Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday News You Can Use

...  for what I am not sure
(Mod: We are calling this installment in the Tattler Sunday News series "News You Can Use." But to be perfectly frank (or is that Sammy), I have no idea what for. There just seems to be an endless avalanche of the stuff, and it does raise some questions. Such as, "Was there always this much news?" Throughout the thousands of years of recorded human history certainly notable things happened that had those among the living at the time buzzing with speculation and wonder. But were they dealing with the kinds of sheer information overload that we are expected to handle? And if so, what walls and monuments did they carve it all on? And would it even be possible to do that on a daily, or even hourly, basis? Honestly, I don't know the answer to any of that. And, now having written this, I'm not sure I even care. Which raises one more question. Is it really news, or do the people who write the stuff just have some mad compulsion to fill empty space? You know, as in a desperate attempt to create the illusion that mankind somehow controls what is essentially an incomprehensible chaos? It all seems so desperate if you ask me. Here's the news.)

Treasury, Fed kill idea of $1 trillion platinum coins to avert debt crisis (click here): The U.S. Treasury Department said on Saturday it will not produce platinum coins as a way of generating $1 trillion in revenue and avoiding a battle in Congress over raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

The idea of creating $1 trillion by minting platinum coins has gained some currency among Democrats in recent days as a way of sidestepping congressional Republicans who are threatening to reject a necessary increase in the debt ceiling unless deep spending cuts are made.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, both independent of one another, each concluded this was not a viable option.

"Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit," said Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley in a statement.

(Mod: it is sad to note that quantitative easing has reached the point where it can't even rise to the level of paper currency anymore. Also, will these coins be like some of our recent quarters? If so, what states will they put on the reverse side? And will we be allowed to collect the whole set?)

Save the Date - State of the City (click here): On Tuesday, February 19, 2013 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm the City of Sierra Madre will host its 3rd Annual State of the City Address at the Community Recreation Center in the Sierra Madre Room at 611 East Sierra Madre Boulevard. This year’s theme is “Finding the Right Balance” and this event will highlight programs and services the City has provided over the past year and give residents insight to the City’s goals for the next fiscal year.

(Mod: Apparently the City's snappy new redo-revote campaign slogan for raising the UUT rates to 12% is "finding the right balance." This applies to various other rates and fees as well.)

Time to buy Southern California real estate - if you can (click here): Real estate agent Alan Castillo recently listed a client's fixer-upper in Granada Hills for $278,250. It was only 1,600 square feet -- but it drew 128 offers, most of them in cash. The final selling price, after all of 10 days on the market? $377,872. "I was very surprised," said Castillo, the owner of Financing Realty Center Inc. in Granada Hills, who has been in the business for 20 years. "I didn't think I'd get that many offers. This was overwhelming."

While that particular transaction may be an extreme example, it reflects a Southern California housing market that is emerging from the late 2000s crash. For 2013, real estate experts say it's time to get ready for a new normal, or, perhaps more accurately, a new abnormal.

Interest rates are at historic lows, prices are moderate and demand is surging. But at the same time, banks are keeping a tight rein on credit, and homeowners -- especially those who bought at higher prices a few years back -- are still reluctant to sell. Plus investors are swooping into the market with all-cash offers that often pre-empt first-time homebuyers with moderate credit.

Those factors combine to make it a great time to buy -- and a more complicated, difficult time to do so. With rates so low and the housing bubble in the rearview mirror, home prices are starting to show some signs of recovery.

Last year was "the long-awaited transition year for California and locally," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "We can't say that the housing market has recovered fully. I think that is a couple years off. But this is the turning point.

(Mod: I suppose this is good news. After all, for most of us the most valuable thing we own in this world is our home. But does this mean we will be returning to the housing speculation frenzy of a few years back? You do know what that does to people. It ain't pretty.)

Joel Kotkin - California's politics of farce (click here): Karl Marx wrote, "History repeats ... first as tragedy, then as farce." Nothing better describes how California, with its unmatched natural and human riches, has begun to morph into what the premier California historian Kevin Starr has called "a failed state" – a term more usually applied to African kleptocracies than a place as blessed as the Golden State.

The tragedy begins with the collapse of a governance system once widely hailed as a leader in efficiency and foresight but which now perpetually teeters at the brink of insolvency and suffers among the worst credit ratings of all the states. Only 20 years ago, the state's fiscal debt per capita was just below the national average; now it ranks consistently toward the bottom No surprise, then, that California routinely ranked as the "worst governed" state in America.

