Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sacramento Has Now Outlawed Free Parking?

Well, let's see. Under SB 375 our all encompassing nanny government in Sacramento has taken away the rights of cities like Sierra Madre to environmental reviews of development projects that are deemed to have something to do with being located within a so-called "transportation corridor." While at the same time removing the legal ability of cities such as ours to control what kind of development they want within their own borders. Actions of a now fully functioning centralized government planning authority, and done in the name of saving the world through the building of lots and lots of generic condominiums and transit villages. Something that can only be completely understood by radically increasing your Kool Aid intake.

California's guiding governmental lights have also claimed the right to tell us what portion of our city property taxes we're allowed to keep, and what part they feel is theirs to use. And then when even that doesn't quite put a dent in their rapacious appetite for our cash, they've reserved for themselves the option of sending us our tax refunds in the form of an IOU. Good luck finding a bank that will cash it.

But now our beloved state leaders have taken their genius for pissing off the citizenry one banana step farther. Apparently our State Senate yesterday passed a law that will financially incentivize cities to do away with free parking. I kid you not. Here is how the L.A. Times puts it:

State lawmakers take aim at free parking - State lawmakers are taking aim at what some of them see as a menace to California's environment: free parking. There is too much of it, the legislators say, and it encourages people to drive instead of taking the bus, walking or riding a bike. All that motoring is contributing to traffic jams and pollution, according to state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), and on Thursday he won Senate approval of a proposal he hopes will prompt cities and businesses to reduce the availability of free parking.

Ah yes, the old "getting people out of their cars" routine. Courtesy of California State Senators who drive around in late model automobiles paid for by we the taxpayers. This from a 2010 ABC News report on that personal transportation perk they all enjoy:

While the state is wallowing in a $28 billion deficit over the next 18 months, newly-elected lawmakers got new cars. From $32,000 hybrids to $46,000 Cadillacs, their new rides will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.3 million. It is a perk included in lawmakers' six-figure salaries.

Sweet. No smelly old buses for these guys. Apparently in their opinion that world saving option is something only folks like us should have to deal with. Their vital out of office work can only be accomplished in a state funded Coupe De Ville.

There is a fascinating article up on the New Geography site that is getting a lot of comment across the internet. Entitled The War Against Suburbia, it details the growing perceived animosity of the Democratic Party to the interests of suburban America. Which paradoxically (in a political sense) also happens to be where the vast majority of the people in this country live. Here are two paragraphs from this excellent article that illustrate my point:

Suburbanites may not yet be conscious of the anti-suburban stance of the Obama team, but perhaps they can read the body language. Administration officials have also started handing out $300 million stimulus-funded grants to cities that follow "smart growth principles." Grants for cities to adopt "sustainability" oriented development will reward those communities with the proper planning orientation. There is precious little that will benefit suburbanites, such as improved roads or investment in other basic infrastructure.

But ultimately it will be sticks and not carrots that planners hope to use to drive desuburbanization. Perhaps the most significant will be new draconian controls over land use. Administration officials, particularly from the EPA, participated in the drafting of the recent "Moving Cooler" report, which suggested such policies as charging tolls on the Interstate Highway System, charging people to park in front of their homes, and steering some 90 percent of all future development into the most dense portions of already existing urban development.

So in light of these kinds of national initiatives, a mere California State Senator going after free parking for cars would make perfect sense. After all, in our California SB 375 world it is the suburbs that are responsible for the degradation of the environment and greenhouse gases. And while the larger cities are just as responsible if not more, they currently have the political cover in Sacramento necessary to avoid such unkind interest. No, in this case it is small residential towns such as ours that must serve as the whipping boy, and bear the brunt of this unwanted attention coming from the state.

But will there be political repercussions for the political party most closely associated with these kinds of policies? According to this New Geography piece, retribution has already begun.

A year into the Obama administration, America's dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown's huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.

Or, as in-house blogger Zennie62 of the San Francisco Chronicle's "SFGate" site puts it:

It's this - wanting to take away free parking - that's the kind of stupid squeezing of Californians during what is now a jobless recovery that will doom Democrats in November ... The bill reportedly provides financial incentives for cities and counties to stop providing free parking on the street.

Of course, there is one silver lining here. While SB 375 and the issues associated with it might seem kind of difficult and arcane to many citizens, taking away free parking is quite easily understood. Once people catch on to that it could provide a kind of breaking point, and might very well be the event that wakes a lot of people up to some of the other bizarre things that are going on in our state.

No news yet if Joe Mosca or John Buchanan have gotten us any state grant money for the installation of parking meters on the streets of Sierra Madre yet. I'm sure we'll hear all about it if they do.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Oddest Re-Election Campaign Tactic Ever

I guess when you are a politician desperate to be reelected, and you don't have a particularly appealing record to run on, you might find yourself hoping that people won't talk about it too much. And if you are Joe Mosca, then you would likely wish that the last 4 years don't come up at all. Because there really isn't a whole lot there that is going to help your political ambitions. The widely held perception that you'd broken some very important promises to the voters, or the carpetbagger reputation, or even the time you told some seniors disappointed with you to "get a life" (and on video no less!), certainly won't help. No, none of this is going to do your cause the least little bit of good.

Now most politicians in such a predicament might attempt to put together some kind of distraction. Visits from celebrities, maybe. Or a parade. Or perhaps a candidate in jeopardy might actually come up with some kind of appealing new message, something that will get people looking forward, all the while praying that they'll forget the past. But never in my life of following politics have I ever witnessed a campaign that has actually come out and expressly forbidden any discussion of their candidate's record. And apparently Joe's supporters are prepared to back this up with accusations that those doing so are "being negative" or "stirring up hate and division in the community." Which, if you think about it, pretty much precludes any discussion of Mr. Mosca's time in office at all. Because there isn't much he's done that hasn't pissed at least some people off.

With Monday's post I apparently committed just such a crime. I discussed Mr. Mosca's decision to deny the citizens of Sierra Madre a vote on the Downtown Specific Plan, something that could have resulted in undesirable development way out of kilter with the character of our community had Measure V not remedied that breach. Joe had vowed to deliver such a vote when he was running for City Council, yet broke that promise within a few months of assuming the post. And I provided both a document and video showing this betrayal of trust in pretty unmistakable terms.

An irate reader calling herself (?) "sm citizen" took the time to send me an email on this very topic. And after a couple of lively sentences calling me all sorts of colorful and predictably uncomplimentary things, she went on to try and explain Joe's flip flop on the DSP vote. Here is the heart of this individual's explanation:

" ... what Mr. Mosca's vote was responding to was a discussion that came from him questioning if the proposal was in its final form and what process it had to go through to get there. It was explained to him that it was NOT in its final form and that it still had a process to go through before it would be ... a process during which it would be put to the scrutiny of the public and discussed (and) modified as they suggested. Some or all of the objections that the public had could be addressed and resolved during this process. At one point when one of the others at this meeting mentioned something you could see a realization come over Mr. Mosca and he dug deeper to have an understanding of it. When he got a true and complete picture of the situation and what still needed to be done before it would be time to vote on it, he decided that it was not the time that this was to be dine (sic). No one else at the meeting cared about that ... they were just all fired up and reactive. All anyone heard was Mr. Mosca's 'NO' vote and not what he said."

Of course, for some it is always about the process, and never the actual result. So I guess this is as good an explanation as any of why Joe might not want his DSP vote being discussed. Because if all someone can find to say in his defense is that people were distracted from the depth and caring of Joe's thought processes by his vote to deny the public a ballot that he had explicitly promised the voters when running for office, well, then that cause is as good as lost.

But being a reasonable person, I decided to try and share some perspective with "sm citizen." Here is what I had to say in response:

"When the voters in this city judge a candidate, and particularly an incumbent candidate, they look to his record. And an important part of his record is whether or not he kept his promises. And when it came to the vote on the DSP, perhaps the most important issue this city has faced in a decade, Joe broke that promise. And by not keeping faith with the voters he caused a lot of the grief you've described here. He must and will be judged on this ... This has nothing to do with "dividing the community" or "making people hateful towards one another." It is how adults make decisions in this world. Decisions based on a rational understanding of the facts and how they relate to the performance of an elected official. People believe their eyes, and know what they've heard. And to say an incumbent's record in office should not be discussed because it might make some people upset is absurd."

