We write about a lot of topics on this blog, and really do owe it to our readers to follow up on things once in a while. Just because Sir Eric's wandering attention span leaves for distant places far too often does not mean the news ever stops.
So in the spirit of giving the people what they want (or, depending on who you're talking to, what they do not), here are three follow up stories on topics that we've covered recently. We'll start with the aforementioned Bond Shenanigans first.
The Fall and Rise of Sierra Madre's Standard & Poor's Bond Rating
Now you do know that for quite a while Sierra Madre's Standard & Poor's bond rating was basically junk, right? We had gone from being a gilt-edged AAA kind of town to one whose bond ratings had collapsed to a dismal BBB. Which is the financial equivalent of collecting cans and bottles for a living. Not that some fine people don't collect recyclable containers, and I certainly do not mean to disparage the activities of those employed in that field. It is a green job after all. Besides, somebody has to do it, and we should be grateful to those who do. But for a town like ours it should be considered an unfavorable metaphor.
Here is how Standard & Poor's describes Sierra Madre's tragic fall to junk bond status. Take note of the dates.
New York (Standard & Poor's) Jan. 27, 2006 -- Standard & Poor's Ratings Services suspended its rating on Sierra Madre's Financing Authority, Calif.'s tax increment refunding bonds, issued for Sierra Madre Community Redevelopment Agency, reflecting a lack of current financial information. "The lack of audited financial information for both fiscals 2003 and 2004 creates uncertainty regarding the authority's financial condition and credit quality ..."
Now as students of this town's history are aware, 2003 and 2004 was not only the very heart of the Shenanigan Era, it was also a time when we were overseen by Mayors such as Bart Doyle. A gentleman who many consider to be the author of the interest payment only 2003 Water Bonds that have become such an item of concern lately. The existence of which was unfortunately obscured by City Hall when it issued its fallacious Water Rate Increase Notice to the rate payers last May.
But we should also note that Sierra Madre's S&P bond rating collapsed to junk status in 2006, which was during the time that this city was overseen by the likes of John Buchanan. Whom many regard as the shenaniganistic heir of Bart Doyle, both in the lack of substance and basic competence kind of way. That neither of these esteemed gentleman seemed capable of overseeing our city government in a manner where we could get those all-important audits done, thereby resulting in a complete collapse of our Standard & Poor's bond ratings, is the stuff of local legend. It wasn't until Kurt Zimmerman became Mayor that these audits were completed.
But that was then. Recently Standard & Poor's issued another report regarding Sierra Madre, this time resurrecting our bond rating from junk to something a little less dire.
New York (Standard & Poor's) May 07, 2010 - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services reinstated its "A-" underlying rating (SPUR) on Sierra Madre Financing Authority, Calif's tax increment bonds, issued for Sierra Madre Community Redevelopment Agency. We had withdrawn our SPUR due to the lack of financial audits for the agency. However, the city has recently come under new management and has produced audits for fiscal 2009 and prior years. The SPUR reflects our view of: A small project area that consists primarily of residential and commercial properties, good assessed value (AV) growth in recent years, and A below-average volatility ratio ...
I don't know about you, but I find the date of Sierra Madre's bond rating resurrection to be more than just a little interesting. May 07, 2010. Wasn't that about a week before our nearly 40% ($18 million dollars with accompanying government grants) Water Rate Increase was legally noticed to the world?
Could it be that was a portion of the price for getting our bond respectability back from Standard & Poor's? Raising water rates and therefore a whole lot more cash? I'm sure that S&P would have found that to be of far more interest than Bruce Inman's famous length of rusty show pipe.
Which you do know that was just something meant to baffle us townies, right?
Altadena Moves Forward With Its Plans To Withdraw From Pasadena Unified School District
With the closing of three elementary schools, along with the overall poor quality of much that PUSD offers, there has been some fairly widespread anger from parents over the kind of education their children are receiving. An example of which would be the 60 pupil kindergarten class at Sierra Madre Elementary. The dream for many Sierra Madre parents being that perhaps their kids would be better off if we just fired PUSD and did the job ourselves.
For the parents of that other PUSD captive city, Altadena, that dream is now a lot closer to becoming a reality. This from today's Pasadena Star News:
Altadena secession effort reaches PUSD board - School officials and residents should brace for a long and complicated battle over Altadena's future in the Pasadena Unified School District, a county official said Tuesday.
Weeks after Altadena residents handed in more than 7,000 signatures in support of the unincorporated community's secession from the PUSD, an official from the Los Angeles County Office of Education presented the long process for secession, but wouldn't speculate on the likelihood of creating a new school district north of Pasadena.
While a secession effort could take more than two years, the time frame has done little to deter a group determined to separate from PUSD, which one petitioner described as "incapable of meeting its obligations to its students."
"We want to put an end to so many of our students dropping out before graduating high school, or graduating high school with eight grade skills," said Bruce Wasson, an Altadena resident who helped gather signatures ...
So why is it Altadena seems capable of pulling off such an incredible coup in support of their children, while Sierra Madre remains completely oblivious to such as opportunity? We need to grab our schools back from these people and take our business elsewhere. And in this regard it would appear that we have a lot to learn from Altadena. They are way ahead of us.
More On Proposition 23
I was pretty roundly cussed out by some commenters for offering support for Prop 23 the other day. Which was refreshing in that it reminded me of the glory days of my City Council run. That my critics totally missed the point about the damage AB32/SB375 would do to the character and quality of life in small low density communities such as ours is fine. It showed that this very complex issue is considerably beyond their "Texas oil companies bad - us good!" level of comprehension.
However, I thought I'd set the record straight on some of this anyway. Here is an example of what I believe should be chopped up and fed to the cat:
Tattler Post - Oct 11 @ 8:56 pm: If I have to choose between elected representatives and Texas oil companies it's a pretty clear choice - I go with the reps. It may be a choice of the lesser of two evils, but oil companies are about the evilest institution on the planet.
For the record, in Texas the unemployment rate is about 40% of what it is here, and the politicians there have as yet avoided running their state into near bankruptcy. As a matter of fact, their budgets are balanced. And would you believe that their public schools receive far higher marks for quality than what ours are getting these days?
Tattler Post - Oct 11 @ 9:26 pm: I guarantee you Yes on Prop 23 will outspend No on Prop 23 by at least 10 or 20 to 1. If you want to go with big oil, that's your choice. But at least admit who your friends are.
Actually the people I consider to be my friends are a little more careful with their facts. Here is how that spending ratio actually works out, courtesy of the New York Times "Green" blog:
Foes Outspend Backers of Proposition 23: At the start of the campaign for California's Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state's global warming law, opponents darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to win the election.
But with three weeks until election Day, it is the No on 23 coalition of environmentalists, investors and Silicon Valley technology companies that is raking in the cash, taking in nearly twice as much money as the Yes on 23 campaign.
As of Monday, the No on 23 forces had raised $16.3 million to the Yes campaign's $8.9 million, according to California Secretary of State records.
It would appear that among the biggest contributors to the No on 23 effort are hedge funds. Companies that have become synonymous in the minds of many with the kinds of fast and loose trading practices that led this country into the financial crisis it is now. Hedge fund managers understand all too well how how the potentially huge profits to be made in the "cap and trade" aspects of AB 32 could be of great interest to them.
And if you don't think that kind of profit is what is really driving AB 32, well, I know some people who'd love to sell you some bonds to go with your love beads.