Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Agenda Man Loses A Little Weight

Controlling one's weight is very important and contributes mightily to a person's health. Keeping fit and trim is what the Doctor has ordered for Agenda Man, and he's off and walking most days now. Not that there isn't enough to keep him busy around town or anything. He had to rescue a little crying kitten from a very tall tree just the other day. A proud moment it was for him, too. But generally if he needs some exercise, he's going to have to walk.

But when he isn't walking his physical woes away Agenda Man is profoundly interested in the politics and governance of Sierra Madre, California. Who wouldn't be? And since this is a City Council meeting day, he feels duty bound to issue a report giving his prognostications on how this evening's august proceedings will unfold. Here is Agenda Man's observations on these important matters.

In the consent calendar portion of the meeting a grand total of $2,016,214.90 will be spent. A very handsome sum of money. Salaries and City Warrants account for about half of it. Then there is some chump change that goes to the library and CRA, which happens every meeting. Both are like those ne'er do well relatives that nickel and dime you every time they get the opportunity.

But you just can't beat the timing of the news regarding that other million dollars. You know that water bond debt we've been talking about? The immense monetary obligation this City Council is so painfully shy about discussing in regards to that nearly 40% water rate hike they have consumed so much oxygen pushing? Well, then you just need check out Consent Calendar item "C."

Authorization Of Payments On Behalf Of PFA - Recommendation that the City Council approve the $919,047.50 addition to the revolving note for the demands paid by the City on behalf of the Public Finance Authority.

Now in case you are not aware, what is being so obliquely discussed here, and in the most opaque language available in the English language, is the spending of even more funds than usual on our considerable water bond debt. In "addition" to what they don't really say. $335,000 is payment on the principle, and $92,250 is interest. With another $170,000 being additional water bond interest related payments. With the rest scattered about for similar considerations.

Oddly enough, PFA payments in the past were only a portion of what is being shelled out this evening. As examples, on April 22 of 2008 the sum was a mere $248,000. On April 27, 2010, that amount was $262,000. So why this extra spicy now? And what exactly is this in addition to? And why doesn't City Staff just identify these as payments on our sizable water bond debts? I'm telling you, it just seems so hush hush.

Oh, and by the way, we still haven't received the 2003 Water Bond information that was requested from the City under the California Public Records Act yet. I do hope we get that stuff before the big water rate meeting next week.

There are other items in the Consent Calendar as well, but they're kind of boring. One item is at least somewhat amusing, though. Apparently a resident is not happy about traffic at the corner of Highland and Baldwin. So much so that the person in question wants a four way stop put in because he (or she) feels the corner is dangerous. So City Staff has asked that a traffic study be initiated, one that engages the robust talents of Katz, Okitsu and Associates Traffic Engineers. Which I guess means that some gentlemen in tan Dockers and pale blue collared shirts will sit on that corner and count cars. There is no indication on the agenda about what this invaluable service will cost us, however. Though I suspect that after the study is concluded we will get a very neatly laid out report in a handsome and sturdy binder. Hopefully without any recommendations for stoplights.

Item Number 2 deals with the long involved process of approving the recommendations of the Canyon Zone Advisory Committee. This isn't the final meeting on this topic, of course. That would be too abrupt for the gradualist tastes of the decision making entity. And there are CEQA considerations that need to be taken care of first. Public testimony will be taken, so I guess we could once again hear the argument that regulating development up there hurts people's feelings and makes them snappish. After a half an hour of that kind of riveting testimony everything will be pushed over to the November 9th City Council meeting. Where most of the above will be repeated once again.

Next up is the CRA Public Hearing, aka Item # 3. After last week's revelations in the Los Angeles Times about just how incredibly in debt our Community Redevelopment Agency is, this little chit chat will be kind of like (and please forgive the cliche) rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Apparently there is a little unspent money left, and the City Council will be discussing exactly how best to spend it. There is also a report that will need to be approved so City Hall can inform Sacramento that there is not only a report, but it was also approved as well. How we are going to pay off all that debt will not be discussed, however. And probably won't be until we get a more fiscally responsible City Council.

Item # 4 is another General Plan update. My guess is Mayor Mosca will be happy to discuss how many times his newly appointed friends on the General Plan Steering Committee used the word "consultant" at their last get together. Some have estimated that John Hutt alone dropped the word 12 times. Joe will take this to mean that there is a clamoring to hire consultants (particularly on Land Use issues), a longing he will be more than happy to spend about $250,000 in our tax dollars to accommodate. But this is just speculation on my part. Joe might instead hold off on doing this until the next meeting.

