Monday, October 31, 2011

The Looney Views News Has A "Principals" Problem

You should never allow yourself to fall into the trap of over-thinking the obvious. The wildly inaccurate disinformation that Susan Henderson writes and publishes in her paper about matters of importance to this town being an obvious example.

I have heard it said that the reason Susan writes at the simplistic level she does is because that is where her readership lives. Politically clueless and only casually educated, these are the kinds of folks that accept what they read in the Looney Views News mostly because it is in print. After all, if it wasn't true an adjudicated newspaper such as hers wouldn't have printed it, right? And Susan, diabolical schemer that she is, manipulates these gullible people as a service to those who help pay her bills and allow her to live the well-leisured lifestyle she does. Or so the theory goes.

But perhaps the actual reason for this lamentable situation is something quite different. Could it be that Susan Henderson actually operates at about the same level of sophistication as her simple-minded readership? And that the reason she writes the kinds of things she does is because it is all she's capable of understanding?

Susan, who has often falsely claimed that she possesses advanced academic credentials despite never having gone to the trouble of actually earning them (see a disturbing San Francisco Chronicle article on the topic here), is actually very sensitive about her lack of education. And for this reason has constructed elaborate tales designed to disguise the fact that she is apparently only a high school graduate.

Which is nothing to be ashamed of, and you can only wonder why Susan has attempted to hide this fact for decades. To the point where it even cost her the #2 job in the California State Democratic Party. A disgrace that haunts her to this very day.

At last week's City Council meeting the General Plan Update Steering Committee revealed what are known as our community's Vision and Guiding Principles. These include the desire to remain the small and sustainable community we are now, to protect our natural surroundings, and that development be kept under close control. All of which were the results of the hundreds of questionnaires that were filled out by Sierra Madre's residents. Many of whom attended community meetings sponsored by the GPUSC and the City of Sierra Madre. The Principles, as they have become known, truly are the voice of the people.

The article in the Looney Views News covering this get together was called "Mayor Buchanan Calms The Waters - General Plan Principals Accepted." The absurd grammatical error in the headline is comical enough, and does put into doubt Susan's understanding of what really went on at this meeting. Did she actually think that the City Council was talking about the most senior administrators at public schools? And why exactly would they be interested in our General Plan?

But what follows in the article is even more ridiculous. Because all the discussion that took place that evening, the presentation of The Principles, the at times eloquent and impassioned public comment, the deliberations of the Council, even the wacky and decorum deficient rant from Paul Goosebumps, none of that gets barely any mention in this piece. So what is it that Susan spends most of her article discussing?

After listening to numerous speakers who wanted to elaborate on the controversy during public comment, Buchanan reminded the audience that the Public Comment period was reserved for for comments on items not on the agenda and asked that no further comments be made during public comment.

In other words, Susan wrote her article about the most simple and inconsequential portion of the entire meeting. Mayor Buchanan telling people when it would be appropriate to level the boom at Susan's political ally, Nancy Walsh. And why is that? I would venture to say it is because the Publisher of the Looney Views News really wasn't capable of understanding anything much more complex than that.

The rest of that topic must have gone right over the poor dear's head.

We don't know who they are ...

... but the Sierra Madre Tattler welcomes the Walnut Tattler. Check it out by clicking here. Every town needs a Tattler, and it looks like the City of Walnut has now got one.

Everybody have a splendid Halloween.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Former Sierra Madre Mayor Bart Doyle and Others Named In Lawsuit Filed by the City of El Monte

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune is going with a shocker of a story this morning, one that reaches right into the very heart of certain centers of influence here in Sierra Madre.

The article is entitled "El Monte accuses contractor of fraudulently obtaining federal, state and city funds," and can be accessed by clicking here.

This follows several recently published reports that both the FBI and HUD have been involved in the investigations swirling around the ill-fated El Monte Transit Village, pejoratively known as the "Billion Dollar Bus Station." With HUD's concern also centered around improperly used government funding for what has become quite a redevelopment debacle. Here is what the SGV Tribune has for us today:

EL MONTE - The city named three companies and 13 people in a sweeping civil action that lays out a sordid scheme to defraud the city, state and federal government of public money.

The lawsuit centers on two troubled development projects in the city - the expansion of Pacific Place and El Monte Transit Village, both of which were to be built in partnership with the city.

It was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in response to a lawsuit from the developer TV, LLC, which the city contracted to build the El Monte Transit Village - a development of homes and businesses along the 10 Freeway.

An affiliate organization, JT, LLC, was also contracted by the city to build an expansion of Pacific Place, which entailed developing a parking structure, office and warehouse space, according to city documents.

The lawsuit alleges John Leung and Jean Lang controlled both companies, creating them to hide "fraudulent business schemes and criminal activity."

Other people named in the lawsuit, including former Sierra Madre Mayor Bart Doyle, are allegedly associated with "a network of sham entities" that Leung and Lang created to "avoid liability," according to the lawsuit.

As Tattler readers are aware, Bart Doyle is known by many in Sierra Madre as the Godfather of the Downtown Specific Plan, a development scheme that would have turned our unique and colorful downtown area into the kind of generic and lifeless crap that can be found in many cities throughout the area. It took a voter approved initiative known as Measure V to stop this crass and greed driven attempt to destroy much of what makes our foothill village the desirable place to live that it is today.

More on these shocking developments as news becomes available.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

While you probably can't exactly call it a brain drain, this certainly is a significant loss for Sierra Madre's next generation of leadership. And with the impending departures of both Joe Mosca and John Stephens we are now sensing a loss that will take this City weeks to recover from. At least two, anyway. You can only wonder how deeply their near simultaneous departures will be felt in this community. And amongst those who are so moved, what percentage of that overall emotional response will be in the form of relief.

Trained interactive mental health professionals are standing by to help you deal with your loss. Please stay on the line, your call is important. Or, for quick and easy access, you can contact them on-line. And for those of you currently in the "denial phase," do take note, this will happen. Prepare yourself for the eventuality of not having your hand shook each time you venture downtown, or being asked by an earnest young reporter what your favorite brand of sandals might be.

Yes, those days are quickly coming to an end.

In news that stunned dozens, it was announced yesterday on the Sierra Madre Patch that the only editor it has ever had in its one full year of existence, John Stephens, is heading to New York to become the Huffington Post's "Trends Editor." John is careful to point out that this position has nothing to do with tracking new modes in hair design, or whether the people of his generation will be wearing their underpants in or out in 2012.

No, this is about keeping track of exciting new trends in internet behavior. Which, I assume, means he will be grappling with some of the biggest issues of our time, including whether more or less people are indicating their "likes" on Facebook, or what current Twitter postings may be indicating about President Obama's re-election prospects. People have got to know this stuff.

