Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mayor Mosca's Big General Plan Update Steering Committee Secret Revealed!

There are certain persons who can never come right out and say what it is they want. No matter how evident their wishes, or obvious their actions, they simply must do things in a way that makes it seem they're not responsible for the outcome. Which, in their minds at least, somehow means they can avoid the taint of having done something most people don't want. And while they might believe they have somehow acted in secret, or that they have everyone fooled, most people figured it all out a long time ago.

The General Plan Update Steering Committee met Tuesday evening, in the process welcoming their 4 new members. Which means they now have enough people on board to fully staff a baseball team. But somehow they can't find a suitable name to call that team. Are they the Sierra Madre Residents, or the Sierra Madre Consultants? The Small City Advocates, or the Big Corporate Interest Guys? The GPUSC had now become a microcosm of the political divide that splits this town in two.

The problem Tuesday evening, however, wasn't really who's on first. Rather it was that this committee, which apparently must be watched over very carefully, and at all times, cannot meet without Danny Castro and Elaine Aguilar in attendance. Both of whom have a very full dance card despite Mayor Mosca's edict that the work of this committee must be completed in a relatively short period of time. So they only get to meet once a month, but then only if their minders don't have something better to do. Next month's meeting having already been canceled because Danny double-booked himself into a seminar somewhere.

Of course, there was also that fairly recent stretch of three months in a row where GPUSC meetings had to be canceled altogether because these irreplaceable City Staffers were unable to find the time in their busy evening schedules.

Here is an example of just how difficult City Staff has become in this matter. The guiding light of the GPUSC, Denise Delmar, has been tasked by the Mayor to offer some kind of a timeline that will bring the General Plan to completion within two years. Joe Mosca, a man who has no problem repeating himself, has probably mentioned this 40 times now. It is something that will require the committee to meet often as there are many things to do. Tuesday evening Denise asked the now nine members who would be willing to meet twice a month. All nine hands eagerly shot up. But Elaine Aguilar claimed that this simply cannot be done. You can ask the City Council to allow this, she said, but when they ask us we will say no, staff cannot do it. We're just too busy claimed she. Oh, and the City Council Chamber isn't available very much, and you can only meet there. Plus Brown Act considerations. Et cetera.

John Hutt, attending his first meeting and therefore not yet aware of how inconvenient his presence is to Staff, asked why the City doesn't hire someone to help essential planner person Danny Castro with his busy workload. To which MaryAnn MacGillivray replied, "We already have!" But apparently to no avail. Danny is only available for one GPUSC meeting a month, but then only if there isn't a seminar. Or something.

Hard to believe, but these are the kinds of things that take up valuable time at GPUSC meetings. There is considerable pressure from the Mayor to establish his two year timeline, and we have a committee that wants to work hard and meet that goal. But we also have a City Staff that apparently will do just about anything to prevent that work from taking place. The GPUSC is being whipsawed, and you can only wonder why.

So what are the causes of City Staff's scheduling conflicts. Do they have a heavy bowling schedule? Bridge club? Aerobics class? What exactly are their priorities?

Of course, the "two year timeline" issue is a contrivance designed to create controversy where none need exist. And an awful lot of time gets wasted on the issue of getting things done on time. The purpose of Mayor Mosca's obvious red herring is to be able to proclaim that this citizen staffed committee, put in place by the previous City Council, just isn't working out. Why? Because they can't provide or meet his timeline. And therefore, and with a heavy heart I'm sure, he will be required to hire the very expensive consultants he'd always wanted for this work. Something that will cost Sierra Madre's taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars that otherwise wouldn't need to be spent. The only real purpose Mosca sees for the GPUSC is to rubberstamp his big money wishes.

None of this is actually rocket science, either. But then again, how would Joe know?

I promised you a big secret, and here it is!

Cities in California are required to update only two parts of their General Plan every five years. The rest of it can be updated if a city so chooses, but it isn't really necessary. Most small cities can neither afford to revamp the whole thing that often, nor do they really need to. Things just don't change that much, which is what most towns prefer. Their General Plans just don't need to be entirely rewritten twice every decade, and Sacramento recognizes this.

