Saturday, July 28, 2012

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Begs for Your Understanding

There was some concern expressed here by those commenting yesterday that the timeline established by City Hall for the City Council's discussion about our continued role in "The COG" was somewhat suspect. Our COG dues, due in June, have yet to be paid. Per the rules of the SGVCOG, should we have not paid our dues by the end of September, our membership would then automatically be void. Which means the Council's discussion on this matter, not agendized to take place until October 9th, would be moot. Technically we would already be out.

Of course, the likelihood of The COG throwing anyone out right now is pretty slim. Rather they are trying very hard to keep cities from leaving. With Walnut already gone, and places like San Dimas, Claremont and El Monte (among others) looking like they may very well follow, it really isn't a good time for The COG to be enforcing any dues policies.

I would hope that City Hall would not pay that $8,000 we supposedly owe The COG until at least the October 9th City Council discussion has taken place. Paying tribute money to an organization that recently saw its Executive Director rung up by the District Attorney on four felony counts of conflict of interest, with the centerpiece of those charges being the abuse other peoples' money, would seem foolish right now. Sierra Madre needs to at least have a conversation first. And if it takes until October 9 to do it, then the SGVCOG is just going to have to wait for its money.

The COG is, of course, in a state of panic right now. Faced with the possibility that they could lose a significant portion of their member cities within the next six months, along with the strong chance that the District Attorney's investigation will not stop with just Nick Conway, has led to a state of advanced uneasiness there. Plus there is also the distinct possibility that should it be established in Court that significant levels of fraud have taken place there, member cities could be forced to return any of the money they had received from "The COG." A hit potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and something that places like Sierra Madre can ill afford right now.

As you might have guessed, I think we need to get out. If the City of Sierra Madre will not take a stand against corruption this grotesque now, then when will we? How bad does the rot have to get for us to actually do something?

However, and despite all of that, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments is fighting back. And in an internal memorandum obtained by The Tattler ("The COG" is leaking like a sieve these days) they can be seen literally begging their member cities not to quit. In a document dated July 25, 2012, here is what Interim Executive Director F. M. Delach, City Manager of Azusa, has to say:

As you know these have been difficult times for the COG and member agencies perception of this organization. Several cities are contemplating withholding dues and/or withdrawing membership.

Although I can understand the concern and even consternation, I am reminded of the old analogy of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater." No single individual, or Governing Board Member, should be cause to disband or kill the organization. The COG as an organization was born out the necessity (sic) of the cities, County, and water agencies to work together on issues of regional concern. The cities know all to well that alone our voices are less than significant in dealing with the MTA, State, or Federal Government. Together we have made a significant difference in accomplishing great things for this Valley we call home.

This being the kind of damage control that Delach would be expected to do under the circumstances. Having COG's Executive Director, someone who ran they place with an iron fist for years, arrested and arraigned on felony corruption charges by the County of Los Angeles, will do that. It is about as bad as things can get for an organization like The COG.

So what exactly are these COG contributions that Delach refers to as "great things for this Valley we call home?" They are listed in this SGVCOG document as proof of the need for its continued existence. Unfortunately, they appear more like regional disasters than anything else. I've pulled a few out of the roster so you can see what I mean.

RHNA: The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is completed by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) every eight years to determine the number of low - and moderate - income housing units that should be developed in each city to meet the region's needs.

"RHNA numbers," as they often called, are perhaps the most despised aspect of regional government here in the so-called "SCAG Region." That "The COG" plays a key role in enforcing what are basically state mandated, Sacramento lobbyist initiated demands that our local cities accept "SCAG Housing" that they most decidedly do not want hardly speaks to a need for COG's survival. That the SGVCOG claims that it plays an important role in the RHNA appeals process is also a sham. Out of all the COG cities that appealed their RHNA numbers this cycle, only one, La Puente, saw its number reduced. And then only by a very few housing units.