Certainly this is one topic that begs for the kinds of in-depth analysis and profound punditry that Mr. Stephens brought to his reporting on the affairs and foibles of our little foothill nestled village. Of course, one trend John could be tracking is reporting on whether Huff Post's parent corporation will continue to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into fellow AOL property Patch. Which continues to be a serious financial drain to the staggering internet giant. Even the briefest of Google searches show that on-line news speculation about this topic continues to soar.

Then again, maybe in the New York headquarters of AOL Huffington Post doing Google searches is not considered proper behavior, or career enhancing for that matter. Rather all such seeking will need to be conducted on AOL's own search function. Which will cause Mr. Stephens to report on speculation about a new GM vehicle hitting the streets soon called Saturn, and whether the long awaited new Howard Jones album will have its release date any time soon. Occasionally interspersed with annoying "You've got mail!" messages, of course. Most of which will be for Patch email updates dealing with things such as where to get the best prices on poodle currying.

Joe Mosca was observed yesterday morning briskly heading through the Beantown doors to shake hands with the patrons there. This all being a part of his whirlwind "I'm leaving Sierra Madre for a new life in England" campaign. Obviously everyone is just dying to hear about all the details involved in the dramatic changes being made in his life, and yesterday was a bounty of rewarding new information. Apparently it was Joe's last day as an employee of the Southern California Gas Company, an event that needed to be commemorated by an hour or so of feverish news sharing with the latte' drinkers and laptop users assembled at Sierra Madre's premier independent coffee brewer.

That is one of the cool things about Beantown. You never quite know who is going to show up, or what they are going to say when they do. And who knows, maybe today Joe will be in there letting everyone know that it is the first day in his new career of being in-between gigs, and how he is feeling about it.

We still have yet to hear much from Joe about the actual reasons for his departure, that being the realization that his political career is dead in the water, and any real chance for movement up the elective food change has been cleanly and efficiently knifed by the L.A. County Democratic Party establishment. After having asked and been turned down in his request for State Assembly endorsements by practically every high ranking Democratic official in the land, it has become clear that the bloom is now off the lilly of Joe Mosca's once promising political career. Effortlessly tossed aside by the Holden/Hahn political machine.

Of course, Joe could have fulfilled his obligation to those who elected him to a second term by serving out the remainder of his term. But of what use is Sierra Madre to Joe now? The dream didn't pan out as planned, and the real star in the family can no longer be held in check now that Joe's deal has been run to ground. Time to just cut some losses and try for a better result elsewhere.

We all deal with the issues in our lives in different ways. Joe's seems to be making things up, and then hitting the streets to sell it. Which is what we are seeing now. Whether the tale is entirely true or not being a less essential matter.

Two departures, two new lives to be lived elsewhere. And despite what you might have heard, neither will be back I'm afraid. They are both leaving the nest, moving on, and we will soon be nothing more to them but a distant and vaguely annoying memory.

Somehow those of us being left behind are going to survive.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

Board Member Tom Selinske Included In Possible Defamation Lawsuit Against the Pasadena Unified School District

You might recall that we wrote quite a lot about the PUSD Board of Education runoff election last spring between our guy Sean Baggett and the incumbent Tom Selinske. And one of the things written about here on The Tattler was the viciousness of the smears launched by the Selinske campaign and its surrogates against Baggett. In spirit these attacks weren't all that different from the nasty smear campaign we saw here in Sierra Madre made in support of Joe Mosca in 2010. In particular those published in Sierra Madre's city supported adjudicated paper of record, the Looney Views News.

You might want to check out an article posted on this site last March 25 called "PUSD Incumbent Candidate Tom Selinske Gets His Smear On." 85 reader comments are included. You can access it by clicking here.

Perhaps not coincidentally, self-styled maven of civility Joe Mosca endorsed Tom Selinske for re-election early on in that campaign. Baggett, who lost by substantial margins everywhere else, came within a few votes of carrying Sierra Madre.

Two of the charmers that run the Pasadena Unified School District found themselves on the receiving end of some unwanted publicity this week in the Pasadena Star News. But it's not like it wasn't completely undeserved. When the PUSD Board of Education runoff election was going down, there was an incredible amount of smear and defamation used in support of the candidacy of the incumbent, Tom Selinske. Even by Sierra Madre standards this was some pretty rough stuff. And now it looks like there could very well be a $1,000,000 lawsuit against Mr. Selinske, PUSD Board President Renatta Cooper, and the Pasadena Unified School District itself.

Here is how Star News writer Brian Charles (click here) breaks it down:

Former candidate threatens to sue PUSD over "smear campaign" -- Former political candidate Sean Baggett filed a claim with the Pasadena Unified School District, opening the door to a possible lawsuit against the agency and two of its board members. In the claim, Baggett said he was seeking at least $1 million in damages from the district. The PUSD has 45 days to respond to the claim, which was filed Monday. PUSD spokeswoman Hilda Ramirez declined comment for this story, citing potential litigation.

Baggett claims that his opponent in the spring race for the PUSD board, Tom Selinske, as well as PUSD board President Renatta Cooper "engaged in a willful and malicious smear campaign to intentionally defame (Baggett) for political gain."

Baggett and his lawyer Brian Claypool charge Cooper and Selinske's alleged defamation of Baggett cost the one-time candidate more than an election. "I was offered a position for a school up in the Sacramento area to do their special education development," Baggett said. "The offer was given and the human resources department did an Internet search. They said the offer was withdrawn."

Because of two alcohol related misdemeanor run-ins with the law that occurred when he was young man, the Selinske campaign had claimed Baggett would be legally blocked from going onto the campuses he would be administering as a Pasadena Unified Board of Education member. This is, of course, absurd on the face of it because no such law exists for misdemeanor infractions. Which is what these youthful booze related incidents were. Yet it was a charge heard over and over gain during the election, and was even included in Tom Selinske's official campaign literature.

On the Pasadena Sub Rosa website (click here) Wayne Lusvardi summarizes the events this way:

Smear Campaign Against Sean Baggett Haunts PUSD -- Sean Baggett, the former challenger against Tom Selinske for a seat on the Pasadena Unified School District Board has filed a claim with the PUSD in preparation for a defamation lawsuit regarding the smear campaign against him by PUSD Board President Renatta Cooper, Board member Tom Selinske, members of the PEF, and the Pasadena Weekly.

We will be following this story closely here on The Tattler.

One other thing ...