The two sections that Sacramento says must be updated every five years are these:

1) The Housing Element

2) The Environmental Impact Report

Now our Housing Element is actually already done. Someone by the name of Karen Warner, along with her fabulous Associates, pocketed around $50,000 and finished that one up for us two years ago. It is a handsome report filled with nice color pictures, graphs, charts, text, and the addresses of single family residences that can be turned into multi-unit affordable housing and sold for three times what it says there. Think of how surprised you'd be if you lived at one of those addresses.

The second required element, the Environmental Impact Report (or EIR), is already budgeted for and could be cookie cut into something suitable in a relatively brief amount of time by whatever consultant is hired. This highly technical report, which Danny Castro took great pains to inform all present Tuesday evening, can only properly be executed by experts. Or so they say. The $50,000 set aside to do this bad boy up right is sitting there just waiting to be spent.

And that is it. Finish the second of these two elements, tweak the rest a little bit for appearances sake, and the General Plan would be finished in no time. But don't take my word for this, here it is word for word from the introduction to the current General Plan. Just like Sacramento wants it.

A General Plan does not expire and is not required to have a specified time frame pursuant to State law ... The EIR for the General Plan must be evaluated every 5 years ... The Housing Element must be reviewed and updated every 5 years according to the planning cycle established by the State.

If Mayor Mosca was being straight with us about getting the General Plan done quickly, it wouldn't take the two years he is asking to do it. It could be finished in even less time than that arbitrary number would indicate. City Staff willing, of course. But that is not what is really going on here. I'm certain Joe could actually care less about his two year issues.

What Joe Mosca, John Buchanan, and the Downtown Investors Club want overhauled, and to their exacting specifications, is the Land Use Element of the General Plan. This is the crown jewel, and unless it is carved in just the right way, the large scale mixed use Pasadena-style development they and their corporate patrons want to bring to Sierra Madre cannot be accomplished. And the last thing they want are slow growther types getting their mitts on it. They're jonesing to hire a compliant consultant for this, one that will incorporate all of the elements necessary for maximizing the investments of the financially motivated interests they really care about.

And, as I am sure you already know, the Land Use Element is where Measure V resides. Do not forget that.

One of the moments of low comedy Tuesday evening happened shortly after the four new members were seated. Being freshly admitted to the ball team they really couldn't be aware of what work had already been done, or just how things have been structured. But they had a solution ready anyway. And what was that? Hire consultants. They just couldn't stop talking about it.

But that is the thing about being a bobblehead. You don't really have to know anything to provide the answers you are expected to give. After the meeting was over Joe Mosca, who had arrived late and said very little up until that point, walked up to John Hutt and Wendy Davis and shook their hands.

And the three of them smiled. The fix is in.


  1. Crawford?
    The fix was in when the gullible voters of Sierra Madre voted this chucklehead Mosca along with the Moron and Walsh to the city council.
    You're right about their objective.
    Nothing short of total and complete destructive development of Sierra Madre's downtown and hillsides will be unacceptable to these criminals.
    Congratulations, naive Sierra Madre have just destroyed the future of your town. Do you even care?
    To the people who tried to stop this disaster, you can all hold your heads up, that you tried to save you town and your property. Keep fighting, Kurt, Don, Kevin and Lee and SMRRD saved us once, please help them do it again.
    Again Sierra Madre, do you even care anymore?
    I pray the answer is yes, we do.

  2. Mosca's target never changes. It is always the same thing. Development, undoing Measure V, and making money for his friends. The promises he made during the election are meaningless.

  3. Joe's target is himself and his employer. He has never and doesn't care about Sierra Madre. For a guy who moves into a city and hours later becomes a City Council candidate, he's been a blight on our city since he arrived.

    His motives are pure and simple.

    Himself, his ego and image and benefitting his employer.

    John Hutt gives me the heebee jeebees. Reminds me of John Buchanan. Sleeze oozes off him.

