|How ya like me now?|
I have to admit John Capoccia impressed me. After years of hearing mostly dumbed down and feel good bromides presented as so-called moments of inspiration, John just stood up and led anyone who cared to join with him in a very precise and proper prayer. The contrast was impressive. I am not a particularly religious person, so it isn't like this was any kind of personal vindication for me. Though I will freely admit to finding the popularly accepted alternatives to God much less attractive now than they were when I was younger.
God then cleared out of the room, and in His place Paulie Goosebumps arose. Paulie is showing signs of becoming a regular feature during the public comment portion of our City Council meetings, and just like 2 weeks ago he came off as being agitated and random. Tonight's message had to do with good versus evil. In Paulie's mind people with money are evil, and those who have none are good. He also proclaimed that Jesus Christ was a socialist. Something I am skeptical about since I don't think that point of view existed back in Roman Empire times. Projecting modern political concepts and attitudes upon early historic times being a form of intellectual sophistry. Or at least that is what I was taught at college.
Our new Police Chief was anointed by a Judge named Geanette. And for the life of me I can't imagine where she came up with that oath the Chief was sworn on. I counted at least three times where he was asked to avow that he would not try to violently overthrow the government. I would never have taken Larry Giannone to be the anarchist type, but maybe the Judge knows something that we don't. The Chief showed particular courage in allowing Marilyn Diaz to pin some shiny new silver stars to his blue shirt. Marilyn had some difficulty getting the job done, but our new Chief bravely stuck it through. If I can use that term here.
During the Consent Calendar portion of the meeting, the matter of Rosenberg's Rules of Order came up for a final acceptance by the City Council. They were being adopted as a way of both speeding up the proceedings while also improving the quality of the work being done. And they do seem to be working for all involved. This meeting was done before 9PM, miraculously early when you consider how things were going just a short couple months back. Nancy Walsh, however, took pains to point out that she found Rosenberg's Rules to be too restrictive, and wanted to make certain that everyone is aware that she was voting NO on this matter.
The goals of Rosenberg's Rules of Order are actually quite logical and easy to understand. Rules should establish order, rules should be clear, they should be user friendly, and they should enforce the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. These rules are the evolved result of centuries of trying to make meetings effective and productive. I don't know how Nancy Walsh could be against what was really quite a wise choice by the City Council. I can only conclude that she is not very sophisticated on these matters, and had little real understanding of what she was talking about.
The matter of the chicken ordinance came up. I have no idea what Josh Moran had in mind when he cooked this one up and, as things turned out, apparently neither did he. The smack down that Josh received for this foolish piece of poorly prepared business was so complete that even the usually loyal Nancy Walsh joined in on the fun. Moran had absolutely no support whatsoever for his chicken fiasco, and was clearly and publicly disrespected over this unfortunate piece of work by his fellow Councilmembers. In the end it didn't even merit a vote.
The big moment of the evening was obviously the so-called Public Safety Master Plan that John Harabedian so fervently proclaimed we just had to have. Ostensibly this would be an $80,000 consultant prepared stack of paper that would analyze every aspect of public safety in Sierra Madre. Public safety being a government euphemism for what the Police and Fire Departments do.
This was, of course, all just for show. An artful dodge as it were. Nobody ever believed for a minute that the City Council would approve the spending of $80,000 on a consultant. Something that would get us yet another useless binder full of bull, one having about as much value as the $30,000 Buxton market study boondoggle that was supposed to tell our downtown businesses how to they should run their affairs.
Councilmember Koerber asked John Harabedian what it is he is trying to accomplish. John's answer was not really an answer at all. Just more questions.
So shall we lay out what Mr. Harabedian was really up to here? The City is scared to death that the UUT extension will be shot down again in 2014. The defeat of Measure U last April was so overwhelming and devastating for them that there is now considerable fear downtown that the days of Sierra Madre having the highest UUT rate in California are coming to an end. And once that happens the way the City of Sierra Madre is governed will have to drastically change. And in ways that most of the risk averse people working there would not enjoy.
As the conversation went on the $80K master plan idea was jettisoned and in its place a survey began to be discussed. This survey would supposedly help gauge the public's true feelings for the Sierra Madre Police Department, the job it is doing, and what it is that the residents actually want from a police department.
Harabedian, backed up by the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, was adamant that this survey be conducted by an outside party. The idea being that a hired consultant would be impartial and fair to all possible political persuasions, and on any matter. A concept that becomes quite ridiculous when you consider who would actually be hiring the consultant. I find it hard to imagine that City Hall would choose one that would return a survey not closely aligned with what they want.
You may recall that when John Harabedian ran for office he proclaimed that among the first things he would do would be to establish a citizen public safety commission. Now he apparently does not trust the public to even do something as simple as conduct a survey, he wants to hire an expensive consultant to do it instead.
What it all boils down to is an act of political hostage taking. Harabedian is politically obliged to rescue the SMPD because of their support for his election, among other things. If the UUT loses again in two years, the SMPD could very well become too expensive to keep, and have to be replaced with something less costly. By doing surveys and other expensive consultant related shenanigans Councilmember Harabedian, along with City Hall, would be able to prepare a political case for keeping the our UUT rates the highest in California.
All of which means that when the public is asked to vote on the UUT for a second time (the results from the first vote apparently not being acceptable to City Hall), they will be presented with a rather stark choice. You either vote yes for a UUT extension, or we will no longer have a police department.
It is political hostage taking, plain and simple. The City wants what it always wants, more money. Pensions, benefits, job security, all the stuff that it's good to have if you can get it. But here we will be told that we will lose the SMPD of we don't vote ourselves a UUT increase in 2014. Our cops will have been taken hostage in order to leverage excessively high utility taxes, with the vote becoming a referendum on whether or not to keep them. It is one of the oldest cons in the book.
The public portion of the meeting ended with the City Council, along with the senior paid help, going back into closed session to discuss a possible lawsuit against the City. Though this is all supposed to be a secret, I can tell you that it involves the Hildreths, and they are suing Sierra Madre in excess of $1 million dollars. Plus legal expenses.
Making the Hildreth Affair potentially the most expensive code enforcement exercise in Sierra Madre history.