Friday, October 1, 2010

2003 Sierra Madre Water Revenue Bonds and a California Public Records Act Request

On Wednesday myself and three other residents (Kurt Zimmerman, Anita Delmer, and John Herrmann) filed a California Public Records Act request here for everything having to do with the Sierra Madre Series 2003 Water Revenue Bonds. There are a total of 31 different document requests in the letter, which I believe exhaustively details each and every possible aspect that pertains to the issuance of these water bonds.

Now the reasons listed below for doing this are mine. Unless otherwise instructed I would not presume to have the right to speak for the others. It would certainly be discourteous to do that. So everything you read from now on is my take on the story.

Sierra Madre's water bond debt is approximately $23.2 million right now. A portion of it is from water bond refinancing that took place in 1998. But out of that overall figure around $14 million ($6.75 million and interest over the course of 30 years) is from the 2003 water bonds. It is a considerable chunk of cash, even for our City government.

When the water rate increase notification letter went out to the rate payers of Sierra Madre, there were several reasons given as to why these rates would have to be increased by nearly 40% over the course of the next several years. The cost of improving water infrastructure such as pipes, new wells and reservoirs were the chief reasons given. There was something about water gauge sizes as well, but not very much else.

The figure that would eventually have been raised through the water rate increase process was $18 million dollars. Which included an approximately $10 million dollar matching grant from Washington DC, along with the $8 million raised locally. Which at the time struck me as an awful lot of money for the repair of some old pipes, fixing a dam, and digging a well or two. Unless these were to be very special pipes attached to some of the best wells ever made. Maybe they were going drill all the way to Fiji? It just didn't make sense.

A few weeks after the ensuing water rate payer protest was rather ruthlessly (in my opinion) crushed by City Hall, something surprising was discovered. After filing a request with Sacramento we received pages of information that detailed a series of water bonds that were issued here in 2003. These bonds, which were news to many, were configured in a way that was very typical for that time. During the subprime mortgage era many people believed that they were getting an incredible deal on loan rates. A 5.5% mortgage looked extremely good back then. And the City Council that arranged for Sierra Madre's 2003 bonds was similarly impressed with that level of interest payments. So much so that we are currently paying only the interest on those bonds. Interest rates today are far lower than what was arranged for in 2003, so this turned out to be an awful deal.

And who knows, perhaps there is a balloon payment in our future? We'll have to start paying down that principle someday.

So anyway, this did answer a big question for me. With $23.2 million in water bond debt having emerged, it now seems fairly clear what the City of Sierra Madre was up to when it tried to raise our water bills. That what the City Water Department is receiving is no longer adequate for the level of debt being carried seems rather obvious. With more people conserving water and doing all the good things they are supposed to do, there is just less money being sent in to defray costs and pay debt servicing at the Sierra Madre Water Department. We are all making due with less water, and while it's the right thing to do, it isn't helping finances downtown.

But here is the really Big Problem. When the City of Sierra Madre sent out its water rate increase notification on May 17th of 2010, they completely left out that $23.2 million in water bond debt as a reason for doing so. Under Proposition 218, a voter approved amendment to the California Constitution, it is required that all the reasons for raising things like water rates must be carefully spelled out for those who will be paying them. But nothing about the $23.2 million in water bond debt was mentioned in that Prop 218 mandated 5/17 notification letter. It was like a circus without its elephants. And what now seems to be the obvious driving force behind the need to raise our water rates was completely left out. Airbrushed, as it were. Or, for some as yet unknown reason, covered up.

My guess is, given these bonds were issued in 2003, some of that money might have been spent on DSP related things. Irrational exuberance was in full bloom at the time, and with all the vast sums of money that were supposedly going to made developing downtown Sierra Madre, who'd know the difference if some of that bond cash was temporarily co-mingled? As it were. It could be replaced later when all that DSP money came in. But then along came Measure V, and the pipe dream went up in smoke. Leaving all that bond debt high, dry and begging for our attention. Along with all those old and neglected rusty pipes we're still dealing with.

