Sierra Madre seems to be all the rage in the Pasadena Star News this week. Two big articles so far and here it is only Wednesday. Obviously we must be doing something right. Today's missive from the City of Roses is surprising in its generosity to those of us who enjoy needling the local powers that be. And whether intentionally or not, it appears to me that they may have dropped a bit of a bomb on our usual favorite suspects.
The excitement here deals with Monday evening's State of the City Address as it Reflects Upon Our Mayor speech. And the stark contrast of sunny pronouncements of prosperity with dire reports of possible imminent doom is quite pronounced. Here is the initial quote from Mayor Mosca as reported in the PSN:
Today, I want you to know that despite the unprecedented economic situation that the nation finds itself in, this city is doing very well."
Sounds upbeat. But despite that reassurance about our City's fiscal health, however, later on in this same article we can read the following, and from the same guy:
... General Fund revenues are remaining flat and are not keeping pace with inflation. In addition, the city must contend with sharp increases in pension, health care and energy costs while big infrastructure projects continue to be deferred, he (Mosca) said. Meanwhile, state actions, including potentially eliminating community redevelopment agencies, and the elimination of important COPS and library grants loom as potential obstacles for Sierra Madre and other cities. "For the next two years ... we will also be able to balance our budget, provided the state doesn't take any more of our money away, which they may actually do," Mosca said.
Now there is something here that doesn't coexist comfortably with popular reality. Or at least my perception of it. Community Redevelopment Funds are supposed to be used to build things like low income housing in order to cure restricted areas within a downtown area of blight, plus promote economic activity. And that is pretty much it.
So how can the elimination of the CRA and the liberating of its funds by Sacramento on behalf of things like schools and hospitals affect things like our General Fund budget balance and the City's ability to meet pension and health care costs? All that we should notice happening through the loss of CRA funds is that we can't sustain projects like turning the Old Church into low income housing. It should have nothing to do with things like paying day to day City Hall expenses and salaries.
Unless we actually have been paying for General Fund expenses out of CRA money. Which is, of course, quite contrary to California law. So can that really be what Mayor Mosca meant when he intimated that our budget would be remain balanced if CRA money is not taken away? Inquiring minds want to know.
(The City of San Jose is now in considerable hot water with the State Controller over inappropriate uses of CRA funds. Click here for that story.)
Despite the message whiplash and a potentially awkward revelation from Joe Mosca, this article does finish on a very positive note.
Councilwoman MaryAnn MacGillivray, in an interview following Mosca's speech, said the city is doing as well as can be expected due to its dedicated residents. They always step up and "do the right thing," she said, when given complete and accurate information about the city's needs.
Complete and accurate information that has been, as we have seen with the Mosca-led water rate increase debacle, extremely rare since the Gang of Four rode into town last April.
I hung up on John Stephens yesterday
So I'm driving my kids to their Little League game when my cell phone rings. And who should it be but none other than John "Patchy" Stephens. John, speaking in the husky voice of one undergoing a bit of emotional stress, informed me that he wanted to ask some questions about the administrative claim letter that I had sent to City Hall last week.
And not just that, but he also had a tape recorder running so that he would have an irrefutable record of what I might say. You know, just in case I might later claim to have been misquoted or something.
So, he rather abruptly inquired, could he ask me some questions? "Nope," I replied, and then promptly hung up.
Considering all the dishonest crap this guy ran about me in the Sierra Madre Weekly last spring, or the rank disinformation he posted on Patch recently regarding the Howard Jarvis organization's assessment of the City's Prop 218 water rate increase procedures, what else was I supposed to do?
Besides, shouldn't he have been covering a poodle wash or something? Far be it from me to keep John Stephens from his life's work.
Which reminds me, we are long overdue for yet another informative article about AOL/Patch
Business Insider has an interesting article up right now. It is called: Patch Is A Huge Waste Of Money, And It Has Us Worried About Tim Armstrong's Ability To Run AOL.
This is something a wee bit harsh for what is normally a fairly sedate business site, so naturally we were delighted to see it. Especially when you consider the targeted party of their rather blunt assessment.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong believes that its local blog network, Patch, will be a "major" part of the company's turnaround as it fills one of the largest "white spaces" left on the internet. This belief has us worried about AOL and - not to be rude - Armstrong's ability to run it.
Let's start with the amount of money AOL is pouring into Patch each year. AOL now has about 800 Patch editors nationwide. The number is supposed to swell to 1,000 by year end. Each editor makes $40,000 to $50,000 per year. Add in payroll taxes and some benefits and you have to figure Patch's people alone cost AOL around $50 million each year.
What is AOL getting for this money? About 3 million unique visits per month, according to the New York Times. That is an absurdly small number. By contrast, Gawker Media, with a headcount around 120, reaches around 30 million people per month, according to QuantCast. ComScore says the Huffington Post has 25 million unique visitors each month.
The question that must be driving Armstrong and Patch boss Warren Webster nuts is: Why is Patch's traffic so low?
Critics attack Patch's content as "piffle," too boosterish, irrelevant, or amateurish. All of that may be true, but it's not the real problem.
The real problem with Patch is that no one needs it.
Which is an insightful observation. And since nobody needs it, you might as well just hang up when they call with their tape recorder and agenda. Otherwise you'd just be wasting the valuable time you could be spending with your family, driving to a Little League game on a beautiful Sierra Madre evening.