Friday, October 15, 2010

Sierra Madre Has A Mountain Of CRA & Water Bond Debt. So Now City Hall Wants To Sell Even More Bonds?

"Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs." - Scott Adams

Now you'd think that after all the revelations about Sierra Madre's considerable Water Bond and CRA debt the Gang of 4 would have the good sense to stop all the spending talk and do something about getting this city back on the road to financial stability. And with the demands coming from the City Council that we fork over more money for things like water because Sierra Madre is so economically burdened by past bad investments, you would also think that they might restrain their genetic tendencies towards irrational spending.

After all, the City Council is asking the residents of this city for more of their money to pay for what is little more than ongoing debt service. Which is what next Tuesday evening's meeting is really all about. You'd think that would be enough for anybody.

Yesterday at the Youth Activity Center something called the City Council Strategic Planning Goals & Objectives Retreat was held. It technically was open to the public, but was so poorly publicized only two residents attended. No notice of it is to be found in the "City Events" calendar on the City of Sierra Madre site. Which is where City Council get-togethers are usually listed. There is a rather airy agenda for the meeting posted under "Featured City Documents," but that is hardly what you'd call a marketing engine.

But as slight as the attendance was, it was enough for the news that follows to get back here. I have long believed that the less notice a special City Council meeting is given, the more choice the information shared is going to be.

The highlight of the affair, and the reason for this post, was Elaine Aguilar's pronouncement regarding how the City could soon be dealing with its rapidly developing cash flow crisis. Beyond raising the water rates, of course. Something they remain very determined to do.

Elaine's solution? "We may need to issue another bond." She went on to note that this would have to be done in public, which is going to need some clarification. Since this would be our first bond since 2003, the inference would seem to be that particular water bond was executed with the shades drawn and the lamps off. Whether or not there was a red light on in the window is unknown at this time.

Issuing a new bond, in addition to the 30 some odd years of paying service on the resulting debt, would also cost us $200,000 just to execute. Or about the current market value of a General Plan consultant.

When questioned about the increased debt load this would cause to our already heavily burdened city, Mayor Mosca, a man who apparently finds the further mortgaging of our future to the tune of additional millions of dollars to be no big thing, had this to say:

"Well, that's why we have a CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency). If we didn't have the CRA we couldn't have this kind of debt."

The CRA, as you might recall, is the City of Sierra Madre agency that the Los Angeles Times recently reported as having debt at around 86% of its total capacity. Which the Times interpreted as being over $10 million dollars in red ink. If so, you can only wonder where Joe intends to hide this new layer of debt. There can't be all that much room left.

So there you have it. The City Council now wants to do the same thing here that Sacramento and Washington DC have done in their much bigger worlds. Try and borrow their way out of problems they lack both the will and wit to deal with otherwise.

The one thing that remains unclear as of this typing is what exactly they intend to spend all this new bond money on, and what kind of bond it would be. There was actually talk about hiring yet another Police Officer, but that was eventually discarded as being "too political."

So why then do they need to sell a new bond?

My take is that our City government has become a very expensive enterprise to maintain. Raises, pensions, consultants, a costly desire to comply with outsized state development agendas, the service on bond and other debt, plus new hires and expensive equipment have placed a real strain on currently available budgets. But rather than have the City reduce costs and modestly live within its means, this City Council would prefer to take on even more debt. It speaks to their sense of a greater glory.

Which is now our very own microcosm of the kind of thinking that got this country into the financial mess it is in today.


  1. It's all too much to sleepOctober 15, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    If the City Council and the City Manager pass any more bond debt, get the recall petitions ready! No more bond debt, no more CC-1, no more City Manager. Recall and demand Aguilar's resignation. I'm all for letting Bill Tice run the City. Truly, he has more common sense in his pinkie finger than these boobs.

    And trying to keep the public from being in attendance? If that doesn't draw a line in the sand, what else could it mean?

    The opposition to the Police adding more officers has come from the Tattler. Where else have you read about it? Or heard about it? Keep up the pressure on the bond debt debacle! There is no doubt that the City Government reads the Tattler. Keep up the pressure! We deserve better governance than this regime is capable of administering.

