Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anybody Heard How the PUSD's Measure TT Investigations Are Going? And Other Questions

No, I haven't either. One guy took a medical leave, others were suspended and await their employment fates with the Pasadena Unified School System. But as far as the investigations into any of that sadly disappeared bond money goes? Must be one of those "we can't talk about it while the investigation is ongoing" sorts of scenarios. You know, kind of like it is for every crime committed in Sierra Madre over the last five years or so? "Under investigation" being a convenient way of keeping the lid on particularly unpleasant and counterproductive events during the time when the potential for political or legal damage is the greatest.

In a Dec 8 Pasadena Star News article entitled "PUSD financial troubles spread" (click here), Brian Charles and James Figueroa reported the following:

Allegations of improper billing, a school construction project more than $8 million above estimates and questions about the availability of timely financial audits have sent Pasadena Unified School District officials on a search for answers.

The district launched two audits this week. A forensic audit will focus on the allegations of improper billing which led to the termination of four consultants' contracts, the suspension of a fifth contract and landed PUSD Chief Financial Officer David Azcarraga on paid administrative leave.

The district will also ask a consultant to review bids for the Sierra Madre Middle School project. The school project was originally estimated to cost $23 million; bids for the project came in between $31 and $33 million.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Oversight Committee charged with keeping a watchful eye over expenditures on the $350 million Measure TT capital improvement project have a tough task in tracking the money.

Measure TT, passed by Pasadena voters in 2008, provided funding for renovation and construction projects at nearly 30 PUSD schools. Due to state education audit regulations, the bond audit for Measure TT can take up to nine months to complete, according to PUSD Chief Financial Officer John Pappalardo.

The 2010-11 audit was released until May 2012. The audit for the most recent year 2011-12 has not been released.

What this means is we will not be hearing much of anything for quite some time. Which, to my rather impatient way of thinking, indicates that this entire mess has been swept under the rug for the duration. Nine months is a long time, and so is the entire year it has taken for the 2011 audit to emerge. I don't know how you feel about this, but to me this looks like a matter for the District Attorney. Which may actually explain the long and winding process the PUSD is taking on this mess. "Process" is, of course, always the bureaucrat's friend. Especially in this case as some of the figures involved may be fearing something far worse than a forensic audit.

But what we can do is talk a little bit today about Measure CC. Because it does offer a few revealing insights into some of the players in the PUSD bond bingo process, the very same folks that have lead it into some of the current woes there.

As I am certain you recall, Measure CC was a PUSD parcel tax initiative that was voted upon and defeated in May of 2010. It had come close on the heels of the $350 million dollar Measure TT. Had Measure CC passed we all would now be paying a yearly $120 parcel tax to the school system. The initiative lost when it only received 52.46% of the vote. 55% was required for passage.

After the well-publicized debacles of Measure Y, which was apparently plundered of $100,000s of thousands of dollars by various unscrupulous operators, passage of Measure CC was never considered a slam dunk. PUSD financial record keeping in the case of Measure Y was considered to be so dismal by the D.A. that nobody was ever even arrested. This despite the strenuous objections of then Superintendent Edwin Diaz, who repeatedly vowed that the culprits would be brought to justice right up until the time of his early retirement and rapid migration to a new home somewhere up in Northern California.

Proving once and for all that in the case of the PUSD, crime does actually pay. And for those who are concerned about the fate of that missing Measure TT money (however much that may be), this does not bode well at all.

When Measure CC was a hot item in the minds of the minority community known as "voters," there were a number of folks involved that we have discussed quite a bit on The Tattler recently. Here is how they are ID'd on Ballotpedia (click here):

Pasadena school board President Tom Selinske: "When Sacramento fails to fund our schools by more than $20 million, we must take steps to ensure that every student continues to have access to a great education."

Ed Honowitz, PUSD board member: "This community ought to step up now and say, even in these tough economic times we need to support our children."

Peter Dreier of Citizens for Quality Schools: "All of us can afford to dig deep into our pockets and spend 33 cents a day."

