Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bart Proclaims PUSD "Off the Rails," More Fees Please, Plus Sierra Madre Goes Into the Red!

It was yet another City Council meeting where not all the topics made the cut. Which is fine, there are some big issues that got the attention they deserve, and the amount of detail and care that went into some of the discussions was worth watching. The PUSD disaster got an airing, and for the first time in years we have a majority of City Council Members who actually expressed no concern that Sierra Madre is now slipping into debt. Not a large amount of debt mind you, but then again that first step down the slippery slope is usually a rather petite one.

I'm not going to go into the minutia of the fee schedule discussion, but I will ask you this. The City's justification for fees has always been that they are in large part for "cost recovery." And that unless the City collected those fees necessary to recover the cost of getting something done for somebody, they would then be subsidizing whatever that might be, and with what they regard as their money.

But here is where this has never made much sense, at least to me. If our tax money is being used to pay City employee salaries, then doesn't it seem proper that when you walk into City Hall for a (let's say) plan check, you shouldn't have to pay anything more than you already have, right? After all, you already paid for City Hall's time when you paid your taxes.

So when you pay a fee for so-called "cost recovery," what you are actually doing is paying for the use of City Hall's time and labor twice. Once out of your original taxes, and again to recoup the spending of money that came out of your taxes.

I do know that small city governments like ours are challenged to find revenue streams. And quite obviously they are dependent upon things like fees to keep the lights on. But if you, as a Sierra Madre resident, pay taxes here in town, then you have already paid for your right to service at City Hall. You shouldn't be expected to have to pay for that a second time. Especially as a way to recover costs that already came out of your pocket when you paid your taxes.

John Harabedian's statement on fees was humorous, and in a way I'm certain he never intended. What he said is if fees are raised too much, people will start to hide their activities from City Hall even more than they do now. All so they won't have to pay such onerous fees. Instead they will take their chances and build things like home extensions without informing City Hall. Something that actually diminishes the City's overall take, rather than bringing in more money.

The part I found sort of funny is his intimation that this has already happened. Sierra Madre does have its underground economy. And for a community expected to pay as much for permits and fees as they already do, a necessity for many.

Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh revealed their hostility to things like zoning laws. Nancy Walsh asking at one point whether or not we want everything to fit into a zoning code. Then reinforced that rather radical notion by questioning whether it matters if we enforce codes or not. Josh then piped in with some odd story about a $1,000 light post, and how wild it is that the City should have regulations governing such things. Maybe Sid and Nancy really are anarchists?

Watching Harabedian, Walsh and Moran allow $48,000 in red ink to stay on the books could end up being a moment of some historic importance. Before last night Sierra Madre was in the black. But this morning? We are officially in debt. With Mayor Moran actually stating that we should dip into General Fund reserves to pay for it. That it was all done with such insouciance was quite interesting to watch. Hopefully the City Manager isn't calling China for a loan today.

John Capoccia argued long and hard to keep the debt triplets from going down this road. But to no avail. His counter to Josh Moran's pollyanna pronouncement that the city's finances could somehow improve without doing anything was met with a very logical reply. "Yes, but they could also get worse."

Hearing our City Attorney inform the City Council that we have no legal recourse to any of SCAG's decisions on our RHNA numbers had a 1984-style totalitarian ring to it. Can't sue them, can't challenge their decisions in Court. Since when did some two-bit regional planning organization become above the law? Who exactly took away our rights for their benefit?

It was also rather fascinating hearing John Harabedian offer a kind of inverse apologia for SCAG by bringing up the Pleasanton case. His offer to help put together a packet of interesting examples of cities that dared to challenge Sacramento's central planning authority being eagerly accepted by Josh. The inference being everyone should read them and learn that resistance to the state is futile.

It seems pretty obvious that John Harabedian is now in the same trick bag that Joe Mosca fell into a few years back. Happily informed by key members of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party that he has a brilliant political future ahead, the chances of Harabedian ever offering an opinion that might be deemed politically incorrect by the keepers of his dreams and ambitions are remote at best. The "Joe Mosca with Brains" meme grows stronger all the time. Expect little unpredictable behavior from the rising young star of the political machine.