  2. Sleepless in the villageOctober 15, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    Thanks for bringing the Mob back! Love the shot of the DICs. Sir Eric, what would we do without you to bring humor into such a totally humorless era in the city's existence?

  3. I think it is Mayor Mosca's status as a recent arrival to town that has made short term solutions like selling a bond seem like a good idea. He'll be long gone before the grim consequences fully set in.

  4. I don't want to pay for officer berry's jet ski & pensionOctober 15, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    In an article on New Jersey's Governor canceling a tunnel to NY, today's Wall Street Journal stated the obvious: Governing is about making choices.

    Still, the governing types seem to believe that the only choice is to keep spending and to float another bond. And, incredibly, to cry government poverty while blowing money on luxury items like our vanity project police department.

    One fact needs to be spread throughout the city. Her it is.

    The La Canada's police deal - which we can beat - would save our city $1.5 million a year. Choosing that deal over another new contract with our police union would free up $1.5 million a year to pay down existing debt, purchase open space for parkland, or pay for the consultants needed to plan the bulldozing of downtown and construction of a transportation hub with associated parking structure and condos.

  5. nor chief diaz's pensionOctober 15, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    And let me add for you sentimental types, after the police department is terminated we could retain the beloved Officer Ford as the city's new Community Safety Liaison or in some other BS city official capacity. We would still save $1.35 million a year.

  6. Oh c'mon now. A bond is a small price to pay so that we can enjoy the many benefits of Marilyn's Militia. The next time you get a traffic ticket for going 33 in a 30 MPH zone, you'll know your enjoying the benefits of your money at work.

  7. Good grief, Sierra Madre!
    How much more are we going to stand?
    The majority of Tatts have already had enough.
    When are the rest of the complacent, naive residents finally going to be unable to stand this, unable to stand these outrages more than their misguided "devotion" to Mosca, Buchanan and the "bobbleheads"?
    Had enough, Mosca and "bobblehead" voters? Have you finally had enough to stand with the rest of us and just say "hey, it all ends, now"?
    Thanks for telling us the truth, Crawford.

    By the way, Sierra Madre? Do you miss Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts YET???????
    I know MacGillivray does.

  8. Crawford?
    Did you see the PSN front page today?
    So.Pasadena CC is being investigated for violations of the Brown Act.
    What about our CC, Buchanan, Mosca, Moron and Walsh?
    Anyone think they might be violating the Brown Act?
    I sure do!

  9. So the solution to the fiscal woes of Sierra Madre is to issue MORE bond debt? That's all they've got?
    So instead of cutting back, outsourcing our Police Department to get much better value elsewhere for less, we go further into debt? We aren't even paying against the principal on the debt the city currently holds.
    How on earth do they get away with this? Has each set of city council members simply passed along the problems to the next set of elected officials while keeping the citizenry uninformed?
    This has to stop.

  10. Isn't there an old 1960s song that tells us we should all "live for today?"

    Somebody get some flowers for the hair of the Gang O' Four.

  11. Sierra Madreans for Sane Financial PracticesOctober 15, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    More debt?
    They are delusional!!!!!
    What world do they live in?

    On second thought, maybe they're doing us a huge favor.

  12. I sure like your thinking on this one, ML. 8:27 am
    Wish you were on the CC.

  13. For all city functions, the t-shirts, the banners at Kersting Court, the Wisteria Vine, in fact the city logo/seal itself, need to be emblazoned with these words"rapidly developing cash flow crisis" That's the one constant we always hear. If I were on the council or the staff I would be embarrassed that I was associated with such a badly managed organization.

  14. I think we should add MADNESS to SHENANIGANS when describing our City Governance.

  15. I have a question?
    Are the "dirts" trying to bankrupt Sierra Madre?
    Are Mosca and Buchanan being paid by special interests in Sacramento (BIA for example) to bankrupt this town?
    Sure seems like that's the plan.

  16. There are two ways the City of Sierra Madre can new issue bonds.
    1. The bond would be placed on a ballot just like the failed Measure CC. If passed by a 2/3 vote, the money would be repaid by the property owners through an increase on their property taxes for the next 30 years. (Did you get you tax bill yesterday? Look at all the bonds and assessment districts you are paying for)
    2. The City/CRA/ Sierra Madre Financing Authority or any other name they are calling themself can vote to pass a bond. The public gets NO say. The money is repaid from resources in the city.