This poor performance has consequences, particularly in terms of business. Today, CEOs rank California as just about the worst place to do business in the country, and have for a remarkable eight years in a row. And it's not just the plutocrats who are angry; a survey by the economic forecasting firm EMSI shows that, in 2011, California also ranked 50th, just ahead of Michigan, in new business startups.

Unlike my conservative friends, I do not think the fault lies entirely with the Democrats. Instead, it has to do with the total eclipse of the state's once-lively two-party system. As Starr has noted, California's golden age of governance from the 1940s to the 1960s was largely a bipartisan affair, with power shifting between the parties. "Despite their differences," Starr writes, "Democrats and Republicans saw sufficiently eye-to-eye" to embrace policies that drove California's growth.

(Mod: Joel Kotkin is just about my favorite California disaster chronicler. I too believe that California has become a failed one party state being run like a corrupt third world banana republic. That the symptoms are so pervasive is one of the reasons why the dark comedy of our City Council meetings is so appealing to me.)

Steven Greenhut - More to crime fighting than just hiring more cops (click here): As California's toughest cities struggle with violent crime, we are hearing a familiar refrain: "Hire more police officers." While more cops may be the right answer in some places, public officials need to consider a wider array of crime-fighting options and examine ways to stretch their existing budgets.

William Bratton, the former police chief in Los Angeles and New York, now heads to Oakland to help address a gang-driven crime wave. Bratton already has bemoaned the relatively small size of that city's police force and the court-mandated constraints on the Oakland Police Department because of a police-brutality scandal. As a consultant, he will be focused on using a new crime-fighting tool that helps police pinpoint areas to focus their resources.

That kind of high-tech approach sounds more promising than the typical scare campaign, designed to help loosen residents' grip on their wallets. For instance, during a San Bernardino City Council meeting in late November, city attorney Jim Penman said, in light of the city's pending bankruptcy and police layoffs, that residents need to "lock their doors and load their guns" – a bit ironic, given California officials' stepped-up efforts to limit gun ownership.

The city manager in Stockton warned in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown that the city would "slip into municipal chaos" by then-proposed pension cuts driven by that city's bankruptcy. He warned of a "mass exodus" of police officers. The city ultimately decided to stiff the bondholders who issued the city pension-obligation bonds the last time it couldn't make ends meet, rather than shave some of the most generous benefits in the country.

In 2010, Stockton's police union gained nationwide attention for its graphic billboard signs – with a body count and images of crime-scene tape – welcoming people to "The 2nd Most Dangerous City in California" and demanding the city "Stop Laying Off Cops!" The Stockton Record reported that, despite police spending reductions, the city's violent crime had dropped by 14.3 percent from the previous year, although it's since gone up again.

Ironically, the same officials who argue that cutting police budgets will lead to mayhem also advocate pension policies that sap municipal budgets so severely that these cities have little choice but to slash the number of working police officers so they can pay for the retirees.

(Mod: Pretty much sums up cop politics in a lot of cities, including ours. The irony in Sierra Madre being that while our police department has staffed up, crime has increased as well. Which, given the kind of logic of the thing, means we will need to hire a couple more cops every year from now into eternity. Or for as long as there are enough houses here left to rob.)

'Clean water, clean beaches fee' may be coming to L.A. County (click here): The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will hear arguments Tuesday about whether to place a measure on the ballot seeking to impose a "Clean Water, Clean Beaches" fee on 2.2 million parcel owners. The board will hold a public hearing at the Hall of Administration on the Los Angeles County Flood Control District's proposal to charge parcel owners an annual amount -- some call it a tax -- to pay for projects that would boost the local water supply and reduce water pollution by collecting and treating stormwater and urban runoff, and using it to recharge the aquifer.

Under the proposal, the average fee will be $54 per 5,000 square foot lot, though the actual amount would be based on how much runoff a home or business generates. For example, a big box store could pay $15,000. Overall, the fee could generate $275 million a year in revenue.

The public hearing will coincide with the deadline for parcel owners to submit the protest forms attached to the notices they received in the mail last month about how much they would have to pay if the fee is approved. If more than half of the 2.2 million parcel owners who received the notices file the protest forms -- considered unlikely -- the measure is automatically killed. If not, a majority of the five-member board can vote to place the measure on a mail-only ballot, although two supervisors have already vowed to oppose that.

