Friday, September 17, 2010

The Unsustainable Jargon Process

"Depending on the policy direction, this may be moot, or not." - Joe Mosca

Have you ever found yourself watching a City Council meeting and wondering what exactly it is the Proto-Development Element is going on about? The words seem to have great meaning, and they do sound important. But somehow after you have heard them you are left feeling unfulfilled and empty. Kind of like if you were to attempt life on a steady diet of Twinkies. Here is an example of the kind of statement we're talking about:

The process is bringing us ever forward to a more green and sustainable livability, one that encompasses the urbanist mixed use smart growth approach with an appreciation for the kinds of civic engagement that naturally flows from a synergistic embracement of an enhanced, and advanced, regionalism.

Simply fraught with deep thought and a meaning that only the most advanced minds are capable of comprehending, I'm sure. But what if I told you none of it really means anything at all? And even those who share the perspectives mangled within that verbal voodoo stew are becoming aware of it? Because apparently that is what is happening. The great sustainability boom in urbanist scam planning is starting to lose the ability to use its own language. And could very well be falling apart under the growing weight of its own absurdity.

The National League of Cities, about as "smart growth" a bunch as you'd ever want to meet, has now published a very interesting article on this growing phenomena. Entitled "Emerging Issues: We Don't Know What We're Talking About," they boldly face up to the fact that they just aren't making a whole lot of sense lately. I'm going to post a couple of key paragraphs from the article here.

Orwell's critique about meaningless words applies today. For example, what is "sustainability?" Well, then, how about "civic engagement?" "The free market?" "Closing the borders?" "Livability?" "Smart Growth?" Each of these terms encompasses such a wide and changing range of idiosyncratic meanings that use of it tells us little about the topic.

Then there's "green." Kermit The Frog warned that "it's not easy being green," but enthusiasts are not daunted by puppets. And let's not even get started on "economic development" or "regionalism."

I don't know, if you were to remove from the vocabulary of John Buchanan and Joe Mosca words such as sustainability, livability, smart growth, regionalism and green, I am not sure they would quite know how to talk. A kind of balloon deflation process might occur. And they might be actually reduced to having to come up with something, well, more "reality based." Or at least coherent.

A recent study by Eric Zeemering in the "Urban Affairs Review" investigated what "sustainability" means to local officials throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He found that the term has "multiple meanings" to them including, for example: mixed use near transit hubs, green building standards, pedestrian and bike routes, retaining current businesses, human capital development, neighborhood revitalization and resident participation.

Sounds like a language process sustainability crisis to me!

The Hystaria Vine

The new issue of that noted public policy journal "The Wistaria Vine" showed up at the Maundry Compound yesterday, and that is a good thing. We do love leafing through its information packed pages as we peruse the many fine and enriching activities available to all the lucky residents of Sierra Madre.

And much to our surprise and delight we discovered a two page spread peddling the water rate hike. Now we're not too sure that a rather costly taxpayer funded and widely mailed City publication should only be carrying one side of the story. There are other viewpoints here in town, and unless they've somehow become like our other taxpayer funded publication, The Mountain Views "News," perhaps they really ought to consider entertaining other opinions as well. After all, since everyone pays taxes, shouldn't all opinions be expressed?

But something that must be noted, they do discuss our water bond debt in conjunction with raising water rates. Something somehow forgotten last May when it was legally required. Here is how the appeal is phrased:

In addition, the operating margin for the Water Department is in jeopardy of not meeting the legal requirements attached to the Water Revenue Bonds issued by the City in 1998 and 2003. While the City continues to make its bond payments in a timely manner, the City must increase its revenues to meet future operating expenditures, as well as the bond commitments, without jeopardizing capital reserves.

Yes, I would think that $23 plus million dollars in looming water bond debt could have an effect on that department's finances. And when you consider that the 2003 water bonds are currently on an "interest only" payment schedule, you can see how that might be a problem in the future. There are quite a few people who lost their homes in the last few years that also had entertained the benefits of such creative financing. And haven't the taxpayers been called in to bail out improvident investors there as well?

