Saturday, April 9, 2011

If the City's Government Shut Down, Would Anyone Miss It?

As anyone who watches cable news can tell you, late last evening the Federal government barely averted a shutdown by passing a "stopgap budget measure" that will keep the behemoth lurching about for another five months. At which time we will then be treated to yet another dramatic episode of our vast and highly dysfunctional national government at work and play.

Now as horrifying as most talking heads made the prospect of a government shutdown sound, not everyone was seeing it quite the same way. The Libertarian Party, a political organization that viewed this impending cataclysm (as opposed to all those other cataclysms making the news every day) differently, spoke out on the matter. This from a Ventura County blog called 95 Percent Accurate:

Libertarians: Make Shutdown Permanent - As the federal government shutdown began today, the result of negotiations hung up on nonbudgetary items such as abortions and global warming, the Libertarians issued a statement asking Americans to imagine what a wonderful world a permanent shutdown might produce.

"The world would enjoy peace as we withdrew our forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Our government spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. Millions of industrious men and women who work for the military and its contractors could be focusing on building up our economy, rather than tearing down others," said Executive Director Wes Benedict. "Crime would plummet as the government's War on Drugs ended, no longer sustaining a giant violent black market and overfilling our prisons."

Now we here at The Tattler enjoy considering all sorts of political opinions, especially those which make us laugh. But that said, and as far as this blog is concerned, we don't speculate too much about national issues. There are literally 10's of thousands of news entities that do, and it is our opinion that the world will somehow survive if we butt out of that. So instead we concentrate on local news, something that not quite so many cover. And if you take out the two or three lifestyle publicity release publishers that pass for news venues in this town, we just might be the only one here in Sierra Madre.

But the idea of a permanent local government shutdown is an intriguing one. Probably not realistic, I suppose. But it must be asked, what would the actual consequences be for the average working taxpayer?

Not to be entirely facetious, but I'm not sure I can think of very many. I guess we'd miss the Police Department. Somebody has to lock and unlock the gates at Bailey Canyon Park. Then there are the Paramedics. Of course, most of the Fire Department is volunteer, so I don't think we'd be missing out on too much there. Is it possible that we could have volunteer Police and Paramedics as well? I'm sure there are people who might enjoy doing such a thing. Certainly would be a great way to give back to the community.

I suppose the Water Department is important. Of course, the way that one has been run into the ground over the years, I'm not too sure if it would matter very much at this point. And it could always be sold to a private operator. One that might assume all that bond debt plus fix a pipe every now and then.

But beyond that, what is there to miss? Besides a lot of fees, permits, development advocacy, debt and other ongoing annoyances? And look at it this way, they can't even bring in a 4th of July parade at cost. How is City Hall going to even survive the economic challenges of the future?

Imagine, a world where you don't have to pay a fee to reserve a picnic table. Free the people, man.

At Least One Part Of Our Economy Is Booming: Traffic Tickets

The Pasadena Star News ran an interesting study earlier this week dealing with the increased amount of traffic tickets being issued lately by the California Highway Patrol and their local Police Department counterparts. Apparently those increases have been vast, leading some observers to speculate on why that might be.

Here is what the PSN had to say:

The California Highway Patrol and local police officers issued 110,000 more traffic citations in Los Angeles County last year then they did at the start of the economic recession, and a Sacramento attorney is questioning the timing. In fiscal year 2006-2007, officers wrote 1,746,852 tickets countywide, according to data from Los Angeles Superior Court. Last fiscal year they wrote 1,857,825.

Statewide, the CHP issued about 200,000 more tickets in 2009 than 2007, CHP officials said. The CHP attributes the increase to more officers on the highway and new cell phone laws.

But Matthew Becker, an attorney who specializes in traffic cases, said cash-strapped state and local lawmakers are looking for ways to generate revenue. "The policymakers are sticking more officers on the street knowing the officers will generate more tickets and more profit," he said. "It's not so much a safety issue, but hey, it's bringing in the bucks."

Now the anecdotal evidence here in Sierra Madre would support Mr. Becker's contentions. We certainly have put more police on the streets. It is also pretty much accepted wisdom here in town that tickets are being handed out in greater numbers than ever before. And with all of this kooky "zero tolerance" talk we're hearing so much about this month, you can certainly sense the possibility that an even more serious effort to realize increased traffic ticket revenues is in process.