My column published in yesterday's Pasadena Star News has now cracked the Top 10 "Most Viewed" list on their website. Thanks to everyone who has gone there to check it out. Those clicks add up.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today's Pasadena Star News: Sacramento's War On Small Cities

(Mod: I have an op-ed piece in today's Pasadena Star News. It is also being published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News. To link to the article on the Star News site you can click here. It has also been posted below. I have been invited to write for the Star News from time to time on issues that have concerned many of us here in Sierra Madre these last few years. It is a great opportunity and I would like to thank the paper for this kind offer. The Tattler is also tagged with the article, so we could be making some new friends here today as well.)

I've been pondering some particularly fascinating reading from the other evening. If you haven't been able to crack open a copy yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so. It comes from the L.A. County Assessor's office, and what it does is track the average property values of every single town and city in this the grandest county of them all. And their 2011 edition is now available to us all.

What I found particularly intriguing in both this and the previous two editions of this yearly L.A. County Assessor's Office report is that my little town, Sierra Madre, never had a year in the red. Despite the much discussed housing and mortgage crisis that crashed down all around us, we in the Little Giant of the Foothills saw our property value averages creep ever upward throughout this time of troubles. An island of relative safety in a vast sea of woe.

Upon further review I also discovered that there are other towns just like us. Little towns that somehow defied an awful fate. South Pasadena is one example, Walnut another. I couldn't help but wonder why. What is it about towns like these that allowed them to escape the ravages of rapacious real estate decline? And then it dawned upon me. They are all towns that have yet to succumb to Smart Growth, Transit Oriented Development or, the veritable Temple of Real Estate Doom itself, SB 375.

So what is SB 375 you might be asking? This would be the Sacramento imposed "anti-sprawl" central planning regime that is supposed to help save the world from global warming through the building of large numbers of high-density mixed-use condo projects in neighborhoods that are near public transit corridors. Something that you and I might call train and bus stations next to apartment buildings. You know, like where your parents and grandparents lived before they put together a couple of bucks and fled to the suburbs.

The idea here is that if you move suburbanites out of their distant single family houses and relocate them in small highly stacked condo blocks deep inside the urban core, they will gratefully give up their greenhouse gas emitting automobiles and take the local bus to work instead. Buses now being somehow environmentally correct.

I am not kidding you. There are lots of people who believe this theory. And while there aren't too many single family home owners in that category, there are quite a few state planners that are all about it. Many of them with fine government titles, salaries and lots of taxpayer financed influence in the city halls of towns just like yours.

That Sacramento, our dystopian black hole of out of control debt, should be attempting to tell us how we need to run our perfectly fine little towns is a bit maddening. And that this SB 375 style of social engineering is now the law of the land and, in the name of somehow saving humanity through condo construction, is backed up by the full might of our state government is, well, unfortunate.

I like to call it Sacramento's War On Little Cities. A state dictated planning regime that demands we build into our little towns mass generic housing and mixed-use shopping blocks. This being California we are given all sorts of salvation sounding reasons why we need do so. It will help curb greenhouse gas and save the world from global warming being one of them. It will create "social equity" by helping low income people find nice places to live is another.

But if that kind of thing makes you chafe a bit, you might want to consider something else. Places like L.A. County are pretty much built out. There are few places left for the development industry to make dough anymore. And many towns just will not let developers build what they want to build. So what could a troubled industry to do? They got with their appropriate lobbying organizations in Sacramento and had them cozy up with their venal friends in the state legislature and cook up some laws that require little California cities to plan for lots and lots of redevelopment.

Which is where SB 375 really comes from. Paint it as green and planet saving as you like, the real reason it exists is to help developers crack all those nice little cities that have not allowed them to plan to build block upon block of cookie cutter flat top condos and generic shopping zones.

I guess there is some irony to all this as well. The few cities that have yet to succumb to "smart growth" (or whatever you care to call it), now have property values that are on average higher than they've ever been before. Despite the housing collapse. And those that played ball and did all those wonderful things designed to help make the world a better place for all things that live breathe? Awash in the real estate tank, I'm afraid.

It's not that people don't want to save the world, of course. Everyone believes they do. They just wouldn't want to live there.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nancy Walsh Doesn't Have A Whole Lot To Say To The General Plan Update Steering Committee

So I went to the City Council meeting, stayed for the whole damn thing, and now it is late. And I am also developing the bad habit of hanging around afterwards and talking to people. It's like I am getting sociable in my old age. I need to learn to stop that. Life is much too short to be friendly.

The unhappy visage of Nancy Walsh dominated much of this meeting. Speaker after speaker called the woebegone Councilmember out on her bizarre screed from two weeks ago, each rebuke carefully written so that the person delivering it would be sure to tease out every possible nuance of their outrage. Here is a passage from Fay Angus's eloquent and on target reprimand:

In an arrogant, obnoxious personal attack on volunteer members of our General Plan Steering Committee, as well as on a highly respected former Mayor and fellow City Council member, Nancy "we put you in and we can take you out" Walsh shamefully violated the position she holds as a member of the council. Authority is never an excuse for rudeness, nor is it an excuse for misrepresentation of facts. Thank heaven for the integrity of MaryAnn MacGillivray. For her years of experience, her knowledge of city government, and her commitment to the truth, which enabled her to expose the false statements of "we can take you out" Walsh.

It was good to hear Fay's voice from the podium again. She has been busy with various writing projects, and has been kept away from the Council Chambers by her work. But last night she was back. It is always a pleasure hearing the English language used so well, and to such an important effect.

Three gentlemen from the General Plan Update Steering Committee were in the house, and their PowerPoint delivery of the Vision and Guiding Principles Report was handled with skill and aplomb. Colin Braudrick, Ed Miller and John Hutt did the honors, and when they were finished even John Buchanan admitted finding the information shared to be "useful and workable."

Which is quite a statement when you consider that what several hundred respondents to the GPUSC's questionnaires said they wanted for this town is the polar opposite of anything the development happy Buchanan has been trying to make happen here these last 7 years. The voice of the people was heard, and its roar was unmistakable. All that the Gang of 4 (minus Josh, who was absent from this meeting) could do was sit and meekly accept the judgement of the people. It was a very rewarding scene to watch.

One thing that I found to be interesting was Nancy Walsh's response to the GPUSC. Or, perhaps I should say, lack of response. It was only two weeks ago that Nancy railed loud and long from a prepared speech about supposed secret meetings, Brown Act violations, and other equally ridiculous charges. But last night, with actual members of the GPUSC in the room, Nancy couldn't seem to find anything to say. Never said a single word, actually. Very curious. You'd think that if she really believed herself to be right she would have said so then and there. But no such words were forthcoming.