Finally Bart Doyle rolled into City Council chambers and gave a ridiculous defense of Measure A. Apparently we are expected to believe that Sierra Madre won't have any Board of Education representation until the year 2015 because otherwise we wouldn't have a district that we would control. This was done in part because it is important to save the seats of some old PUSD pols. You know, like Selinske or Big Ed. All of whom happen to be cronies of Bart Doyle. Watching Chris Koerber rake Bart over the coals on this topic was worth the cost of getting there, and more.

Of course, John Harabedian proclaimed that this would be good for Sierra Madre in the long run. Which is what any establishment politician on the make would say. But how not having a representative on the Board of Education during the two critical years when all that Measure TT money will be divvied up is good for us is certainly lost on me.

Bart got really hilarious when he admitted that Sierra Madre was screwed out of a lot of Measure Y money. And he should know, after all he was there when it happened. But the good news, according to Bart, is that this should make the Pasadena Board of Education recognize that we deserve more Measure TT money to make up for this injustice.

Expecting such mercy from the exact same people who cooked up a Measure A that would keep us off the Board of Education until 2015 seems like a stretch. And I'm not sure that we should expect people that Bart described as "being off the rails" to be really capable of such sensitivity and caring. Personally I would put little faith in them.

But apparently Bart Doyle believes in them. His solution to all of this? Another round of bonds in a couple of years. After all, just because the PUSD screwed up with both Measure Y and Measure TT is no reason not to vote for an entirely new bond measure.

One interesting piece of information did come out of this. In 2000 there was something called Measure BB. It was the first ballot initiative that would have created sub-districting in the PUSD. It failed miserably. Hopefully Measure A will follow in its footsteps.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

67 comments:

  1. Crawford, you are a literary treasure. Reading your blog is like reading the the sinking of the Titanic through the eyes and pens of Hemingway and Faulkner: pellucid, shimmering, and ultimately heartbreaking.


    “Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
    Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
    “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

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    1. Great 7:17. A soupcon of nihilism from a suicidal alcoholic to start the day.

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    2. The breakfast of champions, sonny.

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    3. Who is 17:17, 7:51? And what does soup have to do with drinking? Seems like a waste of time.

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    4. Steve seems to be confusing moral nihilism with anomie. Just another day on The Tattler.

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    5. I love anime. Especially the Kung Fu stuff.

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    6. You are right, 7:16, Crawford is a great writer, and the only beacon of truth in town.

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  2. What a great point! When you pay taxes you pay for city services. When you pay a fee for a service you are paying twice.

    Here is my new fee schedule: $0.

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    1. That is a great point for residents. But what about Mr. Shields and Company? Big out-of-town developers, pay no taxes here, use tons of city staff time and other resources to develop - with no fees?

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    2. Let the illustrious city staff get paid on a piece-work basis.

      Sitting at the desk: $0.00
      Answering phone: $0.25
      Accepting water bill payment: $0.25
      Stating that the incident is "under investigation": $0.10

      etc., It will add up to what they are worth.

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  3. Councilman Haribedian stepped in it once again last night- proving that he really isn't tuned into Sierra Madre. He wants to shift for Pasadena Humane Society to LA County Animal Control? Really, John?

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    1. It seems obvious to me that Harabedian is putting zero prep time into these meetings. He is just winging it.

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    2. Yes, well young Johnny is really too educated to spend much time on prepping.

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    3. Johnny is too busy governing to waste time on prepping.

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    4. All Harabedian is doing is wearing his suit.

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    5. A man wearing a suit is not necessarily not an FBI agent. It depends on what you want him to be.

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  4. Ugarte: You despise me, don't you?

    Rick: If I gave you any thought, I probably would.

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    1. Ugarte: You are a very cynical person, Rick, if you'll forgive me for saying so.

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  5. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of Walsh and Moran monkeying around with the Zoning Codes....aren't you?
    The $1,000 light is an absurdity and a rotten thing for whoever got wrapped up in that, but essentially the Code is protection against over development. Otherwise we'd have McMansions all over the place.