Which could lead to speculation that tax revenues are heading south again this year.

Update On John Shear

Got a note from Diane Shear, and the progress John has been making is nothing short of remarkable. Here is what she had to say:

John got a very good report on x-rays that were taken yesterday afternoon. He's healing well. He looks great and he will be home in a few weeks, maybe sooner. Huntington Memorial Hospital took some great photos of him a week ago Friday. They will use them in their monthly publication. They will also be sending them to the Los Angeles Times, either for an article or for one of their full page ads for the hospital. We are encouraged by this, and we are so grateful for the care John has received at Huntington Memorial.

John Shear's many friends at Santa Anita Racetrack filmed a video wishing him their very best, and put it up on YouTube. Written by John's friend Eddie Cunningham and entitled John Shear Hero, you can check it out by clicking here.

Have a great weekend!


  1. In a world fraught with war, disaster, and untold horrors, it is with gratitude to the family of John Shear that they keep us updated on his progress. John represents a warm bright spot of heroism and courage. His healing is shared not only with the Santa Anita community, but Sierra Madreans, and folks around the county, the state, past the first star and on till morning. Thank you for sharing Diane's note Sir Eric. And my family[s continuing thoughts and best wishes for John Shear and his family.

  2. Thanks for posting the YouTube link, Crawford.
    John is progressing well, he will likely be coming home next week or the week after.
    My family sure appreciates all the prayers and well wishes for John's recovery.

    Best regards and a good weekend to all:
    Diane, John, Mike, and Sherry, Gracie.

  3. PS
    want to mention the elementary school classes in Covina, Torrance, Monrovia and SIERRA MADRE SCHOOL who sent John packets of their hand made get well cards.
    These are priceless and John just loves them all.
    These children are awesome, several of our family members read these in John's hospital room yesterday and were very touched and entertained! John and I will personally thank these children and their teachers when he comes home.

  4. Wonderful video for "Little John."
    God speed Shear family.

  5. Sierra Madre is a traffic ticket based economy. The SMPD should consider joining the Chamber of Commerce.

  6. Libertarians and Communists both make the same mistake - they think that people are better than they really are.

  7. I do like the Libertarian idea of decriminalizing personal behavior. Think of how much money is spent at all levels of government trying to get people to adhere to certain government imposed modes of behavior. Let the marketplace deal with it. After all, we are supposed to be a free people.

  8. Intriguing idea Tattler. Just what do we need at city hall?
    1) police, fire, paramedics
    2) one clerk to bill and collect for the water
    3) one clerk to answer phones and give out information
    4) one clerk to manage the pool needs for kids and seniors
    5) one clerk to manage activities at the senior center, especially the important lunch service
    6) we do need a PLANNING DEPARTMENT (not DEVELOPER SERVICING) with a few clerks to check plans
    7) a clerk in public works to hire workers as needed, giving priority to the guys in the park. They're already here and can be contract labor, so no big ticket expenses.

  9. I was in the Libertarian party for a few years, believing strongly that as long as we punished 'victimless crimes', the real criminals were making money hand over fist. Still think that's true. But the Libertarian pillaging of the natural environment in Alaska is enough to make the NRA think green.

  10. walking his talkApril 9, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    John Shear has done more good than he knows.
    All of the children who made him cards carry around with them that children matter, they matter so much that this brave man risked his life for a little girl.
    Little guy, big impact.

  11. Brilliant synopsis 2 cents. Case in point, Mr Shear's heroism was not dictated by "the marketplace."

    To paraphrase another poster his heroic action was inspired by "imposed modes of behavior."

    Imposed maybe by Shakespeare or Twain, or by a father or mother, or a heroic 4th grade teacher, whose inspiration was not part of the lesson plan, but part of a great (and disappearing) moral system.

  12. Time to Organize - and yes, I am in!April 9, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    City governments like ours are the product of decades of empire building. Each person who comes into a position of influence sees how things can become a little bigger and, in their minds, a little better, and more people are hired for the new positions that are created. The cumulative effect is what we see here in Sierra Madre, a fiscally maxed out City Hall is now doing whatever it can to lay its hands on the money it needs to sustain itself at its present bloated level. The result being more bonds, which the G4 "Liars Choir" will start pushing for in earnest once Buchanan takes over from the woefully inept Mr. Mosca. This is all about survival from Cirty Hall. What we need to do is cut them back to a financially manageable level. Which means we must stop the bond sale cold. Nothing could be more vital.

