Monday, July 9, 2012

The Council of Moranistan: Tuesday Evening Preview

I am not certain that this town should be called Sierra Madre anymore. Or at least the government portion of it shouldn't be. The town itself is fine I suppose, with most living here being oblivious to that sort of thing anyway. Their world is a very peaceful place that defies the political controversies that are so entertaining for some of us, and vexing for others. The real majority in this town, that 65 or so percent that wouldn't vote if you paid them to do it, just doesn't care. They are not there for any of this, and probably never will be.

However, now that our Mayor is apparently actively involved in an attempt to rob the remaining residents of their rights to a meaningful vote on downtown development, the government portion really doesn't fit in here anymore. It has become different. And in order to properly recognize the imperial ambitions of its obstreperous ruler, I suggest that we should rename 232 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard, along with the lands that immediately surround it, Moranistan. Not just a realm unto itself, but also an utterly unique state of mind as well. A place where your voice isn't really heard, and wouldn't matter even if it were.

But enough on that. There will be a Plenum of the Council of Moranistan tomorrow evening, and it is our duty to attempt and unravel its many secrets so that you, our valued reader, might be able to better participate in what little is left of democracy in this town. Or, perhaps, so that you can help me come to a better understanding of what is going on. That happens more often than you might think.

The enchantment begins with a closed session. These are held out of the public view because they involve either legal issues such as lawsuits, or contract negotiations with the many fine individuals who toil daily to provide us with services that we often take for granted. That is, if we even care to acknowledge that they exist.

This evening's sub rosa event actually involves both of these reasons for secrecy, because it's none other than the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association that is in on the action, and they're up to their old tricks. Apparently they are suing us again, which is what they do when they aren't asking us for more money, or to pay for their retirement benefits. This is a novel negotiating concept, akin to not just biting the hand that feeds you, but practically gnawing it off. Anyone who has (or ever had) children might understand the sting of such monumental ingratitude.

And to think that there were candidates in last April's election who proudly (and even loudly) accepted the endorsement of these characters. What is even more amazing is that only two of them lost.

After that tender private moment has passed, the elected representatives and participating city employees will throw open the chamber doors and invite in whomever has shown up to play a part in the evening's festivities. With one event in particular being quite monumental. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Order will be called, and some might even see it as that. The rituals will be administered by this week's designated Councilmember, Chris Koerber. The City Attorney will invariably inform us that she cannot report on what happened in the closed session, which really isn't all that different from her reports on most everything else if you think about it. The agenda will be approved, though some things might get moved around first. The Mayor and Councilmembers will then try and find something interesting from the last two weeks of their lives to talk about, but not all 5 will succeed. After that the public will be invited to comment on "items not on the agenda," which is an infinite array of topics if you think about it. And then Lisa Volpe will be ceremonially retired from the SMPD, with the owner of the Four Seasons Tea Room presenting her with a golden shovel.

There is a mystery item here, that being who exactly will be delivering the Sierra Madre Elementary School Construction Update. There is nothing hipping us to this person's identity in the City paperwork, so I am going to guess that it is the secretive Bart Doyle. Whoever it may be, the individual doing the reporting will tell us that everything is wonderful at the PUSD, and we are fortunate to have so fine an organization working for our children. Kind of like the Edison guy did after last winter's windstorms caused those endless power outages.

This is followed by the Consent Calendar, which always starts off with the ritual spending of cash. In many ways this is the one truly religious moment of the evening. The amounts are large, of course. How much fun would it be if they weren't? This week the all-inclusive sum is $556,391. You will be happy to note that Dapeer, Rosenblit and Litwak will be receiving a check for $21,938, with Colontuono and Levin's cut of the action being $18,221.

Item 1b on the Consent Calendar has to do with the owner of Stonegate aka One Carter (Capital Source Bank) preparing a "conservation easement" involving Lot 29. This will keep some of the space near the imaginary houses that will never be built there open. Of course, everything is open at Stonegate/One Carter, so maybe we can call the entire thing an easement? Whatever the reason, the City will likely take the property.