George Brumder, on behalf of the Pasadena Education Foundation, said, "We will do everything in our power to see that the parcel tax will pass this spring."

Everything in consideration, that really is quite a rogue's gallery. While their hopes for Measure CC came a-cropper, they still do run that place, and right into a forensic audit I'm afraid. Who can tell how those parcel tax funds would have fared at the bond money equivalent of the Leakin' Lena.

Dr. Ross Selvidge, who was the person that successfully led the fight to defeat Measure CC (click here), recently wrote a letter to the Star News that summarizes beautifully a recent concern at the PUSD, that being having to compete with Charter Schools for students. Freedom of choice being considered a bad thing at the PUSD ("Pasadena Unified considers closing schools again" - click here). The captives apparently should not be allowed to escape, no matter how good the reasons for them wanting to do so. Here is what Ross has to say:

Regarding Renatta Cooper’s recent quote.

"Whenever we vacate a school we open the door to another charter, and that causes us to lose more students."

It is refreshing for the President of the PUSD Board of Education to be so candid about how she views the priorities of PUSD.

If PUSD closes schools because they are surplus in the face of a continued decline in enrollment, more charter schools might open and be able to offer parents of children in the District a broader choice of educational options. And that would be bad.

If PUSD loses more students to charter schools because parents think they are better for their children, PUSD will suffer since it never reduces spending commensurate with declines in enrollment but will have fewer students generating the per-student revenue from the State on which PUSD depends. And that would be bad.

If PUSD is ever to gain the confidence of parents in the District, it cannot tolerate the destructive mind-set that wider educational options are bad, and that the children of the District exist primarily to generate revenue for the PUSD.

In addition, here we are. More than four years after embarking on a $350 million voter-approved bond spending program for school repairs and upgrades, and after continued large declines in enrollment, PUSD announces it will finally present “possible options” sometime next year regarding what schools or other facilities may be closed or disposed of in order to bring its oversized facilities in line with its much smaller student population.

But we have heard that before. And PUSD just keeps holding on to the first priority; spending that bond money as fast as it can.

Of course, one of the questions remaining would have to be who exactly has been spending that Measure TT bond money? Something it will now apparently take a forensic audit to answerer.

And who knows? Now that we are about to go into a two year period where Sierra Madre will effectively have no representation on the Pasadena Board of Education, perhaps one of the schools that will be closed is the Sierra Madre Middle School? We will have nobody there to fight against that.

Oh, and thank you, Bart. Does anything you touch ever live?

Crime Town: Sierra Madre

There are a couple of articles on the Pasadena Star News website today that could indicate the recent MOU signed by the SMPOA (or is that SMPA?) and the City of Sierra Madre is paying only small dividends for the residents here. The first article, "Sierra Madre home burglarized, laptops, jewelry stolen" (click here), reports the following:

A home on the 600 block of Auburn Avenue was burglarized sometime Monday of two laptops and jewelry, police officials said.

The burglary occurred sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday when the occupants were not home, said police Sgt. Rueben Enriquez.

The burglar broke the front door and broke a window to gain entry into the home. The estimated worth of the stolen property was not immediately available and the incident is still under investigation, Enriquez said.

Enriquez urged residents to be cautious when they leave their homes, look around and make sure no suspicious people are watching.

That advice from Sgt. Enriquez is comforting. Perhaps the SMPD can put out a memo informing us about what a suspicious person in Sierra Madre might look like?

The next article is titled "Single-car crash leads Pasadena Police to stolen Sierra Madre car" (click here). This is what is reported:

Pasadena police officials found the stolen car of a Sierra Madre resident early Tuesday morning after it was apparently involved in a crash, police officials said.

Pasadena police found and reported the abandoned and damaged 2005 white Ford Ranger, which was registered to the Sierra Madre resident, just before 7 a.m. Tuesday with the keys still in the ignition switch, said Sierra Madre police Sgt. Reuben Enriquez.

The Sierra Madre resident, who did not even know the car had been stolen, had accidentally left his keys on the seat of the car but had locked the doors, Enriquez said.