  13. Hey,If the City wishes to collect some additional revenue,come up into the Canyon!It's the Wild West up here.Parking violations everywhere!Most of the "No Parking Signs" have been cut down by residents.Maxi trucks that exceed the posted LOAD Limit is ignored.Enforcing the vehicle laws on the books would help the city and would be a relief to most of the residents!Do your job!

  14. I don't know, 11:11. What would the Mary's Market Mafia say?

  15. I am sure the Libertarians can handle the "goons" terrorizing Dodger Statium. And lets do away with medical research. Perhaps the coming epidemic (yet to be named) will, like the plagues of the past, eliminate any need for any governnment action. What fools we are!

  16. how about a zero tolerance for incompetence on the SMPD

    we'd have to fire 97% of the force

    at least nobody has been shot in the back recently but Officer Amos but give him time....

  17. How about zero tolerance for lying about the reason for a water rate hike? Probably the only person left in that place would be the nice lady working at the front counter.

  18. The city likes to think of itself as being at the center of everything in town.

  19. Hitler and Stalin were such understanding and compassionate fellows, I'm positive they would have respected our Libertarian paradigm back in the day..Britain,France,Poland..etc..they would have appreciated the Libertarian view on things...GOD BLESS THE USA!

  20. You don't have to look any farther than the Community Services Department to see empire building. They are top heavy to the max. And since when do we need two or three city staff to run a meeting? At the General Plan Update Committee, you have three plus the attorney. In my mind, only one would do.

  21. Y'all have to recall that should we do the sane thing and whittle that failed Community Services department (read Rec.) down to an appropriate size for the size of our town, we have to return 1 million dollars to LA County.
    So who was the genius who got us into that bad deal?

  22. I usually agree with the Mod of the Tat, but not on finding the zero tolerance about talking on cell phones and driving as "kooky".
    I've had to drive defensively way too many times when the operator of the vehicle coming my way is engrossed is some sort of conversation.
    You'd think it's life or death on the phone, but it's more likely to be a sale at Ralph's.
    Or a new Tattler article that is causing an uproar.
    Don't talk on the damn phone and drive. Most people just aren't that talented.

  23. I agree BTIce. Extremist positions, whatever the philosophy or religion or habit or, extremism gets us nowhere.
    That said, the Libertarians are absolutely the clearest thinkers on criminal justice.

  24. I called Chief Diaz from my car while driving past the Police Station.

    I told her I loved her.

  25. I called Joe Mosca while driving past city hall.

    I told him I love his blabbering and wonder if John will blabber more or less.

  26. I called Joe Mosca and wished him well in his new job in Sacramento. He said it was all a Tattler April Fool's Day joke. I was heartbroken.

  27. A city government shutdown's consequences is worth speculating.
    It could be a true cost saving idea, along with going into insolvency.
    What would happen to police, fire, and paramedic service? My guess is they would be taken over by the county.
    No real need to have city paid staff, all would be absorbed by the county. Including all the padded and lucrative retirements,.. the dirty little secret no one talks about.
    The bond obligation would have to be picked up and absorbed by the county.
    The recreation center overhead would be a county funded obligation, including repairs and modernization costs.
    Of course many local private entities, and non profit group overhead costs such as parades, street fairs, etc. would have to be paid for by the groups that sponsor them.
    Zoning issues would still be controlled by local groups, as now done in other unincorporated county areas.
    Water department costs, repairs, and upgrades would be in the hands of the county, our water bonds would become county obligations, a veritable drop in the bucket (haha).
    The citizens would have as much to say about government policies and zoning issues as they do now.
    Sounds awful don't it ?

  28. It doesn't have to be that dire. How about a volunteer city run government? The city council are volunteers, how about a highly skilled retiree taking over the job of city manager? Finance director, whatever it is Inman does? As much as these positions are presented as such, none of this is rocket science. There are plenty of people in town with the talents and skill set to do those jobs. We could get our city government back from those who are now running it for outside interests. Pay down the bond debt, lower taxes, and run a city that puts its taxpayers first.