Now I must have made something of an impression on my new pen pal, because when the response arrived it was without any of the invective or unkind observations about my person that so distinguished her first email. And what it reveals is an attitude that so typifies the government uber alles viewpoint prevalent in California these days. Check this out:

"What was clear to me was that he was voting not AGAINST the voters' desire to vote on the subject, he was NOT trying to deprive them of what he promised them he would give them ... he was simply saying that it was not yet the time for that vote. The others, caught up in the fervor of the issue, were not looking at the whole picture, they did not listen to the advice of experts at meeting when they answered Joe's inquiries about whether the DSP was in its final form and thus did not consider what was the best way to approach the vote. They were just committed to an agenda and wanted to push it through even though it would have been wiser financially if they waited as Joe voted to do. Joe weighed the economic and practical side of it and said that when it was time, and if the people still felt it was necessary, he would give the people the right to have their voices heard."

How magnanimous of him. Now I need to reveal something to you, dear reader. It wasn't just two people who were a part of our email exchange. There were quite a few others CC'd to this as well. Many of them past or current contributers to the Mountain Views News. You see, I actually initiated this exchange, using an old e-mail list from my MVO days to do it. All in hopes of getting just the kind of reaction you're seeing here. And apparently one of those looking in decided she'd heard quite enough from my detractor. Here is what an annoyed Sierra Madre resident had to say in response to "sm citizen's" observations:

"Just for the record: Using the words in your statement -- especially the ones in bold -- 'Joe weighed the economic and practical side of it and said that when it was time, and if the people still felt it was necessary, he would give the people the right to have their voices heard ...' is a totally inappropriate statement, and denigrating to the folks in our community, and a political tactic that creates 'time' for loopholes to be developed (and hope people 'forget') which would confuse matters even more. Joe Mosca wasn't elected to dictate what the people in S.M. have the right to do. This is the United States. Why do some of 'our' politicians treat matters (and citizens) as if they're trying to steer the city government here towards a fascist regime?"

I couldn't have said it any better if I had a decade to do it. And, not completely surprising, "sm citizen" did not reply. And there the exchange ended.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

John Buchanan's Unfounded Hypotheticals

After months of trying to figure out exactly what it is that Councilmember Buchanan is doing while he's sucking up so much of the oxygen at our City Council meetings, I have finally deduced his technique. The approach is simple, yet diabolical. Hidden in plain sight, as it were. And it is done with some craft, which he couples with complete fearlessness in the face of appearing trite, obstructionist, or dull. And what exactly is the method he employs?

John Buchanan is a Choki Motobu level Black Belt Master of the Unfounded Hypothetical.

This moment of awareness came to me during his insistent questioning of Karin Schnaider during her moment of glory at the podium last night. She had brought in the audit on time, it was done accurately, and we are running a surplus. All of which stands in stark contrast to what went on during John Buchanan's first term on the City Council. And sensing that the energy in the room had flowed from him and to Karin, John pounced.

"What if people had sick time that they had used, but then there was sick time they didn't use? Isn't that an unfunded liability?" Karin patiently explained that this information is all contained in the handouts the Councilmembers had been provided with, and the matter is already handled. But that was hardly the point. Because by artfully employing an unfounded hypothetical, in this case a pointless feigned concern over the effect of employee sick pay on the City budget, John had recaptured his special place in the room.

Another recent example of John's artistry in the use of the unfounded hypothetical was in the matter of supplying SCAG with growth numbers. All part of some dubious exercise designed to help our regional planning organization issue some paper on the future transportation needs in the area. The rational portion of the City Council wanted to make these figures as small as possible out of a fear that SCAG would use them as a justification for inflating our RHNA numbers in a couple of years. And thus challenged, John stepped up with some truly momentous usage. "If we send in low numbers, it could be interpreted elsewhere that we're telling people Sierra Madre is in economic decline!" A masterful use of the unfounded hypothetical, here designed to prop up some absurdly inaccurate SCAG assumptions.

Of course, Johnny B's greatest unfounded hypothetical was used in justifying a vote to demolish the pristine woodlands at One Carter. "If we don't give in to these developers," said he, "we'll end up spending huge amounts of money defending ourselves in court!" As we all know, John and the rest of the Gang of Four City Council gave Dorn Platz everything they wanted at One Carter. And, of course, we ended up in court spending huge amounts of money.

The true highlight of this meeting for me came at the very end. Because it was then that the long delayed Big Four Agenda Items were called to attention and set in motion for City Council consideration in the very near future. It's been a long time coming. Let us savor them here together. Everybody hold hands and repeat after me:

#1) An Explanation of the History of the Blown Audits During the Shenanigan Era. Here John Buchanan, the last surviving elected official of that disastrous time, will be called upon to explain just how a City government could screw up as badly as it did on the audit issue. Amongst other things.

#2) The Blight Ordinance. Once this baby is up and running Downtown Investment Club members will think twice before they allow their properties to sink into the kind of wretched decay epitomized by the Skilled Nursing Facility. Fines a-plenty heading their way!

#3) Cop Shopping. Now we all want an Andy of Mayberry style police force here in Sierra Madre. Because that is just the kind of town we are. But the lawsuit happy grouches of the Sierra Madre Police Department don't always see things quite that way. So with our MOU (an acronym that basically means "deal") with the SMPD just about up, what better way to begin our negotiations with their Union than to show up with a couple of competitive bids? They didn't do that kind of thing back in the Shenanigan years, but shouldn't running Sierra Madre like a business be the approach we always take?

#4) Adjudication Issues and Our City Newspaper. I feel privileged to even be able to type this one. It looks like the erratic publishing schedule and mysterious circulation figures of the Mountain Views News are going to get some real hard-nosed scrutiny from the City of Sierra Madre. Can you hear it? Off there in the distance? It could very well be the sound of somebody's Karma bell a-ring a-ding dinging. Besides, it's the digital age now. Let's just spare the trees and put our legal notices on-line.

How sweet it is!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Things Joe Mosca Would Prefer You Not Think About This Election Cycle

The tragedy of Joe Mosca is that in the end he sold out for very little. An engaging and obviously talented politician, he swept to victory here in 2006, receiving more votes than any other candidate in that election. And he seemed destined to go on to greater things. I supported him, and displayed his sign proudly in my front yard. I believed at the time that he could have gone on to become something truly important, perhaps even the first gay governor of the State of California. The thought that he would have come from Sierra Madre made me feel a part of something good and right. And I know a lot of people who shared that opinion.

But after he was elected Joe turned his back on the voters and the promises he had made to them. He flipped to the position of a relatively few moneyed real estate investors on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) question, a scheme that would have turned much of the Sierra Madre Boulevard area into a cookie cutter replica of the oversized mixed-use condominium complexes that can now be seen half empty and unsalable in places like Monrovia, Glendale, and Pasadena. This became the most polarizing issue in recent Sierra Madre history, leading to an expensive special election, numerous lawsuits, and a recall attempt. And because of this betrayal Joe Mosca now finds himself in the political fight of his life, desperately trying to hang on to his small town City Councilship by any means possible.

Talk about squandered potential.

Just before the recently reorganized City Council began its fateful deliberations on the Downtown Specific Plan in early 2006, newly elected City Councilmember Joe Mosca released a statement that reiterated something that had been a theme of his successful election campaign. And that is he supported the right of the residents of Sierra Madre to decide the future of our downtown area with their vote. Here is a part of what he had to say. (The entire statement can be accessed by clicking here, and scrolling down to article #8.)

Once the DSP has taken shape and the process has been completed in the coming months, it will be put to a vote by the people of Sierra Madre, hopefully with our County elections this fall.

