Here is his latest e-mail from last Friday:
Today the wife received a letter from something called the Sierra Madre Police Association. It is signed by the ever charmless Officer Berry, apparently while taking a leave from his regular duties. Like trolling the town's 4 square miles and giving tickets to soccer moms for going 33 in a 30 mph zone. Or writing up an entire Sunday service of the faithful for not curbing their wheels. Or working to shake another union contract out of the city council, which is apparently committed to showering our officers with still further government goodies.
I guess I should be thankful that Officer Berry took leave of these shakedown runs to write his letter. But wait! The letter is itself a shakedown, seeking donations for whatever it is the Sierra Madre Police Association does. Please note, the donations "may not be considered tax deductible" because the Sierra Madre Police Association is not a charity. In fact, the letter does not refer to any charitable use at all, indicating only that a donation will allow one to "assimilate with the good name of the SMPD." Oy!
Let me be clear, it is foolish for our city to spend over 50% of its general fund budget on the SMPD. Our city is smaller that La Canada Flintridge, has only half as many people as that town, and does considerably less business. And yet La Canada Flintridge pays $1.5 million a year less for police services than Sierra Madre. I will not add to that foolishness by sending $250 to a police officers' union or its controlled "Association." I guess the family will have to live without the "SMPA Custom Plaque and Lapel Pin."
Now get your kids out of my office as that HALO game is giving me a headache.
It so happens that we here at the Maundry Compound also received the same letter my neighbor so thoroughly skewers. As recent victims of a crime wave that seems to have overtaken Sierra Madre lately, we are very attuned to policing issues. That it took us three visits to the SMPD station to get a police report on our "incident," a requirement for getting paid by our somewhat reluctant insurance company, did not leave the best impression here. Since we never got any of our stuff back the least we should have received is some halfway decent service.
But that is neither here nor there.
Having read Officer Berry's letter, I would like to offer him a couple of suggestions. First of all, if you are claiming that some of the money is going to "strengthen relations by and between the SMPA and several local worthy groups and charities," you really should point out the groups and charities involved. There might be something there people will find very appealing, and make them more likely to mail you a check. But there also might be a group or charity involved that people would not find to their liking. You owe it to those whose money you wish to take to allow them to know exactly how it will be used.
That you also state that donations are not tax deductible is something that detracts from the charity message you've mixed into this appeal as well. Is there a charitable connection or not? When asking people to send you money you really do need to be as upfront as possible.
And then there is this:
Possession of Support Decals will not reflect preferential treatment during enforcement contacts, but will allow the bearer to go through any green light in town!
We here in Sierra Madre have no green lights, nor any red ones for that matter. By leaving this statement on the letter template you give the impression that your appeal is a generic multi-city form letter, and not something that was specially created by you for the residents of this town. It undercuts the sincerity you attempt to convey elsewhere in your letter, making the overall presentation seem rather impersonal and perfunctory.
My guess is this form letter was supplied to Officer Berry by the home office of the SMPOA's parent organization, the Police Officers Association, and is something designed to help identify those persons in town who would support the SMPD in their current negotiations for a new contract with the city. Which, considering all that happened in Sierra Madre during the previous negotiations in 2006, is not exactly the happiest of pictures.
We would be remiss if we didn't follow up on the AOL/Patch story
Another big traffic item here on The Tattler recently was our coverage of a news website that had shown up in town recently, Sierra Madre Patch. And the rather interesting fact that this site is a fully controlled creation of Aol, the corporation formerly known as America On Online of "You've got mail!" fame.
Now today, November 16, is a very momentous occasion in the history of Aol because this is the day Time Warner finally cuts it loose. In what was probably one of the most harebrained mergers ever, "AOL Time Warner" became a laughingstock of the corporate world, and went on to cost the adult partners in this arrangement vast sums of money.
In its current incarnation Aol is trying to transform itself from being a company dependent upon internet subscription billing for its cash flow, to one hoping to become a highly profitable venue for advertising. Such as Google and Yahoo. Which is why Aol has created over 500 local advertising platforms called "Patch" all across this great land of ours. Aol has predicted that this and related website ventures will go on to generate over $20 billion dollars in revenue for them in time. A pretty large number that will take an awful lot of Charcuterie banner ads to hit.
So how are things working out for them, here on the day of Aol's rebirth? According to ADWEEK, not as well as hoped.
Aol Ad Revenue Plummets in Dismal Q3 - Firm's advertising revenue plunged 27 percent compared to the same period a year ago (Nov 3, 2010): Like President Barrack Obama, Aol chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong is finding out that change hasn't happened quite as swiftly as he might have expected, despite the hype and optimism surrounding his arrival on the job.
