Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Do Bell And Pasadena Have In Common?

Would you believe that they share the same outside auditor?

First this from yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

Bell's auditors should have spotted most of the alleged corruption, state controller finds - The state controller's office Tuesday issued a scathing review of the work performed by Bell's outside auditor, saying that most of the alleged corruption in the Los Angeles County city would have been identifies earlier had the firm done its job ... The long-awaited audit said Mayer Hoffman McCann repeatedly failed to follow basic fieldwork practices when it audited the city's books.

Mayer Hoffman McCann "appears to have been a rubber stamp rather than a responsible auditor committed to providing the public with transparency and accountability that could have prevented the mismanagement of the city's finances by Bell officials," State Controller John Chiang said in a news release.

Now if you were some bigshot Los Angeles accounting firm hired to travel on over to Bell and audit the books, and you couldn't find any improprieties in the way they were doing business, well, I suspect in light of all that came after you should probably be looking ashamed right now.

After all, haven't we heard in our particular precincts that once everything has been audited there can be no doubts about the veracity of a City's financial numbers? We were certainly informed of that in Sierra Madre when the water rate hike "process" was underway.

And apparently Mayer Hoffman McCann isn't the only group of folks that need to look ashamed right now. This from a letter that the Office of Pasadena City Manager sent to the Mayor and City Councilmembers there when this news first began leaking out a month or so ago:

A recent article dated November12, 2010 in the LA Times mentioned that the auditing firm for the City of Bell was Mayer, Hoffman McCann (MHM). This firm also audits the City of Pasadena. Andy Green, Director of Finance discussed this fact with the firm a number of weeks ago to complete necessary due diligence. MHM informed staff that they were working with the State Controller's office and had provided responses to the various inquiries made. MHM was informed by the State Controller's Office that a final report would include the responses received from MHM and would be available in the coming months. The finance department will review the State Controller's report when it is released and provide recommendations to Council as to any action(s) that may be required.

Well, the State Controller's report came out yesterday, and it certainly cannot be described as being in any way circumspect or unclear. John Chiang just basically lowered the barrel and let Mayer et cetera have it. Something that can have only embarrassed some folks over there in the Rose City.

While auditing has been a hit or miss thing over the last decade here in Sierra Madre, there is currently no indication that our City Hall employed Mayer Hoffman McCann in any capacity.

Though I suspect that there are plenty of other auditing firms out there who would be just as eager to not find things as well. I mean, who would want to hire one that wouldn't be?

Bonus Coverage - Mother Nature Cancels Green Advisory Committee Meeting!

Apparently a fickle Mother Nature put on her yellow tutu and forced the cancellation of last night's Green Advisory Committee meeting here in soggy Sierra Madre.

But we implore that you do not despair because we have the actual list of topics that were to be discussed. And in lieu of a more official meeting setting we will be holding forth on these issues (or a few of them, anyway) here on The Tattler. It is what we do. Or at least it is when we feel like it.

Energy: Adopt a citywide greenhouse gas reduction plan that reduces the jurisdiction's emissions by 25% by 2030, and which includes a system for accounting and auditing greenhouse gas emissions.

That 25% figure seems to be a closely defined amount. Nothing at all arbitrary about it. The only problem here is that this would be a 25% reduction from ... what? Apparently nobody quite knows the answer to that one. This observation from the GAC agenda paperwork:

GHG baselines are currently being researched. AB32 uses 1996 for its requirements, however there are many jurisdictions that are finding data unavailable or unreliable to attempt the 1996 year. Cities in SGV are contemplating a 2004 year.

So let me get this straight. AB32 is going into effect in 2012, yet nobody has scientifically verifiable numbers to set the greenhouse gas reduction baseline on? How very Sacramento!

Waste Diversion: Adopt a Municipal Code Ordinance that reduces the use of a disposable, toxic, or non-renewable product category by at least 50% by 2015 (or seven years).

I might be confused once in a while, but wouldn't 2015 be 4 years and a week or so away? When did that increase to 7 years? Is this change something Joe Mosca agendized?

The obvious target of this MCO (acronym alert) is plastic shopping bags. That would be the easiest non-renewable product category to get rid of since only a few businesses in town use them. None of which can afford a lawyer. But since every other city in California is doing this now, can't we be just a little more creative? I'd say get rid of glass beer bottles and have people return to the century old tradition of bringing tin buckets to the Buc or Lucky Baldwin's and filling them with their favorite brews. The Sierra Madre Sustainable Suds Scupper could be a tipping point in the fight for a better world.

