Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How We Think This Evening's City Council Meeting Will Go

Of course, I have no real idea. But I read the same documents that members of the City Council read. Or at least some do. I know that at least one of the members gets Cliff Notes from a former Mayor and refers to them often. And then there is also the reality creation part of it. If all you knew of Sierra Madre was what you saw on live televised feed from City Council meetings, you might actually believe that people here want to pay higher taxes, would meet a terrible end if they were suddenly deprived of city services, and prefer to leave their cars at home and walk instead. Which is hardly true. Though most would have no problem if other people walked. I know I'd prefer it.

But I digress. Every two weeks we offer our take on how the evening's City Council meeting is going to shake out. We have been right, and on occasion we've missed the mark by a mile. But not so much lately. Our average has actually been pretty good over the last six months. Which means that just about anyone can figure this stuff out. All it takes is just a little concentration.

Following the various presentations, ceremonies and Council reports, some of which will warm your heart while others will have a different effect, the meeting kicks off with Item 1a, which is the CONSENT CALENDAR. Also known as RESOLUTION NO. 13-11 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS, we here at The Tattler call this the spending of the money. It always comes first because how can you be spending more when you haven't tidied up all the math from last time? Tonight $1,071,699.81 goes out the door to a couple hundred different places, with about half coming from Item 1c. There is a long list of amounts in the Staff Report, some of which are notable for their size, others for where they go. SoCal Edison pulled down a neat $37,996.23, Norman A. Traub Investigative Services got $4,642.32, the Forensic Nurse Response Team (!) $730, and various winners of the I Love My Library contest split up $535.00.

b) APPROVAL OF PURCHASES/SERVICES FOR SOLE SOURCE VENDOR DC CONNECT - This involves a $37,000 grant from the California State Library that has been titled "Sierra Madre Stories and Treasures." Somehow all this denotes that City Staff has selected a vendor to sell us a pair of "[i] Cell technology story boards," one of which is to be installed in the Library's History Room, the other at Lizzie's Trail Inn. Exactly what stories will be told on these boards is not spelled out in the Staff Report, though I can think of a couple if they're interested. I suspect there could be trail donkeys in the stories the City has in mind, some of whom now sit on the City Council. Since this is a purchase of over $25,000, the City Council has to bless the selected vendor before these purchases can proceed.

c) AWARD OF CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT TO PERRY C. THOMAS CONSTRUCTION, INC. FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CITY-OWNED PORTION OF MWD EMERGENCY CONNECTION PROJECT IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $569,255.00 - This is our portion of the financial pain involved in hooking up Sierra Madre's rapidly depleting water system with the Metropolitan Water District. You know, just in case there is a water emergency, like suddenly 300 or so new condos show up downtown. A very slow and deliberate emergency. Bids went out to various pipe guys, and the winner was none other than Perry C. Thomas of Monrovia. The one odd thing in the Staff Report is Perry's bid is listed as $517,505.00, not $569,255.00.

d) CANCELLATION OF BOTH AUGUST 2013 CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS - The City Council wants to take a vacation. We all want to take a vacation. They get to vote for theirs.

2. PUBLIC HEARING - ORDINANCE NO. 1335 MUNICIPAL CODE TEXT AMENDMENT 12-01: AMENDING CHAPTER 5.56 (BATHS AND MASSAGE ESTABLISHMENTS), AND CHAPTER 17.36 (COMMERCIAL ZONE) OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE TO CONFORM TO STATE REQUIREMENTS - Contrary to the rumors we've all heard, this one was not put on the agenda by the Mayor. It was initiated by Danny Castro, who apparently is aware of something I was not. Which is the City of Sierra Madre has nine massage establishments within its borders, and that the City gets a cut of the action by charging them for business permits and licenses. Just like most everyone else who attempts to do business in town. The catch being that selling permits to the those in the massage trade is contrary to State law in certain cases. Here is how the Staff Report puts it:

Chapter 10.5 of the State's Business and professional Code ("B&P Code") requires that cities allow massage services to be provided without the need for City permits, such as conditional use permits or a license to perform massage services, as long as the massage therapists and practitioners have acquired a State certification on a voluntary basis, or that a massage business employs only State certified personnel to perform massages. It is important to note that the State's B&P Code preempts local standards regarding massage establishments.

