attend. She will be standing up for you all, our lone voice on this council. Stand up for the Sierra Madre YOU WANT, not the Sierra Madre this regime wants to force on us.

    Thank you, Crawford, for posting this web address at the bottom of your column. Please continue to do this, as many people are printing your columns and sharing them with other people.

    Anyone reading this column and agrees there is a real problem here in Sierra Madre, please take any and all action you can to help rectify it.

    This gang of 4 regime must be stopped or we are all going to pay dearly for it.

  3. 6:39,
    I share your outrage!

  4. Someone stand up and demand reasons why and where our money is going.

    There are jobless and homeless. California has not balanced the budget. How can these scum increase fees out of the blue.

    No one shows up because they are working double time and taking care of children.

  5. We have experts in our town to study the NEW FEE INCREASES.

    They would volunteer for the G4. Mosca always praises volunteers in town.

    Let's see how valuable the fee's really are.
    JPL, Accountants, Tax Attorney's.....I am sure they would be a great community asset.

  6. Rate hikes, fee hikes, and soon to be tax hikes. Quite a little operation Mosca has going here. Is asking people for more of their money civil?

  7. Two of the dirtiest words in the English language: tax hikes.

  8. cpp and 7:16

    You're right. Why is it our MONEY they always want?
    Their OWN volunteers (hand picked by the regime).

    Qualified volunteers such as the General Plan Committee and the Canyon Zone Committee- dissed by the dirts as biased and/or uncivil.

  9. Sir Eric, "Sierra Madre's most threatened legacy" has a lot more contenders than the canyon.

  10. Gotta have a sense of humor about the steering comm.
    The 4 new members are trusted by the CC-1, the 5 old members distrusted.
    Should make for some interesting committee meetings.
    "Thank you for your ideas old and distrusted. What do you say new and trusted?"

  11. Sierra Madre's most threatened legacy is Sierra Madre.

  12. I have 2 questions.

    Is this regime trying to bankrupt Sierra Madre?

    Is this the ultimate goal?

    It sure is seeming that it is.

  13. There's a great post on yesterdays article:

    Anonymous said...
    Why during the economic downturn when other cities are putting in place economies,Sierra Madre is increasing our fees and simultaneously increasing salaries for City workers; while other communities have instituted layoffs,shorter work week,and or furloughs.There is something very strange about this picture.To carry this forward is certainly grounds for a recall....
    September 27, 2010 8:57 PM

  14. I think NBS might be serving us up some decoy fees. Ridiculously high,
    they give the city council the opportunity to "bring them down to more
    reasonable levels." Which is where they wanted them to be the whole

  15. Here are my predictions for the four new members of the General Plann Steering Committee.

    All four will ahve been VERY involved in the Downtown Specific Plan.

    All four were against Measure V.

    No one Maryanne nominates will be appointed as opposed to last time when Joe and John named three or four members of the current committee.

    As soon as the all names are read tonight, we will know who the new members are going to be. There is no need to go through the charade of public input, council discussion, or nominations. The G4 will have been coached to name the proper people so there is enough overlap to ensure the new members receive at least three votes.

  16. What do we need?

    Public safety

    Get rid of everything else for the time being.
    Close any part of city hall that is not STWP.
    And abolish the council as a failed governmental body.

  17. Hear hear 8:46.Each of the new appointees will no doubt have their own copies of the DSP ready to draw from.Good luck Sierra Madre.

  18. 8:47

    I like the way you think!

  19. City Hall is just a little Sacramento. Out of control, living in its own
    world, and answerable to nobody. They never want to give more,
    they always want to take more.

  20. 8:24 am, not to the people who live in and love the Canyon! And, I might add, they organized themselves and demanded the Canyon Zoning Advisory Committee be constituted, seated and given staff. The CZAC has worked with two City Councils and the Planning Commission during its tenure. The opposition distilled down to a half dozen entities who's self interests ran counter to the overwhelming desire of most of the residents.

    It is the duty of the City Council and the Planning Commission to represent the interests of all the citizens of Sierra Madre. No one doubts that is the case with the CZAC. Ultimately good sense and reasonableness have prevailed as the process has gone forward. It is nearing the end of its time in the camera of public interest. While the results are not yet codified it cannot be said that all sides of the issues brought out during meetings, hearings, walks, and public comments were not heard.

  21. I want to know why the City shouldn't recover its costs from development by raising its fees to cover the actual costs of permitting. I'm okay with the owner of 679 Brookside paying $40K for infrastructure fees on a house that's going to be a rental, the third rental on her little bit of inherited paradise. Going rate for a two bedroom detached in the canyon is $1,800 to $2,200 a month.