But there is actually much more to Item 1b than just that. Lot 29 is the most uninhabitable and precariously positioned spot on the entire One Carter site. It is also perhaps the most dangerous. During mud slide season it is the most likely place there to rain gooey chaos upon the streets and houses below, with the burden of cleaning it up all falling upon the owner. Which, should the City accept this dubious gift of Lot 29, would be we the taxpayer. Capital Source thereby escaping any fiduciary responsibility for damage. CapSource (as they like to call themselves) is giving away a serious problem here, one that they have no chance of ever selling. I'm not certain the City should take it.

One piece of Lot 29 lore. This lot is located very near the home of Forest Harding, a once upon a time honcho of Residents for the Preservation of Sierra Madre. The group best known for shuttng down plans to build Maranantha High School at One Carter. Harding later earned the eternal enmity of many of his former allies in the preservationist movement by making what many saw as a side deal with both the developers and 2004 Sierra Madre City Council, one that protected his side of One Carter from despoliation while throwing the rest of the woodland to the wolves.

Item 1c is next. It involves all the many newly revised rules and regulations for the use of public parks and other such facilities controlled by the City. In the Agenda Report there are 21 pages describing what exactly these facilities are, and how all of this might apply to you. That is, should you ever use any facilities. The one saving grace here is that the Community Services Commission went through all of this stuff with a fine toothed comb. Some of them have great senses of humor, which I suspect is necessary for this kind of work. Unfortunately that does not come through in these documents.

The last item on the Consent Calendar is labeled 1d, and it presents the results of an RFP that went out to engineering firms who repair and maintain things like storm sewers and other street rehabilitation projects. The firm that City Staff wishes to award this contract is RKA Consulting Group, which, at $57,665.00, did not provide us with the lowest bid. Most of the Agenda Report item discusses this, all in hopes of convincing the City Council that the quality of their work justifies the additional $7,700 or so in cost. The lowest bid was the $49,958 offer provided by B&E Engineers, who I guess Bruce Inman doesn't think will get it done. I wonder how they feel about that. It must be hurtful to them.

Item #2 is the main event. This is a public hearing dealing with the Kensington, Measure V, the right of the residents of Sierra Madre to vote on downtown development. Basically the whole shebang, and what could be one of the biggest potential showdowns in years. I wrote a long article about this just the other day, and if you wish to read it you can do so by clicking here.

But here's the deal. Measure V is the law in Sierra Madre. It became the law in 2007 because the voters decided it should be by both putting it on the ballot, and then voting it into existence. Meaning there are really only two options available to the City Council on this matter. Follow the letter of the law by putting the obviously non-compliant Kensington project onto a true Measure V ballot this fall, or break it.

And should a majority of this City Council decide that they can somehow get away with breaking this law on behalf of certain favored special interests by refusing the people of Sierra Madre their right to a legitimate vote in this matter (or any that may follow), it would fall upon the people of Sierra Madre to remedy the situation. And trust me, the Courts do frown upon politicians who attempt to steal voting rights. After all, this isn't North Korea.

I'm not saying that any of this is going to happen. But if it does, and these miscreants should somehow decide that they have the power to flaunt Measure V through the use of creative writing, parsing and the word substitution games our overpaid City Attorneys have been disingenuously pushing, then they will be engaging in criminal behavior. It could make for interesting TV, and you might want to have your children watch.

If somehow the City Council gets past all of that, we will then see some discussion of Item #3. Something that deals with a City Council succession policy, or the lack of it. This is an important issue. There was no real policy in place when Joe Mosca suddenly decided he needed to leave the country, and pronto. A lot of discussion was had back then about whether the Council could just appoint a replacement, or if it should go to a vote of the people.

Item #4 deals with, amongst other fairly nebulous Strategic Plan goals, turning the Green Committee into a full Commission. This in hopes of legitimizing much of the Green Committee's agenda, which includes high density and mixed use "transit village" style development in our downtown area. Something that is fully laid out in the Green Committee's so-called Accords. Not to be confused with Acuras, which are more expensive.

