Sierra Madre Community Redevelopment Agency signs began sprouting up like toadstools on a freshly fertilized lawn yesterday. Downtown, in the so-called "Montecito Shopping & Arts District" (beware for the safety of your home any time your neighborhood is hung with a moniker that has the word "arts" in it), and just about the entire area that is covered by Measure V. Something that evoked in the minds of many area residents memories of not too long ago when this very same redevelopment agency was being employed in possible eminent domain seizures of private homes so that the Downtown Investors Club could make a little extra dough selling condos.
Now on the surface of it this rash of CRA signage wasn't as bad as it seemed. Apparently the State of California requires an update and review of local Community Redevelopment Agencies every 5 years. And Sierra Madre's CRA hasn't undergone such an update since back in the 1990s. What those cryptic looking signs were saying is that there's going to be a "study session" taking place on October 12, and this was the way the City wanted to invite you to the party. Helpful information regarding this confab will be available on the City's website next week. People should plan on attending because Sierra Madre's CRA goals over the next 5 years will be up for discussion.
Hopefully getting rid of the CRA will be one of the options being offered. After all, the CRA is just another City of Sierra Madre money pit serving no useful purpose whatsoever. And as we all know, the less money this City's government has to spend, the better off we'll be.
But is this where the conversation should end? I am not so sure. Because there seems to be a certain pattern developing here, one that now looks to be crossing from mere coincidence to a distinct and carefully planned purpose.
Any changes to the CRA cannot be accomplished without 4 out of 5 City Council votes. Those are the rules. Kind of like when John Buchanan tried to sell the city parking lot behind Howie's to the Downtown Investors Club and couldn't because he didn't have the 4 votes necessary to do it. If the CRA needs to be somehow changed from whatever it is now, that is the only way it can be done.
So if this CRA deal needs to be rejiggered every 5 years, why hasn't it been done since the 1990s? And why now? Was there something special about this moment that seemed appealing to some folks?
Which also brings to mind the Water Rate Hike. The now largely discredited notion that rates needed to be raised nearly 40% because suddenly everything is falling apart was, at first, the intended driving force. On May 17th, which is the day the legally required notices were sent out, it was those old 1920s pipes that took the brunt of the blame. And not the somehow unmentioned $23 million in accumulated water bond debt.
Of course, those pipes have always been from the 1920s, which means they have been old for quite some time now. So why the burning need to levy higher rates in order to spend millions to replace them today? Especially since the water bond sale of 2003 had raised $6.75 million, a tidy sum that should have been used to repair a whole lot of these problematic pipes already?
The Skilled Nursing Facility. It has been in pretty rugged shape for quite some time now. And it has also been the subject of some considerable controversy, with the usual suspects attempting to fix the blame for its condition on their political foes. But after 5 or so years of entertaining offers from people that would have turned the place into a needed Urgent Care Center, now all of a sudden one of Southern California's top home developers shows up wanting to turn the property into tract housing. Does anyone really believe this is a coincidence? That they just showed up without having had any prior discussions whatsoever with Joe or John?
All of this just seems rather ... sudden. So were these matters squirreled away for a City Council having certain viewpoints on these matters? Or is it all just a coincidence.
The Sierra Madre Police Officers Association Vs. Our Tough As Nails Negotiator
The Police Officers Association, an amalgam of about 100 local Police Departments from throughout the Southern California area, is recognized as being one of the toughest and most ruthless negotiators in the public employee union racket. Their coercive and hard nosed tactics have been discussed on this site before, and they ain't beanbag. The last time they roared through town we ended up getting stuck with a 100% Utility User Tax increase in order to pay for the wretchedly negotiated outcome. Now that deal is up and the POA is back for even more of our money.
So who has been sent in to negotiate on behalf of the taxpayers? Is it a consultant who specializes in difficult labor negotiations? Are the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the nitty gritty of banging out a fair deal with so ruthless an opponent? I mean, it has got to be someone pretty tough, right?
It turns out that the person who is handling these negotiations for us is Elisa Weaver, our Director of Community & Personnel Services.
I mean, Elisa is a nice lady and all, and certainly goes about her business with both purpose and panache. But as our negotiator with the POA? So why isn't the Mayor or his brain John Buchanan involved in this? Are they distancing themselves from what they see as a certain loser, and instead setting up City Staff to take the fall?
I am just a little astonished. You also have to wonder, how will they be peddling the tax hike this time?
Trouble On The Water Walk?
My fifth grader informed me at dinner last evening that all the students in his school have been invited to accompany Mayor Joe Mosca on the Water Walk taking place this Saturday. Now the last time I checked he wasn't a rate payer, and therefore his presence on this journey of discovery wouldn't really mean that much to him. He is pitching this Saturday for his Fall Ball Little League team, so he wouldn't be able to attend anyway. Baseball being a far higher priority in this household than hanging out in some funky old pump house with Uncle Joe Mosca.
I asked my son if his not going would be a problem, and he said I needn't worry. This water walk is in no way mandatory at his school, and if you have something better to do you're free to pass it up. And apparently almost everyone does since only three kids in his class are planning on attending.
I guess it is pretty bad when you can't get adults to show up for these things. But when even elementary school kids are dissing you, then you know things really have reached the end of
their proverbial rope.
Pasadena Star News article on the Amos/Jensen shooting settlement linked here.
(Photo courtesy of Neuroblast Films.)