The car, which was parked on the street in the 500 block of Highland, was stolen sometime after 10:30 p.m. Monday night, he added.

You will notice that Sgt. Enriquez took pains to report that the keys to this vehicle had been left inside the victim's car. I recall that when the officers showed up at my house after it was robbed, the first question they asked us was if we had left the doors unlocked. Which we had not, and informed them of that fact.

Needless to say, our robbery never did show up in the idiotic Police Blotter.

Here's why. It is always the first priority of the SMPD to establish that a burglary is the fault of the victim, and therefore can in no way be blamed on the quality of the policing in this town. My request is that if you are ever robbed in this town (and the chances are pretty good that you will be), never let the SMPD con you into telling them that your doors were unlocked. It is a cruel question to ask crime victims still in shock from being robbed. Under such conditions, how can anyone possibly remember something like that?

To do otherwise is to face the possible indignity of having your robbery show up in the Police Blotter as being the fault of nobody but your own self.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. tony 'two billion words later' brandenburgDecember 19, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    the mindset that somehow we, the taxpayers, or private industry or deluded financial contributers should continue to balance offset budgets of school districts that are collapsing due to lost ADA revenue because of declining enrollment, and the ridiculous spending habits of people who think sieve means abundance of capital is beyond my limited comprehension. The cure, if there is one, is not to block or build more charter schools- the solution is to take hold of the families, like mine, who refuse to walk away from this horrendous disaster- and maximize our potential and productivity. It is NOT about luring families back into the fold, it is about providing something of substance for the ones who are still here. ya know wot i mean, jellybean?

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  2. I am pretty sure suspicious people where striped jumpers. Sometimes they look like orange garbage bags. Other times they may look like under ripe blueberries.

    i also heard that sometimes you can spot suspicious people because they are shifty- eyed. i have never seen this as a composite sketch, but i am pretty sure the movement looks something like those kit-kat-klocks. also, if the person has a tail, you know they probably meet the criterion for suspicious.

    if they have a mcdonald's bag, or a KFC bag, or a Carl's Jr. bag, keep an eye on them. we don't have those place in the 'dre. also, be aware that smeone watering a lawn or washing a car probably doesn't know we have no water. suspicious. boots, not birkenstocks? call it in. chickens on a leash? no doubt about it.

    people with forked tongues= not suspicious.
    people with forked tails= definitely suspicious.

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    1. I really needed a spew alert here..coffee came out my nose I laughed so hard boots not birkenstocks.. Lmao

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    2. Kit-Kat-Klock eyes. I see them everywhere.

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  3. Bring your concerns and questions to the council chambers in February (the 5th or the 6th, I'm not certain right at the moment) and speak to the PUSD board who will be here for their annual dog and pony show. they operate with our tax dollars, they are accountable to us. Too bad Renatta Cooper only sees students as a source of income, not as human beings to teach.

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    1. The stolen vote question needs to be raised as well. Plus the stolen Measure TT money. Plus the possible closure of the Sierra Madre Middle School by a school board that we have no representation on. Anything else?

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    2. I know what they'll say to the stolen vote - same thing Bart Doyle said when he defended his throwing us under the school bus - "We didn't want to steal the vote that had already happened." Yes. I kid you not. He turned our complaint into his justification. Something like "The people of this great district have voted for their representation, and it would be stealing their vote to cut a term short."

      About the money? They won't say a damn thing.

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    3. I wonder whose opinion Tom Selinske will ask first on some of the important matters that come will up. The people of Sierra Madre or Peter Dreier?

      I think we know the answer....

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    4. The PUSD doesn't give a damn about us.
      The only thing we are good for is making them look better because of our test scores.
      The PUSD knows that the test scores will stay high because of parental involvement, and no one wants to sacrifice their kid's scores in order to show what a bunch of fiscally irresponsible bums are calling the shots.

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    5. We are a credibility cow for the Pasadena School District.

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    6. Cash cow as well. Plus we are being taxed without representation. Didn't a revolution get fought over that? Do they teach that one in PUSd schools?