You'd think that those pushing what is basically the same old downtown development agenda would just come right out and be honest about it, rather than larding the whole thing over with a lot of cooked up greenwash about sustainability and other yet to be objectively clarifed jargon.

Sadly, they just don't work that way here. It's not how things are done in Moranistan.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

93 comments:

  1. I Care, So Should YouJuly 9, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    Measure V and the Green committee. Two very important items that we need to educate people about. Rise up and look at what is being pulled over our eyes. Get everyone you know to attend the council meeting. This is very bad and will change our town as we know it.

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  2. B&E Engineering is one of the most qualified firms in the business of civil engineering, land planning and surveying, established in 1976 by Jim Emerson, a consummate professional.

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    1. Thanks for that information.
      We could get great work for almost $8,000. less. And we're trying to save money?

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    2. Just another swell example of the Sierra Madre City Hall attitude towards spending the bigger bucks when they can.

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    3. That money has always come far too easily.

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  3. I think the Moranistan name is apt. Josh's little regime has a lot more to do with his cronies in the real estate and construction businesses than it does anything Sierra Madreans want.

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  4. At least there is some good news, NO MORE LISA!

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  5. I do believe that when Josh was elected he made no bones about the fact that while on council he would favor his friends and relatives. This is essentially honest, however, not necessarily in the best interests of all of Sierra Madre.
    Ruling from self interest instead of principle is one of those paved roads to hell.

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    1. It was the way he was raised, it paid his Gooden School tuition and his college expenses. Self Interest is the mantra of his mother and her friends. In a sense it is his destiny.

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    2. "Luke, I am your father."

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    3. Are these roads to hell maintained by RKA Construction Group?

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    4. That is the real political divide in town. Some see this as their home and want to maintain it as such. Others see our birthright as an opportunity to cash in and make a lot of money. That is where Josh and Nancy are. It is also why they want to get rid of Measure V.

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  6. I appreciate the police. I really do. I am aware of how much good they do. Of course there are mistakes and problems sometimes - they are people, not robots. But this is too much. They are going to sue us again? Too much. Get rid of them. Call in the sheriff.

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    1. The SMPOA's tactics only work if they are popular with the residents. The overwhelming defeat of the two UUT measures in April did not show much love for the PD. In the end whether they stay or go depends on if we can still afford them. They are not helping their case here.

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    2. I, unfortunately must agree, that the Sierra Madre Police need to go. After many years of supporting them in the hopes that they would become a dedicated, professional, law enforcement agency, my disappointment is overwhelming.

      Besides a few rotten apples in the department, the law firm representing the Police Association isn't doing them any favors either. I suspect it's the lawyers that are "counseling" them to pursue all of these lawsuits. Ultimately however, it is the poor judgement of the Police Association members that have brought them to this point.

      They've had a big public relations campaign lately, telling people to call them for any problem they see or experience. This is great for "juicing" their statistics, but when they refuse to do anything about the problem after arriving, What's the Point?

      If bringing in another agency will in fact save us money and heart ache, whether it be the Sheriff's Department, Arcadia Police Department, etc., I say.....It's time for a change!

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    3. Seems like a no-brainer to me. The Sheriffs are more professional, cost a million bucks less a year and we won't be stuck paying their pensions and benefits forever. Where is the down side?

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    4. Sheriff's deputies spend the first four years of their career in the jails learning to despise people and break bones. Not my preferred kind of thugs.

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  7. What is the rationale for the police suit this time?
    It can't be "We're the lowest paid" anymore.
    (Never mind that it's also the easiest place to work.)
    The lowest paid schtick is something the POA maneuvers around from department to department.

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    1. Pretty good trick when you think about it. There will always be a lowest paid that needs to be treated with more respect.

