Friday, March 4, 2011

Clearing Up A Few Misconceptions Regarding the Water Rate Protest

All the usual suspects are now writing about our water rate tussle with the City, and as is their wont they're just not getting very much right. Whether intentionally or not, they just don't seem to have either the desire or ability to achieve even a small modicum of accuracy. Which means that we here on The Tattler get to have some fun while fulfilling our quota for another day's worth of blogging. All with the kind of precision snarkage our readers have come to expect.

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.


  1. When I read that Patch article, it was difficult to tell what was true or not true. Orwell, anyone? Then I hit the part about Crawford wanting money and it immediately occurred to me that a lawsuit for defamation and slander would accomplish exactly that.

  2. To read Patch or the Sierra Madre Weekly you practically need a Phd in clinical psychology.

  3. Another morning, another Tattler article, another reason to believe.

  4. Stephens gets 3 very ignorant comments, and then gets on himself and begs for more. Pretty pathetic.

  5. Fact Checking is a beautiful, endangered art, and thanks to Mr. Crawford for this excellent example of patient attention to detail and accuracy in exposing slander and manipulation.

  6. A heartfelt thanks from a long term resident of Sierra Madre.Many of us knew or suspected "something was rotten in Denmark",and thanks to you we now know why.The dismal and wretched performances by our "Power Elites" has been revealed and exposed by you.It is now the responsibility of all the concern residents to support you and your hard working supporters in the efforts to put things "Right and In Order.

  7. Terry Miller is saying "It is so because city hall says it is so"

    He's a great photographer. Not so much in the writing/thinking part.

  8. If any of you had the burden of churning out the search engine bait kind of volume that Stephens does for that $50,000 a year, you wouldn't have time to read your own site either.

  9. You'd think that with all their money the DIC would scrape together
    a few bucks and hire themselves a news writer that can type and think
    at the same time.

  10. What is puzzles about the Patch site is the total lack of investigative spirit. The editor is young, the writers he buys stories from seem to be young also, but none of them appear to have heard of the expression "Question Authority." Odd that they rush to accept the validity of remarks from people who clearly must adhere to their own agendas - and no doubt, lawyerly imposed restrictions on their speech. If the Patchians are complacent about power structures now, just imagine when they become older!

  11. 8:44, don't be to bring ya down, but the Dirts have never had a writer who could think and type, and they won anyway.

  12. Tragic Emo VictimMarch 4, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Nobody can understand my life and everyone is wrong except me.

  13. I am not sure that AOL encourages independent thinking from its hires. They are closely monitored and must abide by very stringent rules. That is why the site is so lacking in authenticity.

  14. The Aol local is new to town, and just doesn't get it.

    Maybe he cannot resist going after the men he sees who are smarter than he is, and wants to be friends with the people who make him look smart.

  15. Is anyone from Aol looking at this stuff?
    How many errors sans retractions are they going to put up with?
    That could get expensive, and since Patch exists to pump up the coffers, some effective corporate monitoring better step up.
    Not catching Aquilar's slight of hand regarding the language issue was a real sign of recklessness.

  16. Q) How many tragic emo victims does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A) Why should we? It's not our fault.

    Q) How do you get a tragic emo victim out of your tree?
    A) Tell him you don't care about his feelings.

  17. "stupid is as stupid does"

    Forest Gump summed it up perfectly.

  18. Tattler, nice exercise of restraint in calling these errors 'misconceptions.'

  19. Understatement sometimes speaks the loudest.

  20. Seems to be an uptick in nativist sentiment on the Patch today. Might
    have found a previously underserved niche market.

  21. Anybody smell burning wood?

  22. When I try to log in to the Patch I get a message with a large red stop sign that says "Unsafe website detected". This message popped up last night and again today. I guess my spam guard also sees something fishy about patchy.

  23. Your computer probably senses that AOL is trying to suck every
    possible bit of your identity out of it.

  24. Just posted the gobble gobble comments from yesterday on the Patch as reply to Stephens, it will probably only be there a few minutes.

  25. what is the city manager and mayor and buchanan going to say to the local yokel press release copiers?

    something like?

    "sure, we all know that we lied to the residents of Sierra Madre about the intial and secondary reasons for the water rate hike and sure, it was never about rusty pipes and while we knew we were skating the legalities of 218...even our attorney said we were in the gray areas and sure we lied over and over again at the request of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp who had their secret projects attached to the bogus water pipe emergencies....and sure we all on the inside knew that previous Councils of our most prominent busybody citizens had put is in 18 million dollars in bond debt and we were trying to hide it and sure, we lied about it but then with 218, we didn't think the residents would be paying attention and by gosh, it's our right as city employees and even the Council majority to do what we want and we really didn't care what the residents think - they are just a pain in our collective rear ends...." end quote

    let's stop giving the Patch any recognition, it's a hack website run by a kid just out of the esteemed PCC College of Journalism who makes up quotes and facts - just like Susan Henderson and the discount photograhper / editior Terry Miller.