    Maybe residents want a two-tiered fee schedule: one for residents and one for the riff raff. I like charging the riff raff out the gazoo to keep them from climbing over the barricades. Warmington-Fuzzy estates equates to $40,000 times 18 units or $720,000 if allowed to proceed into infrastructure fee territory.

  22. 9:06

    you had better be very cautious about the woman who runs Mary's Market and her pal who built the big monstrosity of a house on Vista Circle Dr.
    This woman goes around door to door, asking neighbors if they want to sell property or know anyone, anywhere in Sierra Madre who wants to sell property.
    Toni Moran, mother of Josh, is also a member of their "gang".
    They poisoned people's minds during the election last April, against Don Watts, John Crawford and Pat Alcorn.
    Again, CAUTION AIN'T THE WORD when dealing with these people.

  23. Not sure if this was the poster's point, but the following areas of the town are in danger:
    downtown, Montecito, the hillsides, the area around the monastery - what else?
    Great for the Canyon, but there are other endangered parts of SM that qualify as legacies.
    We need to see the town as a whole.

  24. Very true 9:17

    Every square inch of this town is in DANGER as long as the REGIME controls the city and staff.

  25. I think the "poster's point" is that the folks in the Canyon took matters into their own hands and pushed past barriers. It's not a matter of the Canyon or... It's a matter of the Canyon and... Join with the General Plan Update committees, stand shoulder to shoulder to protect the hillsides. Don't talk about what the CC-1 won't let you do, push past and tell them what you want! Recall is only a word until you join in the effort. Don't leave it to the same tired walkers and talkers - lend your voice.

  26. I'm not sure that bankrupting Sierra Madre is the ultimate goal of the movers and shakers in the development industry here, but pushing the less well-off people out of town?
    You betcha.

  27. 9:15, sounds like the owner of Mary's might be getting a Finder's Fee.

  28. We the people of Sierra MadreSeptember 28, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Faithful Tattlers, a Special Meeting of the Sierra Madre Community Redevelopment Agency Board has been called for Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm in City Hall Council Chambers.

    Action Item:
    1. Discussion - Discussion of Goals and Objectives of the Sierra Madre Community Redevelopment Agendy Five Year Implemmentation (sic) Plan.
    Recommendation that the City Council provide staff with direction regarding goals and objectives of the Sierra Madre CRA five year implementation plan.

    This is an important meeting! Please make every attempt to be there.

  29. The development infrastructure fees make sense, though there does need to be some discernment between mega developments and a small addition, but why discourage new businesses from opening by increasing the costs of the licenses so much?

  30. The infrastructure fee doesn't impact a small addition. It impacts a new from the ground up or a scrape clean and build over. Anyone who can do either of those things can afford to pay a fair share.

  31. It almost seems as if John and Joe think this is their moment, and if they don't push for the things they want now they might not get a another chance. So they're pushing despite the fact that the economy is in the worst shape in decades and you couldn't pick a more inappropriate time to ask people to pay higher rates and fees.

    My 2 cents. Spend it where you like.

  32. 12:20 pm, we can only hope they don't get another chance, and that we have the strength to withstand their assaults.

    Your lips to God's ears.

  33. While I agree that these are hard economic times and fee increases are always a drag, this city, because of poor leadership in the past, is WAY behind on increaseing fees to meet the actual cost of providing them. This was the undoing of Jim McRae many years ago. He sat tight, or sat incompetent, and let things get out of hand. When asked why we didn't comply with the state guidelines for housing, he quipped "because you have a creative City Administrator." We were breaking the law and all building permits could have been shut down. The city did not have its budget and audits into the state on time either. Most recently, the city council made the wise choice to reduce the permits for Solar Electric installation meet the actual cost of providing the inspections and not base it on 'evaluation.' You can only cover the cost of providing the service. The last time the city had a study of fees (The MSI Report of 1989), it was reported on by Jan Maddox in the Jan Reed's Sierra Madre News, in a series of three articles in February and March, 1989. We are way out of balance on what it costs and what the city charges.
    We need to approach this rationally and not let the mishandling of the need to increase fees in the recent past bowl us over now.

  34. You are my hero of the day, 12:45 pm! Rationality, reasoning, and simply great style.

    We need everyone with this type of esoteric knowledge to come forward to help us find our way through the corn maze of zealotry and misinformation!

  35. Um, so why are the costs so high? Wouldn't that be considered to be a factor? Our high costs?

  36. When the NBS lady made her presentation she prefaced her comments by saying the City was entitled to recover its costs. The fees are so high because it's been determined that's how much the services cost. It's the City's perogative to lower the fees. So, its recover the costs, or give away services. Which will it be?