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  8. "The City Attorney will invariably inform us that she cannot report on what happened in the closed session, which really isn't all that different from her reports on most everything else if you think about it."
    The less we hear from Highsmith, the better. There's a direct correlation between how many words she speaks and how much confusion she generates.
    Besides, it's the city manager who is supposed to be doing all the talking. The lawyer is just there for what?
    To stop the council from.....breaking the law.

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    Replies
    1. Back in the day, councils could meet without any city attorney present.

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    2. Chief Knock-A-HomerJuly 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      Colantuono and Levin attys are there to make certain that the interests of their clients such as the League of california Cities are properly represented.

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  9. Why would the city accept the 'gift' of a problem lot from the triangle of death development?

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    Replies
    1. So Josh and Nancy can take credit for it.

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    2. Why would the bank give it?

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    3. Maybe it's a tax write-off.

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    4. It would certainly be a boon to the bank not to have to maintain that area.

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    5. Lot 29 at 1 Carter is not being "given" to the city. One of the conditions of approval for the tract map was a conservation easement to address drainage issues. The conservation easement was increased, therefore there is now more "open space."

      Additionally, the city does not "maintain" any of 1 Carter. The homeowners must maintain their own land.

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    6. Perhaps that area should be called the Forest Harding Preserve.

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    7. Why was the easement increased?

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    8. Increase in the drainage easement

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  10. I think city hall knows it is on shaky legal ground if they try to scuttle Measure V. They're counting on resident passivity to allow them to sneak this through. If challenged they will back down is my belief.

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    1. Nothing like ignoring the law to make legal ground shaky.

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    2. Why should the city attorney care? If it becomes a resident vs. City hall legal mess, her firm makes out like a bandit. There is no financial reason why Highsmith shouldn't be as obscure and difficult as possible tomorrow night. This is a money making opportunity for those people.

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    3. You are so right 10:44. And I find it very frustrating having to finance both sides in a lawsuit!

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    4. That is how it works in Moranistan.

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    5. Yep, 10:46. In a corrupt city that is how it goes.

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    6. Speaking of corruption...
      http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-vernon-administration-20120708,0,1305104.story

      Let's do the "deffer to council" mambo.....

      ..."top Vernon officials routinely deferred to counsel from their outside law firm, Latham & Watkins LLP, and called the presence of the firm within the city "striking" and "highly unusual." "

      Does Latham & Watkins ring a bell? JH can answer that one.....

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    7. Big money for law firms in the City Attorney game. Latham's role in our pUSD Board of Ed non-vote until 2015 was neat. I wonder what other tricks they have up their sleeves ...

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  11. "Lisa Volpe will be ceremonially retired from the SMPD, with the owner of the Four Seasons Tea Room presenting her with a golden shovel."... I LOVE IT... Well done!

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    1. It would also be fitting if Ms. Volpe could turn a hose on the guy and spray him down.

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    2. Maybe they could reenact the event in Council Chambers. I think that would make for some riveting SMTV3.

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  12. Josh and his siblings received big time financial aid at Prep and Claremont Clollege. There was no way those tuitions could have been afforded.

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    1. do you know for sure they did not get scholarships

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    2. Why is this even a matter of discussion 12:35 & 2:48.
      What are both of you trying to say?

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    3. Just talking. You have a problem with people talking?

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  13. The Sierra Madre School parents are not the sharpest group around. They should have demanded the district fix the field instead of building the extra classrooms. The four extra classrooms will allow 140 extra students to be bused into Sierra Madre from other parts of the district. Remember, we don't even have a vote until 2015. A few years ago the district made a mess of the field at the lower campus and the well meaning but stupid residents and non profits stepped forward and paid to fix the field even though everyone was paying on that bond. The district is repeating the scam again. They know the stupid parents will pay twice for the new field just like they did before. Busing 140 students daily into town isn't very GREEN.

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    1. My opinion is that the PUSD would not have fixed our field in any case, but they found it hard to turn down actual classrooms. It was a negotiated deal for all concerned.