    The other night Karin Schnider said the city only has a couple of years to do any more CRA projects. Translate that to we only have a short time to add more dept for you suckers to pay off because Elaine, Bruce, and I will be long gone because we don't live here. The new project will sure look good on our resume.

  17. This is a result of the wrong ideas the Buchanan/Mosca wine drinking social set has of Sierra Madre as being hip and chic and rich, instead of unique, varied and all over the place in resident income levels. Wish they would OPEN THEIR EYES and look at who really lives here, and what the majority of the houses are really like. This stupid, stupid projection of SM as a fancy place is really hurting it.

  18. In the viewpoint of Mosca, Buchanan and all of their effete Downtown Investors Club friends, people who are not hip, rich and chic merely occupy property that, should they be forced to leave, could be sold to people just like them. This is class warfare, plain and simple. These people want to price you out of Sierra Madre so they can take and redevelop your property.

  19. What do they plan to do with the money?

    Parking Structure?
    Upgrade the Downtown infrastructure to get ready for Measure V to be repealed?
    A new library and where?

    If it is CRA money it must be used in the Downtown/ Montecito area.

  20. Ah! The magic word: Montecito!

  21. JC,
    would you compute how much each household will owe of the CURRENT bond debt?
    People need to see in writing in big figures, just how much each home is going to owe.
    After that, you can post additional debt, if this shenanigan/madness prevails?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. Bill Tice wanted to make city hall a training institution.

    Kind of a cross between a school and a city administration.

    Good idea, huh?

  23. I'll bet that the city manager of Sierra Madre makes more in a year than the majority of the residents who live here.

  24. Let's just recall the gang of 4.
    MaryAnn can run the city much better than any dirt in town.
    She'll appoint citizen's committees to replace consultants.
    Works for me!

  25. Bill's direction was good - money coming in instead of money going out. Bill's problem was he thought our processes were good enough someone would want to pay to learn them.

  26. Both Joe Mosca and John Buchanan are arrogant self absorbed lawyer twits who move into Sierra Madre with a plan for local politics to benefit their employers and their massive misguided me me me egos and have never and will never actually care about the city or it's citizens.

    At least we know that Moran has been public that he wants to use the office for giving favors to his personal and realtor friends. He's been honest that he is dishonest with regards to his elected position.

    Poor Nancy Walsh, is she as slow and bitter as she acts?

    And I thought Mr Tice was a little nutty, the gang of 4 make him look like Albert Enstein.

  27. For Future Disasters, also in the times today was a piece on a jury decision to hold Cal Trans liable for debris flow caused by construction on highway 18. First time a governmental agency has been held accountable for debris flow problems.

    The City of Sierra Madre and The County of Los Angles have exposed property owners to similar lawsuits when the debris basins above 1 Carter and Stonhouse can't handle the "big one" down the sides of Mt Wilson.

    A quick google of debris basins in California will educate you to the fact there are no standards for debris basins and no State inspections to insure safety. They just occassionally get "looked at".

    Earth Dams A.K.A. "debris basins" will eventually fail or overflow. Beware property owners. Our expansion minded Jonn & Joe have allowed LLC's to develop, build in canyons above debris basins, disolve the LLC and leave town.

    (Elaine Aguilar, and our City Planners, fighters for developers, will be employeed elsewhere or living on pensions).

    I wonder if those decisions on behalf of Sierra Madre and proposed by our "consultants", are truly covered by insurance? or are we liable for approving activities that did not receive "due diligence"? Cal Trans hopes the answer is "NO" but the Jury said "YES"

  28. Great. Add more police in SM.

    More rejects that can't get hired at real police departments who come here with a massive chip on their shoulders and vent their professional frustration on us for minor infractions and treat the infractions as a Major Case Squad. The childish glee within the PD for busting a couple kids for petty vandalism is comical.

    First we promote a dispatcher and give her a gun and then she goes out and writes tons of tickets to citizens whose names she doesn't even know nor does she care to know. If she pulls out her gun it's no telling who'll she'll gun down.

    We give Barney a motorcycle to putt around town and hide behind bushes to bust grandma's for going 32 in a 30. A neighbor lamented how he got a ticket on Orange Grove for going 5 mph over the speed limit and the cop (who dabbles as a Detective) was gloating and being saracastic about "busting him".