I wonder, are other professional services, those that are State licensed as well, also absolved from enduring the City permit and licensing process? People should check.

3.  DISCUSSION - UPDATE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON REPRESENTATIVE REGARDING 2011 WINDSTORM AND SIERRA MADRE OUTAGES - The wind blew, the trees flew, and this update took more than a year to do. Mr. Ben Wong from Southern California Edison will be in the house hoping to counter the widespread belief that his company was especially inept in its response to the 2011 windstorm. In the spirit of fair play, here is an article published by the Los Angeles Times titled "State regulators slam Southern California Edison for windstorm response" (click here). And from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune we have this: "State regulators: Edison broke rules in response to 2011 windstorm" (click here). Take it away, Mr. Wong.

4. DISCUSSION - PUBLIC FACILITIES IMPACT FEES: PLANNING COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS - This is a resumption of the City's near endless attempt to raise fees on new development. The rationale being that new buildings have an impact on public facilities, and therefore those doing the building need to pay more. It was shoved off on the Planning Commission for a while, who have now come back with their take on this matter. There will be some discussion on this by the City Council, of course. All of which leads to this:

Financial Review - The costs to prepare a new fee study involve awarding a contract to a consultant. Funds in the amount of $50,000 have been set-aside (General Fund dollars) in the FY 2011-2013 budget for a fee study consultant.

Whoot, there it is!

5. DISCUSSION – STATUS UPDATE: MARKET DEMAND STUDY - The $30,000 our previous City Council spent on the Buxton Market Demand Study has become a quite legendary example of clueless behavior by our elected officials. Apparently Nancy Walsh was conned by Buxton at a League of California Cities meeting a while back, and John Buchanan figured it could be useful as a way of showing the City that Nancy is actually capable of useful work. It didn't quite work out that way.

The Staff Report launches into a long discussion of how the Buxton Services information was received by our merchants, but little is said about what - if any - effect it had on how these Sierra Madre businesses actually used it. I suspect because the demonstrable effect of bringing more business to our downtown area was nil. But most damning of all is this conclusion in the Staff Report for this item:

The City's contract with Buxton Services expired in December 2012. The contract included a subscription to their SCOUT program, which provides increased access to market intelligence that supports efforts for business retention and recruitment within Sierra Madre. Attached is Buxton's proposal for continued services, with a cost of $15,000 for (a) 12-month subscription to SCOUT, which would permit up to three users. The attached proposal includes a complete list of data that Buxton will provide under an extended 12 month service ... However, it is staff's recommendation that this contract not be extended at this time.

Can we say failure yet?

6. DISCUSSION – ACCEPTANCE OF ROPS 13-14A AND DUE DILIGENCE REPORT FOR LOW- MODERATE HOUSING AND NON- HOUSING FUNDS FOR THE REPORTING PERIOD ENDING JUNE 2012 - This has something to do with the outcome of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, and how a lot of CRA money is to be permanently clawed back by the State. The consequence to Sierra Madre being that perhaps some of the purchases that were (to use Josh's unfortunate word) "encumbered" a while back might not be paid for out of CRA funds after all. Something that would be ironic since the purposes of those encumbrances was to prevent our CRA money from being taken by Sacramento.

What this may mean is that such things as that $30,000 Buxton Market Demand Study, should the State choose to not pay for it out of their CRA haul, would have to come out of Sierra Madre's General Fund budget. Something that many here would regard as being a colossal failure of the G4 Council. We don't have that information yet. The Tattler eagerly awaits it.

7. DISCUSSION – STRATEGIC PLAN FROM OCTOBER 24, 2012 RETREAT PUBLIC COMMENT - Not sure there will be too many from the public left in the house when this one finally rolls around. Items such as this always get stuck at the end of the agenda, which means that they either don't get discussed because there just isn't any time left, or if they are the City Manager's presentation gets rushed through as everyone there wants to go home. And they should.

Live blog tonight's City Council meeting!