You'd almost have to conclude that Nancy Walsh is lacking in the courage of her convictions.

The Utility User Tax (UUT) extension was the next item of any real importance. Unfortunately, it was also something that Joe Mosca felt he had the need to go on and on about. Joe couldn't keep himself from repeatedly recalling the first time Measure U was on the ballot, which he kept insisting was in 2007. John Buchanan, apparently growing tired of hearing Joe, finally corrected him, informing the congenitally chatty departing Councilmember that Measure U was actually first passed in 2008.

Sierra Madre's UUT rates, which, if you factor in the number of categories actually taxed, are the highest in California. These sky high rates are also the product of voter approval. They were first voted into existence so that we could fund paramedic services and give the Sierra Madre Police Department a raise. Something that must have seemed like a good idea to the voters at the time, I guess. I know I didn't vote for it.

But when this voter approved rate hike was approved, which could take our overall UUT rate to as high as 12% if so desired by the City Council, it was done with a sunset clause. This means that the voters would have the opportunity to review this lofty level of taxation in four years time. Which, Joe Mosca would be surprised to know, is now. And should they choose to take back what they gave before, our rates would start to decline in the next several years, eventually returning to their 2008 level of 6%.

City Manager Elaine Aguilar mentioned removing this sunset clause as "something the City Council might want to consider." The City Council, however, seemed to recognize that removing this clause from a renewed Measure U would not be politically popular, and could jeopardize its passage in April of 2012. John Buchanan, ever one for fudging on issues such as this one, suggested what he claimed was a compromise. That being extending the sunset clause to a full five years, in exchange lowering the UUT's maximum potential rate to 11%. Which is still an absurdly high rate, and one that has only very rarely been reached by any city in this state's history.

Joe Mosca, ever the fount for unwanted noise, boldly proclaimed that people should have the right to vote on this. And he probably would have continued to do so for a while longer had his colleagues not pointed out to him that the matter of a vote was never in question.

One other issue on the UUT tip came up. A renewed Measure U could go to a vote as early as 2012. Or it could be deferred until 2014. John Buchanan felt 2012 was necessary because it would give the City the option of running the question again in 2014 should the voters decide to give themselves a nice tax cut this time around. Something that I found interesting because this gives us the opportunity to protest our sky high UUT rates in 2012 without doing any real damage. Making a 2012 vote almost like a beauty contest. It would also pressure City Hall to get serious about how much money it really needs before putting the matter back on the ballot for a vote in 2014.

A wake up call to the City being, in my opinion, something that is way overdue.

Besides, I do not see how the voters could make an informed decision in any Measure U election without first knowing about the results of the negotiations with the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association. If they are awarded yet another raise it increases the potential of our rates going to the current maximum of 12%. Which is definitely something to think about.

Due to the time constraints of qualifying this matter for the April 2012 ballot, the topic will come up again in two weeks.

The last issue of any real interest is how to replace the departing Joe Mosca. Hopefully with someone who doesn't talk quite as much, or at least doesn't do so without first knowing what it is he (or she) is talking about. Joe himself left the room at this time, feeling it inappropriate for him to be in on the discussion of how to replace himself. Which he explained at length. Despite that this issue didn't take quite as long as the others.

The City Attorney said the City Council has two options here. The first would be to select someone to take Joe's place for the duration of his term, which endures until April of 2014. The other would be to call a "special election," which would take place alongside the regular City Council election taking place next April. This would in effect put the Council majority up for grabs, setting the tables for denying the Mayorship to current Mayor Pro Tem Josh Moran. Who, in my opinion, has in no way shown himself worthy of such an honor. The so-called "right of succession" be damned.

A number of speakers got up to express their opposition to the selection option, feeling that no merely appointed individual should ever be allowed to sit on our City Council. The argument, that an unelected Councilmember would never enjoy the full legitimacy of an elected one, struck me as being a strong one.

Asked from the podium if an unelected Councilmember would be immune from a recall (which, given the mood of the room last night, seems like a very real possibility) the City Attorney said that would not be the case. An unelected Councilmember could legally be recalled should the voters decide they don't want a merely appointed person sitting on their Council.

This question will also have to come up once again at the next City Council meeting if a "special election" is to make the April 2012 ballot.

An eventful night. And with none of these issues truly resolved, signs of much more to come.

http://sierramadetattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vision & Guiding Principles

Yesterday we quoted a passage from the always oddly skewed Looney Views News, presumably written by its publisher, Harriet Susan Carter Poole Henderson. Presumably because the article, while unsigned, has that certain otherworldly feel you often find in her articles. And we do quote HSCPH here from time to time at The Tattler. And not always for the amusement factor. There is a revelatory factor as well, though not always in the way the paper's publisher intended. It is like she just can't keep secrets and has to let the town know that she is in on some very important things.

Every so often what we read in the LVN is later echoed by certain Councilmembers at City Council meetings. Something that lends credence to the widely held suspicion that much of what we hear from the G4 (now minus one, but who's counting?) is planned in advance. Complete with print marketing. Something that would be of keen interest to a real City Attorney, but unfortunately we don't have one of those.

In the current issue of the Looney Views News, its publisher, Susan Henderson, makes the following statement regarding one of the topics at tonight's City Council meeting:

"One of the most controversial items, the General Plan Committee's "Vision and Guiding Report," will be discussed on the heels of Councilwoman Nancy Walsh's sharp chastising of the committee at the last council meeting. At that time, Walsh asked for the resignation of the committee chair and the council liaison."

When I first read this bit from Susan Henderson I had to laugh out loud at the absurdity of her claims. I had read the General Plan Update Steering Committee's Vision & Guiding Principles Report on several different occasions, and I took Susan and Nancy's assault to be something along the lines of launching a war on Santa Claus. I mean, who hates the Jolly Old Elf that gives toys to children? Apparently some people do, though I cannot for the life of me figure out why. And Nancy Walsh and Susan Henderson literally hate the report that the GPUSC will be sharing with the City Council tonight. But for what possible reasons?

Then it occurred to me that there might be some people reading this blog who have not had a chance to read this report yet. Or at least check out the 5 key points contained within the Vision & Guiding Principles report. And who knows, maybe they read Susan's paper and then somehow believed it all had something to do with being mean to puppies, or tipping over garbage cans in the middle of the night when nobody is looking.

And certainly you won't be reading the Guiding Principles in the Looney Views News. That would be fair and evenhanded reporting, and God knows Harriet Susan Etc. won't be permitting that sort of thing in her paper. No, you will not find any principles there.

