Which isn't too much out of line with what most people hope for in the country as well. Folks want things solved, and they honestly don't care for a lot of fuss about it. They expect things to get done in as pragmatic and common sense a way as possible. Life in America is still good for the most part. And this is what is important in the minds of most, keeping the life we have here good.
But those who are supposed to initiate and carry through these solutions don't quite see it that way. For many people in government the business of the day isn't just something that needs to be done, it is instead an ideological battle of the most momentous kind. The governing arena is a place where many officials proclaim their position to be the ultimate moral high ground, and as such what they do is so much more than mere problem solving. No, it is a world saving enterprise that only they are capable of seeing through to its triumphal end. And woe to those unworthy ones that dare to stand in their way.
Needless to say, many people in the political world have a fairly high opinion of themselves. As saviors of all humankind as we know it, how could they not?
Now it is hardly my place to attempt to deny anyone the comforts of a fantasy life. I myself believe that I will one day be a lottery winner. I work at it almost as hard as I do this blog. And it is fine for the political class to believe their own malarkey, too. If that's what it takes to get them through their days, fine. You have to believe in something.
But they really ought to get the peoples' work done as well. And unfortunately, given the parlous economic state of our country today, they just don't seem to be getting that part of the deal delivered. Rather it appears that their fantasies of being the saviors of humankind have pushed aside the nuts and bolts business of governing, and as such we have lost our way. Politics has become bedlam, and all the nation can do is stand by and scratch their heads as the crazy train roars endlessly by.
Here in Sierra Madre we had a City Council election last year where things were stood upon their heads. The pragmatic candidates were cast as being radical and out of step with what Sierra Madre wants. And the radical faction, those whose largely unspoken agenda could change the face of this city forever, cast themselves as being the victims of a cabal too uncivil to ever possibly be considered as proper to run so genteel a place.
But what the voters got appears to be something quite different than what was advertised. The candidates of civility have now become quite accusatory and shrill in their ways, and rather than the open and transparent government that was also promised, they have become secretive and purposefully obscure as well. Convinced, I suppose, that only they can properly understand what is needed for Sierra Madre, and how they achieve their goals is none of your business. Yours is to pay taxes and go shopping.
I would argue that Sierra Madre now has the most radical City Council in its history. Enamored of social engineering ideologies that embrace both high-density generic development and our incorporation into a regional form of government where precious assets are shared with those least capable of reciprocity, it isn't what people want for our town. Instead becoming largely indistinguishable from the rest of the valley, both in appearance and in the many problems that often come with overdevelopment.
Here are seven examples of this City Council's radical stances on key issues:
1) The departure of Joe Mosca means that the City Council will need to determine how a replacement will be seated. The law states that Joe's replacement can either be selected by the City Council to serve out the remaining two and a half years in his term, or they can call an election and let the people decide. From all indications it appears that the remaining members of the G4 Council will opt to appoint Joe's replacement, which, in denying the people their right to vote for this particular representative now, will give Sierra Madre its first unelected City Councilmember in its history. The criteria for doing so being they can guarantee having someone in place who will agree with them on issues like development.
2) Denying people their right to a vote is an important theme here. With the Assisted Living Facility going well beyond the 2-30-13 limitations of Measure V, this voter approved city law states that the decision then passes on to the people, who then must make the decision in a citywide vote. But in a blatant attempt to avoid that vote, the G4-1 through its City Manager manipulated the language used to describe this project, and then declared that by calling it something else all approval authority reverts to them. That this is being done to not only reward a developer, but also degrade Measure V as an effective ordinance, seems evident. Again, the residents' right to vote on an important matter would be taken away.
3) Measure U will have to be put back on the ballot in 2012 in order to keep it alive. The reason being is that when originally voted into existence in 2008, a sunset clause was attached so that the voters would be able to review it again in the future. Which is now. When the residents passed the original Measure U, they voted themselves a Utility User Tax (UUT) rate potentially as high as 12%, which is today the highest in the state. It now appears possible that this "sunset clause" will not be included when Measure U goes back on the ballot next April. Meaning that the taxpayers of Sierra Madre will never again get the opportunity to review what is the biggest UUT hit in California. Instead it will become permanent.
4) In her now infamous speech, Nancy Walsh harshly criticized members of the General Plan Update Steering Committee. And in what was perhaps her most paranoiac fantasy, she accused certain members of the committee of saying bad things about the "Governing Body." Something she declared was cause to demand resignations. Consider what she is saying here. In Councilmember Walsh's view, for anyone who has volunteered to work for the City, be it on a Committee or just planting flowers, if you speak poorly of the City Council you need submit your resignation. In other words, when you volunteer to work for Sierra Madre, you give up your right to freedom of speech, and instead must revere the "governing body" in your speech and in your actions. Or you will, in her words, be "taken out."
5) With the support of this City Council, City Staff is now in the process of helping create the necessary governmental procedure for Homeless Housing on East Montecito. Having no homeless problem of our own, as part of our obligations to the notion of "regional government" we could soon be obligated to house the homeless of other cities. Which means that the thousands of homeless people in the San Gabriel Valley will now have a reason to come hang out in Sierra Madre. Downtown will never be the same.
6) Also with the support of this City Council, efforts are now well under way to bring low income housing to Sierra Madre. Citing some of the social engineering edicts of Sacramento as their rationale for doing so, this housing is being considered for some of the nicest places in the City. People who have worked hard all of their lives to gain for themselves a piece of the good life will now be forced to helplessly stand aside while others whose achievements are far less than theirs get to move into their neighborhoods, paid for in part by our tax dollars. Property values will be hit. More punishment to be visited upon those whose biggest crime in life was to work hard, succeed and enjoy the rewards of their efforts.
7) The right of the taxpayers to be told the truth is apparently no longer recognized in Sierra Madre. When this City Council wanted to raise water rates, it told the people who pay the bills that it was necessary to do so in order to fund water infrastructure repairs. When it was later discovered by residents that this was not the truth, the City seamlessly switched to a message that declared the rate hike was necessary to maintain our current bond ratings. Water rates then went up, and our bond ratings were knocked down two notches by Moody's anyway. None of this information was ever voluntarily shared by the City. Rather it was first revealed on this blog.
Voting rights, rights for a say-so in taxation and development, freedom of speech, truth in government, and the ability to control the quality of life in our City. All are now under attack in Sierra Madre. Is this what you thought you were voting for in 2010?
Is it what you really wanted?