"I support clean water and if we need to do something, fine," Supervisor Don Knabe said. "I just think that any effort we take to put something on somebody's tax bill should be clearly explained and project-specific." He said it was "outrageous" that many who received the notices thought they were junk mail and discarded them without opening them. He also criticized the lack of information about exactly what projects would be built with the money. "There are no projects attached," Knabe said. "This is just a pot of money forever -- there's no deadline on how long this would be charged."

"Some of these parcels are school districts, churches, community-based groups," he added. "Anyone who owns property is going to get smacked with this thing and not really understand what's happening."

(Mod: Oh look, a tax hike that says it is green. Isn't everything bad these days called green? Does this word have any integrity whatsoever any more?)

Try and stay warm.

Bonus Coverage: Interesting video from British Metro on train safety, among other things (click here). They're much edgier than L.A.'s Metro.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

70 comments:

  1. Oh no, think we did not save the "Clean Water, Clean Beaches" literature,,,,, WHAT TO DO ????

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    1. Click on my name and you will find what you have lost. The protest form is squirreled away at the very bottom of page 3. Fill it out, mail it in, and let those sneaky soops know you're sick of their tax schemes.

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  2. Too bad the Treasury has put the kibosh on the trillion dollar coin. I was getting ready to mint my own 2.5 million dollar aluminum foil coin. I figure that would pay off all my debts and leave me a little something to retire on. Darn!

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    1. I was going to take down the sycamore tree in my back yard and make $500,000 wooden coins. The secret is not the quality of the coin itself, but the quantity that you make. I was also going to string some beads and make wampum.

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    2. Problem with that is the sycamore tree is protected in Sierra Madre, and taking it down would cause the Tree Commission to swing into gear. Charging onto your property with new members of green commitee in tow.....you really don't want those Radical Enviro nuts on your case. Maybe you should just do it on a weekend day, when nobody will notice. It is not like the city or commission has an inventory of trees!

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    3. I should think that a couple of half million dollar wooden coins would settle their hash.

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  3. I believe the city's "find the right balance" equation was worked out at the last City Council retreat. The equation used was how much in increased taxes, fees and rates can you stack on the back of a 450 pound jackass without the creature tipping over. The jackass eventually did recover.

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    1. Let's hope our Mayor finds the right balance in the before-speech/after-party drinks allotment.

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    2. In this case the jackass balance is beer versus vodka.

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    3. He has to find the balance between threatening and begging.

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    4. What does he have to threaten with? I don't think he holding any cards right now.

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    5. Following the approach generated by certain members of the city council and city staff for the last 20 years, we will be threatened with the loss of the library and the loss of police protection, for starters.

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    6. Oh, yeah. The white elephants.

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    7. "Give me your money or I'll shoot this puppy."

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    8. In the case of our current Mayor, the pink elephants.

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    9. Yes 11:00 AM, exactly.
      What do you think the I Love My Library drawing and essay contest is for?

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    10. They do struggle for relevance. My kids each have their own Nook. They read constantly.

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    11. The most critical service a library now serves is to provide internet access for all.

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    12. So does Beantown, and you an get a latte' as well.

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    13. So the library is a taxpayer supported Internet cafe?

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    14. The idea is that every child in this country can have a chance to go online, no matter how poor they may be. We're talking about a population that can't afford lattes or any other kind of cafe. Destitute adults benefit as well. But how much space does a library that serves as an internet provider need? Ours has got 4 or 5 computers.

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    15. It is important that every resident of Sierra Madre has access to The Tattler.

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  4. You mentioned that in Sierra Madre more cops somehow meant more crime. So, of course, this being Sierra Madre and all, we'll need to have consultants to tell us why. That, of course, will help justify the increase in the UUT. Uff da!

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    1. This is a good point. Does anyone know if this will be included in John Harabedian's $50,000 "Public Safety" consultant study?

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  5. There was decidedly not always this much news. According to Shift Happens, a weeks worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century; there are 1.5 exabytes of unique information generated in the world every year, more than has been in the last 5,000 years; and the amount of new technical information doubles every two years.
    Good times for a blog.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkt2escJAQI

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    1. Maybe next Sunday the news should just be a picture of a tree.

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  6. The middle school site should be returned to Sierra Madre and deemed a park until a school can be built there.
    Sierra Madre gave the property to PUSD for the use as a middle school, and if they try to sell or use it for any other purpose, we need to demand it back.
    If state money designating it for a school was used, and it isn't, the PUSD needs to pay the state back, and return the land to city owned property.
    The same issue for the church property on Highland bought by the city, used state funds, and if sold those funds should be returned to the state.