So, as a public service, and to dispel some of the noxious gas that has been wildly expelled over this matter, we will be doing something that no other publication here in town has done before. Either dead tree or web based. We are going to print the General Plan Update Steering Committee's five Guiding Principles as included in the Vision & Guiding Principles Report. Written by the members of the Committee themselves. Nine individuals who were picked by two separate City Councils. One of which includes Nancy Walsh herself, oddly enough.

Here they are:

1.) Preserve and sustain Sierra Madre's distinct character as a historic small town nestled in the foothills, but within a major metropolitan area.

2.) Ensure that Sierra Madre is a safe vibrant place to live, work and visit by providing city services that match the needs of the community and promote community engagement.

3.) Protect and be responsible stewards of the neighboring San Gabriel Mountain wildlife, foothills' forest, open space, watershed and all other natural resources.

4.) Promote and develop a strong diversified local economy and a thriving downtown commons, consistent with the needs of the community.

5.) Ensure development is done in harmony with the neighborhood, while maintaining the character of the town and without unduly burdening existing city services and infrastructure or impacting the environment.

Now I must ask you, what is so wrong about any of that? Have things become so jaded and strange in Sierra Madre that something that basically says we need to keep our town the nice place it has consistently been since Lucky Baldwin's day is now "most controversial?" What's next, Nancy is going to lead an assault on kittens?

Plus you do know that each one of the Principles was based on the GPUSC survey results that were filled out by hundreds of Sierra Madre residents, right? Many at the highly attended General Plan events sponsored by both the Committee and the City of Sierra Madre? Attended by all 5 City Council members and most City Hall staff?

I'm telling you, there are Santa Claus haters in our midst.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is the G4-1 Agenda All About Taking People Like You Out of the Governing Process?

There is a revealing passage in this week's Looney Views News. In an article entitled "Council Prepares For Lengthy And Possibly Contentious Meeting," the unidentified author (most likely Harriet Susan Poole Carter Henderson since only she gets to write local political news items in her paper), shares this nugget:

One of the most controversial items, the General Plan Committee's "Vision and Guiding Principles Report," will be discussed on the heels of Councilwoman Nancy Walsh's sharp chastising of the committee at the last council meeting. At that time, Walsh asked for the resignation of the committee chair and the council liaison.

None of what Nancy Walsh ranted about at the last City Council gathering was agendized for tomorrow, so for the purposes of this meeting nothing she said then will have any relevance, at least in an official capacity. Despite Susan Harriet Etc.'s claims. Plus Poor Nancy set off on her tour de farce during a time normally set aside for Councilmembers to report on positive activities they've engaged in that have significance to the community, so it wasn't even delivered appropriately. It was akin to reading obituary notices out loud at a birthday party.

However, since Susan has been made privy to the private policy deliberations of the Gang of 4-1 in the past, there might actually be more to this. Despite the assurances given by John Buchanan and Josh Moran after the previous meeting that they knew nothing in advance about Nancy's tirade, their thinking may have have come around a little.

By responding to the wishes of the entire community rather than just those demanded by the invested interests that strongly influence 4/5's of our City Council, particularly on development and land use issues, the General Plan Update Steering Committee presents something of an inconvenience to them. And the GPUSC's reputation for standing up for the wishes of the residents on over-development, with the City Council being the party whose shenanigans are being stood up to, well, that isn't working for Johnny B and his pals.

So given Susan Harriet Etc.'s reputation for spilling the beans in the past, have we received a little preview of what we are going to see tomorrow night? Will John and Josh (Joe Mosca now being so completely lost in his celebration of himself that he won't likely be interested in this part of the meeting) rally to the beleaguered Poor Nancy and come out to declare that there is only one opinion that can be discussed by volunteer committees in Sierra Madre now, and that is the one they share? And that once you volunteer to join a Committee it is either their way or the highway?

Apparently if Nancy's opinions somehow becomes the official policy of this City Council, volunteers will lose all rights to freedom of speech once they join a Committee in Sierra Madre.

Given the anti-democratic bias of the Gang of 4-1 this does fit a pattern. Their opposition to a Measure V vote on the Assisted Living Facility, the desire to remove (or at least curtailing the effects of) the "sunset clause" from Measure U before it goes up for a renewal vote next April, along with the suspicion that they plan to choose a replacement for Joe Mosca themselves rather than allow the residents to vote like people normally do in democracies, all contribute to the overall impression that they do not want the people of Sierra Madre to participate in their own City government.

Let's face it, Nancy's speech was not a "sharp chastising." It was a boorishly delivered demand that the GPUSC stop talking about things that she and presumably her cohorts on the Council do not want them to talk about. This is most bothersome to them because it has lead to the widely held belief that the GPUSC represents the wishes of the people in this town, and by inference John Buchanan, Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh do not. Which is, of course, true, but the G4-1 hardly wants anyone discussing it. Preferring instead to pay lip service to the "desires of the residents" while behind the scenes hoping to stuff some of the most draconian high-density land use zoning into our General Plan that this City has ever seen.

Which, I guess, is what John Buchanan means by making the hard decisions. Taking away the rights of the people of our town to participate in the governing of this City, and instead concentrating all of that power upon himself and his obedient followers on the Council. All done with the purpose of bringing into existence the large scale development that only a very few here actually want.

It could be that what we will be seeing tomorrow night is a strategy designed to undo the work of the previous City Council. Under MaryAnn MacGillivray, Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts the desire was always to share as much of the power in our City government with the taxpayers as possible. It was never so much about what they wanted for themselves, rather it was always what the community needed.

However, under the secretive John Buchanan we could be witnessing an attempt to concentrate all decision making power back upon City Hall, and by extension himself. In effect taking the residents out of the picture while allowing him to dictate what it is that he feels is best. Or, perhaps I should say, what Edison, along with various other development, realty and home loan outfits, claim is best. Because it is usually their agenda that Mayor Buchanan has in mind.

All of this making what we could be seeing tomorrow night from Buchanan and his acolytes classically reactionary.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our November 8th Election

There is an election coming up on November 8. You do know that, right? You might have received an official notice in the mail and wondered what is going on. I did, and the fact that I knew very little about the candidates or the issues involved bothered me a little. You see, I try and vote in every election. I figure that if people have gone to all the trouble and expense of putting their name on the ballot, and then our election officials send out their fine little booklet so that the voters can be properly prepared to make an informed decision, one that will supposedly affect us all in a meaningful way, then it really is our duty to find out what it's all about.

The problem with many things local is that few people pay any attention. Folks assume that everything is taken care of, and that their interests are always being properly represented. After all, life has always been just fine here, and is there any reason why things shouldn't go on that way forever? And having come to that unfortunate conclusion most go merrily on their way, giving little thought to whatever matters may be raised by those few brave souls who actually know better.