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    7. It got eliminated along with PE, music and art. Many PUSD students now major in head count.

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  4. Wouldn't "suspicious person profiling" be considered politically incorrect in Sierra Madre?

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    1. OK, so I have noticed a suspicious looking person. Now what do I do?

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    2. ask them what they are doing hanging around and looking all suspicious. i think that will work.

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    3. "I say, you suspicious people. My doors are locked. You can go away now."

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    4. The robbers who went to the house on Auburn broke in. Didn't matter that the door was locked.

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    5. Yes, but did they look for suspicious characters when they left the house?

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    6. Know your neighbors - and connect together with phone numbers, and get rough ideas of each other's schedules. All the jokes aside, there are people who come into your neighborhood with the intention of robbing it, and if neighbors know who's usually around, maybe you can help prevent it.

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    7. North Auburn is a part of town where neighbors know each other. This is the 2nd daytime break-in in the area in the last month. Wonder if it has anything to do with the new construction site for the mansion in the 700-block? Remember that epic planning commission drama?

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  5. Slight correction: Two-thirds (66.7%) was required to pass CC. It fell well short. There is talk in the new legislature of putting a constitutional amendment to the voters at the next general election---June of 2014 or November of 2014---to lower the threshold for passing parcel taxes from the current 2/3 to 55%.

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    1. I had that figure originally,but someone who knows a lot about this stuff (he was a part of the No on measure CC campaign) wrote in and told me 55% was the correct number. So now I am confused.

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    2. SmartVoter.org has it as 55%. Click on Happy Penguins for link.

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    3. You mean to say there are people who would be dumb enough to lower the voter approval threshold on new taxes to 55%? Constitutional Amendment? The supermajority hard at work I see.

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    4. Happy Penguins, you linked to a West Covina Measure CC, oops.

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    5. Google Measure CC: School Improvement Bonds. It is there. 55%.

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    6. Should the California Legislature really try to do that, I think we might finally see an involved and active majority of the voters!

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    7. It wasn't a bond, like Measure TT was. It was a parcel tax. Which Prop 13 set at needing 2/3 for approval. See http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre8at06d-us-usa-california-school-tax/
      for a story on the legislature trying to lower it.

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  6. When you start up a newly constituted group that has to have a rotation in terms so there always is a full compliment of members you can do the following: the first session can and should start with a full board, some of whom get the four year term (as per the charter) and some of whom get a six year term. Draw lots on who get the four and who gets the six after the first election, or appointment. From then on out, elections are held every four years for the for the four years terms. It is so damn easy. Is that why is it not being considered?

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    Replies
    1. Because PUSD can't screw Sierra Madre if they did it that way.

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    2. PUSD lies, and often. So does the guy we sent to represent us at the subdistricting commission. They're all snakes.

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  7. Happy end of 13th Baktun 13.0.0.0.0. to one and all, may we enjoy the 14th Baktun to come.

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  8. 7:37 has a good memory. The whole point about our not having adequate representation was that it would deprive a different representative of the adequate representation that he was originally intended to have when he was voted on to the board.
    We can kick and scream all we want, but it's done. The more we argue about its being unfair, the more we'll hear how unfair it would be to cut short a term.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like we have a possible addition to the Constitution here. Taxation without representation is bad, except when Tom Selinske's convenience is involved.

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    2. Two points:
      1) why was Sierra Madre chosen for the honor of seeing to the needs of Lord Tom?
      2) Couldn't they just have put another stool at the BOE dais? In this case, a large one?

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  9. the last group that should be lecturing citizens and chiding us about our mistakes should not be the SMPD

    after all, they did tow a car improperly without securing it and when they opened the back door a sleeping man awoken by the tow was crawling out and our SMPD officer freaked out, pulled out his gun and shot an unarmed man

    back in the day the Police Blotter would include a 911 reporting 2 suspicious young men wearing white shirts and riding bicycles around the block.

    then the Police Blotter used to include arrests made way into Arcadia and Pasadena and the Chief used the excuse that the SMPD was coming back from court and somehow got bypassed up onto Live Oak in Arcadia

    now we got steroid looking dudes with chippy attitudes or cops way way way into themselves too much and the SMPD is suing us left and right because some how they think that they are doing the same job as Pasadena, LAPD etc - the same PD's we have to call in to handle real crime.