We will be here this evening to offer our insights and gentle criticisms as this meeting unfolds its many delights. Be sure to join as! We have gotten as many as 200 comments on this blog during City Council meetings. All are welcome, except Steve.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

80 comments:

  1. I thought one of the selling points about the MWD hook-up was that it wouldn't cost us. Could be I'm remembering incorrectly, or could be there was a lie told when that was decided.

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    1. It is like a magic show. Now you see it, now you don't!

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    2. You remember correctly.

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    3. with all due respect, go to the meeting and raise the issue of being previously told that the MWD would not cost the City.....and bring several friends.

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    4. Does anyone have any documentation? I'd be glad to read it. At work and I can't research.

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    5. I dont think a case was made for no cost because all of the work on are city side of conection and new entrance and new plantings and ect would not be covered.

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    6. I thought no cost was part of the pitch, as in "You'd be crazy to turn down this emergency help that comes at no cost to the city." Gave Nodding Joe the ability to say "Sure thing sounds good to me!"

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  2. The Buxton stuff was a mess and a pathetic little hustle from the beginning....don't suppose there's a money back guarantee? Wouldn't that be a good development in the consultant industry.

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    1. I think Buxton will claim that we didn't give them enough time to produce results, and by not spending the additional $15,000 we will have wasted our original investment of $30,000. It is the same logic the lottery uses to keep people coming back week after week. You can't win it if you're not in it!

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    2. Buxton merely crunches data from households within a 15 minute drive radius of a town. They present their off the shelf results and then their goal is to sell customized analyses to indvidual businesses in town.

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    3. Then why did the city give them $30k?

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    4. Because we have a really lame City Council (well three of them anyway) who are so unsophisticated as to think that if you give some organization money you're going to get a quality product. $30K is a paltry amount for a study such as the one they undertook. But it's just low enough for an idiot like Walsh to grab hold of and wave around like a flag. Buxton is out of its league and Walsh is mired in the mud. We're doomed.

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    5. 9:55, they gave them 30K because they were in a panic to encumber all the CRA funds that they could, legitimate use or not.
      In fact one of John Buchanan's funniest slips happened that night. On one of the rush-to-spend items, he said something like "Now this one really does fulfill the state requirements it s supposed to fulfill."

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    6. They never asked anyone in this household - and we are all local shoppers.

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  3. Following up on yesterday re. Hueso endorsements. MJ sent a message, no answer yet, but he may not have seen it. I have sent two to UTP which were received, but no answer yet. It is very busy at this time of year- many teachers receive the March 1st letters, called pink slips- which essentially tells them they are being released from employment. The UTP is probably pretty busy. It's a yearly ritual which PUSD does to follow the law, but which essentially tells teachers thanks, but no thanks. Very discouraging to say the least.

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  4. Would any person in their right mind let Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh, or Jonny H have a blank check to spend as they saw fit? Time to hold these clowns and city staff responsible for spending to much money! Who do they think they are? As the state of California goes into the toilet along with or federal govt do we have to follow suit? Did anybody listen to th report from Buxtrom......did they come up with a way to bring 10000 more people a day thru or town? For a cost of $30000 dollars and $15000 per year to help the business downtown help them pay rent?Maybe its time to take on big issues like ....PUSD and the child porn king on liliano.

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    1. Yes I agree 7:01 am.
      We need to take on big issues, a big issue that hasn't been addressed is the current crime wave in Sierra Madre. Yes, it's true.
      Car burglary, home burglary, not to mention what goes on with the "porn king" who walks free.
      The PUSD issues are important, of course, but we have another problem here in Sierra Madre. A SAFETY, or lack of it issue.

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    2. That is why the town is called Sierra Rob Me.

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    3. The reality is that the City has become dysfunctional and is unable to deal effectively with the business of governing.This includes the dismal performance by the local constabulary as well.The word is out,the residents of Sierra Madre are conditioned to exploitation of their wealth and property....so go for it!

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    4. OK, but don't forget! Over 60% of the voters last April voted against the UUT. And two candidates taking an anti-UUT stance were elected.

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  5. Yes, Buxton suggests we bring in stores like Wal Mart and Target.