As a City Councilmember who represents all of Sierra Madre and also believes in preserving our jewel of a community here, it is my hope that through the DSP and with voter approval, we will be able to restrict development and promote a plan that preserves our downtown.

There is a lot of misinformation and fear being spread about the DSP and some correct information. I encourage you to please get involved and attend meetings on the Downtown Plan, so that we can shape the eventual document into something that will preserve our community and also be something we can all be proud of.

In the end, I hope we are successful in shaping the document into something that will protect and preserve our community. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Sierra Madre to decide. I believe in and will support a city-wide vote on the DSP.

And that is what we believed Joe Mosca was all about when we voted for him in 2006. A stand up guy who, though very new to this town, understood our love for this community and the need to save it from the wrecking ball. The Downtown Specific Plan was radical in design and would have brought a massive and highly negative change to Sierra Madre. Which is why the City Councilmembers supporting it were resoundingly voted out of office in 2006. The voters overwhelmingly disapproved of this plan, and fired those responsible.

There has been a lot of speculation over the past few years about exactly how the Downtown Investors Club got to Joe Mosca. That is, if they didn't already have him. Some say that he was a plant all along, a Manchurian Candidate recruited from the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats organization and brought in to serve as an emergency monkey wrench should the DSP supporters on the City Council fail to be reelected. Others have said that Joe was little more than a glib and shallow opportunist who saw this issue as a way to get elected, and exploited it. Only to sell out to the blandishments of well-financed DSP investors later on.

But that Joe Mosca turned his back on the people of Sierra Madre, and in the process broke the promises he made on the DSP vote question, there can be no doubt. On the Neuroblast Films website there is a video of Joe Mosca delivering the infamous speech he gave on June 13th of 2006 before joining the majority in the 3 to 2 City Council decision to deny the DSP vote to Sierra Madre's residents. The same vote he promised with such seeming sincerity when he ran for election. It is a shoddy and dismaying performance by someone who had at one time been a hero to many here, and about as stark an act of political betrayal as this town has ever seen.

You can find this video on the Neuroblast Films site by clicking here. Scroll to the 2nd video in the column to the right, the one entitled "Joe Mosca Flip Flop In 4 Minutes." It is the smoking gun.

In viewing this video you will see that the parsing Joe practices is lawyerly enough, but the message is still unmistakable. He was no longer in favor of giving the voters of Sierra Madre the decision making power over the fate of their downtown. Instead he had now switched over to the side that lost the 2006 election, that elite group of people who had invested so heavily in the Downtown Specific Plan. People who knew that the DSP would never survive a citywide vote, and therefore had to stop it. And Joe was there to help them.

If you think back to the events of the last 4 years, you can see that Joe's betrayal on the promises he made to the people of Sierra Madre had a very destructive effect here. The Measure V election, which cost this City 10s of thousands of tax payer dollars, was held because the people had overruled their City Council and used the power of the petition to get back the DSP vote that Joe reneged on. $170,000 was pumped into this town by corporate pressure groups in the failed attempt to deny Sierra Madreans their downtown vote. Lawsuits were filed against vote supporters, and those subjected to them forced to pay for lawyers out of pocket to defend themselves. Our recent Mayor Kurt Zimmerman being one of them. Pornographic websites, including the one then Mayor John Buchanan praised in the Pasadena Star News, were created to demoralize and defame those who supported a vote on the DSP. Neighbor no longer spoke to neighbor, the town was divided into two camps, and to this day there are people who refuse to talk with those on the other side of this question. And a petition calling for the recall of Joe Mosca was circulated, and had a few hundred additional signatures been gathered that too would have been the subject of a Citywide vote.

All because Joe Mosca could not keep a simple and basic promise he'd made to the people who elected him a City of Sierra Madre Councilmember. And if he didn't honor the promises he made a few years ago, how can we believe anything he is saying now?

Like I said, Joe would prefer that you don't think too much about that one right now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Controversy Roils the MPOs: The Head of SANDAG Now Makes More Money Than His Counterparts at SCAG and ABAG

Let me tell you, when it comes to unabashed excitement nobody brings the whoopee like our California Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Every time you turn around these dudes are turning up the heat and setting the world on fire. You just never know what they're going to do next. Be it projections of vast population increases that turn out to be completely in error, to schemes that proclaim that the way to fight Global Warming is to build massive condo complexes near bus stops, these guys just don't know the meaning of "chill out."

And just because they are immersed in the work of saving the world through exciting new trends in planning doesn't mean that they can't monitor the office tennis courts as well. When ones world view is as all-encompassing there is little that escapes your attention. So does that now include what your counterparts in other regions are making? This from San Diego's North County Times:

SANDAG exec's raise OK'd despite debate - Gary Gallegos, the head of the region's publicly funded planning agency, was rewarded Friday with a contract extension that will boost his $240,000 salary by $50,000 over the next five years ... The deal was approved 14-5 by the San Diego Association of Governments' board of directors despite strong concerns by some that it was rushed and will damage the agency's public trust.

Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as SANDAG, SCAG, and ABAG live predominantly off of our Federal taxes, with the balance augmented by money from Sacramento. They are most famous for cooking up housing allocation (RHNA) numbers designed to jam development into communities that do not want it. Something that forces cities to spend millions of dollars in scarce local revenue each year attempting to resist these draconian Sacramento and Washington generated demands. Originally conceived as groups that would give communities a voice in regional projects, MPOs have in recent years become little more than policy enforcers for the increasingly empowered central state and federal planning authorities.

So giving a $50,000 raise to the head of SANDAG is no small thing in some concerned circles. And their considerations were boldly stated at this meeting, and in no uncertain terms.

Still, several directors said without more review of Gallego's total compensation, they couldn't favor the new deal. No information was provided in an agency staff report about his benefits or the compensation of other top planning executives in California.

"This really indicates to the public that we don't give a damn what they think," Art Madrid, a long-serving SANDAG director and mayor of La Mesa, told his fellow leaders just before the vote held at SANDAG's downtown San Diego headquarters. "The reality is we're going to be losing credibility with the public. This is not the way you run an organization."

Mayor Madrid does have a point. Using tax payer money to give a raise to the head of a planning bureaucracy whose purpose and performance is something few are really all that crazy about, and during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, could be a problem for some.

And while the staff at SANDAG couldn't find it in themselves to do any research into what other MPO heads might be pulling down, North County's reporter for this story, Chris Nichols, made the calls and brought home the story.

A phone survey Friday found the heads of the Los Angeles-based Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Oakland-based Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) each make less annually than Gallegos does now, at $229,192 and $210,000 respectively. SCAG touts itself as the nation's largest metropolitan planning organization and covers six counties, including Los Angeles. ABAG covers nine counties, but has a more limited planning role than Gallego's agency, conducting only land use planning, its spokeswoman said.

So there you have it. As of this week the new president of ABAG will be the 16 year Mayor of Union City, Mark Green. His third place standing in the great MPO salary race must have come as an unpleasant surprise to this newest of the big three MPO heads.

And the President of SCAG is none other than our good friend and City Hall podium pounder Mr. John Edney. Now last December 5th we posted a laudatory article here on Susan Henderson's favorite blog The Tattler called "SCAG President Jon Edney Is Our Compass to the Future." In this article his many accomplishments were pointed to, including his work as a City Councilman in the troubled desert oasis known as El Centro. And that he has found so much busy work for our Joe Mosca there at SCAG is a good thing as well. Anything to keep him off the streets.

It will be interesting to see how Jon Edney reacts to this unpleasant news out of SANDAG. Hopefully it won't cost us too much.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Metro Doesn't Ride Itself?

A lot of effort is being made these days to convince people to take public transportation. And there are many reasons for this. The first being that the various governments we live under have spent literally tens of billions of dollars to build this stuff. And if we don't ride their creations they'll feel both foolish and deficient as planners. But there are also far grander visions at work here as well. The most prominent now being to "get people out of their cars." Cars, according to certain advocates, being pretty much the cause of almost all the world's woes these days.