    Go do some crowd control for us please and ticket the bicycle clubs that keep running red lights, if the biker doesn't have id - arrest them




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    1. The SMPD doesn't like confrontations beyond soccer moms running stop signs. Real crime doesn't interest them. That is for the insurance companies to deal with.

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    2. super renegade bike rider with kids mortgage etc.December 19, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      stop picking on the bike people. i am not aware of any bike person placing a motorist's life in danger. not so on the flip side. moreover, some of the bike people live here and have every right to run the red lights in town. oops. we don't have any. doofus.

      ps: to your point, the cops in town are overpaid and dangerously armed. have we paid off that dude in the murano yet?

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    3. im a bike person

      im just sick of bike clubs or those random workout fiends who can't follow traffic laws because they have to keep their heartrate up or trying to keep a certain pace - blast through stop signs if they don't see a cop or can cut off a car who has to sit and wait for the "club"

      each club biker who runs the stop sign - jeez that'd be 30 tickets in 4 minutes and we got enough cops sitting around that it can be done easily but it's too much work for our PD - but you'll see 4 surrounding a illegal u turner in downtown

      plus the bike pack riders stink and tacky up Starbucks on Saturday morning

      i heard that we settled with the Murano guy - it was a slam dunk loss for the city but have no idea how much it cost but I bet there is a city receipt or cancelled ck somewhere

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  10. why do we still have the nomad kids with the magazine scam still working the streets every so often?

    you'd think our PD would be all over this every time we get hit with the sales scam because it's a major crime in our town

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    1. Good question 2:21. I've been taken on that one once- never again. But they still come around, including at night.

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    2. one time. Now I just say, that's real, right? Oh, that's a permit? cool. Well, it's funny becuse I was told it's a burglary scam and to call it in. That's cool, right?

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  11. why don't we just vote and switch to the Arcadia school district?

    who is getting paid off or what is the angle that we keep in the Pasadena School District?

    just by public perception, the worst school in academics and sports in Arcadia would be a top school in Pasadena

    cant we just vote a change and fire the PUSD and their nonsense? Certainly as back stabbing Mayor will vote to raise out UUT to one of the highest levels in the state because SM is so rich, we can certainly afford to pay Arcadia for better schools and a fair deal.

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    1. The effort to join Arcadia was defeated because we were perceived as being racist. That is what a judge decided.

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    2. probably were if the judge said so. that was then, it seems to me it could be repitched now that everyone is so inclusive and everything. What does it require?

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    3. Beaucoup volunteer time - and a couple of impassioned and dedicated organizers.

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    4. Hello! Have you not yet figured it out? According to all the government officials in Sacto, Wash D.C., at the PUSD, etc., the only thing the public is good for is to take money from. They really don't give a "rodent's behind" about us. They want their power and the way they keep it is to "give" money to others and tell them they care compassionately about their lives. Unfortunately, that's our money they are spending. Oh, and don't be surprised that the new supermajority in Sacto will make certain that it will take only 55% to pass tax increases. Keep it up. Pretty soon California's population will consist only of those on the "dole". Everyone else will have left town. It's not a good thing to kill the goose that provides the golden eggs.

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    5. The govt works with big business, lobbyists and unions. That is who they are concerned with. Their needs always come first. The people are just a marketing problem. All we get is BS.

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    6. that doesn't sound like so much. jeez, we may as well try to join san marino as a satellite

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    7. I was hoping for Duarte adjacent.

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    8. You know who one of the original volunteers working on getting Sierra Madre into Arcadia schools was, yeah?
      Bart Doyle.

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    9. How'd that work out?

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    10. hey, hey 632. anakin wasn't born on the dark side, either,

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