  4. Every newly appointed member wanted to hire a consultant. John Hutt said it a least six times. Wendy Davis wanted one for the technical information, Ed Miller suggested a consultant, Colin Bobrick wanted a consultant. They all wanted to start over and redo the process. Denise cheerfulyly reminded all of them that the General Plan process had already been designed and the City Council had already voted YES on it and the committee was moving on with it...Poor Wendy was taken back when told she was expected to be a worker not a princess and sit on a thrown. It was clear that all four of the new members had received their marching orders from Joe and John. None of the newly appointed members had ever shown their faces at a GP meeting or any of the volunteer groups and therefore had no idea of what was happening. Carol Canterburry, John Cappoccia, and others who have been at the meetings were all overlooked by the four idiots on the City Council that named the four members.

  5. The four new members were suppose to bring expertise to the GP Committee. The GP got a cop, two lawyers, and a rocket scientist who admits he is not a rocket scientist but a people manager.

  6. Last year Elaine promised thet GP committee could meet 2x month starting in April after the Canyon Zone Committee was finished meeting.

  7. The four new members are all MANAGERS. Managers manage, they don't do. Consultants are the doers and the managees. Managers can then take a look at product, suggest any changes, and approve. No doing there.

  8. PLEASE, if you are reading this, you need to come to the City Council meeting Tuesday night,6:30. It is my guess that Joe will come up with his need for consultants speech, and if we are not there to protest, it WILL happen.

  9. Big spending Joe Mosca. Raise water rates, raise the UUT, hire six figure consultants,
    give the cops a raise, and gut the surplus.

    Can we even survive a year of this guy?

  10. Sierra Madreans for Sane Financial PracticesOctober 7, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    The part I don't get is about the money. As a city we are always a day away from losing the paramedics, the police, the library, the water - the threats are constant, unless we start a utility tax (decades ago) have a new utility tax (now) raise other taxes (Measure F for that one failed) or just give moah money, moah money, moah money.
    So why don't the city council and staff sober up and stop spending?
    I say shelve the optional part of the gp update.
    What a waste of everybody's time.

  11. Traitor Joe is still Traitor Joe. He
    never changes.

  12. Don't throw rotten tomatoes at the staff.
    They are trying to keep their jobs, have good results and move on to bigger and better things.
    Bell will be hiring.
    The city manager and the developer servicer are doing what the council majority tells them to do.

  13. Right, 10:08. They are only obeying orders.

  14. Mr. Castro was supposed to meet with this committee once a month, and he's skipping a month? Why can't they meet without him? Is it a law?

  15. I think the fear is that without Mr. Castro present the General Plan Committee might start thinking for themselves. Something that could get him in trouble with Joe. The Mayor would find such behavior to be both offensive and uncivil.

  16. This is a perfect example of squandering resources.

    The city has willing and able volunteers.

    Get out of the way and let them do their thing.

  17. 10:07
    I disagree with you.
    Joe Mosca is MUCH WORSE than we ever even thought he was!

  18. What Joe Mosca says is never what Joe Mosca does.

  19. I feel sorry for the GPUSC people. They've been trying to get to meet for a long time ....projects that don't get traction are very frustrating.

  20. Anybody know the answer to 10:16's question. What is the law about who attends those meetings?

  21. Ah Sir Eric, you're such a cynic.
    All the poeple on the committee want to "preserve Sierra Madre"
    Everybody "loves Sierra Madre"

  22. I get it about the Brown Act. It's important, and it's supposed to protect people. But why can't a whole committee meet and film the meeting for any staff that can't make it.

  23. 10:30

    you are a fool.

  24. If the General Plan doesn't expire, why is it being messed with?

  25. The goldmine for the DIC is the land use part of the GP. That is what Joe is after. They want to rezone the town so they can build crap. Measure V prevents them from building tall dense buildings downtown, but nothing protects neighborhoods outside of that area except the current General Plan. That is what they want to change. It is ugly.

  26. Some people DO want to keep Sierra Madre the nice little town that it is.
    And others want to PRESERVE Sierra Madre as in get her a face lift, a boob job, ass implants, nose job, liposuction - Heidi Montag her. PRESERVE as in shape her up like the other 'preserved' cities around her.