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  6. Bart could only say It was the best we could do on the transition plan. That's pretty much it - It was the best we could do, as I've already said, as I explained, that was it, I've said it.
    Not the most illuminating answer. The Tattler was more on the mark. Bart should have just said:
    My friends were elected to serve for 4 years in these previous districts, and by God that's what they're gonna do.
    The best we could do?

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    1. Did you all catch the "we" part? Bart said the best we could do! that means he was in on the decision and let Sierra Madre get sold down the river. So much for our representation. At least the group of parents are on top of things and are working to have a voice in what happens in Sierra Madre. The Council is going to agendize this issue, and you can hope that the town will turn up in force. The CITY should send a loud and clear message to PUSD that we will not stand by while our kids get short-changed without a classroom to their names.

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    2. Yes I did catch that 10:05. Bart was obviously head over heels in with the Task Force's decisions. He came off like it the advocate, the facilitator, the schmoozer man - not a representative of our interest.

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    3. 7:54 - With the way the lines were drawn Kenne and Miramontes ended up in the same sub-geographic district. This presented a problem in that Miramontes' term expires in 2013, and Kenne's in 2015 - thus the task force wanted to protect Miramontes seat (Sub-geographic district 1) and made a decision to have that district vote in 2013. This means that Kenne has the option of resigning her seat and running against Miramontes in 2013, or remaining as an at-large board member to finish out her term. Kenne would then have to wait until 2017 to run again. Or, she could move. Collateral damage there.

      Funny how the "voting rights act" scenario flew out the window when it came to protecting that seat for Miramontes. First, this is the sub-geographic district that has the highest number of black people (37.4%), . Second, this is primarily an Altadena district. If the purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to be giving a black Altadena candidate any chance of winning and getting some representation in NW Altadena for the black, people, this move by the districting task force destroyed that by giving this district a vote in 2013. Miramontes could have termed out in 2013, Kenne still would have been there in the district, and then Kenne Miramontes and hopefully a black Altadena candidate could have run in 2015. Instead, Miramontes is an incumbent running in 2013, and pretty well liked so it will be difficult for a black Altadenan to win. One other thing to note, Miramontes lives in Pasadena, not Altadena, so this whole thing is just ass backwards. And, by the way, there are no coincidences here - Ramon Miramontes is a board liason for the Measure TT/Facilities Committee. Hmmm...

      So, moving along, the task force could have given Sierra Madre the vote in Sierra Madre one other way. Since Kenne would still be serving at-large in sub-geographic district 1, Kenne could have served "at large" in sub-geographic district 3, which is primarily latino and black. This means that the district would have been covered by a good board member. In turn, this would have freed up a voting district in 2013 for Sierra Madre. Here's where the reverse discrimination comes in, folks. Sierra Madre and Southeast Pasadena (sub-geographic district 6) is comprised of (shhh...we won't say it too loud) White folks (61%), and sub-geographic district 2 (NE Pasadena and NE Altadena) have 71% White folks. Just sayin...

      The Districting Task Force should be ashamed of themselves

      I agree with The Tattler, the power is in letting the people vote for all 7 candidates - Bart is just plain wrong!

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    4. 11:34, you're the one who needs to be our representative!

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    5. Somebody needs to agendize replacing Bart. He is part of the problem. Same old boys making the same mistakes.

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  7. Vote NO on Measure A!

    Why would Sierra Madre voters want to limit their vote for school board members to just ONE??? We have been able to vote for all 7 - let's keep it that way.

    Don't believe the baloney about "having more influence" with your ONLY board member. Fight to retain the right to keep all 7 board members accountable. What incentive does a board member outside a sub-district have to advocate for you? None - if they aren't counting on your vote, they can ignore you.

    Let's tell the special interests that Sierra Madre does not advocate segregation - what a step backwards!

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  8. Anyone catch Bart's comment that there will be ANOTHER bond measure in a couple of years to make up the difference so the projects could be finished?

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    1. The hope is "The Old Bailey Bart" will be in the slammer by then...

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  9. Boycott the Sierra Madre School one day a week until the funding is given.

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    1. Let's not use our kids as political grist. Don't boycott, be active in having your voice heard.

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    2. I wish it were not necessary to withhold attendance - but I'll be very surprised if speaking out, in numbers, does any real good at all.

