At The Tattler we are always concerned about providing entertaining and informative blog content. The kind of stuff that keeps folks coming back for more. I know this might come as a bit of a surprise to some, but it really has always been for show. We don't have a problem with anyone, it is all about the story.
Then again, maybe not. But speaking of which, let's get down to it, shall we?
Our local franchise of AOL/Patch wrote long and hard yesterday about our administrative claim on the water rate increase and the City of Sierra Madre. Obviously the site's editor has put a lot of time and effort into the informational product he is providing to his still developing readership. But was it the kind of quality news content that we as information end consumers have the right to expect? Sadly, in our judgement it was not. There are just too many inconsistencies, inaccuracies and flat-out boneheaded errors to say otherwise.
The most glaring of the two deficiencies we're discussing today is Editor Patchy's inability to come clean on the Howard Jarvis fib as originally concocted by tragic emo victim Justin Chapman. On January 25th Mr. Chapman made the following highly inaccurate claim:
HJTA Says City (of Sierra Madre) complied with Prop 218 process regarding water rate hike: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, after reviewing information about the water rate increase vote, said the city completed the process properly and decided not to get involved.
This statement, which we knew then to be patently untrue, was the cause of some controversy here. We had been in touch with the Jarvis people, and knew that their actual point of view was decidedly different from the misrepresentations on Patch. Its director of legal affairs, Tim Bittle, viewed things from a decidedly different perspective than what Chapman wrote, and was dismayed to see his good name used in so dishonest a way. Tim had been watching the situation in Sierra Madre very closely, and if anything was leaning our way. He most certainly did not tell Mr. Chapman that he thought Sierra Madre had complied with the requirements of Prop 218.
Which, by the way, the Jarvis folks both authored and successfully convinced the voters to approve. It was voted into law by the citizens and is now an amendment to the California State Constitution.
After Sierra Madre's AOL/Patch franchise published Mr. Chapman's absurd canards, we here at The Tattler asked the editor of the site to remedy this misrepresentation by posting a retraction expressing their regret at having published such crap. We also asked for a promise to be a little more careful in the future. This AOL/Patch refused to do. Instead statements were posted on the site declaring Mr. Chapman's reporting to be not just accurate, but that they were also standing by what he had written.
Patch also later reiterated that claim in a second piece authored by John Stephens.
Which now brings us to yesterday's article. Sierra Madre Patch Editor John Stephens, looking to spice up his article on our administrative claim against the City a little, was finally able to get in touch with Mr. Bittle. Who, until now, according to Patch regional editor Patrick Lee, had been refusing to take John's calls. Probably because of the Chapman article. Here is Stephen's account of their brief chat:
Tim Bittle, the HJTA's director of legal affairs, was non committal in an interview with Patch on Wednesday. "Well, there's been no lawsuit filed yet, has there?" Bittle said.
Now this is quite a ways from the Jarvis group coming out and saying that the City of Sierra Madre had successfully carried out its legally mandated Prop 218 obligations, and that they were satisfied with the result. Rather Mr. Bittle was taking the rather prudent course of waiting to see if a law suit is actually filed before throwing in with those of us fighting this water rate increase under the provisions of Proposition 218.
So what is it, Patch? Did the Jarvis organization say that the City of Sierra Madre "completed the process properly and decided not to get involved," or are they standing by to see if a law suit actually gets filed? Something that in no way indicates that they ever believed - or said - that the City of Sierra Madre did anything right in this regard.
Talk about your situational gymnastics. You almost have to wonder if Stephens even reads his own site. Which, judging by the few posted responses to yesterday's article there, would indicate that he is hardly alone in that.
One other point that also indicates Mr. Stephens might not be reading (or perhaps not understanding) the material he posts on Patch. In the final portion of our administrative claim letter to the City of Sierra Madre, the following can be found:
The Notice was printed only in English. By refusing to print the Notice in Spanish and other non-English languages spoken in Sierra Madre as well, the City ensured that every non-English speaking Owner would remain unaware of the Proposed Rate Increase. The City's conduct in that regard constitutes a violation of each non-English speaking Owner's due process rights under the Due Process Clauses of the Federal and California Constitutions.
What is discussed in that passage is something very different than what is covered by Proposition 218. Instead we are talking about those parts of Federal and California Constitutional Law that deal with civil rights and equality issues. This is a fairly serious violation, and one that could cause the City some difficulty in court.
But somehow Mr. Stephens didn't quite grasp that. Which allowed the always crafty Elaine Aguilar to throw an inside curve ball right under his chin. Check this out:
Crawford also alleges that the city failed to comply with constitutional due process requirements by printing only English-language rate increase notifications ... The city dismissed the argument. "We aren't aware of any requirement in Prop 218 that says it be done," Aguilar said regarding the issue with English-only notifications.
And of course she is right. There is nothing in Prop 218 that says you need to send out notices in Spanish or any other language. The reason being that this is something required by both the Federal and California Constitutions. There is nothing at all about selling heroin to schoolchildren in Proposition 218, either. But that hardly makes it right.
It's amazing how little our friend Patchy understands.
Over on the Sierra Madre Weekly site Cumquat photographer emeritus Terry Miller has also typed up a piece about our administrative claim on the water rate hike. And it would appear that Mr. Miller is yet another local hack that begs for informational kibble at the feet of Ms. Aguilar, and then gets it all wrong.
The Sierra Madre Weekly spoke with city manager Elaine Aguilar Tuesday and she said, "As far the city (sic) is concerned, we are satisfied that we have complied with Proposition 218."
When you consider that it was Ms. Aguilar's personal responsibility to make certain that the City had properly complied with Proposition 218, you can hardly expect her to say that it was incompetently handled, right? I would think so. But that apparently went beyond Terry's cognitive tool set.
And then there is this big hack attack:
As with other claims that the city violated Prop 218, this matter seems to be a last ditch effort by a resident who questions the integrity of the law firm that represents the city's interests. Sandy (sic) Levin has consistently claimed there has been no violation of Prop 218 rules and regulations.
Sandi Levin worked side by side with Elaine Aguilar to make sure that all Prop 218 requirements were met during the water rate increase process. Being one of the Propsy Twins does make her approval besides the point. Of course she is going to claim that no "rules and regulations' were broken. It was her job to make certain they weren't.
But where Terry got this bit about my "questioning the integrity" of Sandi's law firm is anybody's guess. A side effect of too much sunshine, perhaps?
What is being questioned here is the City's initial claim that the water rate hike was required to meet the costs of repairing broken down infrastructure such as old pipes. A claim that was later shown to be completely false when the real reasons for this cost increase, aging bond debt and mending damaged bond ratings, were exposed here on this site.
Something I suspect Terry would never write about because it would indicate that the objects of his (hopefully) unrequited affection, John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, would have to be held responsible. Thus the rancorous misdirection and malarkey about the law firm.
One more thing. On the Patch site someone posts their belief that if I sue the City, it will because I want money. This is not true. I am asking for no such thing. What I am asking is for the City Council and certain City Staff to finally admit the truth about how they asked the water rate payers of this City for more of their money under decidedly false and dishonest pretenses. And if it takes a trip to a Courtroom to make that happen, so be it.
Thank God it's Friday.