  27. 10:37

    I like the way you explain things!
    I wish you were the mayor. :(

  28. There is one big expenditure I would vote for, and that is a forensic audit.
    If the Environmental Impact Report for the general Plan is already budgeted for, good. Do that. Then knock off the big bucks spending. Focus on clearing up all the murky financial dealings since Bart Doyle got his hands on things, and let's get an accurate picture of where we really are.
    But hire consultants when you have residents who have stepped up to do the job. Like living in an Escher painting.

  29. It is totally clear that for whatever reasons the city staff does not want to work on the General Plan update. OK. Let's not do it, except for the two parts the Tattler pointe\d out. Or will that interfere with our march towards bankruptcy?

  30. The residents of Sierra Madre need to make a list of what is essential and what is not, and then only spend money on essentials.
    It's called prioritizing expenses, using a budget.

  31. 8:08, Mayor Mosca kept some of the promises he made during his campaign/s. Remember, he was playing both sides. So at a meeting of slow growthers, he's talk about preservation, and at a meeting of pro-developmenters, he'd also talk about preservation, the preserving through development kind.

  32. damned do & damned don'tOctober 7, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    The city staff is refusing to meet and the mayor demands a timeline.

  33. if they offend you, cut them outOctober 7, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    A director of developmental services cannot or will not meet more than once a month, with your general planning committee?

    Fire him and replace him.

    Elaine Aguilar is really the head of the city and has shown repeatedly a pattern of lying and procrastination in her dealing with the people?

    Fire her and replace her.

    Ms Levin has wasted your money and your time, and you have no confidence in her?

    Fire her and replace her.

    Mosca is a ceremonial mayor.

    Change the way your Mayor is elected by the council back into the hands of the people.

  34. The Steering Committee was re-scheduled from November 2nd to October 27th. FYI Mosca would still have been elected Mayor - he got the most votes...

  35. It would be good if some of you irate folks who know so well what needs to be done would show up at the Steering Committee meetings and make your views known. Or how about this? Public Communications at the podium during the City Council Meeting? The heavy lifting has been left on the shoulders of a hand full of volunteers. The City thinks it can push the Steering Committee around because very few people SHOW UP! Be there on October 27th to support our small town slow growth way of life. Wear big signs: THIS IS A CONSULTANT FREE ZONE.

  36. Of course we all know that this is about making Sierra Madre more development friendly. I just feel some kind of a collateral attack on Measure V coming on. Part of Measure V's appeal was that it reflected the standards set out in the General Plan. Well, if the General Plan no longer says that, it won't automatically undermine the limits established by Measure V, but isn't the GP supposed to reflect the "will" of the City?

    Sir Eric, your view of the objective of stalling this off and rushing in at the last moment with a staff-prepared plan is right on the money.

    Bend over and grease up citizens, you know what's next!!

  37. Measure V protects the downtown. Measure V doesn't protect the neighborhoods. Hutt et al are not going to focus on the shopping district; they're going to strengthen their right to build in R-1 and R-3. The Hillsides, the Canyon, the downtown, probably safe. Everywhere else? Think development!

  38. Unless they can somehow undo Measure V, 1:30. Downtown is where they think the big money will be made.

  39. 11:29 sounds great, but......Mosca was re-elected after proving himself a liar. Have no doubt that the same people would vote for him to be mayor.
    Self destructive voters maybe.

  40. they serve at the will of the councilOctober 7, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Aguilar, Castro, Weaver, Schnaider, Levin - none of them are calling the shots you dufuses.

  41. The will of the council would mean nothing without them, Willy.

  42. Jumping Jehosophat, that's it.
    Sierra Madre suffers from Town Guilt.
    We have such a unique town given where it is, that the residents feel guilty.
    The drive to financial ruin is a self-inflicted punishment.

  43. Nah. People just think this is just the way things are, and they'll always be that way. Little do they know there are people working very hard to turn their dreamworld upsidedown.

  44. Sir Eric kicks off the article with a great description of people not saying what they really mean.
    What different and productive meetings we could have in Sierra Madre if people would just be honest.
    If the council members who want to overturn Measure V would just spit it out and make their alternative offers.
    If the city manager and development staff would just say what they really think - "We're incompetent" or "We're tired" or "We want out of this work" or "We'll be fired" or whatever it is.
    If there was more honesty we could make much better progress.

