Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sustainable Life Made Possible Through City Council Viewing

I read a story recently about a guy who found a way to slow life down and make it last. The premise being that everything seems to move by very quickly when you are having too much fun. And the more fun you have the quicker the years fly by. Which can only lead to a distressingly rapid denouement.

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

55 comments:

  1. I didn't see Terry Miller at last night's City Council Meeting. Is he now too uppity for little ole Sierra Madre? Can hardly wait to see his non-reporting after he finds out a meeting happened without him.

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  2. I heard he tried to make it, but forgot how to get there.

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  3. First they steal half the general fund. Then they kill the Fourth of July water fight. Now Chief Diaz and her union goons are holding Santa Clause hostage for $138 an hour. What a wonderful world.

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  4. Chief Diaz is the Anti Claus.

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  5. soon we will be asking Arcadia or Pasadena to rent space for Sierra Madre events. Why not?
    Not too far away and less money.

    Joe and John, sooon your pockets will have a moth to eat away a hole....

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  6. The city has subcontracted out other services such as plan checking, trash collection, tree trimming,and consultants for many other services.
    Why all of a sudden the city says it cannot allow the use of private security. Private security is used for many events, already for private venues.
    Once you selectively decide what venues that must use police services, as opposed to competitive private security companies, the police are busy making money for the city as opposed to protecting the town for which we pay for.

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  7. How much will it cost to get Santa back in Kersting Court this year where he belongs? $10,000?

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  8. The mayor hit a new level of narcissism when he was thanking the GP applicants. He squeezed himself into the proceedings:
    "I'm so glad to be your mayor"
    "I'm proud to be your mayor"

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  9. Watts said that once he and Zimmerman left the council, the City Council and administraters would get busy turning our town into an ATM machine for government.

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  10. A one armed bandit is more like it.

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  11. 8:32

    Watts was right.

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  12. Thank goodness there are 4 new people to legitimize those scalawags that have been on the steering committee. And you know we needed another big utility company lawyer in the mix. Especially one who will "articulate" what the big utilities, I mean the people of Sierra Madre, want.

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  13. the Mod must have been very sleepySeptember 29, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Sir Eric, I disagree with your characterization of the 4 new appointees.
    Buchanan's pal, Edison lawyer and obviously a slam dunk with Mosca, is probably there to put the GP firmly into the Sacramento mold, yeah, but word has it that Hutt is honest and smart. The JPL guy has suffered more than most residents from having an inappropriate house built right next to his property, and if you had been watching PC meetings in years past, you would have seen that he's reasonable too. So don't sell Hutt or Miller short - yet. Of course, smart is as smart does.

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  14. The real estate industry came out ahead.
    The Azusa based realtor/developer or "quality of life" developer servicer didn't get on, our local realtor who just wanted to have "fun" didn't get on, but the founder and president of Engelmann Real Estate Services, Inc., Mr. Hutt, did.

    The pro-development crowd can rest easier.

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  15. Tattler, a great moment that you overlooked happened when Joe asked the crowd to only say positive comments about the people volunteering for the General Plan Steering Committee. Only positive. Because these were the good volunteers, not like the riff raff already serving on the committee.

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  16. There's no conflict of interest in having a real estate company owner on a general plan steering committee?

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  17. "This Specific Plan document replaces the zoning code for the properties within the defined boundaries and provides a road map for the orderly development of this important street over a period of time."

    The above is taken from the disgraced Montecito Specific Plan which may reinvent itself in the CRA review about to take place. Remember the Warmington-Fuzzy Estates? The controversy over how could an R-1 happen in Commercial? Well, under the overturned DSP, the zoning would have been displaced by the DSP.

    Don't think just because we have Measure V, that we aren't under attack by the developers who are quietly going forward as if none of the last several years have happened.

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  18. Some of the other old timers help me out on this, but wasn't John Hutt chairman of the Planning Commission when it voted against the Carter project?
    Seem to recall his saying that there would be houses there, the question was where and how many, and the Dorn Platz plan wasn't good.

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  19. Anybody else tired of having to dog the city processes week after week, month after month? Well, we can't let up now. That is what they count on. I remember the hideous experience of the homeowner's on N. Lima. The behemoth to the north with the direct view into their back yard was stated by the behemoth's owner as that in fact was their intention--to push the limit and get the biggest place they could, the best view they could and to heck with the peace and tranquility of the next door neighbor. Sierra Madre needs another Homeowners and Residents Association, in the manner of that started by the late Margaret Buckner and Eddie Dane, to pull these neighborhoods together to speak with a united voice.

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  20. Didn't John Hutt's wife buy the lot on the corner of Alegria and Baldwin right after the Planning Commission (while John was a member) permitted more houses on that lot than was allowed????