    Let's see, do I give respect and credence to...The Patch...Terry I'm a Photographer Miller and Susan I've got 7 fake college degrees Henderson...PR rep Joe Mosca...Workman's Comp lawyer John Buchanan...Josh I'm Civil You Dipship Moran


    Kurt Zimmerman

    I'll choose Kurt and figure everything the Dirt Patch, the Weakly or Susan Henderson writes is a lie and total BS.

    In today's environment of gutter ethics at local cities, it's amazing the sheer arogrance of our Mayor and Council maajority.

    To think, they lied - lied somemore - continued to lie and when caught, glosses over their lies like jelly.

  26. i've taken an impromptu survey of neighbors and friends and asked where they find out what is going on in town and none said they are regular readers of the local newspapers or even heard of the Patch

    surprisingly, several has heard of this blog

    most just hear word of mouth

    so tell everyone that the Mayor, John Buchanan, City Manager, City Attorney and two other Councilmembers LIED to us and are covering their tracks

    now the Council is just passing off the water rate hike as a small fee and other nonsense and while this may be somewhat true

    the fact remains is that our neighbors, elected officials LIED to us and made up emergencies to hide their real agendas

    and why should our Council and city staff have to follow the state consitituion? just pesky little legal matters and respect for resident rights have no place with our Council majority and staff.

    I still haven't heard John Buchanan explain why he was pushing a secret project of securing funds to build a new library and telling us to our faces that the reason for the water rate hike was that our water infrastructure was in the verge of immediate collapse...and this was what? a year or two ago and still no collapse?

    is it okay with our residents that our $ 200 a month Council members LIED and LIED and LIED?

  27. That is why this has to go to court. To prove that the lies happened. Then
    the judge's decision will be taken to the people of Sierra Madre.

  28. Yes, 12:57

    That will happen. Be patient Tattlers, we will win this one, and the entire town will know the truth!

  29. The One Eyed ManMarch 4, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Regardless if the legal challenge succeeds, they will spin it as a victory, like they tried to do when they lost to measure V.
    Most of the Luddites in town still believed them anyway inspite of the best efforts of the Measure V supporters saying otherwise.
    If you really want to get an honest message in this town, you have to have a news letter that gets delivered to the town's people.
    That is the long and short of it, otherwise expect to loose on a regular basis.

  30. Just got the eblast from the city about the Walk with the Mayor.
    Guess what? There is no charge!
    Yes, it says that you can ask questions of the Mayor for free.
    Better hurry before the prices go up.

  31. Don't mean to be too uncivil or anything, but the Walk with the Mayor? They'd have to pay me to go, and double to listen to Mosca fumble around with language.

  32. The eblast I have is titled Healthy Family Fun and The Walk with the Mayor, but the text of the email is only about the walk with the mayor. Where did the healthy family fun go?

  33. Free? You mean there are actually people who thought you'd
    have pay to hear his perky patter?

  34. Maybe 1:59, city hall hired a consultant who is recommending a fee structure for talking with the Mayor, and they're trying to ease into the idea gradually by pointing out that it hasn't happened - yet.
    Maybe a package deal with the State of the City shenanigan show.

  35. Hmmm, good point 2:03. Maybe those on the death march will be
    handed informational only invoices with "talking tiers" on them.

  36. Anonymous@2:07, it is bound to be a happy skip along cluster seeking photo ops. Don't know if the realtor ladies will be in heels or not.

  37. Off topic, but lately my kids have been referring to flatulence as tweeting. Has anybody else heard that usage?

  38. My father always used to tell us that we had to say excuse me after we tweeted.

  39. Children can be irreverent at times.

  40. They are also gifted at recognizing phonies, 2:28.

  41. 12:38, that is a great summary of the city council lies, the institutionalization of the lies, the actualization of the lies and finally as you put it, when found out, the glossing "over their lies like jelly."

  42. Probably explains why some people don't like kids.

  43. Just heard that Pat Alcorn has been named the "Older American of the Year" by the Senior Commission. Well deserved!

  44. Congratulations to Ms. Alcorn on her well deserved recognition!

    It's a loss for the town that she's not on the city council.

  45. 1:58, you're not reading the eblast carefully. The Walk with the Mayor IS the first activity of the Healthy Family Fun. Walking is healthy, and in theory, talking with a mayor is fun.

  46. Congratulations Pat!

  47. Suggestion for "The Walk" The Mayor should be allowed 3 minutes to pontificate, then unceremoniously cut off. Moran should be invited to glare and roll eyes. And Walsh can "Pas de deux" for the children. A great time was had by all!

  48. But Pat is jus a kid! I thought the older Americans were, well, old! Sierra Madre is lucky to have a woman of the intelligence, dedication, and authenticity of Pat Alcorn.

    Congratulations, Pat!

  49. I have heard that there will be a full police cruiser accompaniment to make sure the walkers are safe. No word on what that is costing the city.