This post was mostly written Sunday morning, and as of that typing there was no notice of any City Council meeting on the portal page of the City website. Nothing about what's going down tomorrow night was listed among the events, though important news on such things as Friday office closures were there.
This does not create the best possible impression, nor lend any sense of transparency to what is happening downtown. City Council meetings were announced there in the past, with an agenda attached as well. You'd think that for all the money spent to gussy up the City's website, all aspects of the service being provided there would have improved. That hasn't been the case so far.
But enough about that. The City Council Agenda shows that a lot of items are up for discussion this week. Some are carryovers from the previous meeting, which got so bogged down in Sierra Madre navel gazing over the Pinney Bed & Breakfast situation that far more important matters never did get discussed. Hopefully at this meeting some heavy lifting will happen.
There is some secret stuff that will take place before the public is invited in. The Hildreth Affair continues, as it has for some time now. Perhaps the judge involved in this matter has resisted our Colantuono and Levin City Attorney's attempts to trample the rights of a property owner? If so, that must be vexing for a law firm that specializes in helping local governments pilfer legal rights from its residents.
Also on the sub rosa docket are continuing labor negotiations with the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association. The SMPOA being a public employee labor union that believes it can continually sue the City for the most trivial of matters, yet still get additional benefits and salary increases for its membership. The overwhelming defeat of the UUT Measures in the last election could be an indication of how voters here feel about the SMPOA and its oddly mixed message. Their negotiating position just doesn't look look very strong right now.
With that the residents will be invited to enter Council Chambers and the public portion of the shindig will begin. Order will be called, and Mayor Pro Tem Walsh will recite the Pledge of Allegiance and give either an invocation or a moment of inspiration. You just never know which one it is going to be. The Agenda and the Minutes from the previous meeting will be approved (they almost always are), upon which time Mayor and Council Reports are given. Public Comment follows, and then the 2012 Older Americans of the Year, Jerry and Nan Carlton, will be given an award by Mayor Moran.
After all that we get to the Consent Calendar. Item 1A covers the spending of money, which it almost always does. $560,000 will cover the costs of running the City for the next couple of weeks. These include the bills, payroll and $21K for the Library. There are no RDA spends this time around. Is that now a thing of the past?
The second item on the Consent Calendar (1b) deals with permitting any property designated an "historic structure" to be used as a bed and breakfast. Something that the Agenda Report declares will help with the upkeep of legacy properties. The Municipal Code will be changed to allow these owners to both rent out rooms to tourists, and serve them toast in the morning.
Which I suppose is fine, but I am not certain how this exactly ties in with the Planning Commission's decision to allow the Pinney House owners to sell their rather large home to any buyer as a bed and breakfast. Maybe it is all in the CUP. This item would seem to open up the possibility of any property designated as historic to become a bed and breakfast. Which means that if every home in Sierra Madre becomes an historic property (and they all are, in their own way), then we could all open bed and breakfasts. Which would be very special, I'd think. At my house, built in the 1950s, we would serve TV dinners.
Item 1c has to do with the issuance of a TUP (Temporary Use Permit) for the 4th of July Parade, along with its associated festivities. If a mistake is made and they issue a CUP (Conditional Use Permit) instead, then there could be a parade every day. Which would become tiresome and ordinary. Parades should always be a special event, and not something that happens all the time. I hope they will be careful here.
The next item, designated 1d, authorizes the City of Sierra Madre to join in with the mighty Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force Joint Powers, or (get ready for it) L.A. IMPACT. What this means is that in the future when somebody asks about how a crime investigation is going, they will be told that the City cannot comment on any ongoing L.A. IMPACT investigation. This seems to fall under the Law of Inverse Relationships. The less effective the government agency, the more grand and fearsome the acronym.
After the conclusion of the Consent Calendar, we launch into Item #2, which is a Public Hearing. This is where the present City Council is expected to fix all the financial disasters of the previous one. The official title of this gargantuan topic is "Consideration Of Resolution No. 12-29 Adopting The Mid-Year Budget Amendments For Fiscal Years 2011-2013 Biennial Budget And Appropriating The Amounts Budgeted; Resolution No. 12-26 Establishing A Schedule Of Fees And Charges For Fiscal Year 2012-2013; And Resolution No. 12-46 Adoption Of The Classification Plan And Salary Matrix." Quite a mouthful. See if you can commit it to memory and, with your eyes closed, repeat each and every single word, complete with semicolons. I know I can't. Semicolons always throw me.