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    1. They're geniuses, and really have their fingers on the pulse of Sierra Madre

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    2. Really? Was that actually in their report? If so, they must have never come to town. We are just inconveniently located enough to guarantee not enough customers for any big box anything. In fact, I'm waiting to see which of the new restaurants will go out of business first.

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    3. Maybe we should have a blog pool. The Sierra Madre Restaurant Death Watch.

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    4. Could we include the ones that aren't open yet?

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    5. Many of the businesses such as Trader Joe's did a marketing study and determined it could not draw enough business to be viable.
      Countless marking studies have been done with the same conclusion. Historically businesses have been local specialty shops or hobby businesses. Anyone who has lived here long enough knows this. A no brainer to some of us, an act of futility (stupidity) to everyone else.

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    6. Never underestimate the power of a few entitled fools. Especially those controlling the public purse strings.

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  6. Joe Mosca, the first thing he did to prove he was a liar was to vote in that water hook up, GOOD RIDDANCE.

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    1. As all ambitious politicians know, lying is fine if it is a part of the process.

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    2. Joe Mosca is probably equal only to evil Bart Doyle in as much as doing the most harm to Sierra Madre.
      Mosca is a bad man....a VERY BAD MAN.

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  7. Not to change the topic, but if you go to the PUSD Board of Education page and try to get the agenda for tonight's meeting, you will find that it is impossible. What you can get is the agenda for Feb. 12th's meeting, in Spanish. Really. I thought one of the Brown Act rules was to make an agenda available 72 hours before a meeting. Sigh.....

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    1. To paraphrase, "If you post it they will come."

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    2. Here's the link to the agenda. It's slow, but does load.

      http://pusd.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=12&event_id=104

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    3. It worked! Thanks for the info 9:26.

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  8. Nancy Walsh has been on vacation since she was elected.
    Never prepared. Nothing to add. Nothing of substance. Complete waste of time.
    Except that one infamous time where her harebrained rambling attacking volunteers.

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    1. If Nancy runs for reelection we need to make certain everyone in town has seen the video of her "we can take you out" speech. Probably the most uncivil ever delivered by a sitting Councilmember.

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    2. And, 11:28 am, do you have a plan to "make certain everyone in town has seen the video?"

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    3. Hire a large video truck and bring it to the 4th of July parade.

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    4. I like that idea. Maybe an actual entry into the 4th of July Parade blasting out the video as it proceeds down the boulevard. Do you think our entry would be accepted? We could call it Democracy In Action!

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    5. Many videos... an entire parade length commentary on the last 5 years of Sierra Madre City Council meetings... the SMMS urban slum, the One Crater debacle, Dr. Sami's travesty on the boulevard, and the ALF with traffic backed up to Michillinda. Maybe some shots of the pipeline being connected - anyone videotaping? Be sure to include Buchanan speaking to the press about Tai the Elephant, and Enid Joffee's park to honor the Goldstein's paid for by the you and me. This is something that could take on epic proportions...

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    6. That should be The Tattler float! The highlights of Nancy's snorting rant. Played over and over again.

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    7. I once had the idea of circulating a DVD of Joe Mosca's famous lying spiel, but someone else told me he was already working on it, so I dropped it. Then it never happened. In other words, if you want a clip of something to get out there, you have to do it yourself.

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  9. What we need to do is push for a city councilman with brains and intagrity to put his name in for4 Mayor and end the child like running of our town before "dancing Nancy" gets in. That means Chris or John C not childlike johnny h

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  10. Here is how the vote on the MWD vote went down. The month prior to the election of Joe M, Kurt Z and Don W, Lee Cline and Caroline Brown went to the City Council meeting to determine that there would be no agenda items of import on the agenda the City Council meeting following the election (no lame duck voting on matters of high importance--they were pretty sure something along the lines of this water hook up was in the fix). They were assured it would be an agenda of the ordinary. Ha!