And if you don't believe me, check out the palaver in an LA.Streetsblog article entitled Your Car Will Not Save The Planet:

Even if we were to devise a perfect car, one made out of recycled tires and printer paper, one that harnesses photosynthesis to not only be carbon-neutral, but actually make energy from atmospheric CO2, even if we could make a car with no direct environmental impact, it would still be an environmental and social disaster. Our waterways are contaminated by engine fluids and lubricants that run off of road surfaces. Our natural groundwater tables are falling because rainwater is unable to penetrate pavement.

Cars still allow sprawling development that eats up wild lands and spits out bland suburbia. Species' ranges in the few precious areas of wilderness that we have are disrupted by highways. We would still live in a society where we shut ourselves off from one another in our own private boxes, promoting inequality and a lack of respect for shared humanity. We would still leave our inner cities to dangle. Our streets would still be unsafe places for children to play, and we would still kill thousands every year in automobile crashes ...

Whew. Who knew that when mom took you and the kids to the supermarket in that fine old station wagon she used to drive, she was really engaging in something approaching the crime of the century. Of course, in the eyes of our more militant public transportation advocates, she was one of millions hellbent on an unwitting mission of mass destruction.

The shock troops of SB 375 need you to believe that what they are saying is right, and that you have no choice but to get out of your "private box "(I think he is talking about your house), get rid of your car, and join the huddled masses at the bus stop.

But then there is this problem. Left to their druthers, the vast majority of people would prefer the convenience and ease of private transportation. You step out of the door, get into your car, and it takes you to wherever you want to go. No long waits at a bus station, or squeezing onto trains filled with the suffering masses. Given the freedom of choice Americans are accustomed to, they'll take the car every time. And I doubt that many would even conceive of the alternative as being a serious option.

And did you know that even the employees of Metro, the grand overseers of public transportation in this part of the world, prefer to take their cars as well? According to Browne Molyneux, the editor of the spirited but somewhat snarky The Bus Bench blog, only 1.6% of all Metro employees regularly use public transportation.

First off lets all congratulate Metro with being in compliance of Rule 2202. The one thing I love about Metro is that it never disappoints me ... I knew the number of Metro employees that used their company's service was low, but I thought maybe 10% or 20%. The number of people in L.A. County who take public transit is 7%. I thought Metro would at least match or beat that. after all, 7% is an amazingly low number. I gave Metro too much credit. Out of the approximately 9200 employed by Metro in 2009, 155 of them use Metro's service: the beautiful trains and buses ... 1,540 out of 9,200 Metro employees have a TAP card.

If true, that would seem to be a problem. If you are going to claim a moral and ethical superiority to the Los Angeles car culture in the name of saving the world from such things as global warming, you should at least be able to convince the folks on the payroll to take the bus.

We've discussed SB 375 on this site many times, and as I am sure you know by now the centerpiece of its rationale for existence is public transportation. The building of Transit Oriented Development being justified by Sacramento as the one surefire way to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation. And when our SB 375 RHNA number is presented to Sierra Madre by SCAG in 2012, we will be required by state law to open our town up to a massive dose of high density development. All in the name of getting people to live near public transportation, which is supposed to cause them to abandon their cars and get on the bus or train. A pretty vast leap of faith in my opinion, and hardly reason enough to take the wrecking ball to quaint foothill villages like our own.

But if Metro can't even get its own employees to take advantage of their public transportation services, what hope is there of getting everyone else to do it?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Is It About Mailboxes In This Town Anyway?

In many societies throughout the history of this weary old world, people have had differences of political opinion. And when they did they argued, got into bar fights, burned the neighbor's barn, or went to war with each other. But in more advanced societies such as ours citizens band together into like minded communities and hold elections. Which can be a lot like a war, but one where people leave their guns at home. Usually. And OK, I guess there have been some bar fights.

But here in Sierra Madre there is a special variation on the above themes. And it seems that for one side in particular mailboxes are what they go after to express a mad love for their points of view. An enthusiasm which more often than not has something to do with development.

With the political season now drawing close here in town, can a renewed assault on our innocent mailboxes be all that far behind? That question is of concern to some. And perhaps the festivities have already begun? This from yesterday's Pasadena Star News:

Resident reports strange device in her mail box in Sierra Madre - Police evacuated the 100 block of Santa Anita Court after a resident there reported finding a suspicious device in her mailbox ... A woman called the Sierra Madre Police at about 5 p.m. Monday, after she went out to check her mail and discovered the device ... "The officers went out there and found a device that had wires in it and was somewhat sophisticated," Sierra Madre Police Capt. Larry Gianonne said ... Police called in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department bomb squad, which used a robot to retrieve the device. Officers then destroyed it.

Now there is no proof that we have uncovered pointing conclusively to this particular act being some form of political expression. At least not yet. And while this does bear the trappings of the time honored traditions described above, it could also have been for other reasons as well. Walking one's dog on a beloved lawn might have triggered it. Perhaps a labor dispute, or maybe a reluctance to bring trash cans in on time. Did someone look cross-eyed at somebody else? People can be tetchy, you know. Your guess is as good as mine.

Many of us who supported Measure V have a vandalism story or two to share, or know someone who does. I personally lost two mailboxes in the Great Sierra Madre Condo War, both victims of bludgeoning by baseball bat. I can't begin to tell you how melancholy it made me feel when I spotted my little green mailboxes laying flat on the ground with huge rounded dents bashed into their sides, their proud red flags waving no more.

But it wasn't always just a matter of laughing these asinine attacks off and going down to Arnold's Hardware to buy yet another mailbox. For some during the days leading up to the Measure V election, things actually got dangerous. Here is a big chunk of an article written by Katina Dunn in April of 2007, published in the now regrettably departed Mt. Wilson Observer.

Explosion In Mailbox On Park Avenue - Police are investigating the mailbox blown to smithereens at the address of an electrician who grew up in the area, and who has worked on the homes and businesses of generations of families since 1958 ... "It was a big boom," said Ed Clare, who is waiting for results from arson investigators. "The Sierra Madre police department responded immediately," said Clare. "I appreciate their response. I appreciate their professionalism." ... Many heard the explosion Sunday night at 6 p.m. on Park Avenue, a quiet, pretty tree-lined street without sidewalks. Shrapnel from the exploded metal was found across the street and down the block, Clare said ... In the weeks prior to the election on Measure V, 13 mailboxes belonging to pro-Measure V residents were vandalized on Acacia Street. During the City Council meeting April 10, resident Leslee Hinton said she filed a report with the FBI. Two other residents who have spoken on behalf of Measure V at City Council meetings reported a shattered car window and a smashed car mirror to the police department.

Many at the time believed that Ed Clare had been singled out because he continued to place advertising in the decidedly pro-Measure V Mt. Wilson Observer. This during a time when businesses in town were being threatened with boycotts for doing just that. And this crime, like all the others, was never solved. No one was ever arrested, and far as I can tell all investigations were dropped long ago. Certainly there didn't seem to be too much official concern over these acts. This from the same MWO article:

Last Tuesday Police Chief Marilyn Diaz said that Captain Larry Giannone is investigating the bombing and incidents of vandalism. Diaz also acknowledged that the police blotters released to the local press this week were missing some information on vandalism committed on properties whose owners advocated for Measure V. "I think we have them trained now to be more inclusive," Diaz said of her staff.

While it certainly would be sad to think that this kind of violence is starting all over again, it is not like we haven't seen it before.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Could Susan Henderson's Elevation to the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Be Sending the Wrong Message About Sierra Madre?

The lost edition of the Mountain Views News finally emerged yesterday, making it a mere 9 days late. No explanation regarding its non-publication during the week of January 9 to the 15th (the paper says 16th, which would make it a Beatlesque 8 day week) is provided in this new edition, however. I guess the paper's policy is that it really isn't any of your business. Which is not what most would expect from an adjudicated City paper of record. And look, maybe the paper's publisher wanted to take a week off. Things like that do happen. But to not publicly announce this to advertisers, readers, or those local government employees who place our legal notices in this paper is a bit thoughtless, to say the very least. And it does beg the question of where last Saturday's (1/16/10) issue might actually be.