710 Gap Closure Environmental Work: This year, work began on the 710 Gap Closure environmental impact report. This Measure R funded effort represents significant project (sic) on a long-standing SGVCOG transportation priority.

By "710 Gap Closure" he is talking about building the 710 Tunnel. Something that Fran Deloch can't even force himself to say. Rather we get an Orwellian euphemism. This tunnel will be an environmental disaster for our part of the planet, effectively funneling vast quantities of diesel burning truck traffic from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, up the 710 and right into our backyard. The "710 Corridor" is widely recognized as one of the truly significant air pollution disasters of Los Angeles County. "The COG" wants to extend that by bringing it here.

Measure R Funding: This year, 710 Gap Closure, ACE and the Gold Line Foothill Extension saw the first draw down of Measure R funding.

Measure R, as I am certain you know, is a sales tax increase voted into existence a couple of years back. It is up for a voter renewal through 2069 this November. And what are we getting in exchange? Thanks to the hard work of "The COG," the 710 Tunnel plus a "Gold Line Foothill Extension." The problem being that any extension of the Gold Line has been taken off the table by Metro, who would now prefer to spend our tax money on things like the Los Angeles "Subway to the Sea."

The COG wants you to cast a "yes" vote on Measure R. Why? So they can build a 710 truck tunnel that will send cancer rates in our area skyrocketing, while at the same time not finishing the Gold Line?

The SGVCOG simply has got to go.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

57 comments:

  1. I stand firmly in opposition to the SR-710 alternatives routed through the San Rafael area of southwest Pasadena, whether they be surface or subsurface. In particular, Alternatives F-5, F-6, and H-2 in the current planning documents would devastate well-established and historically protected residential neighborhoods and landmarks. Alternative F-7 is so unclear that it can't be reviewed coherently. As presented, the concept of a 4.5-mile tunnel with no portal is just dangerous to public safety, particularly as it is meant to serve the Ports by trying to accommodate truck traffic on a hilly, winding regional arterial route. Which is why there are no freeways there now.

    Not only do these alternatives create unacceptable destruction in the heart of the residential community in Pasadena, along with their serving institutions from Sequoyah School, to Waverly School, to Mayfield High School, to Westridge School, to the Huntington Hospital, to the Ronald McDonald House, to the many Convalescent and Senior homes, they are unbuildable. I mean this politically and physically.

    A tunnel of that length cannot be exhausted safely with auto and truck traffic. Nor is it safe for auto/truck traffic because of the horrific accidents that happen in these long highway tunnels. It's inviting a legal and public safety nightmare right into the existing urban fabric.

    According to an Austrian tunnel study in 2007, in tunnels, the severity of casualties is significantly higher than on motorways, expressways and federal roads. While 3.3% of those injured on motorways die, the fatality rate in tunnels is substantially higher at 8.2%. The number of persons killed relative to all casualties is by far the highest in tunnels. Severe fatalities in the Fréjus Road Tunnel in Europe required that a rescue tunnel parallel to the main highway tunnel be built as an afterthought. I see no indication of this on any of the plans, which would double the physical impact of these proposed projects and add significant costs beyond the available funding.

    The only viable option for this kind of a connector would be a rail development that runs as a clean freightway completely under the control of the Ports, that is routed directly to a dry port. Dave Alba has proposed a cargo rail pipeline running alongside the San Gabriel River and then out to the warehouses in Ontario, saving an estimated 2.5 million truck trips a year from the harbor along the 710 Freeway to the Inland Empire, for a cost of about $20 Billion. About the same price tag as the proposed alternatives. This is the kind of infrastructure development that provides needed freight access in a safe and effective manner. I don't think that anyone is under the illusion that the current auto traffic demands anything more than better surface street accommodation, which is what all the cities along the proposed routes had been willing to accommodate and had thought was settled.

    And now suddenly the truck traffic is bearing down on these communities again after the original 710 project was killed due to public protest and a sudden spasm of common sense. Why resurrect the Frankenstein Monster? Its physical and environmental destruction far outweighs any benefits to the region or the public. Freight traffic benefits large, distant corporations, not the residents and local institutions that live in the region and invest in it. It makes no sense to do this, particularly with Measure R funds that were meant for local transit access, not regional highways.