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    3. They only hear dollars not voices.

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  10. To Walsh & Moran &( Bidian )...I can hit at leasst 4 structures from my property with a rock that were constructed without permits. Also had the great good fortune to have a "deadbeat" move in next door who thought cars, trash, old appliences and a garage full of trash piled 8' high, were indicators of wealth and decorator skill. It took over 2 years to get the City to clean it up.

    Go through our fair City and count the boats, trailers, SUV's trash barrels, and whatnot, piled in front yeards and driveways and you will come to realize what zoning and codes were intended to do does not happen in Sierra Madre. Kind of like Needles or Kingman AZ right here iin full view.

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  11. Isn't it clear that we have many idiots & morons running this town...?

    and who said the Queen Mary could not run aground..?

    On a good note...As long as the city of Sierra Madre doesn't run out of checks, they can continue to put this good ole town in debt and bankruptcy...

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  12. Koerber and Capoccia have taken on the mien of patient adults trying to talk sense to willful children.

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    1. Koerber getting Bart to admit that there was nothing said about state funds when Measure TT was being peddled to the voters was priceless. This was a bait and switch from the beginning. Even Bart admits it.

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    2. I remember the Measure TT pitch talk as very crafty indeed.
      The list of projects, priorities, what not - the PUSD guy who came and talked to our council at that time was very slippery on where the money would actually go.
      There were lots of best case scenario type words, barring unforeseen events, and I could be wrong, but I think they are experts in CYAs.
      I don't think they 'promised' a damn thing.

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    3. Anything on the ballot with the PUSD mentioned gets an automatic no vote from me. I don't think they can be trusted.

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    4. Remember this when the City of Sierra Madre says we need to raise your water rates so we can get matching funds from the government.

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  14. You nuts who voted for Harabedian are getting what you deserve. Unfortunately, those who voted against him are getting screwed as well.

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  15. It is just mind numbing the bad decisions that are made in the name of children.

    I hope these parents have the juice to follow this through. It is always the people with the car in the race that pay most attention to the track.

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  16. Go down to the school tonight, 6:00 pm Sierra Madre Elementary....suppose to be in some art building, but will probably be in the auditorium if enough of us show up.
    I have no children in school, but intend to be there to support the Sierra Madre parents.
    Please join me.

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  17. Sent the kids to private schools in town. Cost a fortune. The taxes we paid to the public schools, just a waste and a shame. No regrets. Good luck to you young parents.

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    1. Start a Charter School in Sierra Madre.

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  18. You can thank Prop XIII for the tax and fees thing. When Prop XIII passed back in 1979, taxes were limited. In order to cover expenses, cities imposed fees for particular services. This was the only legal way to increase revenue. This way the user pays more for a specific service. Otherwise, it's a tax. Don't blame me--I didn't make this up. It has it's good sides and bad sides, but that's how it works.

    As for Bart Doyle, I have to wonder why anybody listens to him any more. Hasn't he been thoroughly discredited? The author of the water bonds process that has caused so much problem, development hack, and now education expert. This is a subject about which he is particularly unqualified. He got his political start in an effort to get Sierra Madre out of Pasadena schools and into Arcadia schools. His political prognostications are completely unreliable. Whenever I wonder why he is still around, I realize it's because he has nowhere to go and nothing to do when he got there.

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    1. You obviously know this Doyle creature well, Dr. S.
      Thanks for reminding us what a disaster he has been to our town.

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  19. Dr. S., great post and yep. One failure after another is what this guy brings to Sierra Madre, one failure after another.

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  20. I clearly heard Bart-D say at last nights City Council meeting, that Sierra Madre would annax with Pasadena area not Arcadia...I suppose this does make Bart a politician or crafty schemer.

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  21. I hve files from both sides of the Sierra Madre switching schools effort, left to me by people who wanted room in their attic. I'll find someone to pass them on to.

    Yes, even if we don't have children in PUSD they and their families are important to support. Tonight at 6 p.m.

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    1. Harbidian is living up to what we voters were voting AGAINST because we were afraid he's be another Mosca. There are just some people who look like a duck, quack like a duck & walk like a duck..therefore, Harbidian is just another duckling under the wing of papa Dart!!! Some voters just never get it! They're all wet & just never knew they were standing in the rain/reign.