  37. Eliminate services.
    Keep essentials only.

  38. No, you've missed the point. If it costs the city $1,216 to hang a Huck Finn Fishing Derby banner across Baldwin, then is it possible to assume that the city has some rather high costs?
    Or is at least saying it does?

  39. Here's a handy trick. Inform the employees that any service that cannot be performed at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers will have to be eliminated. Or, if that if the cost to the taxpayer is deemed to high, offer the taxpayer the option of employing someone that doesn't work for the city to do it.

    I think we will then see the costs come down considerably.

  40. What's the cost to roll the cherry picker/man lift out of the yards and down to Kersting Court and back? The cost of fuel, lubricant, tires, maintenance? What's the cost to add a couple of employees for X hours? And a week later do it all over again? So $608 out of the yards and $608 back to the yards. An hourly rate + benefits, workers comp insur, etc. x 2 = (approx) for maybe a couple of hours? Easily $200 for labor. Divide the vehicle by it's 15 to 20 years of service life and the costs? I bet it's big bucks. It all adds up to real close to $1,216 if the City is looking to recoup it's outlay to hang a banner.

    Perhaps the poster would like the City to issue a permit ($30 or $40) and have the organization contract with a private, city-licensed banner hanging company.

    Now that would be an interesting comparison.

    Personally, as a resident, I'm very happy the City is charging to hang banners. It's $1,216 I won't be asked to pay in a UUT Tax increase.

  41. Here's a thought:forget the banners.

  42. I'm sure there are any number of justifications to charge $1,200 to hang up a sign. But I also know that it wouldn't take more than a day to find someone licensed and bonded willing to do the work for $100. If that.

    Outsource City Hall.

  43. Talk about costs! $18,000 a month to drive an empty shuttle around town a half dozen times a day after it spent $300,000 to buy the two shuttles, because it's important to have a back up so that if one won't start none of the non-existent riders will be left at the bus stop. And that doesn't include the fuel! Oh, never mind. It's federal grant money so it's free.

  44. Does the City prohibit someone licensed and bonded from hanging banners? Then all that's necessary is to buy a permit to hang a banner and contact the company.

  45. Costs are always going to be high when the service supplier has a monopoly. Look at the cost to hire our police to provide security at events like Dickens Village. You could hire private security guards to perform the same function at a small fraction of the cost.

    These people need some competition.

  46. Wonder what the Osti's would charge for the hanging of a banner...

  47. How come Dickens Village can't put out a RFP for private security and go with the lowest responsive and responsible bidder? Why do they have to use the SMPD?

  48. Could we eliminate the banner hanging technician and the security coverage office from the budget and save an amount equal to the fees charged for their services?

  49. Like the water rate increase proposal before it, the fee rate increase is blamed on inaction from years previously. But why now and why so much? Our downtown businesses are struggling but several fee increases will hurt them even more, especially the sidewalk fees. Doesn't anyone on the Council have any business sense?
    I'd like to see the City examine their payroll, cut back if necessary on executive staff and handle the bare necessities for now instead of such drastic fee hikes.

  50. The City requires that SMPD be hired, that's why. You want to know why costs are high? Those people we pay with our tax money have a monopoly.

  51. How much does it cost the City to allow tables to be set up in front of a restaurant?

    Another thing. I rented a picnic table for a kids birthday, and it cost me $80. The City sent someone over and hung up a sign with my name on it. Next time we do something like that we'll just show up and save ourselves the expence of an $80 city hall sign.

  52. The costs that are proposed are for light pole banners, the ones that go along Sierra Madre Blvd. The charge for hanging the one across Baldwin is only going up a few dollars.

  53. So, are you all coming to the City Council Meeting tonight? Are you going to voice your opinion about the new GPUSC appointees? The 6-month extension to the Canyon Moratorium? Your outrage at the fee increase? The blight ordinance? Street sweeping schedules? What would happen if 20 people asked that the warrants not be approved?

    The City Council represents all of the residents of Sierra Madre. Seize the night and take back Council!

  54. Still a ton of dough for a very simple set up.

  55. even if everybody in town went before the Council and spoke out against the water tax hike, Joe Mosca is going to move forward because he doesn't care about the city, he cares about himself, his resume and benefiting his employer.

    John Buchanan is pushing whatever agenda he can that benefits his employer.

    Josh Moron has publically stated that he wants to appoint his friends to committees and since Josh is a mortage salesperson and his Mom is a real estate salesperson, Moron is squarely on the side of development.

    Nancy Walsh, she's so angry and argumentative she'll snap at anybody who disagrees with her.

    And this is supposed to be a civil council?

  56. Just like John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, the dweeb lightweights.

    They can blame the consultant for the across the board permit increases.