Anyway, we need to find out what the reason was for all this. Which is what we fully intend to do. Let's be completely frank here, it's not as if something as immense as $23.2 million in festering bond debt could have ever been forgotten. Especially when we're talking about the very exacting demands of Prop 218. Given the circumstances described above, I find it very difficult to believe that this bond mess was not covered up deliberately.

But that is just my opinion. At least for now. Updates as they become available.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

108 comments:

  1. And here I thought letting my lawn die and plants wither was a good green thing to do. Guess I'll have to start using more water to help pay some interest. Seriously, thanks Mod for keeping on this very important issue. Will be following closely as you do your great investigative reporting.

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  2. Thank you Sir Eric finally looking into this "oops, um, we forgot to insert the info about the bond debt...."

    Each day we learn a little bit more about Bell and how they voted themselves more of a raise and now a huge pension....what has our G4....legally and immorally done to line their pockets...

    We are grateful you and others follow your gut and can print it.....now I can have my cafe au lait...

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  3. Another body from the shenanigan years has floated to the surface. Tell me Joe, is it a part of "the process?"

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  4. Sierra Madre Senior keepin' on keepin' onOctober 1, 2010 at 7:11 AM

    So, we've got the water rate increase shenanigan exploratory extravaganza, the CRA 5-year or so take a look back and see what needs to be tweeked, the General Plan Update continuing drama with additional cast members and it's own personal cheer coach the Mayor, tamped down the fee increase for the the next five years, added an additional 12 months to the Canyon Zone Advisory Committee building moratorium -- I don't know about you, but I'm going to need a program. Small town opera is a genre just coming into its own and I want to be sure I can keep up. What a breakout fall season!

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  5. The fabuous leadership we're currently enjoying in town just keeps serving up the entertainment. Wait'll they try and roll out those sewer and street bonds. I'm sure the mayor will admonish everyone to keep it positive.

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  6. The four of you are the pillars of this community. Godspeed.

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  7. Just in case anyone ever wondered why none of the 2002-03 City Council ever ran for office again, here's a clue for y'all.

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  8. Would it be possible for someone to contact Kris Miller Fisher in Santa Barbara?

    She may or may not know some additional helpful information about the shenanigan years, she was the lone voice of the people on that evil city council of Bart Doyle, Rob Stockley, Glenn Lambdin, and Doug Hayes.

    Only MaryAnn MacGillivray has to deal with an even worse group.

    Kris may be able to offer information, unless she feels it dangerous. Those evil councilmembers hated that nice little woman, why? She was honest.

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  9. They hated Kris for the same reason they hate MaryAnn. Both stood up for the people of this town, and not the big development corporations.

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  10. Did you know that the 1998 Water Bonds acatually were a REFINANCE of earlier bonds that the city screrwed up?

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  11. Waht else is buried under the reservior?

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  12. The only thing I remember about Kris Miller Fischer was when she resisted the then Police Chief's request to raise the speed limit signs @ 25 mph to 30 mph (there were many at each speed) which in the words of the Police Chief "would make it easy to police traffic in Sierra Madre moving at 30 mph because it would be uniform". She resisted and she was scoffed at and the Council granted the Chief's request. Now we have traffic especially downhill moving at a uniform 30 mph Right?

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  13. Forensic audit

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  14. 9:06, please fill us in.

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  15. The Ghost of Xmases PastOctober 1, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    I think John Buchanan should talk about it, since he was a more than willing part of the bond scheme.
    Infact, the silence from him is deafening.
    My theory is the more he were to say, the deeper the bodies will eventually be found.
    Keep them digging themselves into the holes they deserve to be in Crawford.

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  16. Leaving out the most critical information on a rate hike strikes me as something that Mayor Mosca would do - but would he do it without Buchanan's approval?
    I'm inclined to give Moran and Walsh a pass. Does anyone really think they understand what is going on?