But that isn't what I wanted to discuss today. It was just there.

If you go to the Sierra Madre News.net site you will see that there is an item from January 15th entitled Chamber of Commerce Announces New Board of Directors. (Look left and scroll down.) Briefly here is what it has to say:

The Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce held its annual Members' Meeting on Jan. 6th and the ballots from the election of the Board of Directors for 2010 were counted.

With that notice is listed the newly elected members of the Chamber's Board of Directors. And among them is the publisher of the Mountain Views News, Susan Henderson.

One of the things that has driven the success of the Chamber of Commerce business model here in the U.S. is its strong advocacy for the needs of private enterprise over the relentless encroachment of government. And while this doesn't always sit well with the more social activist types amongst us, the Chamber has been highly effective in taking care of the needs of its core constituency. And one the most effective tools in their advocacy of business rights has been their stringent adherence to the highest ethical and moral principles. Something that is deeply ingrained in the Chamber ethos, and which has helped them to maintain an international leadership position.

Which is why the ascension of Susan Henderson to the Board of Directors of our local Chamber of Commerce is problematic. And it isn't just about her being removed from an important state wide position with the California Democrats for fibbing on a resume' that we're concerned about. Or her misuse of a party credit card for golf junkets or the purchasing of lingerie at Victoria's Secret. All of which was covered by the San Francisco Chronicle and can be found here.

No, the problem we're more concerned about is how exactly she came to control the business that qualifies her for so ethically sensitive a position in our community. Because according to California Superior Court Judge Edward C. Simpson, her acquisition of the paper, the Mountain Views News, was not exactly according to Hoyle. Here is his complete decision on this matter:

Katina Dunn, Plaintiff Vs.
DEUXAMIS PUBLISHING, INC. a California corporation; SUSAN HENDERSON, an individual; and DOES 1 through 20, inclusive. Defendents.

Case NO. GC039149

This case came on regularly for Trial on December 8, 2008 through December 9, 2008 in Department R of the above-entitled Court, the Honorable Edward C. Simpson, judge presiding. Plaintiff, KATINA DUNN ("DUNN"), appeared by her attorney of record, LAURA V. FARBER of Hahn & Hahn. Defendent, H. SUSAN HENDERSON ("HENDERSON") appeared. In Pro Per. Witnesses on the part of both Plaintiff and Defendant were sworn in open Court and examined and exhibits were admitted into evidence. After hearing the testimony, reviewing the evidence and the arguments of counsel, the Court rendered its decision as follows:

Based on findings of fact and application of the law, the Court issued a judgement for DUNN against HENDERSON on the shareholder derivative claims brought against HENDERSON for breach of fiduciary duty.

WHEREFORE, by virtue of the law, IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that DEUXAMIS PUBLISHING, INC. ("DEUXAMIS") has a judgement against HENDERSON in the amount of $41,994.74 on the basis of HENDERSON'S failure to provide capital contributions to DEUXAMIS.

WHEREFORE, by virtue of the law, IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that DEUXAMIS be dissolved.

WHEREFORE, by virtue of the law, IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that due to HENDERSON'S misappropriation of design, masthead and formatting of the Mount-Wilson Observer, that injunctive relief be granted against Henderson and that she be required to eliminate use of the word"OBSERVER" in all Mountain Views-Observer newspapers, published both in print and on website and on any other documents bearing the name, "Mountain Views-Observer."

WHEREFORE, by virtue of the law, IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that DUNN as a shareholder having successfully brought a shareholder derivative claim on behalf of DEUXAMIS, is the prevailing party against HENDERSON.

Dated: Dec 30, 2008

Edward C. Simpson
Judge of the Superior Court

(It must be noted here that out of the nearly $42,000 that is owed to the plaintiff in this case, only a miniscule amount has been paid to date. We'll see how patient the Court will continue to be in this matter.)

I would hate to think that these are the kinds of things that the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce advocates, or finds to be acceptable business practice. Or rewards through prestigious appointments such as a Board of Directors slot. And since we do try and be charitable, I will assume that they were not as aware of the material reproduced here as Tattler readers are.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Corporation Owning Pasadena Star News Files For Chapter 11

Things aren't going so very well in the rag trade lately. Of course, things aren't going so well in the real estate, automotive, retail, banking, building, or many other trades, either. A sign of the times, I guess.

And the consequences of the travails experienced by the press as of late could begin to be felt locally. With the as of yet unexplained disappearance of the Mountain Views News (which has now missed its second Saturday publishing date in a row), we might very well be facing a future with no print coverage of our local news. So would it matter?

KPCC has an article up on its site reporting that things are not going so very well with the corporation that owns the Pasadena Star News. So poorly in fact that they are now filing for Chapter 11 protection.

Parent company of Pasadena Star-News to reorganize debt to stay afloat - The holding company for MediaNews Group Inc. newspapers, including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, says it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Affiliated Media Inc. said Friday it would file a "prepackaged" plan already approved by lenders, which should allow it to emerge from bankruptcy more quickly. MediaNews' management and newspaper operations, employees and vendors won't be affected by the holding company's restructuring, MediaNews Group Chairman and CEO William Dean Singleton said. He is the chairman of The Associated Press board of directors.

A date for the filing hasn't been announced, but the company said it would be in the near future. The reorganization plan was expected to be filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. Under the plan, the company's debt would fall from about $930 million to $165 million. Senior lenders would swap debt for stock, the company said. The group of 116 lenders,Led by Bank of America, would hold a majority of stock but not voting control.

All very worrisome stuff to be sure. I personally have never worked in a company that filed for Chapter 11, but I have done business with quite a few that did. I am always amazed at how similar the spin can sound. And that bit about the prepackaged plan and emerging from bankruptcy more quickly is pretty standard boilerplate. I mean, what else would a bankruptcy be if not planned for? A mad rush to the door, with papers flying and employees howling in dismay? And while getting rid of debt is not necessarily the worst thing a company can do, would there have been any of that debt if the company had been profitable?

I mean, let's keep it real here.

In an article on PR Newswire ("Affiliated Media, Inc. Announces Financial Restructuring") Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for NewsMedia William Dean Singleton reveals the following:

"One critical advantage of our plan, compared with those by some other media companies, is that it is a prepackaged plan that has the approval of lenders and unlike other media filings, this one does not involve our newspaper operations." He noted that the plan allows for claims of Affiliated Media's trade creditors, suppliers and employees to be unaffected by the filing and paid in the ordinary course as they come due. Almost all of the company's trade creditors, suppliers and and employees are totally unaffected in any event since none of the individual newspaper operations are involved in the reorganization plan. "For them, it's business as usual," he said.

There is a technique often employed in bankruptcies known as "calming the herd." And the reason why pulling this off in a successful fashion is vital for the survival of an organization is because it would be impossible to do business otherwise. If those who supply newsprint, equipment, phone service, and all the normal day to day stuff a newspaper needs to function, were to decide that they didn't want to throw good money after bad, the demise of the company would be be assured. So they need to be made to feel confident that this is merely a reorganization of debt or something, that they will be paid in a timely fashion, and generally all will be well. And that debt load for Affiliated Media, by the way, is cool pre-Chapter 11 $916 million. It would take quite a few "Sit 'N Sleep" ads to cover for that one.

The other herd that always needs to be calmed is the actual employees themselves. One of the biggest assets any company can have are the people who work for it. And those who are most likely to head for the exits to look elsewhere for work, and find it, are the most valuable. Keeping the best and the brightest chipper and working busily at their desks being a key consideration for any Chief Executive. And I'm sure that the specialists who handled this bankruptcy for MediaNews made certain Singleton understands that.

Here are a couple of items from Singleton's Q & A for Employees of MediaNews Group:

What does this mean for our business? There will be no change in our daily operations. The whole point of the transaction is to let us address our balance sheet issues - simply put, too much debt for existing conditions in the industry and the broad economy - while avoiding any disruption to our daily operations.