Of course, that wasn't contained in the Wistaria Vine literature on the topic. I guess they just didn't want to bother our pretty little heads about it.

Happy Friday.


  1. Someone calls it the Rally to Restore Sanity....that is what we need here also.....we are becoming another embarrassing group of nuts........insane people who think they are politicians/lawyers/leaders who are plain cuckoo.

  2. Another word scramble artist who thinks he knows what he is saying and a group of people follows.....and the audience bobbles.....

    Why are people ignorant to follow unqualified language they do not understand and then turn around and criticize the educated?

    Thank you for once again revealing another day in the life of blah blah politicians, this one is ours we will not be stuck with much longer, (and their are 4 of them, dear lordie!)

  3. When did the Wistaria Vine become a political journal? Is there nowhere these people will stop?

  4. Last night at the Planning Commission's second public hearing on the Canyon Residential Zone, the opposition to this sound document, made even better by the thoughtful deliberations by additional crafting from the experince of this commission, were seen to read portions of the zoning regulation 100 degrees in reverse. Now they did not do this because they didn't understand the intent of a particular item, they did this with the goal of undermining the results of all this hard work. Ones stands at the speakers podium and says that you don't think that canyon homes should be restricted to 500 sq ft in size when in fact the document says that they can be a minimum of 500 sq ft. You say that this document doens't follow the Tree Ordinance when it in fact refers the reader to the Tree Ordinance, which is to be followed in full. These are just two of the many instances where this type of language and logic obfuscation was at work.

  5. Sounds like the nitwits were picking nits, 7:09. Was the recently rejected tree commissioner there?

  6. No, 7:12 am; Mr. Hayden and Mr. Hammond were otherwise engaged. Mr. Prout, Mr. Slater, and the infamous Glen Lambdin took to the podium. So if there was confusing language and logic obfuscation it shouldn't come as a surprise. Dear Reader please note that Prout is the owner builder realtor responsible for one of the most egregious excavation projects ever to occur in the Canyon as well as the design of the 88 Vista Circle overbuilt and overstoried to the max. Lamdin of course was contractor of record at 679 Brookside for all of 47 seconds until he quit in disgust at the building standards of the discredited project manager Tim Hayden. A nest of snakes. Where Slater fits in the mix is curious.

  7. How come Vanderveldt didn't recuse himself? He was the architect on Prout's Woodland Drive project?

  8. I take it when Mr. Lambdin entered the room God fled.

  9. We have missed a real opportunity here. To supplement our hugely expensive to maintain,
    coming with a $60 surcharge for "guaranteed service" housed in bright red with flashing lights Para Medic Van that covers the 5 minute trip to Methodist Hospital in 4 minutes, we need to close that 4 minute gap with a Sierra Madre Emergency Helicopter, "$1,000 surcharge", that will get us to Methodist in 3 minutes, flown by Sierra Madre's finest pilots who live in close by "tight wad hill" in a canyon. Well worth the investment.

  10. The important thing is that the planning commissioners gave their most serious and thoughtful attention, as is their custom, and they approved the canyon code. Congratulations to the many residents who for decades have tried to bring this into reality.
    Now it goes on to the council. Surely Ms. Walsh will champion it in the name of public safety, and we can only hope that the others will follow the wise advice of the planning commissioners, and want to be known as the council who helped to protect this unique area of the city.

  11. I don't live in the canyon, but I do sometimes walk the dog there, and that monster house on Vista Circle is mind boggling, especially when you look at how it overwhelms that house in front, or is it in back of it. How did that plan ever get approved? That neighbor is squashed.

  12. It is obvious that our city administration has grossly mismanaged city finances, which shows their total incompetence.

    What's the alternative? Turn over the city management to a more competent agency?

  13. Anybody want to bet that those 2003 water bonds won't be the only bodies to float to the surface?

  14. Orwell was correct, corrupt language leads to corrupt thought, and then spirals ever downward. Here's a recent example from the college where I teach. On some "environmental" propaganda, the heading "READY, SET, GO GREEN!" The infantile quality of the statement might be funny, were it not so sinister--and the majority of my "colleagues" fall for it. Save the planet from the green weenies.