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  17. Oh, John will talk... blah blah blah litigation blah blah my attorney has advised me not to comment blah.

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  18. Note to MaryAnn MacGillivray and Kris Miller Fisher:

    It's an absolute HONOR to be on the "blacklist" of Bart Doyle, Glenn Lambdin, Rob Stockley, Doug Hayes, and MaryAnn can also add Joe Mosca&John Buchanan.
    If these people like you......there is something either very wrong with your character or you are very light in the upper stories.

    MaryAnn MacGillivray and Kris Miller Fisher are both honest and intellegent. They posess the integrity the dirts lack.

    Walk with pride, MacGillivray and Miller-Fisher!

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  19. Walsh and Moran are there for only one reason. Lock step voting with Buchanan and Mosca. Interesting to watch them tip toe around the Brown Act.

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  20. As for the mishandling of the proposed water rate hike via what has learned to be an glaring ommission of facts about the bond, and the mishandling of the citizen's protest under Proposition 218--was it water rate payers? was it property owners where the water service was delivered?--who was the responsible party? The City Manager? who serves at the pleasure of the City Council! Don't think it was the finance director or the public works director, although when this ruse was being put together I can just hear it (oh, my job, my job). Well, keep up the good work and get to the bottom of this mess. Sierra Madre deserves better, don't we?

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  21. Now I understand why it was so important to keep councilman voting together. That way no one councilman would be absolved of guilt if found out for what would turn out to be very "unpopular" activities.
    I hope the DA's office is watching,,,,,,;}

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  22. What a thoroughly delicious post. Where is Joe Mosca's agenda now? Dead in the water it seems.

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  23. It may be time for some administrators to git out before the feathers hit the fan. It's getting a little stinky in Dodge. Anyone associated with the "development scheme " under Doyle, will pickup some of the odor.

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  24. It would have been far easier for the them to just re-notice the water rate increase back in June than make Zimmerman et al mad.

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  25. I think there is a memo going around city hall this morning asking everyone for their clothes sizes. The City Council will be ordering them some 'fall guy' togs early next week.

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  26. there is a silver lining to this mess.

    for the first time in seven years, John Buchanan isn 't talking and talking and talking and talking and talking

    maybe a judge can get him to talk about this mess

    now...where is that rascal Glenn Lambin, I wonder if he's takin up praying yet?

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  27. Mayor Joe Mosca will be speaking
    on this matter later today. He will
    call the request "premature," and
    "not positive."

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  28. who is this Hutt guy and how long did he live in town before he started immersing himself into city politics?

    If he's the same guy that was on the planning committee, jeez are we in trouble....

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  29. Joe Mosca is trying to change the conversation to look how well my GPU Committee is working together... Not talking is a tip off that much talking is going on behind closed doors...

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  30. Lalalalalalalalalalal... can't hear you.

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  31. "It's not the crime, it's the cover up that gets you." - Richard Nixon

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  32. I'm with the moderator the silence from john Buchanan is deafening. That guy never shuts up.

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  33. Nancy Walsh is still trying to figure out what all this water tax stuff has to do with her agenda of bringing competitive square dancing to Sierra Madre?

    That woman is sort of nasty with her demeanor, I hope she's just frustrated with being out of her element and not that uncivil in her regular life.

    Josh Moran, what can we say about this dude?

    He said on public record that he wants and will appoint his personal and realtor friends to city committess, belittles Mary Ann with highly insulting tirades, once called for a boycott of Sierra Madre businesses because he opposed free speech and Measure V and hasn't made one intelligent comment, suggestion or progress in the city...the one he proclaims to love so much.

    Sierra Madre will implode with this type of leadership.

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  34. Buchanan is one of those people who is at
    his most truthful when his lips are sealed.

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  35. 10:22 said "Sierra Madre will implode with this kind of leadership." I disagree. It's already imploding.

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  36. Nancy Walsh is allowed to say "low-profile" not "water bond".

    She has her script.

