I kind of prefer ALF. It certainly does have a sort of situation comedy kind of feel to it. But doesn't this sudden change also go along with an ongoing theme of renaming everything involved with this project? "ALF" becomes "The Kensington." "Units" become "Suites." "Parking Lots" become "Bus Stops." And so forth. Perceptions being very important when you are trying to sell something.
Speaking of those afflicted with public relations tone deafness, did you know City Hall is actually proposing that the City Council authorize an "advisory only vote" on the ALF? I am not kidding. Having trundled on down to the library to read the Agenda Report on this matter for tomorrow night's meeting, I can now say without any fear of contradiction that City Hall believes that such an advisory vote only on the ALF (in place of an authentic and binding Measure V vote, which is what the law demands) is just fine and dandy. Which makes you wonder if anyone working there understands what the term "advisory vote" actually suggests to a lot of people in this town. Trust me, it is hardly anything pretty.
As those of us who lived through it all know, "advisory vote" is the term that Joe Mosca used when he broke his major campaign promise made to those who first elected him to the City Council in 2006. Joe ran on a slow growth platform, and repeatedly professed his undying opposition to the Downtown Specific Plan, a highly unpopular development scheme that, had it happened, would have turned our unique city center into ersatz generic and property value killing crap.
This DSP had created such an uproar in town that it swept Joe, along with Don Watts and Kurt Zimmerman, into office. With the old regime being quite unceremoniously tossed out on their highly indignant keisters. And one of the things that Joe Mosca had promised his supporters was that he would strongly support a call for a citywide vote on the DSP. Which, given the mood of Sierra Madre at the time, would have then gone down to a resounding defeat.
However, when Councilman Joe Mosca was asked in an official City Council setting whether he would open up the DSP question to a binding referendum for all the people of Sierra Madre to vote upon, as he had promised so many times when campaigning for that office, he flipped. He said he would not. What Joe did say is that he would instead support an "advisory vote." Which is a vote that would hold no legal sway over the City Council, instead being something very much like an opinion poll. A beauty contest that could be easily ignored should the Council decide to do so.
The outrage over Joe's treason was so great that Measure V was created, put on the ballot, and voted into existence by the voters of this town. Something that cost this City huge sums of money in legal and associated costs, created divisions within the town that still exist today, and led to an attempt to recall this profoundly faithless Councilman. None of which would have happened had Joe just kept his campaign promises.
There is a video of Joe's betrayal available on the Neuroblast Films site, and you can access it by clicking here. It is a classic clip of Mosca at his double-talking worst. That the term "advisory vote" will be used on the same evening that Joe Mosca is bidding Sierra Madre a much needed adieu is quite a remarkable irony. His career is ending just like it began.
Measure V is a voter approved initiative that gives the citizens of this town control over much of what can and cannot be built downtown. And if a project is too large, under Measure V the residents have the right to vote on it. It is the law, and as such it must be followed. And yes, by law that vote would need to be a binding vote. Not one of Joe Mosca's watered down and useless "advisory votes."
So it is with a sense of awe at the sheer unadulterated gall of it all that I am posting the language contained within the City Council Agenda Report actually suggesting that a Measure V vote on the ALF should be a non-binding "advisory vote." Their reasoning being that a real and binding vote would just be entirely too complicated and time consuming for them to execute. Better to just put on a show vote and tell people to get over themselves.
The City Council could submit the proposed Kensington Project Specific Plan to an advisory vote of the electorate at the April 10, 2012 election because an advisory vote does not require prior compliance with CEQA. Accordingly, there is sufficient time to prepare a ballot measure in compliance with the process described above, by the January 13, 2012 deadline.
Such an advisory ballot measure could read: "Should the City of Sierra Madre approve the Specific Plan regarding the former Skilled Nursing Facility property in the Central Core Area, available for public review at cityofsierramadre.com. Another example of an acceptable advisory measure would be: "Should the City of Sierra Madre complete the public review process and thereafter take the legally required steps to authorize the demolition of the former Skilled Nursing Facility, and allow the construction of a new assisted living facility in its place?"
While an advisory measure is not legally binding on the decision of the City Council, an advisory vote of the electorate constitutes strong public opinion - in addition to the public participation and comment offered at City Council meetings - on the desirability of a given policy decision.
This is, of course, a lot of nonsense. Measure V is the law, and because of this the true decision making power in this matter lies with the people of Sierra Madre. What is described above is being done in hopes that this power can somehow be taken away from the voters and handed over to the City Council instead. In effect stealing from the people of this town their right to vote on downtown development issues, and in elections that actually mean something.
And look at it this way. How can the electorate vote on something when the plans are not finished, it hasn't gone before the Planning Commission, or the CEQA review has yet to be created? Should people be compelled to give their vote to something when there is very little of substance that actually describes what it is they are approving? And who is to guarantee that once tacit voter approval is given that the actual plans, when completed after the fact, won't depict something that nobody would actually want to see in this town?
The thing is should the ALF be put to a proper Measure V vote, it will most likely pass. People want to see something viable built in place of the dilapidated Skilled Nursing Facility. But somehow City Hall just can't stand the notion of people exercising their rights to vote on this matter. And instead would rather issue a lot of divisive and potentially destructive extralegal nonsense such as calling for a meaningless "advisory vote." When the law specifically says otherwise.
All of which once again shows that this regime, as it is currently constituted, is anti-democratic in its instincts and actions, and will attempt just about anything to limit public participation in the important decision making processes affecting this town. Even when it is the law.
You really do have to wonder who it is these people work for. It certainly isn't the taxpayers.