On November 8th there is an election, and we have a candidate. Thanks to some concerned denizens of this blog I have gotten discuss some things with a gentleman by the name of Brian Fuller, and he truly deserves your vote. What he is running for is the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees, and whatever it is that stirs in peoples' hearts to do good works and dedicate years of their lives to things desperately needing just that kind of devotion, Brian has been moved to do so for PCC.

A lot of us became involved in last year's Pasadena Unified School District election, and took on a long established old boy network that has been governing the place since deep into the previous century. This particular OBN being more than content to administer over the couple hundred millions of dollars in school construction bond money that is the source of their real power and concern. But even the most cursory glance at the achievement scores and dropout rates at PUSD conclusively shows that these people have had shockingly little success in the actual business of educating kids. Outside of the success shown at the Sierra Madre schools, which is something much more to the credit of the parents and teachers who put in untold hours of hard work there to make good things happen, the PUSD is a mess.

What you need do here is look at this Pasadena City College Board of Trustees election in a similar light. And here is a fact that you should find as disheartening as anything that came out during those recent PUSD elections. Only 16% of Pasadena Unified School District students who attend PCC graduate from its two year programs. 16%! Which to me is a statistic that speaks volumes about the need for change there. Once again it is a case of careerist elected bureaucrats, people who do little good for others, and only care about holding on to their jobs. Something that benefits nobody but themselves.

Brian Fuller is a young businessman, born in 1978 and, as an Apple certified IT professional, the owner Fuller Concepts. Using that technological expertise, one of his goals for PCC is to develop a database that will properly gauge each student's progress at the school, something that will help a more concerned cadre of administrators take an active interest in each student's progress. Something that, given the alarming dropout rate at PCC of PUSD grads, is sorely needed.

Another goal Brian has established for himself is to promote student enrollment in programs that will make a difference in their career development later on. Science technology, and the engineering and math fields of study, is where Brian feels students should be putting more of their focus. We live in an era where computer technology has become by far the most dominant form of business and government communication. By developing these kinds of skills, PCC graduates will not only be able to enter fields that are both financially and emotionally rewarding, but become true contributors to the economy of our area as well.

Brian has an opponent, of course. Her name is Dr. Jeanette Mann, and she serves as the President of the Board of Trustees. She has been there for almost three decades. So certainly Jeanette should be seen as a responsible party for everything that is going on at PCC, right?

On Wednesday evening there was a Board meeting held at Sierra Madre Elementary School. There were PCC students attending, and one of them stood up and read a carefully prepared speech. It was a stunning rebuke of Dr. Jeanette Mann, and is a good indication that those who actually attend the school feel they have been poorly served by its de facto Trustee for Life. I have been given a transcript of that speech and I would like to post much of it here.

With the PACCD Board of Trustees election just a month away, it is time that we stop ignoring some of our problems. I know the Dr. Jeanette Mann has been on the Board longer than I have been alive, and does not like to have anyone, whether a student, a staff member, or a member of the public challenge her. In fact, most people do not challenge her because she is so unpleasant. Staff and managers are afraid of her, and afraid of what she will do to them.

On the other hand, if no one stands up to her, then we are a part of the problem.

I found out from one of the history professors on campus that Dr. Mann has been sending her campaign pleas to the managers, faculty and staff on campus, in direct opposition to what she is supposed to do. She has gone to groups on campus such as the Classified Senate and unions not only to get their support, but also to get their money. Were is the outrage? Who holds her to account?

She leaked confidential memos that she has received from people she has no business communicating with, much less providing information of a highly confidential nature. In the case that I learned about, on July 21, 2009, she provided the Faculty Association with the District's negotiating position on the eve of the actual negotiations, completely undermining the District she is supposed to serve. Where is the outrage? Who holds her to account?

And let's not forget that it was Dr. Mann who intervened in the college's presidential hiring process to hire Dr. Perfumo. Had it not been for her actions during the hiring process, where she worked behind the scenes to apply pressure to the hiring committee and the Board of Trustees, Dr. Perfumo, who was not even being considered for the position, would not have become President of PCC. Dr. Mann knew she was not supposed to get involved in this way, but she did. In the end, the college not only wasted two full years of precious time, but also spent a million dollars on Dr. Mann's experiment. Where is the outrage? Who holds her to account?

The Perfumo Scandal, as it became known there, is pretty much a signature reason for the voters to dismiss Dr. Mann. It is widely believed that Perfumo was hired only because of Mann's intervention and pressure. Perfumo was not one of the finalists vetted by the faculty, board, or students, rather she was handpicked by Jeanette Mann herself. And the choice was a disastrous one. Perfumo had a very troubled history at Solano Community College, where she ended up resigning her presidency after its Board of Trustees had voted to terminate her contract. A performance very similar to the one she later repeated at Pasadena Community College. The Perfumo Scandal went on to cost some Board members their seats. Now it is Dr. Jeanette Mann's turn to go.

Here are some details as supplied by the campus paper, the Pasadena City College Courier:

Perfumo's Departure Still Unexplained: (Sept 10, 2009) Questions about former PCC President Paulette Perfumo's surprise resignation linger as few details have emerged in the weeks since. Two weeks after she requested a personal leave of absence, Perfumo resigned as president, but retained an unspecified administrative role, according to a prepared statement read by Board President Jeanette Mann after a special meeting held on Aug. 25.

The paper attempted to get some of the details behind the surprise resignation, but were stonewalled.

"I am legally prohibited from commenting on Dr. Perfumo's situation," said Trustee Consuelo Rey Castro last week. "You may want to talk to Dr, Mann the Board President. Other trustees deferred to Dr. Mann as well. "Try Dr. Mann," said Geoffrey Baum on Monday. William Thomson said he would have to direct any questions to Mann, as did John Martin. "I'm governed by Board Protocols on such personnel issues to refer you to the Board President, Martin said.

Mann, of course, had very little to say. However, considering that Perfumo was being paid $226,000 a year in taxpayer money, and continued to received $215,000 a year until her "unspecified administrative role" was completed, shouldn't we have been given an explanation? Whatever the reason, we never got one.

After 28 years in office we really have the right to expect a better performance from a PCC Board of Trustees President.

We need to help elect Brian Fuller. Election day is Tuesday, November 8th. And let's face it, voter turn out for an election like this one will be nearly non-existent. There is a reason why people like Dr. Jeanette Mann get to hang on to elective jobs for 28 years, that being nobody is watching the store. But look at it this way, if 300 people turn out in Sierra Madre to vote for Fuller, Mann's reign will finally be over. Here every vote really will count.