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  37. This criminal gang of 4 are the 2nd worse in the history of Sierra Madre. Only Bart Doyle, Glenn Lambdin, Rob Stockley and Doug Hayes were worse.

    However, keep trying Mosca, Buchanan, Walsh and Moron.
    You may surpass them yet.

    Damn you all!

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  38. Who gets thrown under the bus? The smart ones will get out now (which means Moran and Walsh stay) before the name calling begins and the unwary become "accesssories to the crime".

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  39. it IS uncharacteristicOctober 1, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    I have been following city business for about as long as John Buchanan has been on the council, and the posters are right that he has been bizarrely quiet on the water stuff. The guy cannot help but sigh, groan with the weight of his own profundity, take off this specs, and launch into a looooooong discourse before he ever gets to a point.
    If we're not hearing the sighing, groaning launch, what's up?

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  40. We always said that Kris MIller-Fisher's major difficulty was her intelligence, that she was more intelligent than the other four combined. Any similarities between MaryAnn MacGillivray and the G-4 is purely co-incidental.

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  41. There was another combination of City Council members that resembled the awfulness of this G-4 and the one mentioned that Kris Miller-Fisher had to put up with and that was the conbination that druing John Buchanan first two years when that council voted for the One Carter Housing Abomination along with Tonya Torres and others. Who remembers?

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  42. Kris Miller-Fisher's major difficulty was that she was a woman in Sierra Madre politics. Times haven't changed much.

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  43. I wonder who they thought they were protecting...Taking some real chances
    here.

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  44. C'mon 11:44, it ain't about gender. Torres & Joffe.

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  45. 11:28, I try not to think of the StocklyTorresJoffeBuchanan sell out.
    What a blow to community involvement.
    Lot of people left the city political arena altogether after that.
    Terrible to see the community produce such great alternatives and such expertise, and have the council completely ignore them.

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  46. the one time only we want to hear what John Buchanan has to say - he is silent.

    if only he could have been silent the last 7 years.

    zero character

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  47. usually Buchanan wants us to know how much smarter he is than the rest of us and will ramble on making mindless points and bombast us with his lawyer speak, which apparently he doesn't use in his real professional life

    now he is silently stupid

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  48. You have to remember that people who cannot think reasonably do not recognize people who can think reasonably.
    Councilmember MacGillivrey is a veritable whirlwind of rationality on that council, and the rest of them are only seeing her lips move and trying to figure out if they have to make the effort to follow her thoughts or not.

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  49. Good call, 12:41

    I was having lunch with a friend, who doesn't get involved much in city politics, but is a loyal Tattler reader.

    She expressed some real hope in the Zimmerman, Crawford, Delmar and Herrmann letter.

    She knows about these things, and said, it sure looks to her like the Zimmerman letter is on to something that could really be a huge issue.

    Don't underestimate Zimmerman. Remember Measure V.
    This man is head and shoulders above Mosca and Buchanan and proved it for the 4 years he was on the CC.

    We were all missing Kurt a lot, but now, it seems he is still saving Sierra Madre!

    Kurt, if you are reading this!

    YOU'RE THE KING!!!!!!!!!!! THE KING!!!!!!!!!!

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  50. There are many people who work very hard on a variety of things. But Kurt is the one essential man here. He is the person who can dig out the truth we've all been wanting for 8 long years, and make it stick. Nothing is more important than that.

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  51. Good Story in LA times today called "Arrested Development" A must read for the Tatts. It is on the front page of the print edition, online you have to scroll down quite a bit.

    Good story dear editor, wonderful work and effort.

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  52. Crawford is our KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR!

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  53. Weds. 9/29 you handed in the request?
    Ten days...do they have to be business days or just plain days?
    You should have a pile of documents no later than October 13th or 14th
    Boo!