  45. I know we're supposed to be all forgiving of city staff and all because they're just obeying Der Josef's orders. But a lie is a lie no matter who made it up. Repeating it really isn't any better than inventing it.

  46. anony@2:27, you are mistaking the cause/effect relationship.
    The majority of the council is the cause, the staff's actions are the effect.
    Unless there's some kind of voodoo zombie thing going on, always a possibility, but unless that is so, Aguilar and Castro are dancing the dance they think will please the bosses best.

  47. Who said anything about being all forgiving?

    It's a good idea not to be distracted by the window dressing if you're trying to make changes happen.

  48. Sierra Madre has got some pretty expensive window dressing. Remember what we pay the staff.

  49. This might seem like a quaint old timey kind of thing, but I have always believed that when you are contributing money to someone's salary, they owe you the courtesy of representing your interests. Am I wrong?

  50. The question is, 2:57, whose interests are going to be represented?I learned a while ago that "the city" is not going to defend the residents' interests.A little hillside ruckus, called One Carter, was very instructive.

  51. Great chitchat Tatts, but what ARE the rules about the steering committee meetings, as in who has to be there and where they have to be held.

  52. If this is a committee made up of volunteers, why does the staff have to be there at all?

  53. Some posters suggest "showing up" for meetings. I guess the theory is that with a few more people watching, the outcome will change. That seems unlikely. Anyone have any ideas with teeth.

  54. City wide vote on restricting spending.
    City wide vote on suspending any non-essential projects, like the GP update beyond the necessary components.
    City wide vote on city hall staff reductions and furloughs.

  55. 2:21 and 2:22, I need to ask you if you have seen a hierarchy chart if the city organization?

    I saw one for El Monte, the city manager is the king of the hill, then all other departments are listed under or have to report to the city manager. Your city clerk might have one. So while Mosca might irritate you, he is a ceremonial mayor, we researched this the day we were talking about general law versus charter cities, someone said charter and some of us had to apologize and there was a comment made here here all is forgiven in the heat of battle in the search for the truth. Aquilar said you would not get the signatures for the protest, Aquilar is the answerer, she was in the newspapers with the official minitruth speak language about the counts.
    There are two forms of government in general law city, one is a mayor council form, the other a council manager, which is listed on your city website as your form of government, it states that the mayor is ceremonial in that type, your type. Wikipedia has a great simple explanation of both, search council manager form of government.

  56. Is the General Plan revision considered a "new project" or an "ammended project"? The Environmental Impact Report under CEQA guidlines can most likely be "tiered' like it can for other "projects." Another words you do not do the entire EIR from scratch. You get to use all the other information collected within the city from all the other EIR's ever generated for other projects within the city. Move along. Tell Joe he is way off base here. But, please Dr. Staccato, correct me if I am wrong. Education us all!

  57. Unlike the water bill tiers, those EIR tiers sound like they can save us some money.
    Great post 4:13.

  58. Its Elaine Aguilar always has been. City Execs are all tuned into other city execs, consultants (who used to be city execs), Associations for city, regional, and the state protection and promotion. Add in POA and Firemens Association They hang together and are tough. Whose back do you think Sandra Levin scratches? Aguilar of course.

    Bell's Rizzo was the product of powerful connections that "looked the other way" while the pot was raided. Thank God for the LA Times.
    You want to change Sierra Madre? Start with the City Manager. There is a moat and wall around her.

  59. Well, 4:24, if we get rid of Elaine Aguilar isn't the result that we hire another city manager? Who's going to do the hiring? Buchanan, Mosca, Moron and Walsh? So what will the difference be?

  60. I'm wondering, 3:33, how you think the residents should let the Council know what they're feelings on issues if it's not by showing up at meetings? Go to the podium and state your piece! Beats sitting home with your finger up your nose watching DWTS. Or, let me guess, you'll answer the door when the petition gatherers knock, right?

  61. Easy 4:57.
    I think the poster was just saying that the council, minus one, won't be listening anyway.
    There have to be other remedies.