    Conflict of Interest, me thinks.

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  21. A surprise no vote was for Carol Canterbury who applied for the committee last time, has been involved for the past few months and has eagerly accepted tasks for the communications team. She would have been infinately better than Buchanan's choice who has not attended committee meetings as far as I know. She is never seen at Council meetings, and hasn't been involved in any other activity. Why her? She is a lawyer, works at EDISON with John, and he asked her to apply. What more do you need. (would this be a conflict of interest?)

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  22. 9:57, Back then I heard that was a false rumor...

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  23. Does the Edison lawyer live in Sierra Madre?

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  24. But 10:16, when she had an opportunity to say why she wanted to be on the committee, she said she thought it would be fun.
    General Plans may be many things, but entertainment? No.

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  25. Turns out that attendance at Council meetings and committee meetings is not a prerequisite for General Plan Update appointments. We don't know what Wendy Davis will bring to the table but we know she'll be working with some first rate people who will help her to understand what we're all about. Since she is an unknown quantity we can assume she's in much the same category as Denise Delmar - a recently relocated resident. And look what a wonderful surprise we gained when Denise joined the GPUSC!

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  26. Perhaps Carol Canterbury will rethink her allegiances to the CC-1 since she was passed over twice after being a supporter for all of these years...

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  27. Doncha love the way Fay Angus exploits every mis-step the City crew makes? No one will forget that anyone can enjoy a picnic in the park for free; if you need to reserve the biggest best table with the canopy and a concrete pad for the day, well, you'll need to pay a fee. Or the defining the difference between a banner and a banner: festooning the boulevard with "banners" from every light pole will cost about $1,200, but the "banner" across Baldwin? About $100. I love to watch Fay and treasure every opportunity to hear her bring civility to the podium.

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  28. I can't imagine why anyone would want to be on a committee where they couldn't have fun... I have been to several of the GPUSC committee meetings in Council Chambers and there's a lot of laughing going on! If you're not having a good time serving on your committees, don't you think you may be doing it wrong?

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  29. Wendy Davis said she lived on Grand View where she was raising her daughter. I'm looking forward to introducing myself to her at the next Steering Committee meeting. There's a lot I want to tell her about living in Sierra Madre and raising a child among some really great families and friends. She made the right choice.

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  30. Oh goodie.
    It all sounds just swell.

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  31. 11:21, I certainly agree that people should bring a sense of humor with them to any governmental body, but the crafting of a General Plan update is a serious matter that has real consequences, sometimes in courtrooms as communities try to defend themselves. I'm glad for the town, and somewhat surprised, that the some on this council seemed to prefer intelligence over party skills.

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  32. This seems to be more current information about committee member Hutt:
    "He is a partner and founder of H&H LLP. His practice concentrates on real estate development, land use, and joint-venture structuring as well as mortgage finance, property sales, and restructurings. Prior to founding H&H LLP, John founded and was president of Engelmann Real Estate Services, Inc., a real estate development company located in Pasadena, CA. Through Engelmann, John developed a number of real estate projects in Southern California, including mixed-use residential over retail buildings, a stand-alone retail shopping center, an apartment building and single family residences"

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  33. John Hutt was a vocal opponent of Measure V and a big proponent of the DSP process.

    Why do you think somebody like that was appointed to the GP committee?

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  34. The real reason the City can't staff its volunteer committees? Life in Sierra Madre must be deadly dull and devoid of any fun lest the serious business of governance devolve into bacchanalia under the Wistaria Vine.

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  35. Let's just cut the crap, OK? Joe and John got the kind of people on the GPAC they wanted. The conflicts that will develop between the two sides over development issues in inevitable. Joe and John will then declare the "process" is not working, and bring in consultants. This is how they define leadership. Making sure others are at fault. Why do you think they are absent from the SMPOA negotiations?

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  36. Joffee was in on the last round of SMPOA negotiations was she not? I suppose that's some sort of precedent for Mayors knowing what they are doing...

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  37. At the end of the day the General Plan really is the people's document. It is going to be up to the people of Sierra Madre to show up and demand that their voices be the voices that control this town.
    Citizens still have rights and power. For the time being.

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  38. For Moschanan the General Plan is the
    crown jewels. If they only get this one
    thing done the way they want it, then
    they will be successful. Make no mistake,
    there was nothing spontaneous about the
    selection of those 3 people.

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  39. Blog Editor slows timeSeptember 29, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    There is a lot of "where there is smoke there is fire" comments around this new Johnba the Hutt guy.

    I just live for those pin drop moments. I bet Mosca da Moot's no was like a horse whinny, did he start counting with his hoof too?

    Mary, Mary quite contrary how does the council grow?

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  40. I think what Joe (nostrils flaring) said was something along the lines of, "I won't have other Police Departments working in Sierra Madre!"