    Are we gonna get another fat cop who shoots a sleeping man?

    Or another fat cop who tries to hide his gut behind a light pole?

    Or more cops who point loaded weapons at 11 year old Sierra Madre kids?

    I wonder about a police officer who seeks out employement in Sierra Madre, unless he or she is seeking a cushy do nothing job.

    I know a few LAPD and Sheriff's who laugh about our PD and the absurdity of our situation.

    Bad thing is our cops have guns and they don't know how to use them.

    Unless they are shooting unarmed sleeping men.

  29. I think the standard mantra of those who want to bankrupt Sierra Madre is, "what do we care, we won't be here then"

  30. That's what happens when towns are turned over to developers by city governments. They exploit the place for as much as they can make, and get out of Dodge. What do the hell do they care?

  31. Waaayyyyy off topic, but in the latest Looney Views News it says that Chris Bertrand is "on vacation." Yet on the SM Patch she just posted an article about "the blessing of the animals." Are the writers deserting the ship?

  32. 10:19, how does one take a vacation from a job that pays nothing?

  33. Show me one person that "harri S. Poole Carpenter Henderson" ever paid and she'll pay Chris B. LOL

  34. Carpenter? Haven't heard that one.

  35. 10:28 - you forgot "Esquire." Harriet is a graduate of the Sierra Madre Institute of Law.

  36. 10:02 future disasters, yep.
    Buchanan was such a jerk about developing the hillsides. Kept emphasizing how many strict rules and regulations, hundreds of conditions, would apply. Didn't mention that there was no way to monitor or enforce the conditions.
    Bunch of hot air.

  37. More than 260 conditions was the number Ms. Joffee stated, I believe, when she was approving the project. From grading, to siting, to dust control, to ridgelines, on infinitum. It was to be such a grand project and would bring so much money to the City, not to mention her solar business.

  38. Enid is a crook, too?
    Oh yeah, I forgot about her "Goldberg Park" deal she cut for her friends.
    Are there any dirts who aren't crooks?

  39. Maybe we can sell city hall to raise some money.

    Oops! We already did that.

  40. We can save some money by not subsidizing the Wistaria Festival for the Chamberj of Commerce. Wasn't that $10K? And the CoC hired a consultant to run the damn event.

  41. 8:26 Happy to hear it.A least some one took the time to bring it to the DA's attention.If they ever looked into our City's doings,they would probably make into the national news big time.

  42. Look, I could tolerate people with room temperature IQ's (for the most part) winning an election through deceit, and 'governing', but NOT making any more self destructive financial decisions!
    They cannot be allowed to take out any more bonds, and let's start firing enough city staff to stay solvent. There is a healthy and active community of seniors here, and if they were ca;led upon to volunteer a few hours a week, in need they would.

  43. CRA monies can only be used in the designated downtown area and the library is not in the area. But, major streets are and if a project starts in the "blighted" area, it can be extended to the outer limits of the city. e.g. underground telephone and power paid for by CRA went all the way up Baldwin to Carter. The gang of four would have the authority to vote for street repairs, and other projects within the CRA without a vote of the citizens. More debt without approval.

  44. R.I.P. Sierra MadreOctober 15, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Isn't it amazing how the G of 4 can only figure out how to cost us more debt, but can't wrap their collective brains around the idea of getting a contract police agreement, or reducing staffing, to start digging ourselves out of the hole they have dug for us. Mosca and Buchanan will move on to bigger and better things, and stick us with the bill.

  45. John Buchanan and a handful of other local yokel social wannabees desperately want Sierra Madre to be a hip urban city, a Santa Monica, Old Town Pasadena or Hancock Park.

    They also know that they would never be accepted in the social elite of other communities and can't stand it.

    So they are trying to make Sierra Madre into something it has never been and can't be because it's still Sierra Madre.

  46. Buchanan wants SMadre to be a hip urban city ... hmm. I know! Maybe he should open a trendy restaurant.

    How about "Johnny B's House of Brie?"

