So what this fellow did was to fill his days with the most incredibly boring activities imaginable. Removing the rust from nails taken from old boards was one of them. Extremely repetitive factory work another. All of which made every day last for what seemed like a lifetime to him. And certainly a City Council meeting could also serve that purpose. Who knows, it might very well be the key to eternal life.
And just to show you that I too can appreciate the life affirming aspects of an evening watching paint dry, here is what I took away from last night's confab.
The council members had their normal round of opening remarks designed to enlighten us about their activities in the wild and woolly world of the governmental. It seems that everyone but MaryAnn went to San Diego to drink in the deeply pungent effluence of this year's League of California Cities get together. Josh discovered a little seminar there on the uses of on-line social media to help keep the public informed about important matters. We should all be expecting his "tweets" soon. John Buchanan got to revel in a sustainability meeting. Kind of an oxymoron as sustaining things is usually quite the opposite of the massive societal change advocated at such affairs. Nancy Walsh discovered a women's seminar where it was claimed that few of the fairer sex get into politics because of the nastiness. Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer all aside, of course. Joe did not discuss his League experiences, though he did confess to some loneliness when nobody visits him during his Kersting Court office hours. From now on it will take a phone call first if you care to chat with him there.
The Warrants were all lined up in a row, and the council folk gave their blessings to all.
The Canyon Zone Advisory Committee once again took the stage. In a metaphorical way. The question was whether or not to renew the moratorium on building in the Canyon until the CZAC's "Canyon Specific Ordinances" are approved. Much oxygen was consumed in the process, but an extra full year was finally settled upon. No bifurcation took place, either. Those persistent Hendersons got their 200 feet - which might seem like a lot - but is actually 800 fewer than a millipede.
Now the one truly cool thing that happened last night took place during the discussion on fee increases. It came out of the blue, and for a brief few moments the entire dais was silenced. Which is no small feat. The author of the council's blessed stupefaction was MaryAnn MacGillivray.
The discussion was about whether or not to raise the fees charged by the City for "services." The concept being that fees must be charged to specific recipients of the City's services in order to compensate for the amount of money spent to make them happen. In other words, the user must expect to cover the costs of that service. Which in itself is all fine and good. But here is where we get to the cool part. Even without raising fees our city's services are already outrageously expensive. It's like we're paying Musso and Franks prices for chili dogs. And if the City had to go out and compete with private industry for their services business, they'd quickly find themselves priced out of the market. Which would hopefully lead them to becoming more competitive.
So what MaryAnn asked is this. If a civic group or business wanted to throw some kind of shindig downtown, and found that the costs of doing business with the City were much too expensive, would they be allowed to go out and get competing bids from other agencies or companies? I'm telling you, you could have heard a pin drop.
A good example of how people get brutally dunned in this town is in the hiring of off duty Sierra Madre Police Officers for security at downtown events. The cost per officer here is $138 an hour, which is insanely overpriced. I hire off duty police officers all the time in my line of work. In Los Angeles County I always go with the LAPD because in my opinion they have the best skills when it comes to handling crowds. I am currently setting up an urban music event at the Wal*Mart on South Crenshaw that will conservatively draw at least 2,500 people. A very big music artist is involved. And I won't have to pay any more than $50 an hour per officer to get top notch security.
Look at it this way, an event with 2,500 people, plus a platinum recording artist and all the usual mayhem that goes with that, and I am getting off duty LAPD officers for $50 an hour. Compare that to the $138 per hour SMPD officers cost for things like the Dickens Village Xmas event where they guard some dude in a Santa Claus suit from crazed 4 year olds.
MaryAnn asked if it would be possible for someone to hire less expensive outside security for an event here in Sierra Madre. And the answer to that was a resounding no. Joe was particularly aghast. You would never get a permit to do an event in this town if you didn't first agree to pay through the nose for SMPD off duty cops. It just won't happen.
Which is why fees are so expensive in this town. City Hall has a monopoly on such services, which means you are not allowed to employ anybody but their people. And since they are the only game in town, why shouldn't they charge as much as they can get? It's kind of like the old East German system. The only people you can hire are government people.
The City Council generously consented not to raise fees costs above what they already are. But this is hardly the boon I suspect they believe they gave us. The best way to cut costs in this town is to open services up for competitive bids. If City Hall had to actually go out and compete for our business, the fees they charge now would shrink drastically.
The next act was the selection of four people to load up the General Plan Steering Committee. Colin Broderick is a good guy. I got to help coach a Little League Fall Ball team with him last year. But in the other three I'm afraid the Gang of Four got what they were looking for. Serious big development people that will push the SCAG/SB 375/Sacramento line that John and Joe so fervently support. And one of them is a lawyer that Buchanan works with at Edison? You can only imagine what that is all about.
Oh, and did you notice the move Joe made to assure that the proper nominees were selected? It must have been very important to him.
Street sweeping and the remarkable effects of the Tattler Blight Law closed the proceedings. And after that life sped up all over again.