    Projects that are expected to be funded by the proceeds of the LA County Measure R sales tax include only local traffic mitigation measures.
    http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Los_Angeles_County_Sales_Tax,_Measure_R,_2008

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    1. Thank you, Laurie.

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    2. Here's the concept from Dave Alba, reviewed by Metro in a meeting a year and a half ago

      http://www.glendalenewspress.com/news/tn-gnp-tunnel-20110117,0,2928212.story

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    3. "a spasm of common sense"
      Ain't it the truth?

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    4. I find it stunning that the pro-710-tunnel side makes no bones about the increased cancer that will result. There's none of the usual mitigation chatter, the "It looks bad, but it isn't really because we can ladedahblahblah", nada. People will die because of this plan, the proponents know it, admit it, and they still continue to push it.

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    5. CALTRANS will justify it by saying that they did their environmental impact study. That is what it is for, you know. To cover their big fat butts.

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    6. It is not cool to make fun of their appearances like that. They're victims of donut poisoning.

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    7. Right you are 12:25, but it is from that side that the statistics were released, showing the increase in emphysema and cancer for communities around the mouths of the tunnels. So that will be dutifully reported in the EIR.
      This is a new level of bad.
      This is knowledge of lethal consequences beforehand.
      A kind of premeditated murder.

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    8. That is what happens when there are foreign nations calling the shots. Americans will die. Economic imperialism comes back to haunt us.

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    9. I distinctly remember a line from Messina that said the people in Alhambra suffered from the traffic congestion, so everybody else should too. It wasn't that baldly put, of course, but that was her reaction to the health risks.

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    10. CALTRANS, Metro, COG, all these people push a lot of different things they justify as being green. But then they conveniently forget all about it when pushing the 710 tunnel.

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  2. Stop the 710 Tunnel. Vote NO on Measure R!

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  3. While your taking out the trash help the Blog take out the COG?

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  4. Isn't it nice, we are going to be paying the shipping infrastructure costs for Chinese corporations to suck this country dry.

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  5. Just another example of how a government institution uses our tax money to work against our interests.

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  6. Off-topic: Are we the only ones who found the Olympic Opening Ceremonies downright stupid?

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    1. Quirky and British. Far better that the tens of thousands of synchronized automatons the Communist Chinese trotted out 4 years ago.

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  7. Remember---Chris Holden, candidate for the new 41st Assembly District which includes the entire San Gabriel Valley, favors extending the 710 freeway. He has, in fact, been one of the most vocal PROPONENTS of the 710 extension for 20+ years.

    While I do not agree with his opponent, Donna Lowe, on many issues she at least understands the disaster 710 extension will bring to the San Gabriel Valley & staunchly opposes it.

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    1. Yes, the world has turned upside down. While conservatives like Donna Lowe fight environmentally ruinous things like the 710 tunnel and SB 375 high density Scag Housing, so-called liberal Democrats like Holden turn out to be the biggest town wreckers around. Of course, I have stopped believing that Democrats in LA County are what they say they are. In my book they're corporatists, little tinpot Mussolinis who think sleeping with the likes of Edison makes them green.

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    2. Good point. Holden and Mussolini both have the same haircut.

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    3. I think Lowe is crazy - small minded and backward in social policy - but damn if I don't have to vote for her. I'll have to hold my nose while I do it.

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    4. I liked the Tea Party at first. Back when they were slamming both parties. Now that they have become the mouthpiece for that idiot Romney, not so much. But I will for sure vote for Lowe.