Aol's advertising revenue plunged 27 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period a year ago, while display advertising slipped by 14 percent globally and 8 percent in the US. That marks the third straight quarter that Aol's display business has trended southward even as the overall display ad industry enjoys a solid recovery.
Come to think of it I have yet to see any advertising on the designated Sierra Madre version of Patch. It is probably much too early to make this kind of call of course, but could we be looking at yet another untenable business model from the once mighty Aol?
I guess time will tell the tale.
There is one other criticism of the Patch business model that needs to be mentioned. In some cities it has been pointed out by longstanding independent community websites that Patch editors do a lot of their research on-line, in particular by reading their competition. And that rather than independent news producers they function more as information assimilators dependent for their content upon the very sites they now compete with for advertising.
One such incident involved charges of non-attribution, and received notable coverage on the LA Weekly.com site. That story can be accessed here.
Bill Coburn Just Can't Seem To Help Himself
Just when it seemed like Bill Coburn had embraced the light and rejoined humanity, he turns around and tells one of the more significant whoppers of his career. Which, when you consider his brutal assaults on Nancy Shollenberger, MaryAnn MacGillivray, Don Watts, and just about anyone who dared to support Measure V, is saying a lot.
The occasion of his latest slide into the murk begins mildly enough. In a recently posted "editorial" Bill proclaims that MaryAnn's opinions might actually have some validity. Now this may seem quite shocking and controversial in some of Sierra Madre's more outre' circles (Susan Henderson, for one, couldn't have been pleased), but Bill seems to believe he has a "Nixon Goes To China" thing in effect, and can make such dangerous claims and still get invited to Bart's house for martinis.
And in a Machiavellian way Bill's analyses is fairly sound. His notion that the dogmatic opposition of the G4 to anything MaryAnn proposes actually empowers her and her supporters is not without merit. Of course, that observation could have been coupled with the fact that Joe and the Gang haven't done all that good a job of running this city, but it wasn't.
Look at it this way, these guys have a 4 to 1 majority on the City Council, and yet they just can't seem to get anything done. We're now into the seventh month of the Joe Mosca regime, and can you name a single worthwhile thing that he has accomplished as Mayor? Anything?
I didn't think so.
You could say without fear of contradiction that the G4 has a negative knee-jerk reaction to anything MaryAnn MacGillivray proposes. Which could have a lot to do with Joe's unprofessional tendency towards personal resentment. But it must also be mentioned that they also have a certain penchant for making poor decisions, in spite of MaryAnn's suggestions. Even she cannot overcome so intransigent an incompetence.
Then Bill had to go and tell his whopper:
Further, the Council had an opportunity to quiet some of the critics (and there are many) that claim the Council/City staff had misled the ratepayers by "hiding" the water bond debt that most of the rate increase is intended to cover. Now I have to kind of disagree with that, because these bonds have been around since 1998 and 2003, and they are addressed in the annual budget. They also were not passed by previous councils without the public being informed. Nothing was hidden.
Now how Bill could claim that anyone reasonably well-versed in these matters would believe that $19 million dollars in water bond debt can be hidden out of sight from the citizens is beyond me. Maybe Bill thought it might be under the same mystery rock he claimed Nancy Shollenberger hid city paperwork when he was out there trying to give people a reason to vote for Karma Bell?
But what must be recalled here is that when the water rate hike was first proposed, and then communicated to the ratepayers of this city through a legally required notice 45 days prior to actual implementation, the reason given was old pipes and water infrastructure repair, not bond debt. Anyone who can recall Bruce Inman trudging around Memorial Park on the 4th of July weekend will tell you it wasn't a box of bonds he was lugging with him, it was an old rusty pipe. And when 200 or so folks were inveigled into taking the Water Walk, it wasn't the subject of bond debt that they heard discussed much at the pump house. Rather it was old rusty pipes and cracked dams that were the featured topics.
To say that opponents of the water rate hike claimed that the city had engaged in a vast lunatic conspiracy to hide $19 million dollars in bond debt is both intellectually dishonest and absurd. The real charge has always been that the G4 City Council, and those who work for them, decided against including any mention of bond debt in their explanations for the need to raise water rates last Spring. Even though it was. Instead we were told it was all about pipe repair.
It was the City's unwillingness to level with the rate payers about the real cause of the water rate hike that has caused so much concern in town, not the strawman conspiracy defense that Mr. Coburn has cooked up.
Good luck with the damage control, Bill.