Will there be layoffs? No. our decisions about staffing have always been - and will continue to be - in response to business conditions, not our finances. So while there is no guarantee that advertising or circulation won't deteriorate further and force us to adjust accordingly, there are no layoffs planned as a result of our financial restructuring. We're committed to maintaining the staffing we need to serve our readers and advertisers.

No layoffs planned because of the financial restructuring? No guarantee that advertising or circulation won't deteriorate further? I don't see how it could be parsed more carefully than that. Sure the ice is thin Dorothy, but whatever you do don't look behind this particular curtain.

The real tragedy here is that with fewer newspapers there would be less folks around to keep an eye on the shenanigans of the various government entities that play such an increasingly large role in our lives. Not to mention all those who do business with them. And while the Pasadena Star News can't actually lay claim to having been unceasing in its coverage of these kinds of things (often being more of an enabler than an exposer), its disappearance would be a sad thing for me at least. If only because they have been such a dependable supplier of easy targets for this blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Josh Moran. Who Is This Dude?

So there is this rather puzzling quote allegedly posted by Josh Moran on the old Downtown Dirt site. I've been kicking it around for most of the day, and I'm still not quite sure what is being advocated here. Of course, Downtown Dirt.com no longer exists, but you can still find this chestnut on the now classic Sierra Madre Radicals and Assorted Characters website. Scroll down to the article entitled "Boycott Called On Sierra Madre Businesses."

"... most of the businesses that advertise in the Weekly, or better yet Weakly (like that one?) have no idea that a boycott is afoot. Simply not using someone's services without saying anything to them will do no good. If it is to be effective, you have to get the word out, otherwise people will continue to advertise like they always have. So we've got to write letters or make phonecalls to all of the advertisers letting them know that should they continue to advertise in the Weakly, a large group of concerned citizens will not use their services."

Like I said, I'm not sure I fully grasp what is being said here. Was the perpetually dowdy Sierra Madre Weekly engaged in something unpleasant or unkind back there around 2006, and a concerned Josh and others turned to boycotting some of our downtown businesses as a way of teaching them a lesson? Seems very similar to tactics used against the Mount Wilson Observer a year or so later. With business conditions being what they are today, I'm not sure boycotting downtown businesses would be much appreciated. And you'd certainly be walking on the fighting side of Bill Coburn if you attempted that now, that's for sure. No more Friday Night Live for you, bubby!

Now some have told me that Josh was very much a DSP guy back then, and he made some rather eccentric appearances at the podium at City Hall around March 2007 to make his passion for condos and mixed-use development known. We hope to have those videos shortly, along with some transcripts. When gauging the mettle of a candidate, The Tattler leaves no stone unturned.

Anyway, the final candidate on the proto-development side of the Sierra Madre political firmament has now thrown his bicycle beanie into the ring. A last minute scramble got him there to be sure, and you can only wonder how many people were asked during the lengthy process that ended at Josh Moran. And apparently even here there was a last minute glitch that had to be overcome. It appears that Mr. Moran, who I'm sure has spent considerable time in this town, was actually registered to vote in Monrovia. And you just can't run for City Council in Sierra Madre if where you lay your sleepy head down at night is Monrovia. Much less voting there. So carpetbags were packed, registrations remedied, and now we have yet another candidate in the running for Sierra Madre's favorite TV show, The Tuesday Night Fights. A candidate whose official current residency in this town can still be measured in hours.

So apparently our Mr. Moran used to sell houses in Sierra Madre. And that is "used to" since his license to work in that profession appears to have been allowed to expire. Real estate is a respectable profession for many, and most in that game do dress well. And you can still go to the old Webb Martin "personnel" pages to look for insight into Mr. Moran's business character. There you will find a series of statements to consider. Two in particular seemed notable to me. The first states, "Complete and total honesty, with our transactions and with my promises." But then farther down the page this claim is made: "I will do anything I can to put together a deal." Somehow these two sentences clash. Perhaps it is in their unfortunate juxtaposition? Or maybe it is some sort of flagrant feng shui violation? Not quite sure.

But it looks like there is something of a lacunae in our Moranic knowledge. Despite some widely held opinions, it appears that Josh Moran is no longer a real estate agent. At least according to the CA.gov site. (And believe me, I was all set up to explore that "recusing" issue this evening for you.) And the Webb Martin page is just something left over from before that concern was gobbled up by Dickson Podley, a company that does not list Josh amongst its elect. Which means Josh's information on the departed Webb Martin site is just more internet detritus, and that he is no longer doing "anything he can" to sell your house. Whatever that might have meant.

So where to look for information? Facebook, of course. It has never let me down yet. The biggest sheet of informational internet fly paper ever devised. And what we find there does offer some fascinating insight into Sierra Madre's newest City Council candidate. You can link to it here.

Now the first thing you will notice upon visiting this site is that much of Josh's information is locked. That is, unless he has identified you as a "friend," you cannot view all of what is available on his Facebook page. So that is unfortunately a door partially closed to us. But still there is a list of what Josh claims to be a "fan" of, and certainly some insight can be found in that. And a couple of items did jump out.

The first is the movie Hangover. This film is all about the wild adventures of a three guys and what happens to them when they go to attend a bachelor party in sinful Las Vegas. And it looks like the story line has them getting so stoned that none of them can remember what they did that night. Apparently what happened during the time a temporary liquid lobotomy erased their memories was not the stuff of respectable middle class decorum. Oh no indeed. And now they have to track down the terrible truth. You can check out some footage from this film here.

The other item that seemed both revealing and intriguing was Josh's citing of Chopperhead Magazine. As you can see by its MySpace link this is a publication that likes big bikes, hard rock, and bawdy scantily clad babe-age. And not necessarily in that order. Chopperhead also has a Facebook page (link), and it definitely has that party animal kind of feel.

So that's as far as our investigation has gone. At least for this posting. Josh now needs to get his nominating signatures together, fill out all those happening forms, and hand them over to our City Clerk no later than close of business Tuesday. With Monday being the Martin Luther King holiday a one day extension has been added. Rumor has it Josh will be cranking up something of a slacker campaign, riding his bike up to Mary's Market and chilling under the trees with some Red Bulls and whoever stops by to groove on his political vibe. Leisure seems to be in ample supply for our Josh.

When more information becomes available we will do all we can to get it quickly posted here on The Tattler. Sierra Madre's #1 News Source!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Mountain Views News Never Came Out This Week

If memory serves me well, and usually it does, it was Kurt Zimmerman who posed the question to Sandy Levin at a meeting not all that long ago. And what he wanted to hear from her is how exactly does a newspaper lose its adjudication. And Sandy's response was basically this, if a paper is not publishing regularly, and therefore not circulated to the public, that would make its adjudication null.

The Mountain Views News, in the opinion of people I've spoken with on this topic, has been skirting that distinction for a while now. Dated for Saturday delivery, it usually does not appear on the stands until at least the following Monday. Something that has been observed by quite a few people here in town. But this week has been different. For the first time in a while the paper never came out at all. And if you go to their website, you will see that as of this typing the MVN is still celebrating New Year's Eve. Complete with hats and horns. It must be quite some party.

The reason this would be of concern to a lot of people in Sierra Madre is that the MVN is our official paper of record, and therefore where the City places its legal advertising. In order to achieve this lofty level of public trust it needed to be adjudicated by the state. Which it was. But also of concern to the political majority here is that the editor of this paper, Susan Henderson, has been a fiercely partisan advocate for politicians who do not share the preservationist opinions of most living in this town. People who advocate the kinds of development more in line with Sacramento's agendas than ours. Even to the point of publishing scurrilous and misleading attacks against those who believe that this town should remain a small and independent city.

Now what most people in Sierra Madre are not aware of is that Susan Henderson has some rather interesting skeletons in her closet. As an example, at one time during her decidedly checkered career she held a position of great importance in the political establishment of the State of California. That is, until it was all suddenly taken away from her.

Here is how a San Francisco Examiner article, published on May 25 of 1995, describes those events. We are reprinting this article here in its entirety.