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  8. Current COG President Barbara Messina, chief architect of the 710 tunnel has quite a history with developers. In September 2006 Michael Messina, husband, a former City Council member himself who was then treasurer and campaign manager for his wife’s campaign; former Alhambra mayor Paul Talbot and local developer Der-Mean Sun discussed sending out mailers to provide information regarding a competing candidate for Alhambra City Council, Arguello, and the possibility that he could bring gambling to Alhambra. The three determined that $20,000 would be the mailers cost and that Michael Messina would provide the funding, Sun would form a committee to produce and send the mailers and Mr. Talbot would work with the printers to produce them. Ahe was caught and fined $14,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

    According to the SGV Tribune, when Former COG President Tom King pulled his City of Walnut out of the SGVCOG due to liabliites of the tainted COG grants, Messina says citie have nothing to worry about.

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    1. (Spilled my coffee on my keyboard.) Messina was caught, fined 14 thousand dollars and now says cities have nothing to worry about. I think we have a lot to worry about. We need to get out of this organization...before October 9th.

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    2. So some of the Board members in Nick's outfit have experience with being fined for bad behavior. Bet they have developed a toughness about it, like it's the cost of doing business.

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    3. Kind of like Mafia guys. Getting in trouble means you;re doing the job.

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    4. You're a 'made man' if you've been fined by the FPPC, or the DA has visited your home.

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  9. Vote for Donna Lowe for Assembly, she is the one who is AGAINST this 710 Freeway nightmare.
    The other guy, Holden has always been for it, along with other bad ideas.
    Vote NO on the Measure R.

    Thank you for this good report, John Crawford.
    I always print a few copies of the Tattler article and give them to neighbors.
    Can't print all the comments or I would run out of ink every week!
    Everyone in Sierra Madre needs to read these reports you give us!
    We can't do a lot about most political scams, but we can make a difference here in Sierra Madre and for our friends in the San Gabriel Valley.
    Encourage people to read these Tattler articles! That is what we CAN do.

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    1. Yes, I heard Chris Holden state at a candidate debate during the primary election that "I am not in favor of the surface solution" for the 710 fwy. Interpretation: he is in favor of the tunnel solution.

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  10. Congratulations to the Tattler for exposing the nonsense which is the COG. Time to end the abuses and to shine a light on how this secret organization has influenced decisions which affect the public throughout the region.

    Many of the COG delegates went back to their cities and NEVER disclosed to their residents that they just voted to support extending the Measure R tax or to create the new County "rain" tax.

    Time for governance by secrecy to end!

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    1. They also endorsed a rain tax that will bring hundreds of dollars in property tax increases to feed LA County coffers.

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  11. Somebody on the City Council needs to tell Aguilar that the COG discussion needs to take place NOW. Maybe now that Josh is Mr. Measure V maybe he'll do it.

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  12. The COG list of 'accomplishments' reads like total surrender to the state.
    Don't they get it that they are supposed to stand up for their hometowns?

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    1. The only thing COG stands up for is state and corporate money. They'd run over their mothers in a semi to get it, too.

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  13. If Measure R guaranteed a subway direct to LAX and a subway direct to Burbank Airport, I'd vote for it. But to the beach? No. Besides of which, this is reminiscent of the PUSD - we are told that our money will probably, most likely, to the best of their ability, go for one thing, but it ends up going for something else.

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    1. Just another government bait and switch.

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    2. I understand that the plans for the "Subway to the Beach", doesn't even take it to the beach.

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    3. Of course not. That's where "walkability" comes into play. Walk, citizen. The state demands it.

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  14. Nothing has really changed over at the COG. While Conway has been removed as the Executive Director, he continues to run the COG offices and manage the day to day operations of the COG staff. Last month he received a mere $66,000.00 in public tax dollars for his work and the COG leadership continues to pay him for his work related to the very contracts which are the subject of his arrest!

    Time to wipe the slate clean and disband the COG.

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    1. This is indicative of how the COG Governing Board continues to support Conway despite his recent arrest. We have major corruption problems in the San Gabriel Valley. More COG leadership needs to be purged from our communities. Bertone-San Dimas, Spence-La Canada, Messina-Alhambra, Lutz-Monrovia, Carillo-Azusa, to name a few.