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    2. The point the poster makes is a valid one, though. Did PUSD commit to those 4 classrooms for us, or as a way of finding more room for other cities in the district?

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    3. Some of the parents care deeply and are very involved. But, just like the 65ish% of residents who don't vote, probably about the same percentage of parents don't participate.

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    4. We are all told that the government is the solution to problems like these, but how many times are we to be failed by these people before we throw up our hands and just give up? This is heartbreaking for parents. Sierra Madre schools are in the hands of people who do not respect us, and want what we have.

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    5. I do not think calling people stupid is of any value to your point . some people just try to get things done to help their kids and do not worry about the situation that got it that way

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    6. Unless you push back against things like PUSD they will walk all over you. Who wants to live in a victim community?

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    7. who wants to live in a community where if you disagree of the way somebody thinks you have to call them names and insults

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    8. Good point. Do you know of a place where such things don't happen?

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    9. This is a good place to start

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    10. Good luck with that.

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  14. PUSD is just such a nightmare.

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  15. Somebody might want to (should) submit a public records request to view the claim submitted by the SMPOA which is the subject of the closed session. It is a public document, should be released and will let the community know what the SMPOA issue involves.

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  16. Correction Needed

    Forest Harding was on the Board of Directors of RPSM, but was not the "head honcho." Rick and Margie Simpson were the de facto head honchos and ran the group with an iron fist. As an aside, many of the Board members padded their pockets with the donations entrusted to them by many hundreds of Sierra Madre residents. That might be a story for another day. But note, that Rick and Margie Simpson are still in town and still involved in local politics.

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    1. I learned something today. The new troll (Steve/Stephanie) is a Simpson hater.

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    2. i the new troll do not know the simpsons but just reading the blog and making comments on a day I am housebound . so it is someone else who hates the simpsons probably a regular to this blog

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  17. Both SMEAC and RPSM recruited a bunch of goonies to support their cause. I sat on a commission in town and they would come in like a bunch of disgruntled citizens with their gripes totally unsupported. At one time at the beginning I went to a formation meeting at Simpson home and looked around at the people and realized I didnt want to be associated with these goons. I witnessed council members Stockley and Hayes in "confidential" conversations several times with the Simpsons. Dont know what that would be about if Stockley was a pro-Dorn Platz and the Simpsons were dead against it. I noticed through the years that Simpsons became very bitter and what was once a happy pair began to eat away their blissfulness. But their money afforded them to build a new home away from the eyesore they contributed to create by dragging the public hearings on for years. They could have been looking out their windows to a beautiful million dollar neighborhood filled with Asian money.

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    1. The Simpsons were not opposed to Dorn Platz. They opposed the high school, but became accommodating to a housing development.

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    2. 2:49

      Please, keep your racist comments to yourself.

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    3. Uh oh. Knees are jerking.

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    4. 3:00~ Seems like it's a factual observation. Take a drive into Arcadia, below Orange Grove and look at who is buying MacMansions. A good deal of Mursol clients, and Architects that work for them, are Asian. Drive south on El Monte Ave south of Arcadia High School. The USA is up to our ears in debt to China. There is a whole lot of money in play here. No need to play the race card. It's a fact. Doesn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

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    5. Chinese target US homes (WSJ article, not racism). SGValley is the nexus of asian immigration in Southern California. Yes, lots of asian money flowing into residential real estate in this area. That means development and increased population.

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304458604577489062449154168.html

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    6. EB-5... Buy a house, become a citizen.

      http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/03/business/la-fi-easy-visa-20110904

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    7. Franchise centered in San Marino for real estate brokerage catering to foreign national real estate investments

      http://www.marketwatch.com/story/san-marino-ca-based-real-estate-heaven-makes-the-2012-hispanic-business-500-list-2012-07-09

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  18. In the risk of sounding racist , we do not have to worry much about the Chinese as long as we are part of the pasadena school system . They like many others do not want to send their children there

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  19. The new Tattler troll is very sweet.

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    1. Looks like yet another day where the Tattler has prevented houses from being sold.