    The Tattler ought to advertise on the banner or downtown before the rate increases take effect.

  57. My opinion may not be popular, but I sort of like raising the sidewalk permit for restaurants.

    They've taken over downtown and it's almost impossible to walk downtown anymore.

  58. I'm afraid that the way things are Sir Eric would have to pay quadruple the rate to hire city employees to hang that banner than he would by hiring guys in business for themselves. That is, if such a thing was allowed here. Which I don't believe it is.

    I think things in Sierra Madre kind of run on the old East Germany system. You either hire from the government or you don't hire at all.

  59. Where do I get one of them banner hangin' jobs?September 28, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Well, now I've seen it all. There are actually posters who defend the city's proposed $1200 banner hanging fee. I fear my only option is to join the Tea Party. Yikes!

    On a serious note, I have a question. I know that we blow 50% of our general fund on the great crime fighters known as the SMPD. What pension liabilities, if any, have we assumed for this bunch of Officer Fife's?

  60. 3:47 Go to Paris and enjoy the obstrctions.

  61. To heck with the banner hanging job. I want
    to get paid the same money as a picnic table.

  62. what are you talking about???September 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    We don't need no stinkin' banners

  63. The CC-1 is going to have to walk a pretty fine line tonight on the fee increases.
    As a poster earlier said, they will no doubt ridicule some of the increases as "Far too extreme, and we're thinking of the residents and we can't justify blahblahblah," but then out will come the "For many years, many years overdue, many services provided blahblahbla.."
    They'll have to be careful on the general plan applications. Don't want to let those Brown Act violations show. Start with "Thankyouthankyouthankyou," then appoint the 4 who supported the DSP, were opposed t Measure V, and who voted for the CC-1 in the last election.

  64. We can no longer afford our city government.

  65. I agree with the sidewalk dining fee. For about $100 bucks a month they add a lot of tables, revenue, and square footage to their business. Plus they don't need to add parking and the city keeps the site clean. It's a great deal. If they don't want to pay the fee they don't have to put tables on the public walkway. Remember all these fees are optional. No one is forcing anyone to remodel their kitchen or add a pool.

    However, the business license fee is too much right now.

  66. I'm sorry, but I disagree. The city government exists to serve the people and businesses of our community. Not the other way around.

  67. True the government is there to serve the people. They should provide basic services. Government is not there to entertain and provide transportation for the people. The city provides too many service that are not necessary. Trips for seniors to Pageant of the Masters, the ghost shuttle, and baby sitting for public school kids on Friday because of a short school day. If some of these unnecessary services were cut there would be more money for the library, infrastructure, etc. Why should the tax payers subsidize someone's building project? These services need to be self funding.

  68. Sir Eric and Nancy Walsh are going to their street fixed.

  69. If only. Down the hill from the splendor of Upper Grove is where the tar will flow.

  70. If the ostis charge like their tree service, you're getting a deal at 1,200$ a pop.

  71. At 9 pm what ws Joe doing on his break?

  72. Dunno. But you could set the clock by it. 3 minutes at nine. Every time.

  73. General Plan

    Nancy Walsh nominated: Colin Brodwick John Hutt, Ed Miller, Margarite Schuster.

    Josh: Colin Brodwick, Ron Brandley, Roger Keith, John Hutt

    MA John Cappoccia, Margarite Schuster, Jim Engle, Scott Nieburg

    John B Colin Brodrick, Wendy Davis, John Hutt, Ed Miller

    Joe final Colin Brodwick, John Hutt, Ed Miller, Wendy Davis

    Why did Joe even bother taking nominations? He ignored people with 2 votes and put in Wendy-John's pal from Edison.

    How do you spell Brown Act Violation???

  74. 9:04 pm, pissing. I followed him to the men's room. Yip. You heard it here, pissing.

  75. What 10:14? You don't think Joe gets to vote? He's entitled to a vote, too. He's Wendy Davis' second vote.

    Colin Brauderick - 4 votes
    John Hutt - 4 votes
    Ed Miller - 3 votes
    Wendy Davis - 2 votes
    Margurite Schuster - 2 votes
    Ron Brandley - 1 vote
    Roer Keith - 1 vote
    John Capoccia - 1 vote
    Jim Engle - 1 vote
    Scott Nyborg - 1 vote

    The question should be two individuals each had two votes, how was it determined that one was more appointable than the other? There should have been a run-off between the two.

  76. Do the LA County Sheriffs have the same ability to be hired for public events? What do they charge?
    How about hiring Pasadena off duty police?We already have a recipricol policy with the towns around us.
    Or have we created a monopoly, which I thought was illegal?
    Makes my tiny brain spin !