Demo leader resigns under fire - Questions over state party official's resume, credit card expenditures ... H. Susan Henderson, onetime Republican turned executive director of the California Democratic Party, has resigned her $78,000-per-year post amid controversy over alleged resume-pumping and questionable expenditures on a party credit card.

State party chair Bill Press announced Henderson's departure Wednesday, the same day the Examiner reported that she had registered to vote as a Republican barely two years before taking the $78,000-per-year Democratic Party post.

The Examiner also reported that the University of California had no record of awarding Henderson a law degree and an MBA, as she claimed on her resume, and that a Sunnyvale business executive said Henderson had failed to repay a $2,000 loan.

A confidential news source said that California Democrats, who face the crucial 1996 election with a deficit of $1 million, would pay Henderson $25,000 in exchange for her resignation.

In a press release, Press said he had ordered an audit of the state party's books, after receiving an anonymous letter contending that Henderson had improperly run up some $3,000 in spending on a party credit card for items including lingerie and a trip to Disneyland.

Press said the audit found no wrongdoing, but said the matter had become so emotionally draining for Henderson that she decided to resign. He said she would work as a consultant for the party for an unspecified period.

Henderson did not return phone calls. Press declined to respond to questions about whether he had known about Henderson's life as a Republican when he hired her or what steps he had taken to verify her resume. He also refused to comment on the reported $25,000 payment.

Republican glee ... If Press was mum, state Republicans were chatty about what they saw as financial disarray at the top of the Democratic organization.

"My take would be that Bill Clinton and Bill Press attended the same school of financial management," quipped Victoria Herrington, spokeswoman for the state GOP. Referring to Henderson, she said, "This is one case where we Republicans don't mind a defection."

San Francisco Supervisor Angela Alioto, a vice chair of the Democratic Party, said she was shocked to learn that Henderson had so recently been a member of the GOP.

"She never mentioned that - she has posed as a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat," Alioto said. "To me, it's much more shocking to find out she was a Republican than to find out (about the disputed resume.")

Henderson, a former Oakland business executive, was hired by Press in 1993 as a deputy executive director for Southern California, then was promoted to the top job last year.

She presented an impressive resume: regional coordinator for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, East Bay Field Director for Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's successful 1992 campaign, former president of the East Bay Area Club of Negro Business and Professional Women.

Changing registration ... But other parts of the resume don't appear to check out. Henderson states that she holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Ohio State University, but a spokeswoman said Ohio State has never granted a degree to Harriet Susan Henderson or Harriet Poole, Henderson's maiden name.

Henderson's resume also says that she holds an "M.B.A / J.D." from the University of California, without specifying a campus. Spokesmen at UC-Berkeley, UCLA, and UC-Davis, the three UC campuses that have both law and business schools, said no such degrees had ever been issued to H. Susan Henderson or Harriet Poole.

Alameda County voter records show that in 1989, Henderson registered as a Republican at an Oakland residence, then registered again as a Republican in 1991 when she moved to another Oakland address.

In March 1992, when the Boxer campaign was getting under way, Henderson changed her registration to Democrat, records show.

As party executive director, Henderson sat in top-level strategy meetings and sensitive discussions about the Democrats' plans for winning California for President Clinton in 1996.

In his written statement, Press complained that the anonymous letter about Henderson was "disgusting character assassination," but gave no details about why he had concluded that she had spent party funds properly.

Party credit-card records show that in a three-month period in 1995 she ran up $12,000 in charges, including $74 at a Victoria's Secret lingerie shop in Washington, D.C., $220 at a golf course in Palm Springs, $137 at a Los Angeles beauty supply outlet and $26 at a laundry.

We will have more on the Susan Henderson story soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Tattler News Review

Three stories of importance to Sierra Madre have hit The Tattler news desk in the last few days. Let's get to them, shall we? This from the Pasadena Star News:

County development group sees $1 billion economic boast by extending Gold Line - Construction of the Gold Line Foothill extension will create nearly 7,000 new jobs and pump nearly $1 billion into the region's economy, according to a new study of the project ...

I don't know about you, but I learned very early on in life that boasting about anything is not considered to be either thoughtful or polite behavior. But even worse would be boasting about money. And it would hardly be fitting to take undue pride in a lot of money, especially if it was generated from invested tax revenues that you really didn't do all that much to earn.

But here's the thing. How is it that our modest little 210 Trolly has become the panacea for all the world's ills? Global warming, economic decline, unemployment, "getting people out of their cars," housing development, assorted green issues, the long lines at Pasadena's "Cheesecake Factory," these are all things the little train that could is supposed to either assist in improving or just flat out remedy. C'mon, it's just a small commuter train, guys. And I've got to say it, I'm beginning to feel just a little bit hyped here. I'm also starting to believe that some of these Metro types have just been attending too many meetings with the same old people, and they've allowed hothouse reality creation to run wild over more sober assessments.

Enough said about that one. Now I was going to whip this next Pasadena Star News item into a full article on my site, but every time I write something about the Pasadena Unified School District all hell breaks loose. So I figured I would hide it in this post and hope that nobody notices. Please, don't read this one.

PUSD parcel tax proposal moves forward - The Pasadena Unified School District board of education Tuesday inched closer to putting a parcel tax on the May ballot that could inject more than $7 million in annual revenue into school coffers for the next five years ... A parcel tax of $120 on more than 59,000 properties in Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Altadena will raise more than $35 million over the next five years. Board members warned the parcel tax won't be a cure-all for the financially strapped district ... The school district, which has a $20.7 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 school year, will use the money to keep its Advanced Placement programs running, its college counselors employed and to make up for some of the money the state cut from schools during last summer's fiscal crisis.

Now it has to be said, there is no greater tragedy than the terrible fate of the California Public Schools System. At one time it ranked among the world's finest, but no more. Only Mississippi, a state that has never been synonymous with educational achievement, ranks lower. And in the current economic collapse, exacerbated by truly atrocious leadership in Sacramento, public education has been virtually abandoned to fend for itself. And now the PUSD is in the unenviable position of having to go out hat in hand and beg for additional voter assistance for the third time in the last dozen or so years.

Regardless of how you feel about this school district or our continued membership in it (and we have certainly covered these topics in the recent past), it really is a tragic situation. One of the things that made America great was its astonishing ability, through public education, to raise up the least among us and mold them into productive tax paying citizens. The path to middle class success and prosperity started at the school house door, something in real danger of no longer being the case. Many of our international economic rivals are now beating us badly in this vital matter, and doing so with far fewer resources.

But all that said, I am not sure that throwing good money after bad is the solution here. At least not until we have seen some very real and significant attempts to reform what many view as being a highly dysfunctional organization. The only way that I can see this being made palatable to the voters is through complete accountability and a sincere effort to significantly repair some of the glaring inefficiencies that have dragged the PUSD down to where it is today. It's time for a little tough love. The same old guilt trips, cheesy postcards and feel good nostalgia for public education might not work this time around.

Many have expressed interest in the unexpected and sudden retirement of our current State Assemblyman, a Mr. Anthony Adams. And there was a bit of a boomlet here on The Tattler yesterday regarding a possible Kurt Zimmerman candidacy for this office. Certainly there is no place on God's green earth more in need of the honesty and integrity our retiring City Councilman offers than Baghdad on the Sacramento River. California has been laid low by one of the worst state governments anywhere, and only by sending people with real ability and proven values will any of that change.

But even if Kurt wanted to run (and I have yet to see or hear any indication of that), he would find himself getting into what is quickly becoming a very crowded field. It seems that the mourning period over Adams' departure was a very short one, and the hopefuls they're a-lining up. This from the Redlands Daily Facts out of San Berdoo:

New names taking advantage of Adams' decision - Assemblyman Anthony Adams' announcement that he will not seek re-election this year has already spurned one more candidate into this year's election, and political observers said that's not the only way Adams' withdrawal could change the dynamic of this year's election ... Adams, R-Claremont, who spent the better part of 2009 fighiotng off a recall drive after a February vote to increase taxes, said Tuesday he will not run for a third term in his 59th District Assembly seat. On Wednesday, Claremont Mayor Corey Calakay said he will run for the seat - something he said he wouldn't be doing had Adams decided to stay.