Item # 5 will address the burning issue of bringing on yet another member to the Green Committee. After all, there can never be enough people using words like "sustainability" and "renewable" in a proper meeting setting. Hopefully after this important deliberation is concluded the City Council will move on to appointing people to the Blue and Purple Committees as well.

In-Lieu Fees make up the bulk of Item #6. This has to do with business owners paying for parking spaces on the street when their own accommodations don't meet the criteria set by city ordinances. It has become a particularly burning issue in town ever since Dr. Sami's recent triumph in getting the City Council to overrule the Planning Commission on the building of his new medical facility. Who knows, maybe they'll cut him some slack and lower that $2,000 per parking spot fee a little. The Doctor certainly does seem to be on a roll.

The crescendo of this carefully orchestrated evening will happen during the last item, which has to do with Proposition 22. This one is all about preventing Sacramento from stealing cash out of city piggy banks in order to keep from going into receivership. Or whatever it is state governments go into when they spend themselves into financial oblivion. Of course, our current City Council seems to be hellbent on imitating Sacramento's spending habits, so this whole exercise might be (to use a term) moot.

In a year or so I suspect the only thing Sacramento will be able to find in our cookie jar are IOUs.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

46 comments:

  1. Twiggy Oaks on BaldwinOctober 12, 2010 at 7:25 AM

    Remember when Highland/Baldwin was a perfectly normal, safe intersection? The the genius council of the day decided to fix Sierra Madre by cutting down trees and putting curbs in the middle of the streets. Can someone print the names of those responsible?

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  2. Two million dollars in one sitting. Quite a feast. But why the code language on the million for water bonds? That IS troubling.

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  3. No records yet responsive to your public records request?.....it has been over 10 days hasn't it?

    If no records have been provided, has the City at least responded or provided any communication?

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  4. Pretty much happened like you said it would, Gilman. We got a letter from the City Manager with a laundry list of reasons why things are going to take a bit longer than might have been expected. And could we call and review some of the requests.

    Sigh.

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  5. Re: General Plan Steering Committee update. According to the 2009-2011 adopted budget pg 1-3 http://cityofsierramadre.com/docs_forms/files/budgetAdopted2009_2011.pdf(and yes Mosca was on the council at that time) One of the three (3) year goals was to complete the General Plan Update. For the past year the GP Committee has been forbidden to meet on a regular basis and then for the past three meeting they were side tracted. How in the H@LL does Mosca the Almighty dictate thatt they have 2 years to complete the update when the council fully expected it to take three years?

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  6. Elaine screwed up again.October 12, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    The Agenda has not legally noticed the PFA. The legal name must be used. Sierra Madre has no such authority called the Public Financing Authority and to authorize money to an authority that does not exist is illegal. The legal name is the Sierra Madre Financing Authority. This item must be reagendized. This Sierra Madre Financing Authority is the authority that lost its bond rating for four years.

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  7. Gimme a biiiiiig houseOctober 12, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Regarding the canyon zone, we'll also hear about how the crafters of the canyon zone want to force everyone into 500 square foot homes, and how the God-given right to overbuild, to tower over your neighbors, to light up the air around you for half a mile, is central to the good life.
    As one of the planning commissioners said regarding another house, Maybe you don't want to build in Sierra Madre

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  8. Agenda Man, the CRA Public Hearing will no doubt involve a firm refutation of the LA Times and you. I can just hear it now:
    Mayor Moot: So we are not in debt to that amount City Manager?
    City Manager: No sir we are not.

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  9. What's the back story on item #5?
    The sitting committee is not sufficiently green, or they are having trouble getting a quorum, or maybe staff is finding it too hard to schedule them.
    ?

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  10. don't look at the man behind the curtainOctober 12, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    9:09 - my thoughts were similar. I for one do not recall these $919,000 in water bond payments having ever been brought up before, thought he agenda alludes to something like that having happened. Is this some kind of Joe/John shenanigan designed to lessen the water bond impact next Tuesday?

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  11. enough shenanigans alreadyOctober 12, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    "obliquely discussed, and in the most opaque language"
    yeah, so is the deal that the council is trying to pay down the bond debt faster because they found some extra money?

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  12. 9:09 - good post. Wheels are spinning on that
    piece of info.