      They all have little capers of their own underway, financed or supported by the COG.

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  15. You know Delach is quite right when he says:
    "No single individual, or Governing Board Member, should be cause to disband or kill the organization."
    Unfortunately, he and the majority of the others who participated in the COG allowed the organization to be turned into one that serviced Nick Conway, not the public.
    Remember the Conway devotee quote "The COG IS Nick", or "Nick IS the COG."
    The representatives who were happy to eat and take home notes are responsible for letting one individual become the definition of the organization.

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    1. I agree. Mosca belongs in a cell right next to Nick's.

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  16. This is how the SGVCOG will melt down:
    Conway will sue for legal protection after the majority turns him down. Messina and Spence will lead the pack to pay the fees claiming that they will loose the lawsuit. The COG attorney gets involved and uses up the remainder of the COG reserves. Conway gets convicted. A conviction means 100 percent the grants are void. Someone will sue and require the money returned to the grantor. The COG cannot afford it and the cities become liable in the bankruptcy proceedings. The cities have to kick in to pay the bill because as a Joint Powers Authority, they are ALL liable.

    Bet you a buck.

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  17. I'll call you and raise you $2

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    1. I'll see you and raise you $5. If it turns out that government grant money was used illegally by the COG, they're going to want it back. If some of that came our way, then Katie bar the door!

      My question is are we covered for that by our insurance, or will that come straight out of the General Fund? Maybe Nancy Walsh knows the answer to that one. She is very COGnizant.

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    2. Another body from the Buchanan era, floating to the surface ..

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    3. To think we could have to pay because we had such sloppy representatives as Mosca and Walsh....that hurts.

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    4. It takes a village to make an idiot. It looks like we made two of them.

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  18. In keeping with the world sports festival, we ought to have a SGV Corruption Race. Tally up the bucks wasted, mismanaged or co-opted, and rank the winners. Factor in how long they were allowed to get away with it, and the person who suckered the public out of the most money for the longest period of time wins.

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    1. Now that is a crowded field.

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    2. I can't keep up. There's Tran, there's Doyle, there's the lady city manager (?) who fainted when she was found guilty, there was of course the Bell Bunch, Conway the Con, the Bustamante guy, our very own Sierra Madre child pornography fan Matheson who's wandering around free as a bird, the wacky council that was busy having adulterous affairs, and a whole lot more. Hope someone is writing it all down.

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  19. Ah, more than two. And it was all pre-planned.
    We got cooked.

    One keeps belly up at the bar-
    others take the directions from a la bart.

    The story is not new.
    West Coast Soprano....
    It ain't over, folks.

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  20. Does anyone know the name of the tree trimmer that died today?

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  21. I do so love PR.
    "Gap closure" is indeed Orwellian, straight out of the Ministry of Truth.
    What do you reckon the price tag was for that bit of cosmetic surgery.

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    1. I'd like to propose a different kind of closure. Let's shut down the 710 completely. We can just plow the whole thing under and use the land to grow Xmas trees.

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  22. Only reason the Gold Line comes into play in Sierra Madre is the transportation Corridor on East Montecito. The DIRT can make some of their money back. The Troll and his minion are hard are hard at work.

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  23. Thanks LBarlow (love her). This plan also devastates those living south on Ave 64. Below San Rafael is Garvanza; my neighborhood. I have lived on the Garvanza/Highland Park hillside border of Pasadena since 97. We have worked hard in improving our neighborhood (see Garvanza Improvement Association on Face Book)

    The urgency centers around the August 29th meeting where Caltrans will introduce what they plan to put in the EIR/EIS study. A unnamed source tells me it's likely that H2 and F5 will make the cut. A disaster for our community that we've worked so hard to take back and bring up. We become "a disclaimer" neighborhood and with that the desire for future home seekers will (I fear) dissipate with that risk.
    So I implore all interested parties to attend meetings in our area too. See below.

    August 2nd at The Highland Park Senior Center at 6152 N. Figueroa St. 6:00 pm

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