Apparently this Calakay dude is the only elected official to throw his hat into the ring. The others are all political civilians. Ken Hunter, a Lake Arrowhead real estate broker, Michael "Mr." Rogers, a San Dimas high school teacher, and Christopher Lancaster, an ad salesman at the San Gabriel Tribune, are all talking about going for the Republican nod to succeed Mr. Adams. There is also a Democrat in the pack, one Darcel Woods, listed as being a college instructor. But you know what happens to Democrats when they run in this absurdly gerrymandered district, right? They fight hard, spend money, and raise their vote percentage from 34% to 37%.

Not to get too snarky here, but looking at this crop of candidates, I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't the pay increase and percs that is driving their ambitions. Certainly the fine health care benefits alone would make the job attractive. But I'm not sure I see any real crusaders for the public weal in there. It is early though, and you never know what they'll reveal later on.

This has been another Tattler News Review, sponsored by The Sierra Madre Tattler, where the news never stops.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Quietest City Council Meeting

It was the most tranquil kick off to a Sierra Madre political season in quite some time. There certainly was a hush in the air, with perhaps only the slightest little bit of apprehension to leaven the proceedings. But you really had to concentrate to sense it.

And maybe it's because of the absence of available money in the marketplace this year. Certainly no local dreamers with retirement accounts to burn are going to have any illusions about getting rich quick in downtown real estate development this go around. Nor are any banks likely to start pushing the kinds of sub-prime loans that made the DSP look like a good idea to a few misguided souls several years back. Things like the housing market collapse, mass foreclosures, plus the flight of so many employers and skilled workers from California, have put a gaping hole in that hot air balloon. So that traditional cause of discord just isn't here right now.

But then again, isn't this one of the conundrums of life here on the planet floor? When bad people control the issues, they get mean. But when good people are the ones controlling the message? They want everybody to be as nice as they are. Hopefully the good side will prevail.

So has Sierra Madre entered into a new era of political peace? Have the bad old days come to an end, and taken with them the sorts of wacky things we've seen in so many recent elections? I guess we'll find out. I know that here at The Tattler we are mellow with this laid back vibe, but we'll still sleep with one eye open. I lost too many mailboxes during the Measure V election to do otherwise.

Kurt Zimmerman made the big secret public. One of the most effective Councilmen this town has ever known is packing it in and will be turning his considerable talents elsewhere. Kind of reminded me a bit of the old cowboy movie chestnut about the quiet stranger who shows up in town one day, sorts out all the bad guys that had been plaguing the place, and then, the job done and the honest townspeople saved, rides off alone into the sunset. The movie ends with the good people of Whateverville wondering who it really was that saved them, and how could they ever repay such a debt. All the while knowing they never really can, or will.

De Alcorn spoke at the podium and made what I thought was a good point. How does Sierra Madre reconcile its selfless generosity towards our Police Department with the lawsuits that followed? Has there ever been a city that voted itself a stiff tax hike in order to reward some of its employees with a needed raise, only to have the ungrateful beneficiaries turn around and sue the place over and over again? And even if there is a precedent for this, does that mean we have to like it?

Don Watts spoke eloquently about the need for respect and decency in the upcoming election, and certainly nobody could be more aware of the consequences of dirty politics than he. The cruel and well-funded attacks on people like Don during the run up to the Measure V vote being an obvious example of just how bad things can get here.

There was one droll incident that needs to be noted. Sierra Madre's highly thorough building inspector came to the podium to discuss solar power permits and issues related to the logistics of installing and properly situating solar panels on rooftops. It was a detailed review and required the mastery of some pretty technical information. When he finished Councilman Mosca, who apparently had not been listening very closely, asked a very obvious question that required the inspector to go through much of his presentation all over again.

I kept looking to see if any unknown candidates would suddenly stride up to the podium to make some points they feel are important to the people of Sierra Madre. Seems to be a bit of a tradition here. But none did. There is still that empty third slot available on the Buchanan/Mosca side of the political ledger that is in need of filling, but with just a few days left for someone to pick up one of those fine loose leaf candidate's notebooks from our City Clerk, no one is showing any indication of doing so. Very quiet there, too. You can't help but wonder about the anxiety that must be causing some.

And speaking of unexpected quiet, where is the Mountain Views News? This increasingly fluffy lifestyle paper, which claims to come out every Saturday, has yet to grace the sidewalks of our pleasant village with a new issue this week. I can't figure out what is more puzzling, its unexplained personality change, or the mysterious disappearance. And even if it finally shows up today, five days overdue, where will it fit in? Late for this week, or early for next? The big question being should we continue to compel our citizens to place their legal notices in a paper that can't seem to make it out on anything approaching a business-like schedule.

Mayor MacGillivray brought this meeting in under record time. And while the usual offenders still seem to believe that the public wants to be taken on long walks through the minutia of Sacramento funding procedures (or are somehow under the misapprehension that people marvel at their mastery of such arcane information), this meeting was over quickly. We'll have to see how long that lasts.

Like I said, there is just a whole lot of wait and see out there. Is it a new Sierra Madre we're seeing? Or just the calm before the storm.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Significant Sierra Madre Victory @ One Carter?

"To escape criticism - do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." - Elbert Hubbard

In the end the City of Sierra Madre got a victory at One Carter, and it was a negotiated one. Yet it was a long series of defeats that brought us to that point. And can you believe it really came to this? Five long years down the road and only now have we reached the final act. But that was only after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on litigation, lawyers, their salaries, and court costs.

The irony here being that when the Gang of Four City Council did the original One Carter deal with Dorn Platz, they claimed it was to avoid lawsuits.

Probably the biggest victor in all of this was our City Attorney. With the money made from this debacle she could very well afford to buy a lot at One Carter, and maybe even a house to put on it. Paid for out of our tax dollars.

We will see at tonight's City Council meeting what it means to have elected officials who work for the people of Sierra Madre. Which is in stark contrast to the Stockley, Joffe, Buchanan and Torres "Gang of Four" council. After all, it was they who made the disastrous decisions at One Carter that cost us an extremely large chunk of our tax dollars over the years. You can only imagine what was (or most likely wasn't) going through their heads when they decided to hand One Carter over to a company that proved incapable of doing little more than cutting down trees and initiating lawsuits.

Thanks to the hard work of Don Watts, Kurt Zimmerman, and Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray, we have now received some significant concessions from the unfortunate folks at the lender of consequence, Capitol Source Finance. And certainly the advantages were ours. This is a bank that was painfully aware that they had a distressed property on their hands, one that needed to be sold so they wouldn't have to continue throwing good money after bad. They were obviously not in a very good bargaining position, and that was something our guys understood from the start.

So what concessions did we get out of Capitol Source? There are six items in all, but these two below strike me as being the most significant:

1) The famous Lot 3. At one time it was rumored that the City of Sierra Madre was considering spending around a million bucks to purchase this piece of property. The reason being is that this is the most visible of all the lots at One Carter, and any McMansion built upon it would loom ominously over the city. A permanent reminder of the Gang of Four's disastrous mistakes. But thanks to this City Council's negotiated victory, that lot will not be built on. Rather it will be attached to another lot and sold with the legally enforceable proviso that it remain undeveloped.

2) Everything that is built at One Carter must be in compliance with our Hillside Management Zone Ordinance. Which means the developer won't be able to erect those huge monuments to bad taste up there that so many feared. Just homes that will blend in with the character of the rest of this town. And there was concern that Capitol Source might sue over this particular issue, and a feint in that direction was actually made. But this City Council called their bluff, and won.

And like I said, this isn't all of it. There are Stonehouse considerations as well. But you'll get all that when you tune in to tonight's City Council meeting. And while this settlement is a bit like putting a bow on the proverbial pig, it obviously is also the best that could be expected given the awful choices left to us by the solons of the Shenanigan Era.