  47. The RE Developers are plotting the overthrow of the Canyon Zoning Ordinance. Tim Hayden, Glen Lambdin, Greg Prout, Tom Hayden and Dan Slater are schmoozing Mosca and Moran to get them to declare the Planning Committee's approval of the RC zone void. Don't you just love living with 679 Brookside and 88 Alta Vista? That's what this group is advocating. They say that the Committees made up of Pendleberry, Clemmons, Shifs, Howard, Brown, Herrmann, Robison, Monacchino, Henderson, Orth and others are unqualified because they don't represent architects, contractors, and realtors. Big joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission planned for November 23rd. Be there to protect the Canyon!

  48. That's a good one 10:09; just think about the many millions of dollars that Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles have paid out because of the inappropriate actions of their highly trained police officers. Your friends really shouldn't be laughing at anyone. Just recently in West Hollywood, a Deputy responding to a robbery report, shot at the person who reported the crime.....see a lawsuit coming? If you research prior to criticizing, you'll find that in it's history, SMPD has had very few credible lawsuits filed against the department.

  49. Stop them before they kill!October 15, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    3:45, I don't know if you noticed, but we have no crime. and despite that fact, the geniuses at the SMPD have in the last three years alone (i) arrested a dad for engaging in water play at a water parade, (ii) arrested the owner of a shop that serves tea to ladies in fancy dresses for washing his sidewalk, and (iii) shot an unarmed innocent for sleeping in his car.

    When not engaged in such law enforcement activities, they spend their time suing the chief and shaking down the city for pay raises. And for this level of professionalism we pay $1.5 million a year more than La Canada pays for police services. What a deal!

  50. If I read this correctly, Aguilar's suggestion of another bond isn't to refinance and existing bond but merely to add to it. If that is correct, why has she not been fired? We're going to have to roll over the interest-only bonds and keep the payments going forever anyway. Why ever would we add to this unconscionable burden. I'm still waiting to hear how this money has been spent. I smell something very improper and possibly illegal. What are CRA bond proceeds being used for when there's probably never been any redevelopment in Sierra Madre ever? I'm jes' sayin' . . .

  51. Yep, the Doc's got it right.
    I want to know what that money was used for.
    Damn it, we all want our money back.
    I work hard to pay off all my bills. I don't owe money to anyone, or at least I thought I didn't....come to find out, my household probably owes close to $11K (so does your household, if you live in Sierra Madre.......damn it, Doc thinks this may be illegal! So do I!
    Let's all just say......HELL NO!

  52. suggesting Bill Tice for city council is trolling -- he's supported by people who want to drain votes from people who want real change.

  53. Yes, it's time Bill retire from running for council.
    He just wastes time.

  54. Just heard on KFI news radio:

    San Gabriel Mayor arrested! Wong got in a scuffle with a woman on Valley Blvd. Drove off with her purse, and her hanging onto his car!
    Released on $100K bail.

    These Mayors are going bad on us! LOL LOL LOL

  55. It is easy to say this is all illegal. But, we need to prove it FAST, because the people in charge do what they want and do it FAAAAST!

    They are disgusting and repulsive human beings who are a moving trainwreck, and we have to stop them from ANOTHER BOND.....

    Remember, Joe got a standing ovation when he announced he was going to pave all the streets of Sierra Madre, on the evening he became Mayor.

    They do not care what we think. They will care what we do. We need to get rid of the crooks, real fast.

  56. 2:56 You left out 41 Vista Circle Dr.This dump has marginalized the neighborhood.This would not happen again with the proposals offered by the Canyon Zone Committee.Of course,Hayden,tent City entrepreneur, is crying foul.They next time you see him at the podium,laugh long and hard.

  57. Thanks for posting that, 9:20 PM
    As a resident of the canyon, that property at 41 Vista Circle is an eyesore and everyone I know wonders how this Tim Hayden character gets away with violating city code! Oh, wait, he's a friend of Joe Mosca.

  58. 7:03 PM

    What is it with these "mayors"? We have had 2 decades of pro-development mayors in Sierra Madre with the glaring exceptions of Mayor Kurt Zimmerman and Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray.

    Robber Barons at 8:42!
    Most of us couldn't agree with you more. Keep protesting, friend. We all need to show up at all these meetings the city has, public or otherwise.
    Hopefully, an organized movement is on the way to rid ourselves of these destructive "public officials".


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