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  54. 10 business days
    10 business days plus a 10 day extension
    only if they have the documents
    only if the documents being requested are specifically described
    only if they don't find some esoteric reason to deny turning it over
    only when the copying fees have been paid
    probably only after more legal mumbo jumbo

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  55. It's very sad. By just about any measure, I think Kurt Zimmerman was the best politician to ever serve in Sierra Madre. Let's recall some his accomplishments:

    1) Coordinating efforts to extinguish the Santa Anita fire and recovering grant money to defray the firefighting costs
    2) Completing the audits
    3) Creating SMRRD and campaigning for the succesful passage of Measure V
    4)Balancing the budget in a down economy and
    5)Always telling the truth

    It's no exaggeration to say that Kurt saved Sierra Madre. And how did we repay Kurt for his exemplary public service? By re-electing Kurt's antithesis, Joe Mosca.

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  56. I admire Kurt's courage. The Downdown Dirt and Cumquat smeared him pretty regularly.

    I fear it's just a matter of time before somebody else tries to smear this honest man simply because he's opposed to the way the water rate increase was handled by our City Council.

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  57. 10:46: Brilliant characterization. Buchanan is clearly burdened by "the weight of his own profundity." He thinks so deeply we could probably use him to drill some new wells. Insufferably pompous.

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  58. It says something about the local Democratic Party when they abandon somebody like Kurt Z (a Stanford grad, former prosecutor, and bona fide environmentalist) and rally around Joe Mosca instead.

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  59. The Democrats don't want somebody who is a leader and knows something. They want messenger boys who will help them deliver on the deals they made in Sacramento with lobbyists. California Democrats are as corrupt as any party in the Western Hemisphere.

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  60. What "extension, damn it.
    Ten days.

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  61. Joe solicited the Democratic endorsement; Kurt didn't. 4:28, save your comments for a partisan blog. The Tattler isn't the place for national politics.

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  62. Beg pard'n, 4:32. But I was talking about California Democrats. And talking about Sierra Madre politics without taking in the Sacramento factor is like talking about guppies without being allowed to mention the fish tank.

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  63. Kurt Zimmerman was hideously slandered on the CUMQUAT, the website endorsed by John Buchanan in the Pasadena Star News. A website who glorified Joe Mosca and slandered Kurt Zimmerman so badly in one article that someone told me Kurt was worried his daughter would somehow read the horrible lies about her father. I called his father, the morning of the article and asked him to please keep Kurt's mother from reading it.

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  64. still read the papers, but not that oneOctober 1, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    10:46 to 4:25,
    I must confess. Sir Eric Maundry wrote a description of Buchanan not unlike that. It was in one of the articles in the paper, when it was a paper, under the sure guidance of Katina Dunn. I was delighted that Sir Eric could so clearly express the falsity of Mr. Buchanan's gravity.
    Been a Sir Eric fan ever since.

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  65. All four signers of "the letter" are democrats.

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  66. Teehee, can't resist kicking up party affiliations, huh?
    I know at least one of the 4 signers who will be voting for Meg.
    I left that rotten Democratic party after I moved here and saw what the majority of Democrats in this town were doing.

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  67. The Democratic Party supported Joe.
    Really, does anything more need to be said?

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  68. I've got a new clay pot Indian recipe in the oven: Chicken Dum Pukht. Reminds me of our mayor. Bon appetite, Tattlers.

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  69. Interesting thing about Joe. You do know that there are no greater promoters of political correctness than American corporations, right? Funny how that has become such a tool of power in this country.

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  70. Keepin' ahead of the curve.
    Anticipating the mood of the masses and manipulating it.

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  71. Hmmmm,
    So our city government sent out a 5/17 notification letter as required by Prop 218 that had a glaring omission, the underlying water bond debt.
    What are the penalties for non compliance and who has jurisdiction?
    Time to do a little research.
    As always Sir Eric, thanks for doing what you do so well.

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  72. I'm with you, Monterey Laner:
    You ask some great questions.
    I also want to know what can be done about this?
    How can we help?

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  73. Only a person who lacks morals could vote for another "person?" who publicly supports a pornographic site that falsely accuses people of disgusting acts.

