In the past these affairs were done during the midday hours before such noted civic organizations as the Womans Club and the Chamber of Commerce. This one was held at 6PM on a Monday, which did make it difficult for most work-a-daddies and work-a-mommies to get in on all the fun. But, as most of us know, nothing in this life is ever quite perfect.
However, this wasn't the only first of its kind aspect to what went down at the State of the City shindig last night. It was also the very first time a governmental function here in Sierra Madre ever had corporate sponsors. Southern California Edison, Athens our hard working trash guys, and a legal firm that handles personnel concerns for the City called Liebert, Cassidy Whitmore, coughed up some of the money that made it all possible. A very Washington DC, or even Sacramento sort of way if doing things. Places where lobbyists often perform the honor of buttering the rolls and, as you know, would never dare to dream of asking for anything in return.
So this does bring some ideas to the fore. If Sierra Madre's "State of the City" address can be sponsored by corporations that do business here, shouldn't this notion be flung open to other such concerns as well? A Time Warner Wistaria Festival, Hormel Huck Finn Fishing Derby, Monsanto Memorial Park or Kaiser Permanente Kersting Square would certainly help the City make ends meet at a time when finances have become more and more difficult. And who knows, if the price is right, how about a Sony Sierra Madre? The mind boggles.
The Southern California Edison State of the City Address kicked off with a 30 minute presentation by the 3rd grade children of Sierra Madre Elementary School. They sang songs and did skits based on the themes of brotherhood and cooperation, with the Reverend Martin Luther King serving as an inspiration for what can be achieved in our lives. The kids were enthusiastic, incredibly well-rehearsed and prepared, and clearly happy to be a part of this event. Their teachers and parents should be very proud.
They were also a good portion of the crowd because after they departed there was a lot more space in the room. Out of around 150 people at the start of things the crowd pared down to around 70 to 80 or so, with 30 of them being the City Hall employees who manned (or womanned) designated information stations in case anyone would care to know what's up in their particular field of expertise. The remaining guests were seated at tables that filled most of the available space. There were few new faces as most of them were clearly FoJ ("Friends of Joe").
Mayor Pro Tem John Buchanan, who served as the twinkle-eyed host of this affair, then launched into a speech where he praised his colleague effusively. In his eyes few are as talented, gifted, educated, qualified, hard working, concerned and just plain pleasant to be around than our outgoing Mayor. And the 50 or so political supporters of the Mayor still in the room agreed, and heartily greeted the evening's focus with cheers as he stepped to the dais. This clearly was The Joe Show, and the star of the evening did not disappoint those who had come to see him perform.
As is his wont, Mayor Mosca then proceeded to thank everything that we as Sierra Madreans celebrate everyday as blessings in both our lives here, and as part of this event. The corporate sponsors, the kids who "are just so amazing," teachers, Sierra Madre Elementary School, the Fire Department, various Chiefs, the staff and all the hard work they did to make this event possible, the room, those of you who took valuable time out of your busy schedules to attend, few were either missed or spared. This was followed by a slide show that began with Joe's family ("our City's population has just grown by one,"), and then presented to the attendees projected images of most of the people who he had just thanked, and what they do to make our lives better.
After which Joe thanked them again.
The Mayor then launched into a speech lasting around 12 to 15 minutes that gave a kind of kumbaya view of the City. The theme of the affair, "Working Together the Sierra Madre Way," was obviously very much on the Mayor's mind. This was not what you would call a hard core business presentation on what is up with our town, there were no cumbersome facts, figures or fiscal details shown. Rather those in attendance saw pictures of buildings and firemen, which Joe then spoke about. The word "amazing" was used often, with one attendee attempting to keep track of just how many times that word was used. He lost track.
Joe noted that the budget is balanced because the City runs on property taxes and not sales taxes, though we could use those as well should the opportunity arise. The User Utility Tax has certainly been a blessing for the full service city that we are. He also launched into the need for getting our roads and pipes fixed. The water infrastructure needs seemed to be a well-rehearsed portion of his speech. This unfortunate situation was discussed often last spring when he was surreptitiously selling a rate hike as the remedy for a fiscally embarrassing problem with some aging bonds.
The reference to the roads, obviously a point of passion for the Mayor, confused a few of the more knowledgeable people in the room. City Staff had recently delivered a report that declared our overall street situation to be at a 73.6% "very good to excellent" level, with only 11.4% of our streets being "very poor to failed." While that 11% or so is something that we should tend to and fairly soon, it is not quite a situation calling for this level of focus. Like with much of the over-the-top water infrastructure excitement last spring, you couldn't help but wonder what exactly Joe is trying to sell here. The word "bonds" was not used, which, given some of his past performances, could indicate that he is moving in that direction.
And, of course, the CRA was praised often as being vital to the City's future.
Joe's two biggest achievements as Mayor, the Water Rate Hike and the much anticipated Facebook Page, were then celebrated. The remaining minutes of the Mayor's talk were about how wonderful and amazing it is "to be your Mayor," and just how much he has enjoyed the experience and working with so many (get ready for it) amazing people.
There were no questions.
The guests then finished eating their delicious dinners, drained their glasses, and headed for the door. The entire event wrapped up at 7:30.
Today's Pasadena Star News Article
Though the Mayor did not discuss it at last night's State of the City get-together, the water rate protest is getting some notice out there. The Pasadena Star News is running with an article today entitled "Sierra Madre blogger files claim against city over water rate hike." The blogger in question is not Bill Coburn or John Stephens.
While the PSN article does cover a lot of what we discussed in yesterday's post, it also quotes City Attorney Sandi Levin.
"The fact that the notice raised questions in people's minds indicates that it did exactly what a notice is supposed to do. It's not supposed to provide all the possible information. It's supposed to provide enough information that it causes people to want to find out more, and that's exactly what it did."
I guess if you want people to ask questions about what exactly a rate increase is going to be by completely leaving that infomation out of a Constitutionally mandated mailed notice about a rate increase, then yes, Sandi did achieve her goal. An entire town of people utterly baffled by her work last spring being eloquent proof of that. People most definitely did want to find out more, as evidenced by the vast outpouring of opposition. It is unfortunate that the City did not provide that information when it was legally required to do do so.
But what is equally odd about this quote is that Sandi Levin said it way back in September of last year. Apparently when the Pasadena Star News's always inquisitive reporter Brenda Gazzar called to ask for quotes, nobody at City Hall would give her anything new. Something that suggests they might be going down the (as Richard Nixon put it) "hunker down" route.
Jerry Brown is becoming ... popular?
You'd think that all the Brown bashing being put out by CRA supporters would be having a negative effect on the Governor's political fortunes. But according to ABC News that is not necessarily the case. It looks like people are lining up behind Jerry and his efforts.
According to an Eyewitness News Poll that came out yesterday, Jerry's approval rating is up a full 9 points to 52 percent.
People are starting to get it.