  15. I would just be glad to have the truth out in the open.
    The mushy jargon, the mushy thinking, the double speak, is maddening.

  16. 8:32, do you know of a "competent agency"? I'm going to fall back on that old tired cliche, "familiarity breeds contempt".

    Let's go with cleaning up our local government because that the "agency" over which we exert the most control and watch it very closely.

  17. 8:56:

    How are we to clean up our local government with only one honest representive standing up for us?
    MaryAnn MacGillivray stands alone at city hall.

    Every loving soul in this town who is honest and decent should go to the city hall meetings and support this woman, MacGillivray.

  18. Truthsayers to PowerSeptember 17, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    The Zimmerman/Crawford letter to the City Manager is a huge step in the right direction. Denise Delmar's insistence that her committee is up to the task is another. All of the residents who collected protest letters; Nancy Shollenberger who holds her head high against the attempts to force her resignation; MaryAnn MacGillivray who continues to do the right thing in spite of overwhelming opposition; and the ever expanding circle of Tattlers who insist that the truth must see the light of day.

    No one said it would be easy; it never is...

  19. 9:18, thanks for that positive appraisal.
    Wish I could force myself to believe it.
    The water rate increase has togo through because of the bottom line.
    The GPUSC has been co-opted and the work amounts to nothing because it will be redone or undone by the council majority, who do not like anything about Measure V or preservation.
    The protest letter collectors were few and over burdened.

    Nancy S. and MaryAnn M. are amazing.

  20. Mayor Moot.
    Fits, huh?

  21. Thanks for your post Truthsayers to Power!
    You speak for hundreds of honest residents.

    Thanks MaryAnn! Thanks Nancy Shollenberger!

    It's so awesome of both of you to sit at that council. It must make those other people very uncomfortable sitting there with the TWO VOICES OF TRUTH and INTEGRITY.
    Please don't ever feel alone. We, the people, who wish only for the truth, are so very grateful for your service!

  22. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only way Measure V can be undone is by a vote, right?

  23. The kind of language being used by the city council right now is designed to keep reality out of the process.

  24. Memo to SMVFD Grant Writer: prepare grant for submission to Homeland Security to acquire helicopter. RFP to buy helicopter. Schedule ribbon cutting. RFP to train helicopter pilot EMTs. e-Blast to Coburn, Henderson, Miller, and Landsberg regarding addition of Helicopter to SMVFD to support 45% senior population. Develop timeline and milestones with end date prior to 2012 City Council Election. Schedule SMVFD Breakfast and Press Conference to announce Buchanan's legacy.

  25. 9:44, that's so, but don't underestimate the fact that you have three dedicated supporters of the DSP and opponents to measure V on the council, and Ms. Walsh who spoke publicly about regretting voting for Measure V. And they have the mercenary propagandist Henderson to carry to their message.

  26. Oh for God's sakes! Who would worry about what Nancy pants says she regrets? The woman is a bobblehead. She also says she spent 25 years analyzing budgets and understands them. Her credibility is non-existgent.

  27. The point is that there are 4 people on a council of 5 who are against Measure V.

  28. Keep after these a-holes, Crawford!

    Keep exposing the criminality in this town.

  29. The cities of Bell and Vernon are now being audited with possible criminal charges to follow. The latest revelations are about illegal fees and licenses never voted on by residents, but passed on as taxes to the residents. It is in the millions. Shenanigans prevail when citizens assume their city councils are honest and forthright in their dealings and decisions. It is obvious that collusion and deception with city attorneys complicit are taking place all over Los Angeles. They must do a lot of talking with each other. Beware!

  30. What needs to me made public now and with no delay is exactly where the 2003 water bond money was spent. If the City wants us to pick up the tab for those millions of dollars, they need to tell us why\ere it was used.

    I for one do not think they want to do that.

  31. 11.26 It is obvious that our City prefers to work from a "kitty". No plan, no budget, no established priorities. Just "shoot from the hip" when it strikes them. The water tax bringing in millions added to the "federal grant seed millions" totaling 18 million is setting up the next "kitty".

    I doubt they have a clue what fiduciary responsibility is or how to implement it for Sierra Madre.