    John is the epitome of the righteous sex obsessed narcissistic male who creates problems to distract everyone from the truth of his own issues.

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  74. Thank you once again Eric, Kurt, Anita and John.

    No finer and honest people are there in our town.
    Your honesty and character are the reason I keep believing in our country. Maybe there are others like you who could lead Sierra Madre and be a role model to others. Being driven to find the truth without propaganda and listening to every side and being well informed is the key to democracy.

    Your intelligent and educated research is very appreciated!

    You all deserve to be the CITIZENS of the YEAR!!

    Thank you!!

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  75. What was the role of our resident expert in 218, Attorney Levin.

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  76. Please enlighten me..If the City did not disclose all the facts to the public according to the law, why are we just talking about it and not organizing some response.Talk is cheap but a 40% jump in water rates isn't.My question is;If the vote was tainted by the City's action ,the City must be held accountable.Who do we contact!!!!

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  77. Keep checking in with this blog, 8:04. The time to stand tall for ethical government in Sierra Madre is coming sooner than you might now believe.

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  78. Just to clear up some earlier posts...

    The City has 10 calendar days to respond to the public records request, not to provide the documents.

    Levin, I suspect, will respond by indicating the request is too voluminous and thereby will take additional time to research. I doubt you will get the full range of documents for weeks and weeks....if ever.

    In addition, your fine city charges a hefty copy fee which appears not to be the actual cost of duplication, but instead is a fee set by a city resolution. Of course, that's not legal....go figure.

    John, please be sure to post any/all responses you receive from the city on this issue as it should prove entertaining.

    Good Luck..

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  79. I don't think there can be any doubt that the city hopes to hide its shame. But the California Public Records Act can be fairly harsh on cities that attempt to do so.

    Not so sure I share your cynicism here, Gilman. Besides, everything the city has is mirrored in Sacramento. And they have been quite forthcoming.

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  80. Who has been forthcoming, 9:26? The City or Sacramento?

    I do share Gilman's fears, it's not cynicism, it's based on past performances and facts.

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  81. anonymous @ 9:26,

    your right, I am definitely cynical when it comes to City compliance. Unfortunately, that is the result of years of dealing with various cities on both CPRA & Brown Act issues. I hope your right and everything is produced, but my experience tells me that otherwise.

    Just curious..how is the CPRA "harsh" on cities?
    Not a challenge, just a question....I am unaware of any criminal or real civil penalties for Cities that violate the Act?

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  82. A lump of coal, or a diamond is a chunk of coal made good under pressure..October 2, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Good Morning,

    Almost 25 thousand views in a month! Wowie Zowie, our John Crawford is a tall drink of water in a politically parched California landscape of mirage makers.

    Thanks Gilman, I know you take a chance when you venture your expertise. Mr. Zimmerman, does the talk and the walk.

    Can you imagine both John and Mr. Zimmerman in Sacramento? I can. All the great minds of the commenters here. It is truly an honor to participate in this great journalistic engine of change. The Tattler Train

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  83. 8:56, I would not wish such a cruel fate on Zimmerman and Crawford - not unless they have a whole lot of intelligent and honest people willing to go with them.

    And I disagree that Gilman is cynical about how long it will take to get fewer documents than requested. Sounds realistic, not cynical. The city will have to comply, but the questions are when and with what.

    Don't get your hopes up too high. There might always be another stealth document destruction attack.

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  84. The Transparency Follies, fan dancing with facts.
    Should be a pretty good show, and thanks to the Tattler, we've got front row seats.

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  85. Does 23.2 million in bond debt mean we do not own our own water?

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  86. It means each and everyone of us, all 11,500 more or less, owe $2,000 in money already received and spent and interested to be repaid, before we take a drink of water dear sir or madam.