  29. Out of the ashes....

  30. Since our budget in Calif and across the nation is so dire why not the city council stop taking any money and volunteer their services. And, since when is it so necessary to pay a permit for a parade, a picnic table or a street fair. We have long asked what in the world does Bruce Inman really do that is worth the money?

    It is an insult to all of us for another fire person to receive a nickle of our taxes, or to have anyone pretend to be a consultant when there is nothing to discuss, when well informed people are already volunteering together for the good of the future of this town.

    People in California are loosing their jobs, have lost their homes and the Sierra Madre Government suddenly has money to spend on useless expensive jobs!!

    Show us some reality and show me the books where you receiive my tax dollars and yes "put taxpayers first, not your sleazy outside intersts."


  31. Sierra Madre is blessed with many talented retired people. Why not offer them real jobs with real responsibilities? They already have pensions, so think of the costs the city would be saved. The idea that we have to hire outside professionals to do this work because we are incapable of doing it for ourselves is a destructive one. With outside professionals come outside interests. We end up paying people who don't work for us.

  32. The Highland and Hermosa project is a classic, the attempt to use "other people's money" to fund more development for profit. However, the smaller desired development proposal, with satisfactory EIR compliance, could be a good model for the kind of development that the city's residents might find very acceptable, so I wouldn't totally demonize it. It could be the first Sierra Madre "pocket neighborhood" (link above)

    Accepting this kind of urban infill would go a long way towards making the "slow-growth" model very palatable to most of the residents, and then the developers couldn't claim they're being totally shut out. That's asking for the lawsuits that we're starting to see from the development community in Sacramento due to SB 375.

    Projects reviewed with established community design guidelines (findings) and denied due to scale/impact issues (overscaled), which are upheld on appeal all the way up through CC (there's your problem), will hold up at the State Supreme Court level. The necessary process is a very clear and accepted precedent.

    Has the City adopted design guidelines that model the requirements for this kind of "pocket neighborhood"? It would be a good start. Perhaps Planning Commission could use these ideas as a rule of thumb until the guidelines are adopted and published by the City. That way it's not arbitrary.

  33. All good I guess, PN. But what the city promises and what it delivers are often two very different things. The big issue here is trust, not proposed good intentions. Remember, these are the same people who told us the water rate hike was to fund pipe repairs.

  34. we don't trust themApril 10, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    If the development were to proceed in the way described in Pocket Neighborhoods, it would be a good result. But as 11:10 points out, there is no faith that 4/5 of our current council would hold true to any of the good ideas about the development. That means that the Highland Avenue neighbors are going to have to hold 8/10 of the council feet to the fire.

    Significantly, as far as I've heard, nobody said word one about deed restrictions or covenants.

  35. Bill Tice presented the city with a great idea on how to manage city hall - turn it into a training institution.

    Have a couple of hired personnel and the rest be students who were learning about city government.

    Most people just use Sierra Madre as a resume builder anyway.

  36. slow growth advocateApril 10, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Development is necessary, changes can be good, growth requires the new.
    "Zero growth" is not a practical or desirable possibility, and the only time it comes up is when the pro-development folks are accusing the slow growth folks of promoting it.
    If we don't find ways to have positive development, the wicked among the development community (and there are plenty of those) will lawyer up and sue us into things we would never agree to.
    So the balanced perspective Pocket neighborhoods is presenting needs careful consideration.

  37. I like that, 11:38. Plenty of kids right now are having trouble getting started in this rotten economy. What better place than to turn City Hall into a launching pad. And you're right. People from other towns do that all the time. Why don't we ever seem to hire our own?

  38. I think the Times reported that 208 CA government entities increased their pensions and salaries over the last two years. No recesion at Ciry Hall :( !

  39. Sierra Madre goes downhill making speeding easy.
    Sierra Madre has beacoup drivers talking on CP's and texting while driving (easy to spot). Many Sierra Madre drivers roll right through the stop signs and challenge pedestrians with their behemouths. Rude is here right in Sierra Madre. I have endorsed and supported much of the agenda in the Tattler but I draw the line at unsafe and flagrant violations of reasonable driving laws. Let the Sierra Madre Police roll until the laws are obeyed.

  40. Let's get rid of the costs a lot of money....

  41. That first line of 4:33 is hoot, the line could have read "Sierra Madre goes up hill making speeding hard" all depends on your perspective now doesn't it?


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