Urban Design: Adopt a policy that mandates a green building rating system standard that applies to all new developments ... The newly adopted GBO (Gabbo) includes provisions for 2 optional tiers. The Committee could select among there tiers to create a rating system or possibly incorporate aspects of LEED or other programs for this.

Hmm. Since the whole LEED thing has been discredited pretty much anywhere people walk up on two legs, Sierra Madre would, as stated above, have to "create a rating system." But what would this rating system be called? Since this would be applied to new developments only, at least at the outset, we would need a name with some curb appeal.

My idea is that we hold a kind of Keno game. The person whose name is selected from all those paying cash money to enter gets the Sierra Madre green residential rating system named after him. Or her. Let's say your last name is Wackerdackle. If you're the winner in this lottery we're running, your name would be used by every real estate agent in the city when they sell a newly built home. Example:

"This home is has a Top Tier Wackerdackle Rating, assuring you and your guests it is a home that leaves behind the most minimal carbon footprint possible." Or if a home is built using especially stringent green practices, it could be described as being "Wackerdackalian."

Which means the house will cost an additional $100K. Of course. But who would actually enforce the standards necessary to guarantee that a home's Wackerdackle is sustainable? What if the owner has taken up smoking cigars or parking an 8 cylinder Dodge Ram pickup truck in the driveway?

Tough issues, my friends, will take a tough Committee.


  1. I wonder why John Chiang's office decided to issue his report a couple of days before Christmas? Would this be considered a "news dump?"

  2. I'm sending this blog link to everyone I know in Pasadena.
    Chiang may try to bury this story, but if there is any shenanigans going on in Pasadena, you can bet the folks will find out.
    I'm sure Crawford's research teams are going to give this a bit of their time as well.
    Stay tuned to the Tattler.

  3. Would it help our sustainability if the City of Sierra Madre gave
    residents smaller trash cans?

    That way we would send less garbage to the landfills.

  4. Fake solutions for fake problems from fake politicians with fake accountants.

  5. Bring the garbage directly to city hall; they have earned it.

  6. Mr. Green Jeans committee is a joke. It even has an out of towner on it. Why not invite Jerry BRown to make the rules and be done with it? Such a waste of staff time. The GP Committee could have met in their spot. Oh!, that's right....staff is tooooo busy and overworked to meet with the GP Committee.

  7. We had a dead rat in our attic a couple days ago. Stunk to high heavens, and we had a house full of flies because of it. Exterminator came and dragged it out of a heating duct. That was probably the greenest I have ever been.

  8. To let your viewers know, in January, the state wil be enforcing Cal Green, a new "officially" sanctioned green code.
    Unlike LEED, it is not a "guideline", but a enforceble state code.
    Our Green Committee needs to get itself uptodate on the latest and greatest.
    If they were to enforce LEED standards, it wouldn't pass muster.
    Since atleast 3 other "green guidelines" are out in the ether, they are not "official" including LEED. LEED is a PRIVATE Corporation.
    For some really good bedtime reading, search Cal Greene, and you will eventually come across a downloadable draft of the document.
    Unfortunately, only one of the guidelines addresses the concept of "reuse" as a way to achieve the right shade of greenitude.
    Again, LEED is not a legally binding guideline.

  9. Global Warming AtheistDecember 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    You're a good citizen Fly Dude!

  10. A good way to reduce greenhouse gasses by 20%, would be:
    1. Everyone could only breathe out every 4 out of 5 breathes.
    2.Reduce hot air by eliminating 1/5 of all City council meetings.
    Throw your trash out, East of Santa Anita, and West of Michillinda.
    3. Create a hypothetical steel mill, and shut it town because of hypothetical pollution.
    4. Cut out of town city staff by 20% We have already cut one city councilman's commute by having him move from Monrovia to Sierra Madre.
    5. ??

  11. 6. Have Johnny B and Joe Mosca set the leadership pace here in town by being the first two residents to give up their cars and take the shuttle to the train. Hell, I'll even donate the reflector vests so they can get their night walkability on in safety.

  12. Mosca should commute by pogo stick.

  13. I can't say how much I have enjoyed reading yesterdays and today's Blog....8:43 summed it up perfectly today...On target,however you are!