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  87. Sierra Madrean starts for Boston College tonightOctober 2, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Chase Rettig, a Sierra Madre kid will start for Boston College tonight against Notre Dame. Chase played in Sierra Madre Little League, went to Saint Rita's and LaSalle. Chase transferred to San Clemente High when his family moved to OC for a while. He got a full scholaship to Boston College.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/college/football/view/20101002new_qb_leads_bc_chase_is_on/

    NOTE: Susan Henderson and Terry Miller (our local media flunkies) don't care about interesting news like this, just stuff they can spin as negative news.


    Go Chase!

    Bad news is ABC is carrying Oregon Stanford game and not Notre Dame Boston College, but let's all pull for a Sierra Madre kid done good.

    Watch, one of our media flunkies will read this and soon Coburn, Miller or Henderson will mention Chase but YOU HEARD IT FIRST ON THE TATTLER.

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  88. hey mod

    why don't you post the news about Chase Rettig as a new thread and scoop the local news dogs?

    google him or the link has a photo of him

    he is a good kid from a good family

    his little brother, Hayden is in 10th grade and is the starting qb for Cathedral High and is being recruited already by USC

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  89. Chase Rettig? Son of Mark Rettig the local developer? Of the Sunnyside lot split Rettig's? And the Sierra Madre Boulevard townhouse development Rettig's?

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  90. 4:22.....if it is........ SO WHAT!!!!!! WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?!!!

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  91. The Tattler gets scooped on Peter Dills restaurant reports as well. Somehow the site survives.

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  92. There is a story about California being the statistical mortgage fraud leader according to the FBI. It is in the SGV Tribune, there were 400 cases in 2003 and over 3000 cases after 2008. Perhaps the editor might cover it as a story one day then my long comments won't be censored. Perhaps it was because of a referance to a Rizzo I met twenty years ago, who taught people how to defraud financial institutions or the cities "how to get financed into one of our overpriced homes" workshops or maybe it was the last line "Politicians, redevelopment agencies, and grifters, cant tell them apart..

    Go figure

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  93. Todays LA Times front section details the scam and ethical lapses that the Redevelopment Agencies are being used by Cities to defraud the tax payers and pad their own interests and pockets.
    The CRA should be eliminated from any and all public funding. Its ment to enrich people not improve Cities.

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  94. It is a great article that everyone should read. It is about as ugly as the LA Times revelations about Bell. Hopefully it will be discussed here on this blog as well.

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  95. Wow, looks like the "spirit of the Tattler" is catchin' on all over Los Angeles.

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  96. The truth will set us free. Or at least save us from geting ripped off by lousy local government.

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  97. Yes! The truth will set us free! That and going to the ballot box... don't forget the voting part.

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  98. Your post piqued my interest enough that I started squirreling around for more info. At sierramadrewnewsnet he's posted the schedule for loan repayments here:

    http://www.sierramadrenews.net/city/FY2009-11budgetdebt.pdf

    Looking at your article, I think you have some errors. The first is I think you are looking at 2009 debt and not 2010, also I think you are including moneys from the 1998 community redevelopment agency bond (CRA bond) which had money earmarked for a senior housing project as well as other things which they don't mention in the previous pdf. The money for those bonds is paid from assessments from that district. Has nothing to do with water.

    Currently, our principal total WATER related loan balances (paid from WATER FEES) as of 6/30/10 is somewhere under 12 million. (3.71 + 6.75 + 1.31) If you add the outstanding interest in, it is somewhere around 19 million ( 4.584 + 12.672 + 1.31).


    There are 3 separate debt instruments, one from 1998 (which "refunded" 1988 debt) with interest currently around 5%, one from 2003 at around 5%, and one final one with zero interest being accrued.

    The interest free loan will be paid off in 2018, the 1998 debt will be paid off at the end of 2019, and in 2020 there is a balloon in the amount of debt owed on the 2003 instrument, and that is scheduled to be paid off in 2034.

    If you added no new debt, your expenses would actually go drastically down when the balloon hits in 2020. i.e. the total debt payment in 2018 is around 1 million, 2019 it is around 847k, and 2020 it is 641.5 and then continues to 2034 to float around that amount until all debt disappears in 2034.