  62. Word from City Hall is that the Oct 19 water and water bond special city council meeting is on. Also they're sending out a postcard inviting every resident in town to the meeting.

    Looks like Joe and John are fighting back.

  63. Oh good. They're spending more of our money on postage, to let people know that there are city council meetings.
    Drunk teenagers with credit cards.

  64. Sounds like damage control to me. I'm sure it will be the usual pouty passive-aggressive plea for understanding.

  65. Is Elaine our "Tony Rizzo"?

  66. I don't think so. Rizzo was all about enriching himself. Those folks at City Hall are all about enriching others.

  67. Although the City Council put a 2 year deadline for completion of the GPU, the GPUSC is only allowed to meet once a month for approximately 3 hours a month, or 62 hours during the 2 year period. Give or take a few hours depending on how many conferences Danny attends. Think about it 62 hours, less then 2 work weeks. So, if CC decides the GPUSC won’t finish in 2 years, will the consultant only have a 1.5 weeks to get the update completed as well?

  68. 5:11: Thank you for understanding my quandary. And, yes, 4:57, I do answer the door, read the Tattler, put out the signs, give money, sign the petitions, and hate little pricks like mosca and buchanan. What I would consider effective is a contingent of protesters sitting in on meetings. If you can't organize 40 or 50 people to sit in a block, you're just wasting your time. And no, I am not an organizer, but I can imagine somebody coming up with a system to get 2-3% of us that signed the water rate petition to volunteer to serve one week in the city council audience, with another contingent for the next. Otherwise you're just playing their game. Been there, done that. And I don't watch DWTS; I watch SYTYCD.

  69. Can't the mighty John and Joe instruct...insist that Mr Castro make himself available and constantly in touch with Denise. There is nothing important enough...nothing like seminars, group therapy, schmoozing with like City employees that would preempt "Danny"'s being on tap until the GP is complete. Period!

  70. Danny Castro is a capable planner and he knows his stuff. If he is not available you can bet it is not HIS decision. He is directed by his higher up-- to attend another meeting or not be available to meet with the GPUSC more than once a month. So, who is behind the curtain pounding on the pipe organ?

  71. It is a power playOctober 7, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    The CC and their backers are BULLY'S.

    It is difficult to deal with them. No matter how
    often we show up at CC meetings and speak they are smug and above all of us. They know what they are going to do, and they laugh inside when citizens speak.

    They are putting on their LYING SHOW> THEY HATE US AS MUCH AS WE HATE THEM.

    It will get worse unless we get rid of them.

  72. From CA.Gov DRA site, short version, the actual legal protest filed on the case is there and it is very informative.

    DRA Protests Massive Cal-Am Water Rate Hike ProposalPrinter-Friendly Version | Back to Press Room

    SAN FRANCISCO, August 11, 2010 – The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), an independent consumer advocacy division of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), today announced it has filed a formal protest with CPUC opposing California-American Water Company’s (Cal-Am) massive rate increase proposal. Cal-Am has requested a 40.7 percent revenue increase and rate increases of up to 40 percent for some 630,000 customers in Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento, San Diego, Sonoma, and Ventura counties.

    While you caught the city lying to you, and you are facing the default of the last large water increase, this Cal American also known as American Water (they have pie charts) own almost the 1/3 bottom half of the US water rights. It is attempting to stick another large increase to CA for 2012. There is a schedule on the site that shows settlement talk dates, briefs, it looks like it won't be until the middle of November it is finally decided.

  73. I don't hate Joe Mosca or John Buchanan.

    I just think they are both a pair of self serving egomanical pricks who are so into themselves so much that they will do or say anything to be somebody and be known because they both have virtually meaningless professional lives and both moved into our city and immediately started immersing themselves into city politics and volunteering to get noticed, have a "title", pad a resume and ride in parades and wave as if they are important.

    We all know that they got on the Council so they can be a big fish in a empty pond and to do whatever they can do to benefit their employers, both energy companies that benefit from development.

    I don't hate them but they are transparent.

    They both must have gotten beaten up in high school quite often or whined to the principal all the time.