  32. Maybe Bart spent it on the DSP?

  33. Something the City Manager and Public Works director refuse to address is the tiered charges for the water meter size. They say in the Wistaria Vine that the tiered rates are designed to encourage water conservation. This would be true for the tiered rates for water usage. And I can imagine most people will cut down on their use of water for a time after the new rates click in. However, it doesn't make sense to use the tiered rates for meter size. Bruce still maintains that the bigger the meter, the more water is used. This is bull. There are some citizens in this city that must have bigger meters to get any water pressure at all. We have a one inch meter size, and have been conserving water since the last water conservation rules went into effect -- what, in the '80's? It will be pretty much impossible to conserve any more and yet we will be punished by having a larger meter size. The whole thing stinks.

  34. Kudo's to the planning commission last night who did their homework, made some thoughtful and reasonable changes and respected all who spoke. I wonder where the Council liaison was?

  35. MaryAnn MacGillivray was in the audience for most of the meeting. Does that count? Or is she so reliable that we take her for granted?

  36. Bottom line regarding the two page spread, they or rather those in power during the 1998-2003 era, had no business signing away your retirement funds by obligating the citizenry to an issue that was not brought to vote then. Was it on any ballot?

    The city wants to deplete your capitol reserves and save theirs. I believe all redevelopment agency funds in any city in CA or even the United States should be emptied to redevelop our aging infrastructure of water & gas lines bridges, and roads etc. Perhaps we can
    buy our way out of debt to the red chinese. Drug Testing for congress and monthly lie detector tests for them would not hurt either.
    Only then can the money and lands stolen from our property owners under the quise of eminent domain be cleansed and balance restored.

  37. Hey 2:18, great point about the tiered water bills.
    What a lot of hooey the new water bills will be.
    The week our city was unveiling the new tiers, LA City Council was repealing some of the tiers as being to complicated and confusing, but best of all? During Bruce Inman's first council presentation on the water tax hike, he said, ..........the tiers DO NOT WORK AS CONSERVATION MEASURES. People behave a bit better at first but then go back to what they were doing before.
    Everybody cheer now, let's put in a system that WE KNOW DOESN'T WORK.

  38. The system of tiers might not work 3:04, but the razzle dazzle of the newness will make people think that they are, and maybe customers won't be so quick to yelp when they see the total amount they'll be paying. The tiers are just phase one, preparing the way.

  39. The tiers bill helps the city use the
    old "it's good for us" routine. When,
    of course, all they're looking to
    do is liberate more dollars from our

  40. The majority of our current city council makes me think of fake throws some dogs fall for.

    An owner can mimic throwing a ball, and the dog will look for it in the air.

    The council majority are the owners and we're the dogs, and we're looking for things that it seemed like they threw, but really are not there.

  41. MaryAnn MacGillivray is always in attendance at anything important to this city and it's residents.

    She attends SCAG meetings, much to the chagrin of Mosca and Buchanan, who would like to spin the SCAG BS to us. They can't do that when MacGillivray is there.

  42. Pardon me for repeating myself, but I have to think that there's a big big reason that the CC-1 did not raise the water bond issue in connection with the water rate hike request. The need to pay water bonds is a very powerful trump card in Prop 218. If a rate hike is necessary to meet bond payments, it can overcome an initiative. But knowing this, the City did not base the increase on this reason. Instead they trotted out rusty pipes, and electric water consoles, and a bunch of other stuff and things. Why would they not raise the bond issue? Something involved in that is way worse than not getting a rate hike. I suspect there's some serious dirt in there somewhere and we've got to get a hold of it. I just have a feeling. . . .

  43. Sleepless in Sierra MadreSeptember 18, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    In the Wistaria Vine it says we must raise more cash to cover water bond debt or it could jeopardize our capital reserves. Wouldn't we just cut some budgets and achieve the same thing?

  44. Sleepless, you're in a weird twilight zone where you think logic and good sense apply....

  45. We could cut all City services, fire everyone, no fire, no police, no city staff, no life guards, no pot hole fillers and still not come up with the $23 million we're in the hole. Not for six or eight years. But I do like the concept.