    I assume that 2003 loan balloon payment was structured as interest only payments because of this.

    Our 2008 loan payment was around 850k and our 2009 and 2010 is closer to a million. The increase is a result of that interest only loan.

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  99. I wish people would have paid more attention and not listened to the DIRT LIES in our last election...10:00am.
    We would have had another honest city council, like the Zimmerman, Watts, MacGillivray majority for a painfully too short 2 years, then everyone must have fallen asleep. Most of the registered voters never bothered to vote! Very, very unfortunate.
    Don Watts, John Crawford and Pat Alcorn should be on that council with MacGillivray.

    Sierra Madre voters really dropped the ball.

    Please pay attention, don't believe the "local press" and the dirts. Check the facts presented on this forum. They are 99% accurate.....always.

    Let's never let a unfortunate election like this 2010 happen again!

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  100. The 1998 water bond really is a water bond. You cannot spend water bond money on CRA senior housing projects. The 1998 water bond was a refinancing of a rather poorly set up 1989 bond. So how that could have anything to do with senior housing a decade or so later defies logic.

    Which brings the bond debt back up over $23 million, yes?

    But the theory on interest only bond payments is interesting. Did you ever work for Countrywide?

    Of course, we'll know more justr as soon as the city coughs up the documents.

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  101. 10:46, any poster who can use the phrase "debt instrument" has my attention. However, I'm not as conversant with financial matters as you obviously are, and I'm still confused as to how we got into such bad debt in the first place, whatever the instrument, and why the first mailer from the city did not explain that part of the rate increase motivation.

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  102. The details are just that, details. But that in no way explains why the city left the massive water bond debt out of the water rate increase notification. Kind of like Detroit leaving the engine out of a car.

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  103. FUN FACTS from the LA Times spreadsheet on CRAs.

    If you take the data in the spreadsheet and limit it to just LA county Sierra Madre has the second highest ratio of debt to population in LA county and the second highest debt to total cost.

    Why, exactly has our Community Redevlopment Agency take on this massive debt? What are we getting for this (aside from subsidizing developers?).

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  104. That's a great question 3:57!

    The "FUN FACTS" from the L.A. Times aren't too FUNNY, if you happen to live in Sierra Madre.

    Sure looks like we've been had, people.

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  105. A whole bunch of cities spent a lot of money doing essentially nothing (huge debt for spending in the "other" category). Bell is off the charts as you'd expect, with a very high poverty rate.

    New twist on reporting, use of public information datasets to expose areas ripe for investigation. LA Times has set up a whole team for this, kudos.

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  106. I sure wish some of you had attended or watched the CRA meeting on Thursday, it would have answered some of your questions. Get the tape from the library and see for yourself.
    There is a lot of public information out there if you take the time to get it - like attending city meetings and reading the council package. You shouldn't rely on other people to do your homework. Crawford is honest, but some are not and you may not get all the facts. The reason the gang of 4 is on the city council is that voters didn't do their homework.

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  107. 11:13.

    I think I replied but perhaps it didn't get approved. There are two bonds from 1998, one is a CRA and one is a water bond. I took out the CRA from my total. So with future interest included the total current water debt is 18.556 million dollars. The principal is currently 11.77 million. As someone noted above, the 1998 debt replaces 1988 debt, so one can assume that portion was spent way back in 1988. Of the new portion we have roughly 8 million dollars.

    The city website does have a brief list of water projects (the majority being the replacements of meters and mains), there are specifics on one project, the Miramonte reservoir:

    http://cityofsierramadre.com/docs_forms/files/faqmiramonte061227.pdf

    This project was supposed to start in 2006 and complete in 2008, and was to cost roughly 8 million dollars (but was partially funded by the feds). It does mention that no interest SGVMD loan.

    I am always astonished at the price tags of things. It would be fun to see the detailed budget for the reservoir project.

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