    Only the pure can walk amongst us.

    Good to see him standing tall for the wrong things.

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  41. Here's John Hutt's comment re Measure V.

    "While the goals of Measure V are laudable, it falls short of its mission. In the end it would make things worse, not better. Measure V is full of loopholes, problematic provisions and ambiguities that would lead to regrettable downtown development and increased litigation costs for the City."

    How wrong you were Mr. Hutt.

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  42. I would say Joe is afraid of Dieter Damnyoumeir, the city might have a legal agreement with the union. The POA officers fawn and drool, literally get glazed eyes and bow when he shows up at a meet with a city.

    He is like a mean shetland pony stud. Mosca a carriage horse would not stand a chance in a confrontation.

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  43. A mean Shetland pony, huh?
    Wish he was on our side.

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  44. I think I remember San Marino or South Pasdena, putting in "fees for their parks" because "non city residents" were taking over the place, especially on weekends. The City had accepted government grants for development of the parks which meant anybody could use them, whenever they wanted. First come first served.

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  45. so if an event contracts out with an outside security firm, it's permits will be denied?

    an event is stuck with the SMPD and it's outrageous fees for inferior services?

    I didn't realize we were living in the Soviet Union.

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  46. No wonder J&J dumped it on staff.

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  47. one underpaid, understaffed date stamper ruined countless livesSeptember 29, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Anybody see that story on Ally Financial and the stoppage of JP Morgan forelosures in Huff Post? A site called Zero hedge who huff credited the story to that has a link say they predict cases of the last 2 to 3 years will have to be retried. They were okaying these foreclosures without verification, a lot of firms used Ally and Fitch is investigating them too. There is another you tube video asking for people to join a class action suit against JP, just up this week. Tell anybody you know that may have been foreclosed on and no longer has a home and or a place for their computer about it. Something about a further strain on the synthetic mortgage backed securities China holds, and jp's stock is sinking as we speak. There are more companies, this is the tip of the tweaked applications iceberg.

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  48. No need to ruffle your horsefeathersSeptember 29, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    4:40 Agree, it was not an insult, put a shetland stud in a corral of regular horses, and the shetland will always win. The police needed someone like him. But since the city contracts to the police, I wonder how much the officer doing the security work gets? Does he get the money or does it go into the city cookie jar?

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  49. Thank you, everyone, for continuing to visit www.jo-el.info. Please share this link with others!

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  50. superior training = superior serviceSeptember 29, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    support law enforcement or get lost 4:39!

    the smpd does not offer inferior service. remember, one of its senior members accurately and effectively put a cap in that criminal dude sleeping in the back of his SUV. at the impound lot. resulting in a lawsuit. never mind.

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  51. City fees (building , variance etc)have to aline with other cities and can not exceed what is considered fair and appropiate for the service. Cities have been sued by contractors for extreme fees (look it up there are legal cases on file). Someone should do a survey of the surrounding cities and compare what are planning and building dept fees are. We have been and if they raise them more are very out of line. So the small home builder gets hit with the full force of these fees and the big developer will get a pass ...such as waived school development fees, or other fees or not having to have enough parking or handicapped. So the little Sierra Madrean will pave the way for the outside developers (well they will have an inside with somebody--(some former or newer council members, maybe?).

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  52. 8:34 pm, somebody did do a study of the surrounding cities. NBS, the consultant the City hired. That's what this was all about! The fees hadn't been raised in a generation. NBS did the comparison and made recommendations based on the actual cost of providing each service.

    Then the villagers shook their raised pitchforks and declared the City was here to serve the people and it wasn't right to charge the residents for the services. The Council followed the people's recommendation and the fees weren't raised; in fact some are going to be lowered.

    They'll be looked at again in five or ten years...

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  53. The reason the City Council didn't raise service fees is because there are other kinds of moneys they want more. The water rate hike is at the top of the list. The city owes a ton of money for those old water bonds. There is also a UUT hike off in the not too distant future to pay for the raise they're going to give the police. Plus new bonds for sewer and roads as they work to upgrade this city for the big developers whose interests are their real priority.

    Don't kid yourself. They sacrificed the d]fee hikes, but there are plenty more coming down the pike.

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  54. The problem with you, Sir Eric, is that you travel and do business south of Foothill. You know how the real world works and when the SM city version gets sprung on unsuspecting people, you know that it's complete bull****

    And while we're at it, I'm just wondering if the LAPD men and women in blue might not like to come to Sierra Madre and work at a lesser rate than our current folks in Blue now do. I can only imagine that they would find this policing in SM to be a walk in the park. 98% more likely to finish a shift alive. Oh, and a little community policing with a skateboarding gang--rather than drive-bys on meth. You have to wonder . . .

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