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    2. At some point perhaps s/he will vary the style, particularly the all lower case usage.
      Though it does imbue the comments with a certain plaintiveness.

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    3. This blog is killing real estate productivity in Sierra Madre.

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    4. That's a good thing!!!!

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    5. Productivity or speculation?

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  20. thank you 3:49 for the clarification. I was not being racist but merely stating a fact regarding the Asian money on One Carter. This country has got so PC that if one refers to the ethnicity of Asian or Mexican your blasted as a racist. Who cares its a reference for one to visualize.

    Some one robs the bank and the police ask what did he look like. You answer, he was a man who was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. Heaven forbid you say he was a black man without being called a racist.

    If 3:00 is offended by my racist comment maybe you should just leave this country where ever you come from.

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    1. Humility, dude, humility.

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  21. How does this blog kill real estate productivity Carol? Toni?

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    Replies
    1. It's obvious. They sit on their cans all day posting here instead of peddling houses.

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  22. If the Simpson were not opposed to the development of the homes on One Carter then why did they move from that lovely home they had built. Did they want to upgrade from their $2mil estate? No they became so sour with all of it in their front yard they wanted to move. Then they lost their shirts on that nice coffee shop near the church.

    And to answer the Simpsons were opposed to the Maranatha High School project. I dont think so. Maranatha was so deeply imbedded with SM Congregational church and their coffee shop both of interest to the Simpsons. Thats preposterous. I can still see Margie wearing her RED Maranath T shirt. So dont give me that they were opposed story. They were one of the head proponents of the high school concept. I as well thought the site would have been good for the high school. They were offering the town use of their facilities. A recreation center for the citizens. It was the citizens against any development that caused the demise of that site by delaying the project through lengthy public hearings. Even Watergate didnt take as long as some little hillside project hearing.

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    1. And where does Maranatha's law suit against the city, suing on religious persecution grounds, come into it?

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    2. So, the Simpsons put their lovely home on the block and realized seven figures at close of escrow. They then bought a very common little bungalow, living it for the time it took to build a new "old" house on the back of the lot, leveled the bungalow, all of this on a main heavily trafficed boulevard facing south, across from ugly estate sized houses. I'd say their sourness was cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

      You're full of beans 6:18 pm.

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  23. In Wikipedia, under revisionist history, they have a copy of 6:18's remarks.

    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth? Give us a break.

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    1. We might be in some kind of Rashomon thing here. I distinctly recall hearing the Simpsons voice the opinion that the site was right for 31 houses.

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  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Apparently a very upset Moranistanian.

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  25. SM has a vote now without a locally elected rep. Why would that change while there are still district wide reps in place?

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    1. You are talking out both sides of your mouth, Nav. On the one hand you told us that local representation was superior, now you are telling us that even though we don't get local representation until 2015 (2 years later than most), we just fine because we still have some at-large bum looking out for us. The PUSD is a disaster, and you are little more than an apologist.

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  26. First off, my comment was not intended to state my opinion about which format is superior, rather it was to highlight the discrepancy between believing at-large elections are superior (no vote) and that local representation is superior (at large not being done away with soon enough in SM). I still have yet to hear a good explanation on how those two positions are not contradictory.
    My previous comments on this issue did not claim local rep was superior, rather they intended to highlight the fact that the law attempts to address something other than level of representation, and very likely at the cost of quality of representation. I also tried to make the point that a no vote would achieve nothing other than increased costs since a community cannot vote to break the law.
    'The district' consists of about 1,900 employees, and probably 50,000 community members directly (more if you count indirectly). It is no more a disaster than the community allows it to be.
    And finally, I am an apologist only for kids. If you've seen examples of comments from me that seem to imply otherwise, please feel free to point them out and I will be happy to clarify the intent.

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  27. Are you the same navigio who regularly writes for dailykos.com or a pretender riding the wake of an educated outspoken citizen of the ether?

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  28. As far as I know, there is only one of me. link?

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