    The council chambers were full of jubilant Joe M (gack!) supporters as well as those who also got Zimmerman and Watts elected. Someone went to the podium and asked why they couldn't be sworn in and seated that night. Nothing according to Mayor Stockley. They were. One timer Tonya Torres curtsied and left the building along with George Maurer and Rob Stockley who were termed out. That left behind John Buchanan and Enid Joffee. And then the agenda item on the MWD hook-up was quickly voted on 3-2.

    Who can find the date when all this took place? Help John out here, this is all I can come up with.

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    1. The minutes would be great. If it was stated then that this MWD "emergency" hook up would be accomplished at no cost, then whatever is happening now is not approved by any City Council. That money will never have been approved.

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    2. I think to turn that valve on requires 4 yea council votes not 3. If it was a true emergency they would surely get it. That was the reasoning.

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    3. Wouldn't that be something, 2:14.

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  11. Story poles going up at One Carter.
    Looks like a McMansion that escaped from Arcadia...

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    1. The gang at City Hall must be trembling at their knees.

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    2. I think we're just going to have an Arcadia-ish suburb up there.

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    3. Hopefully it will draw all of the burglars away from our homes.

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  12. 1 Carter was doomed from the momment the vote was taken 4-1 to roll over for the developer even though we did have a city attorney that said the city could prevail. The 4 did not want to do anything but set the development in motion. May THEY rest in hell.

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    1. I still think it should be called the Stockly-Buchanan-Torres-Joffee Estates.

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  13. Someone with an appointment in town recently took a tour up Carter before hand and remarked at the meeting that those lots sure look puny. Just wait to see how puny the lots really are when the grotesque monster houses are crammed in next to one another. Singapore Road 19th Century real tropical bungalos are only charming when there is lots of land and lots of tropical trees and plants to cover the open space.

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    1. Sounds like the house is slightly under the maximum allowed. So no planning commission or public input. By the way, which lot?

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    2. It is under the 4,000 sq. ft. limit, but it still is in the Hillside Management Zone and is subject to the One Carter Design Guidelines and the Conditions of Approval. Don't know if any of that matters, but it might.

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  14. Middle School bids are beginning. That didn't take long ...

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    1. Thanks, Fredo.

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    2. When the bids are evaluated, accepted, paid and the work is done, it'll be news.

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  15. Is Assemblywoman Liu's middle name really "Lookie?"

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  16. The Edison guy is making me want to drink.

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  17. Danny has a new haircut.

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  18. It is state law, Johnny. There is not much that you can do about it.

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  19. At the board meeting. lots of angry teachers. comrade honowitz is twelve minutes into a diatribe and is clearing the room. ultimate strikebreaker. waiting for the resolution to come up. I need combat pay for this, brother JC!!!!

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    1. BTW - This is the dullest City Council meeting ever.

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    2. It was the annual pink slip decision meeting and the teachers, nurses,librarians, etc were all there to protect their jobs and ask that the administration folks be cut. the resolution was amended about 4 times and became very confusing as to what and how many we're to receive pink slips that may or may not be acted upon by March 15. so the upshot is that it goes back to staff to be reconfigured to meet state standards and budget constraints and come back on March 5, a special meeting.
      BTW, the board passed Resolutiom2233 to build the middle school in Sierra Madre. vote was 6 to 1 with Kim Kenne voting No because she didn't think the resolution adequately address an overbid scenario.the end.

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    3. Ah Tony, we all need combat pay for being political activists. It is exhausting.

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    5. march 1st letters + other stuff

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    6. Teachers are angry because 150 of them will be pink slipped due to budget cuts.
      Interestingly, the purchase orders continue to show lots of administrators going to conferences and getting mileage and food covered.

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  20. Excellent point Mr. Koerber - "We want to look at neighboring cities to see what we want to avoid."

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  21. Hey Walsh is agreeing that we should control the massing of huge homes on small lots!
    huh.
    She even mentioned the gargantuan thing that was made on Grove, the one with the turret.
    huh.

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  22. Incentivize smaller units, de-incentivize McMansions - I sure hope there is some real result from those words.

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    1. The city attorney just backed them up and said it would be easy to defend!

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  23. The Buxton stuff was bumped.

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    1. Yes because the Strategic Plan report is more important, wherein the city manager talks about public trust, transparency and what a good job she and her staff are doing.

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