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    1. They stole our Board of Education vote, now they want to steal our property? After a while you'd think people here would wake up to the fact that the PUSD isn't very good for us.

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  7. I think it's funny we never hear from the global warming groups this time of year, only in the spring and summer.Maybe they can change the lament to global cooling in the winter and global warming in the summer, as a catch all?

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    1. The world is ending. And they're trying to close the library.

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    2. Maybe I am being overly skeptical, but somehow I doubt Josh Moran is going to save Sierra Madre from global warming.

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    3. What if he stopped talking, 11:20?

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    4. Hottest year, ever, on record, world-wide.

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    5. Coincides with Josh becoming Mayor. Coincidence?

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

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    1. The new phrase is "Climate Change", that's so it could cover everything that comes to their pinheaded minds.

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    2. Last year was the warmest on record. Ever. has to be something to it.

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  9. 5:11 Did you establish the Global Ostrich Society?

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  10. Anyone know what the big dirt meeting was this morning up at Mary's Market, formally known as Josh Moran headquarters?
    All the usual dirts were there. Something happening?

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    1. Somebody got a new box of woodblocks and was showing off.

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    2. They were told that Joe isn't coming back. There were tears, and anger.

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    3. Gene Goss wanted to get everyone together so he could fill them in on his upcoming treatment for a goiter.

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    4. They were there to get their lap dance photos from Josh's bachelor party.

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    5. My guess would be a strategy meeting for the next election.
      Or maybe a strategy meeting to take care of an early departure from the council by Moran, and the return of Buchanan.
      Or a celebration of the incorporation of the Green Committee into a commission with no fuss.

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    6. Do we dare hope it was a going away party for the newlyweds since the new bride has refused to live in Sierra Madre because the residents have been mean to Josh?

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    7. It would be very sweet if when they did fly away it would be on the backs of unicorns.

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    8. No girl could ask for anything nicer from her sweetie.

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    9. Maybe we're reading too much into this. Maybe they were just getting high.

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  11. You're probably right, 3:43.

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  12. Who are the dirts?

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    1. Who are the Steve ?

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    2. Steve is the world famous talking unicorn.

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    3. Speaking of unicorns....has anyone tracked down that large pink unicorn that several people saw heading up No. Mountain Trail in a late model white pick up truck???????
      Has anyone checked Mary's Market? Oh wait, it's not real safe to show up there...scratch that.

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    4. why is it not safe to go to Mary"s market , it is a local buisness to support

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    5. My guess this was a pep meeting for the upcoming "Get the Taxes Up" State of the City meeting. Josh wants to make sure all of his clappers are there.

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  13. A small group of not very bright people who made the worst real estate investment in Sierra Madre history.

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  14. Without so much as a twitter, the Feds sent the Army to bulldoze the trees and the birds and the rest of wildlife preserve at the Sepulveda Dam. ( That was right around Christmas so a lot of people may have missed the details. I know I did. ) Now a lot of officials and politicians are sincerely sorry about all the miscommunication and everything, and they promise to be more transparent, next time they roll out the tanks to do whatever they please no matter what the citizens want.

    But you just get the feeling that's pretty much how things are going to go, from now on. And you know, I get the feeling the revolution has started without me. Sorry for being a Sunday afternoon buzz-kill, comrades. I'm still in shock about the death of Aaron Swartz. It's been a tough week.

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  15. I don't think with property values now on the way up their investment will not be a bad one just slow to see a return

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    1. Depends on what is allowed to be built on the land.

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  16. Mod, great vid from British Metro. Catchy tune.

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  17. Hail Hamilton's column in this week's Mtn Views News is plagiarized. Again. Somebody needs to explain to him the existence of something called Google.

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    1. We're all shocked.

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    2. Shocked, shocked I say!

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    3. It will be interesting to see how "Lawyer" Henderson covers for his dumb butt this time. What a disgraceful paper. What a sad reflection on Sierra Madre.

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  18. 5:14 You don't have to go the the Sepulvada Dam to see the arrogance of government. Right here next to Sierra Madre not much more than a year ago, the LA County with County Supervisor Antonoovich driving the dozers, 120 acres with Sycamores, and Oaks along with: deer, bears, foxes, cayotes, bobcats, mountain lions, racoons, skunks were updrooted from their native habitat below the Santa Anita Dam. What foolishness and cruelty flourish in the LA Basin!

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  19. I'm going to have something up Monday morning that may be illuminating on "Clean Water, Clean Pockets ...." excuse me, "Clean Beaches."

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    1. Thanks for the heads up, Sage. Looking forward to it.

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