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  13. Twiggy Oaks on Baldwin at 7:45

    Thanks for bringing that up. That corner is a constant hazard for everyone!
    I believe the culprits behind that were:
    Stockley, Torres, Buchanan,Joffe, and Maurer.
    Or, it may have been Stockley, Lambdin, Hayes, Doyle and Miller Fisher.
    Can't remember for sure, but it had to have been those one of those (or both) CC.

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  14. I wouldn't worry, 10:05. Everything is under control.

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  15. The City would love to meet and "review" your request....that way they can later claim you never specifically asked for a particular record which they no doubt will not provide.

    Be as specific as you can and require that they provide the specific legal authority for any records withheld.

    Good luck...

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  16. Twiggy

    On top of the dumb idea of putting the curbs at Highland/Baldwin, some City Staff moron had the bright idea of planting shrubs that added more to the blind corners. I came close to poisioning the plants because it was such a stupid idea of so-called beautification but created a blind spot.

    Now the city is looking for volunteers to maintain the cut outs, which is double stupid because citizens could be put in harms way, but leave it to a Mosca/Buchanan lawyer lead Council to be oblivious to common sense.

    At Highland / Baldwin our infamous lame PD would hide and wrote tickets for those that paused 98% at the stop sign stopped at the end of the cut out curb and then proceeded because the driver ran the stop sign.

    Technically a ticket could be written for running a stop sign but the only reason was that locals knew you couldn't see past the shrubs. But our PD used that for a while to write tickets and feel important.

    Our Barney Fife motorcycle cop was and still is infamous for hiding behind the cut out shrubs on SM Blvd to write tickets.

    I live on a corner lot. I had a SMPD officer instruct me to park my overnight car on the corner which created a blind corner. I pointed it out to him and it still didn't make sense to him.

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  17. how long did John Hutt live in town before he decided to run for Planning Commission?

    I get the idea that he is a clone of Joe Mosca and John Buchanan and not a good visionary for our city.

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  18. Instead of paying for a traffic analysis, why not tear out the cut out? The city thinks they can pay for a traffic study there, but won't consider one for the suggestion by the Ad-Hoc Transportation Committee to change the route of the round-about to increase ridership and make it easier to get to downtown for shopping without a car. Short-sighted vision, I'd say.

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  19. Teenagers with credit cards, that's our council.
    How can we believe anything they say about the city not having money, we need a water rate increase, we need the uut, we need always more money - and then they spend it like a bunch of drunks.

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  20. How many parking places would the city gain if all the landscaped bumpouts were removed?

    I thnk we should use the $54,000 that Dr. Sami and the new fast food joints paid the city not to provide parking to rip out the weeds and put the parking spots back.

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  21. Crawford, do you know why the extra water bond payment is being made? Do I follow, that it is something extra?
    Sure would be nice if these people were trustworthy.

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  22. Those bow outs (and isn't that a funky name) have been nothing but trouble from the beginning. How about a council decision requirement - if what a council member pushes doesn't work out, the council member doing the pushing has to be responsible. Too much accountability no doubt.

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  23. So many citizens have better ideas than the council poeple. How can we get the common sense of our townsfolk to influence things more?

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  24. That is a good question, 12:47. A week before the big water rate meeting push and all of a sudden they're trying to pay down the bonds?

    Why is it these things are never explained to us? Does the puzzle palace think we can't handle the truth?

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  25. The bow outs were financed by CRA money. Let's stop the CRA spending so we can get rid of it asap.

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  26. There will be placating drivel from city hall.

    Don't be silly. There are no shenanigans. We were going to make this big payment all along. Here's a presentation about it.

    OK Fine, then why didn't you say so before, like when you had the town in an uproar over a rate hike.

    I want my money back.

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  27. One of the reason I might vote against Prop 22 is that i think we are all safer if the city doesn't have any money to spend. Particulalry CRA money. They less they have to spend, the less they can do to ruin Sierra Madre. Better that the money be used for public schools.

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  28. Wish it were that simple 1:05, but we would have to buy our way out, as in return a whole lot of dollars.
    That's what I've heard anyway.

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  29. 1:08, who are you trusting then?
    Better we should get the good people of Sierra Madre out to vote on any expenditures over.....help me out financially educated people - what's a good limit?
    I'm tempted to say $5,000, but that's probably not realistic.
    Anyway, take away the council's spending power, for sure.