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    2. I'm not going to throw in the towel on Harabedian yet. I agree that he's the apple of LA County democrats' eyes, and that he's heading out of town on a political career as fast as humanly possible - so he will absolutely kowtow to them. But I'm not sure he'll vote against reason every time. Yet.

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    3. It'll be a nice surprise if you're right 5:56, and it could happen that even while in service to the LA County Dem Pols, Harabedian might make a choice or two that ends up being good for this town.
      But I doubt it.
      He seems pretty well aligned with Moran and Walsh. Though he is supposedly bright, so you have to wonder how he can do it.

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  22. They cannot be trusted with moneyMay 23, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    $48,000 was nothing to City Manager Aguilar, nothing to Council member Walsh, and nothing to Mayor Moran.
    Since it's so little, so much nothing, I'd like to suggest that the three of them cover it. $16,000 each will do, and then we can all agree "It's nothing."

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  23. A very good change that the city being broke has brought to us - return city festivals and celebrations to volunteers. Old timers have told me that Doyle and gang worked hard to get rid of volunteers and give their duties to city staff, because they could control city staff. Don't know the degree to which that is true, but with enough volunteers treated as disrespectfully as, for example, Walsh treated the general plan volunteers, it makes sense people would walk away.
    Now is a good time to see what the community wants badly enough to get active and do. Stop city hall from the whoop-la stuff, and give it all to volunteers.
    If they don't show up, no whoop-la.

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  24. It's too late this year, but PUSD would hear a test-sick-out. If the state standards were given, and the Sierra Madre schools did not participate, because all the kids were sick, that would rock the boat. Parents can easily give the kids the tests at home, having bought test booklets at educational supply stores or downloading released exams from the state. Kids win, parents win, PUSD is shown for what it is.

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  25. Well, 7:17pm you make a great case for homeschooling. More parents are doing that. They're just sick of the taxpayer funded schools being run by a bunch of idiots who don't think that pledging the flag with reverence, and singing our national anthem is important. They teach revisionist history, assign projects to students on the 7 Pillars of Islam while leaving out all of the jihadist terrorism, demand that laws be passed to mandate teaching of gay, lesbian, transexual and bisexual choices to children as young as 5, and bankrupt our state with unsustainable pensions and benefits. So I suppose you're right, 7:17 - let's keep the kids at home and teach them about what our founding fathers intended for this great country.

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    1. Homeschooling is a horrible idea.

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    2. Because if you homeschool, the govt. can't indoctrinate your kinds? Doesn't sound horrible to me.

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    3. Homeschooling is too insular and most parents are not up to the task, psychologically if not intellectually.

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    4. Educators hate when the homeschoolers blow the curve on the state tests and the SAT, too.

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    5. 8:39, that wonderful, rare event does not make up for the weird personalities that develop in kids who spend too much time locked up in a very small world with a parent.

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  26. PUSD is off the rails because people like Doyle helped put it there.

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  27. If anybody knows being "off the rail", mismanagement of public funds, outright public deceit by elected officials and borrowing against the future to pad pockets in yester year

    it's Bart Doyle

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  28. heaven sakes

    josh moran and nancy walsh are completely incompetent and really seem way way way over their collective heads

    it's extremely apparent top everyone that with the previous council they deferred to whatever john buchanan or joe mosca wanted or said

    and now that they have to speak - it's really screwy speak and painful to watch the decisions

    nancy walsh is a total failure as a productive councilmember and her vindictiveness is juvenile and it's beyond understanding how she got elected unless incompetence is why both she and josh were voted in

    like with the previous council, with josh and nancy i automatically assume that they are both still lying to us (as they did with the water tax) or they have an agenda such as josh protecting his real estate buddies and his own mortgage business

    at least they aren't as devious and behind the scenes as buchanan and mosca were on the council, moran and walsh are just front and center with dismantling any progress and viability for the city

    we are becoming a subdivision known as Sierra Madre and soon we will be forced into annexing into Pasadena or Arcadia

    contract out with the sheriff's dept and save us a million bucks a year please

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