  14. How about reducing commutes of city staff, by requiring city staff positions be filled by local residents before hiring all out of towners.
    That would really be in the spirit of going green.

  15. That would be very SB 375, 9:36. Perhaps we could reinforce that notion by digging up the parking lot behind City Hall and turning it into an organic bean sprout farm.

  16. This "Green Thing "is so weird and bizarre,it's hard to believe the concept was devised by a human being!

  17. Trash pick up via different sized trash cans was the city's first tiering: notice there are three different sizes of black waste cans that you pay different prices for--you do get to pay more to waste more. The larger sized green recycling and blue recycling cans do not cost anymore (unless they slipped that in recently when we weren't watching).

    Make the effort--get the smaller black waste can, pay less by can size and less on your UUT. Think of recycling and conservation at the electric switch, gas valve and water spigot as paying less on the UUT. Conservation as a money saver and political statement. Whodathunkit?

  18. OK, I like it 10:24, but there is, as there often is in this life, flaws. When the good citizens of Sierra Madre conserved water to the point where the revenue stream to the Water Dept dried up, rates were raised. Or at least they tried to raise them, it isn't quite over yet. Nagging Constitutional issues do remain. Then Edison popped in with their Smart Meters (so-called) claiming all the while that the information provided to their customers would enable them to use less juice and save some dough. Then the Edison bills started coming in and they were, of course, higher than before. And then there is that fee jazz. You know, where the Mayor told us business fees weren't going up even though owners of the smaller enterprises were seeing $60 increases? All so they could pay for the City hall labor their taxes were supposed to cover? Kind of a double pay system if you think about it.

    I have come to believe that there is a little more here than meets the eye. I suspect that what we are seeing is an attempt by the usual characters to produce less without losing any revenue by doing so. And that once again we are seeing the green banner waved in order to sell what is really an underhanded way to extract more dough out of the hard working citizens of this happy valley we call home. More money - less service. Not what people are hoping for this Christmas.

  19. I'm confused. Just because you get a smaller trash can doesn't
    mean you are producing less trash. It just means you have less
    space to put it. Am I missing something here?

  20. Architect (non-LEED)December 22, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Hi DW, you're right, LEED is only a checklist that can be mandated by individual owners and agencies in addition to meeting or exceeding the codes. That checklist may or may not be met right away because the facility owner has to operate and tweak the facility operations until it hits the optimum that it's capable of in real life. Then it gets certified for a particular level (Gold, Platinum, whatever) but there's no guarantees. It's primarily a way of saving energy in several ways, but the best way is to build no facility at all outside of urban areas. And LEED gives points for that, too (location and how far stuff is imported in the supply chain to build the facility).

    City of Glendale ran the numbers and stated to a group of architects that the new "Green Code" enacted at State level will get you to about 70% of LEED all by itself.

  21. In case anyone is wondering, LEED is the acronym
    for Little Environmental Enhancement Detected.

  22. Pasadena has a very developed model for Green policies outside of building codes (link above). There's some pdf files that have a lot of information. I doubt if Sierra Madre needs to go that far, the adoption of some basic recycling and conservation policies should do it after public input on what folks want to do. Small city, keep it simple. But that framework is great for starting the policy outline for the objectives of the Green Advisory Committee so it doesn't go all over the place.

  23. Nope--you order (and pay for) a smaller trash can because you plan to produce less trash. Trash production is entirely within your control. Family of three adults here and we put out one small black trash can a week and one to two small blue cans a week. Almost never put out a green can--we do a lot of mulching.

    But using less water is going to net the city less money for running the water rate scam on us to produce this necessary commodity so end the end we probably will pay more as Hmmmmmmmm observed.

  24. Pasadena is what green is? Brrr. It's worse than I thought.

  25. While we're on the subject of personnel in common, check out the Bell City Attorney--not just the individual, the law firm. And it's not Bell and Pasadena--Pasadena has its own City Attorney staff that work in-house--it's Bell and Vernon. Two of the Top 10 Cities of tax-launderers. It seems that among the services this law firm offered was to change your general law city into a charter city--thus removing the applicability of many of the protections that are meant to keep these rip offs from happening. Fortunately (and this is the best thing I can say about it) these people aren't Sierra Madre city attorneys, but it makes you wonder about all the "magic" they can do. You can't be too vigilant. Particularly if you are dealing with people who have an objective.


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