Now when you base your blog report upon the information given in city documents, what you come up with is only going to be as good as what it provided. And honestly, the Agenda Report on this three part humdinger is about as opaque as it gets. The clarity level being only slightly past mud. Which is likely by design as the City's finances are not quite as rosy as the previous Mayor attempted to make us believe. They want more money and doubt that anyone will give it to them.
This is a continuation of whatever it was that went on at the previous meeting. Here is what I wrote the day before that meeting:
(This) will probably consume a large share of the City Council's time this evening as it deals with what is termed Biennial Budget Considerations. The baseline for these considerations include:
A) The City is broke.
B) The UUT is now in danger of sunsetting in a few years, so who knows what will happen?
C) Additional cuts will be required.
D) Despite all of that we'll still be running a deficit.
Certain City Council members are likely to burst forth with earnest talk about the value of what this City produces, the extreme sacrifices that are being made by those here to provide those services, and other meaningless chatter. The stone cold fact is there isn't any money, and the residents of this town don't appear to see any reason to dig deep and change that equation right now. Particularly in light of the City's deceptiveness in the recent past when asking people to fork over more of their hard earned dollars.
What is going down here, to get dramatic about it, is a struggle for the survival of City government in Sierra Madre as it has been conducted over the last few decades. The money isn't there anymore, and neither is the CRA. Some of the more important revenue streams that the City has depended upon, especially water payments and Utility User Taxes, are petering out. People are conserving, or just reacting to the bad economy by using less. Which will make conducting business downtown as it always has been very difficult.
This won't be solved tomorrow night. And chances are the topic will still be around a year from now. In the end it will be fiscal reality that will dictate the downsizing of City Hall. Along with some other things that also badly need it. Eventually this will all happen irregardless, though there will be a considerable amount of talking about it along the way. Probably in hopes of sustaining the illusion that there is something that can be done about it.
Item #3 will see Bart Doyle step up to the podium and discuss his somewhat faulty performance as our representative to the Pasadena Unified School Districting Task Force (so-called). Something that we discussed here at considerable length on Saturday. You can access that discussion, plus all the reader commentary, by clicking here.
Next in view is Item #4, and the question here is do we want to challenge the imperial demands of the central state planning apparatus (SCAG), or just acquiesce in the building of 55 units of highly dense group housing in Sierra Madre. Despite the fact that nobody here wants it, and there really isn't any place left to put it. But the state doesn't care about any of that, after all they have development and real estate lobbyists to pay off. Cracking desirable old-line low density towns such as ours being precisely what these lobbies shelled out all those generous campaign donations to get.
The question that Sierra Madre must ask itself is should we be participating in this obvious statewide political corruption? Do we merely knuckle under and allow it to happen? Ethical demands do outweigh any other considerations in my opinion. After all, if you go along with this stuff, aren't you just a part of the crime? Sometimes you have to tell the likes of SCAG and the rest of that ilk where to go. Which in this case is somewhere very warm and far beneath the Earth's crust.
Item #5 is on the Agenda to make good on an oversight from the last City Council meeting. Council Liaisons and Alternate Liaisons were chosen for all of the applicable committees, but somehow the General Plan Steering Committee was overlooked. So what this one is intended to do is remedy that unfortunate oversight.
Item #6 has the interesting title of "Commissioner Appointment Process." Since 2008 such appointments have been made with the participation of the entire City Council. It now takes a majority vote of the City Council to place someone on a commission. Apparently Mayor Moran has requested a review of this process, with the suspicion of many being he has done so in order to concentrate more of that appointment power upon the office of the Mayor. Which is himself. It will be interesting to see if the other members of the City Council are willing to cede some of their power to him in this regard. Outside of Walsh, I really can't see anyone doing that.
By the way, 2008 was when Kurt Zimmerman was Mayor, with MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts voting to put the current procedures in place.
The last round for tomorrow evening is lucky Item #7, which is boldly entitled "Discussion - Strategic Plan From April 17, 2012 Retreat." This is also carry over from the last City Council logjam, so I am going to reiterate what I said in my preview to that meeting.
(Item Number 7) covers the Strategic Plan Retreat from April 17. It includes such deceptively worded oxymorons as "Preserve Our Small Town Character with a Vibrant Downtown" and "Make Sierra Madre an Economically and Environmentally Sustainable Community." The rotten heart of this sugary sounding stew is the elevation of the development advocating so-called "Green Committee" to full Commission status. What this move is really about is incorporating a large downtown redevelopment agenda, along with SB 375, into our town's new General Plan. It is an attempt to raise from the dead the discredited "Downtown Specific Plan" concept. There is absolutely nothing "green" about putting high density development into our downtown. Don't succumb to all the greenwashing, this is the real aim here.
That is what I said two weeks ago, and I'm sticking to it.