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  30. The CRA is a double whammy. On the one hand we're paying between $300K and $400K on debt service. Bit on the toher there still seems to be a balance that can be drawn on to do stupid projects. Yet another curse from the shenanigan years...

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  31. The frustration level once you find out the way things are done is crazy making.

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  32. City hall doesn;t work for us. Our money gets
    spent on things we don;t want.

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  33. Why is it so hard for the council to understand what necessary is - water is necessary. Police (or sheriffs later) are necessary. Fire fighters are necessary.
    Emergency alerts are necessary.
    Everything else is a frill and we don't need to spend any money on it.

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  34. Add paramedics to the list.

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  35. Either the city stops spending so much money, or I'll never believe any of the poor mouthing again, and I sure won't vote for an taxes or rate increases.

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  36. The assumption is that we cannot do without the services the city offers, and therefore we have no choice but to pay more. Personally I don't get that.

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  37. So besides blogging and tearing our hair out over the officious, arrogant and questionable performances from City Hall;what do we do now?I now understand how reasonable fairly complacent law abiding Citizens can become a fire eating raging unruly mob.

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  38. Better to carry recall petitions than pitchforks.

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  39. have walked neighborhoodsOctober 12, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    A recall is a hard act to pull off.
    Like other communities, Sierra Madre is good at denying what is going on, and people who do not even vote (as in the majority) really don't want to have to add to their workloads.
    Readers of the Tattler know what is at stake - but readers of the Looney Views News, the Patch or the Weakly?
    Nah.

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  40. Twiggy, You stopped too soon. The list of abominations created with the CRA money goes well beyond the "bow outs". Add to your observations:

    1. Eliminate the bow outs (yours) & replace with, at curb ficus trees which use to provide much needed shade. (Cities cut them down because of the hysteria generated by City Adms & Councils over non existant sidewalk lawsuits because of roots, which was balderdash!) On the rare case sued we had insurance)

    2. Provide wider sidwalks (as much as 22') for dining (2 or 3 tables deep) in the shade for present and future restaurants and pleasant walking.

    3. Add center lane landscaped with trees and grass on SM Blvd and Baldwin.

    4. Add 25 to 50 movable benches & chairs (people really use them when they can create their own spaces. Add a bike rack 1 per block

    6. Add gas light type street level lighing throughout Downtown.

    7. Add kiosk for residents to post messages near SM Blvd & Baldwin.

    8. As proposed by the ad hock transportation committee: Institiute new proposed route, add large changeable advertising on sides of transit buses (revenue?), rename transit "SMART" (sierra madre area transit), put route signs at eye level and print large enough to read. Pick a color and paint all stops, signs in that color. And make Kerstin Court the transportation hub of Sierra Madre.

    It would be a start for a viable downtown.

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  41. 4:32 ficus trees are not good for downtown. And the streets are not wide enough for dividers or expanded sidewalks. The bow outs have to go, though. Ideas 4-8 are great. You should take your ideas to the General Plan Committee when they are asking for suggestions, and also to the Community Services dept. that considered the Ad Hock Committee suggestions.

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  42. Gone for the day so could not comment until just now but the post on the Canyon Committee wanting everyone to have houses that are just 500 square feet is just absolute BULL. It is a minimum that would be allowed whereas now the minimum is 1200 square feet. So, IF you want to build a small house, you can. Just twist the truth and see if anyone is paying attention. Who would want to do that, I wonder?

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  43. Not sure how the bow outs were paid for but it makes sense that it was CRA money as that is the area that they were built in. It was for traffic calming if I remember correctly and there were public meetings that not too many people attended. Many communities were doing this at the time and Sierra Madre did try to make it fit the downtown as the participants envisioned it at the time. So, where were you? People need to get involved. Also, if a big mom-SUV is parked in the angled parking at the northern edge of the parking at Bethany Church on Baldwin, I am pretty sure the tree in the bow out is the least of your problem.

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  44. The ficus trees were street tree choices all over southern California as you may have noticed as your drive around the southland. Many cities have managed to salvage them in the face of all the sidewalk destruction as they do provide lots and lots of shade. Too bad Sierra Madre is so strapped for cash to do the same thing because both Pasadena and Arcadia have done a pretty good job with their ficus trees. Duarte and Alhambra, too.

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  45. John Hutt was on the Cultural Heritage Commission before he was appointed to the Planning Commission. It would be a good idea if someone could put together a list of all the City Councils, pair them with the appointed commissioners and draw the line up of influence that this represents.

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