Talk to people. This matters.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

There Are Some Very Big Issues On the City Council Meeting Agenda for Next Tuesday

Every once in a while certain issues of keen community interest will get an airing out at our City Council meetings. People will show up, there is considerable public comment, and things even manage to get exciting. At least at times.

But let me ask you something. How many meetings have four issues rising to that level of public concern? Not very many that I can recall. And given the topics and their importance to the people of this town, we could be getting into some uncharted territory here.

The latest version of the City Council Agenda is now available over on the City of Sierra Madre site. There is little other information available from the City about this meeting, but we have discussed some of the issues here over the past few weeks, so you are not completely cut off.

Did I say that this meeting will be action packed? An unusually strong alignment of loaded and controversial issues? Here are 4 that jump out right away:

2. Discussion - General Plan Update: Vision And Guiding Principles Report: Recommendation that the City Council provide staff and the General Plan Steering Committee (GPSC) direction on how to proceed with completing the Vision and Guiding Principles Report. Any further input will be brought back to the next GPSC meeting in order to fine tune the language and finalize the report.

The "Vision and Guiding Principles" presentation portion of this discussion should be a very positive experience for all. A lot of hard work and community input has gone into all of this, and there is considerable anticipation and excitement about what should be a great presentation. But given Nancy Walsh's speech at the last City Council meeting, I am not certain that everything here will be completely without controversy. This may be an opportunity for a repeat performance of Nancy's "take you out" moment.

3. Extension Of Utility Users Tax Increase: Recommendation that the City Council provide staff with direction.

Because of the "sunset clause" included as part of the original Measure U, the Utility User Tax increase we all voted ourselves a few years back must go up for another ballot review fairly soon. Perhaps as early as next April. As you know, Sierra Madre's UUT rate is amongst the highest in California. And apparently there is no other city in the state but ours with the ability to charge residents a 12% utility tax rate should it choose to do so. Nor is there any other city here with quite so many taxable categories as Sierra Madre. Is there a reason why we should continue to pay rates that are so out of line with what other cities pay? And with rumors that the "sunset clause" will not be included with any upcoming vote, will the taxpayers of Sierra Madre be willing to vote themselves such high rates permanently?

5. Discussion Regarding Options To Fill A Council Member Vacancy: Recommendation that the City Council provide direction regarding the Council's preference for filling a Council Member vacancy.

With Joe Mosca skipping the country, a replacement will need to be found to take his place. Something that is a very unique situation for us since nobody has quit a City Council seat here in more than half a century. This is a pretty unprecedented event. The law states that the City Council does have a few options. Those being to call a special election on the spot, or leave the seat open until next April's election and let the people choose then. These make sense because both recognize that a City Council seat is something that only the voters can fill. But the other option would be for the City Council to appoint someone to take The Fly's place. And I am not certain that the people of this City would care to recognize the legitimacy of an unelected Councilmember. Particularly one that would be making important policy decisions in our name for the two and a half years remaining in somebody else's term.

6. Liaison And Other Council Appointments Resulting From A Council Member Vacancy: Recommendation that the Mayor designate City Council Members to various commissions/organizations/agencies.

Since Joe rarely attended the meetings he was supposed to be the liaison to, many of the commissions (et cetera) to be considered here will then be getting their first taste of direct City Council participation in quite some time. There are some very small shoes to be filled here. Of course, there are some very small feet on this City Council as well.

Should be quite a night. We will have more about all of this early next week.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is Patch Trying To Become Like The Tattler?

I am having something of a crisis of faith lately. The Sierra Madre Patch, which I had written off long ago as just another in town City Hall apple polisher of an info site, has been publishing some rather hard hitting news lately. And they are also doing something that I thought they would never do, which is post things that are actually critical of our highly esteemed majority faction Councilmembers. In particular the soon to be departing Joe Mosca, or the apparently remaining Nancy Walsh.

The videos posted on Patch in particular being something I never thought I'd see there. These contain devastating revelations about two elected representatives who have completely lost touch with the community they were elected to serve. That this has happened as Mosca is attempting to gracefully extricate himself from our little world only adds to the overall effect.

Which I don't have a problem handling. The videos, that is. I never saw my blog as becoming the only player in the gritty business of reporting reality. It is just for the longest time that has been the way it is. Which gave me the luxury of being able to frequently thumb my nose at weekly newspaper and blog editors who apparently have been willing to sell out their honor and credibility for crumbs.

But then I went and did something that has always proven troublesome for me. I began to think it all over and tried to figure out what motives there would be for Patch to initiate so radical a change. For them to go from being City Hall compliant to something quite the opposite is a story that deserves some investigation. And unlike Susan Henderson, who sold out her economically modest slow growth friends for the first available expensive suit to open his checkbook, the Patch is now siding with folks noted for their lack of disposable income. There must be some other reason for the switch.

So I did what I usually do when I need a little revelatory relief, I took my quest to the internet. Which, as we know, is the keeper of all truths. Even the real ones. You just have to know where to look.

And it didn't take too long to find a recent article entitled "How long can AOL stay committed to Patch?" (click here). Apparently there could be an economic and career angle to the sudden change in Patch's direction here in Sierra Madre. That being AOL corporate's growing impatience with those Patch sites that do not produce significant viewer traffic. Traffic being, of course, the driver of advertising revenue in that world. Most companies not wanting to see their precious ad cash spent on sites that relatively few folks view.

Here is how this article breaks it down:

Even before AOL's future started to look dodgy - with speculation about the future of CEO Tim Armstrong ramping up, as the company's financial underperformance continues - the rollout of the Patch.com hyperlocal news project seemed exceptionally ambitious. To create a thousand local newsrooms across the country felt a lot like a "boil the ocean" kind of venture, with impossibly high costs and a slim chance of success. According to some reports, AOL is now busy scaling back its ambitions for Patch as well as trying to cut costs, which could ultimately wind up jeopardizing what the project was designed to do in the first place.

A report by Jeff Bercovici in Forbes magazine says the 800 or so editor/reporters who run Patch's local outlets "have been told their budgets for freelance assignments are being reduced, in some cases severely," and content is also being re-used across multiple local sites within the Patch network. There have also been some reports that editorial staff within Patch are being asked to help with advertising sales, a move some see as crossing the editorial/advertising divide that exists in most journalistic entities.

My guess is that sites like our Sierra Madre Patch, in order to help drive more advertising revenue to AOL, have been told they must improve their traffic numbers, and quickly. And Patch's regional leadership, equally under the gun, has finally figured out that the insipid combination of kissing butt and insipid boosterism just doesn't bring in that many readers. People can instinctively sense when they are not getting the true story, and many find that kind of vapid and misleading journalism to be, well, uninteresting. And whatever interest the site may have generated when it was new and novel has now faded quite a bit.

So our local version of Patch made a conscious decision to do the one thing that is proven to get readers in Sierra Madre. They have decided to become more like The Tattler. They've begun hitting the same targets, asking the same kinds of questions, and naming the same names.

Which is actually pretty cool if you think about it. And an indication that their research has shown the value of what we have been saying all along. That people in Sierra Madre want to know what is really going on in their city, and if you give them the story straight, they will stop by often and see what you have to say.

How is The Tattler's traffic?

The short answer? The best it has ever been. It looks like we will do over 40,000 hits this month, which is a lot for a small city site that only covers news about government and politics. That is almost 4 hits for every man, woman and child in Sierra Madre. Which has got to be close to the saturation point.

The Mosca resignation, the Moody's water bond downgrade revelations, Nancy Walsh's wild ride, plus some of the other big stories we have reported on over the last few weeks, have given us a stronger presence than ever. These were all important events, and a lot of people came here to find out what is going on.

And we have been more than glad to tell them.

Today is the Great Shake Out!

Let's get ready to rumble. Except it isn't about wrestling, or anything like it. This is about earthquakes and being ready for whatever will happen. Which it will. Just a matter of time, as they say. The good folks at CERT (Sierra Madre Community Emergency Response Team) are taking part in the Great Shake Out today. Which is a simulation of what will happen - and need to be done - when the big one hits. Which it will.

The earthquake begins at 10:20 this morning. Bring plenty of water and a warm blanket. And just so you know, I'll be at work and under my desk.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don Watts Sets The Record Straight

There has been some talk that perhaps Don Watts should be appointed by the City Council to take the place of the departing Joe Mosca. The former Councilman, who was the fourth largest vote recipient in the 2010 election, would be a logical choice. After all, Don did receive a sizable amount of voter support in 2010 and, having already served a term on the Council, he is very familiar with the routines and rituals of that institution.

But Don Watts is not the kind of a person who would accept an office he does not feel is his right to take. And in a late afternoon post to this blog, he explained why he would not agree to such an appointment.

I have just found out that some people would like to see me fill Joe Mosca's seat to finish his term. I don't believe that would be appropriate, and a special election should take place, either initiated by the City Council, or by a petition of the people. It is not a position that can be held by appointment, it is a Democratically elected one, meant to represent a constituency and a vote. Neither is it an administrative position, like City Manager, or a commission appointment. To have one appointed smacks of dictatorship. I would find it very odd that a City Council would do this, and would for me be either grounds for a recall or an early election. It would be undemocratic to do otherwise.

I'd like to add to what Don has said here by noting that such a thing has never been done in this town before. Sierra Madre, as far as I can tell, has never had an unelected City Councilmember. It would be the first time ever that this important elective post was filled by someone who didn't earn it by standing before the residents and winning their votes.

I think it is only fair to say here that should such an appointment be offered by the G4-1 City Council to someone, that person should be aware that he (or she) will immediately become the subject of a recall attempt. It wouldn't be anything personal, and for all I know the person they might be thinking about picking might be some sort of modern day saint. It doesn't matter. Because what we are talking about here is an important principle. And that is the preservation of Sierra Madre's most precious elective institution, its City Council. Cronyism has no place there.

No person that was not elected to serve on Sierra Madre's City Council should be allowed to sit there and make the kinds of decisions only a true representative of the people can make. That is the kind authority that can only properly come from the votes of we the people.

If you have been offered this appointment to the City Council, and are thinking about accepting it, please consider what you could very well be facing in a few weeks.

Et tu, Erica?

Over on the Sierra Madre Patch there is an opinion piece from noted local arts buff and bon vivant Erica Blodgett. Entitled "The End of the Arts Commission," Erica reveals herself to be not exactly the happiest camper over the demise of what she feels was once an important source of support for Sierra Madre's arts community. Which apparently is quite large and produces an impressive amount of quality work. Much of which is lost on me because very little of it is produced on velvet, and there isn't a single Elvis portrait to be found anywhere.

Or at least that I've seen. Maybe they keep the good stuff out in the back and away from my sight.

Erica goes on for a while about what the loss of the Arts Commission will mean for artists, among other things. However, she then goes on to say that perhaps this is a natural evolution in things, and maybe a partnership between Sierra Madre's artists and the Community Services Commission would be a more productive fit. Opening up what had until now been the purview of an insular grouping to the appreciation of the entire City.

But then her focus (and I assume her eyes) narrowed, and here she identifies a possibly responsible party for the problem the arts community has been having here.

Councilman Joe Mosca, who is leaving the Council, disagreed with me quite pointedly, saying that he felt that as "an artist colony" it was important for Sierra Madre to have a standing body overseeing the promotion of arts in the community. He implied we should have worked harder to find new things for the Commission to do. Unfortunately, Councilman Mosca, who was the Council liaison to the Commission, was rarely able to attend our meetings and witness our growing frustration over our lack of resources and support.

Ouch! When hardcore Mosca supporters such as Erica Blodgett are sharpening their longest knives for The Fly, you know things are getting bad. And Joe criticizing someone over things that had gone on at Commission meetings he neglected to attend? Even though he was the City Council Liaison? My oh my. Where have we heard that story before?

Maybe Denise Delmar and Erica should get together for coffee some day soon. I think they might find there are some things both have in common.

It is now official. Sierra Madre is "Very Walkable"

The folks on the Green Committee (who, as far as I can tell, have never disparaged the "Governing Authority"), are all about the walkability thing. Apparently the true mark of a sustainable community (whatever that means) is that people feel they can leave their cars behind and just walk around town. Shopping and dining and having a grand old time, just them and their shoes.

So it is with great pleasure that I can now bring everyone some splendid news. Because it looks like Sierra Madre is already a walkability paradise. So we won't have to change a thing!

Walk Score.com, which is recognized by sustainability freaks everywhere as the be all and end all for gauging a city's walkability, has just awarded Sierra Madre an 86 out of a possible 100 grade. Which, on their handy little scale for such things, designates us as being "Very Walkable."

You can check it out by clicking here.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just How Radical Is Sierra Madre's City Council?

Sierra Madre is, in the political sense, a rather moderate place. Given their druthers most people here would choose the middle road to problem solving, one that would likely be neither too liberal nor too conservative. Just something that seems logical and reasonably low impact. In their working lives most people are expected to do the job and get it done in as efficient and unobtrusive a way as possible. So why should government work be any different?

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?

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