Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Smoking, Water, School Board Elections and Other Problems From Last Night's Meetings

First we should probably talk a little about what went down at the Board of Education meeting. Our folks went armed with their petitions and signatures to win us the opportunity to actually vote for someone that will help oversee the Pasadena Unified School District in a meaningful sort of way. Helping to guarantee that at least some of the $240 million in remaining Measure TT funds will be used to help rebuild our Middle School. The available "at-large" seat, vacated by Kim Kenne so that she could run for a subdistrict seat, being the object of everyone's attention.

Except for one problem, she hasn't actually resigned her at-large seat yet. Kim, it turns out, has not sent in her letter of resignation, and therefore still technically occupies that seat. Kim was in the enviable position of knowing that no matter how last week's election turned out, she would still have a place on the Board of Education. Her letter will have been received and the Board can "take action" by the time the April 9 meeting rolls around, which is when we can all go back with even more signatures than we did this time. And look at it this way, if we can get the signatures of 1.5% of all the registered voters in the PUSD, then they will have to give us our shot at the vote. No matter what they want to do.

The new Board of Education isn't seated until May 6, by the way. So this is all still in the hands of the lame duck Board.

Since I was busy watching the City Council meeting, I am relying this morning on notes sent to me by someone who was actually there. And our correspondent has written some good stuff. Check out this little moment of Zen:

After the break, most folks left and Pappalardo and Gundry started in on their (important?) yet very dull presentations. During Gundry's I noticed that Miramontes snuck out, followed by Honowitz who left at 10:30 and then Selinski left at 10:35pm. Phelps was eating a granola/candy bar, Renatta looked like she was taking a quick snooze and Kenne was knitting while secretary Orona chomped madly on the same piece of gum she had at the start of the meeting.

Kind of gives you that "you were there" feeling, doesn't it? And perhaps that "sure glad it wasn't me" sensation as well. The fight for Sierra Madre's Board of Education vote goes on. There is no way we're going to back off on this one.

As far as the City Council meeting goes, there was the conversation about smoking and the joys of "multi-unit housing" life, and then a whole lot of pain about the problems with Sierra Madre's water situation. And I think we really do need to commend Chris Koerber for finally bringing the real elephant out into the open in regards to water. What is actually going on there is a far bigger mess than the City seems willing to share.

It turns out that due to bad decisions made by our city government in both 1998 and 2003, we are now looking at $16.8 million dollars in total Water Department debt. This includes a $3.5 million dollar water bond from 1998, and a far larger $6.75 million dollar water bond cut in 2003. One we are currently only paying the interest on. Throw in the total debt service for the life of these two bonds, plus the $1.5 million we owe for an as yet unpaid loan from the San Gabriel Valley Metropolitan Water District, and you are talking about a huge amount of money for a little town of less than 11,000 people.

Compare this with the chirpy nonsense the City put out for the March 9th Water Subcommittee meeting:

Thank you for your interest in participating in our Water Sub-Committee study group!

The first study session on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 10:00 am in the Sierra Madre Room at the Community Recreation Center, 611 E. Sierra Madre, will be a discussion of our water rates, and the upcoming water rate study that the City Council will be commissioning. Attached, please find the Report presented to the City Council on February 12, 2013. We are also including this year’s State of the Infrastructure report for your perusal; which has a large section devoted to water, as well as streets sewers and public facilities.

For this meeting, we will focus on the following question (sic): How do we structure water rates so that we: 

􏰀 Keep our water utility financially viable, 
􏰀 Promote conservation so that we minimize or delay our need for an alternate water supply, 
􏰀 Give a higher priority to health and hygiene needs of our citizens vs. discretionary uses (long hot showers, lush landscaping), 
􏰀 Be sensitive to those that are least able to pay, and 
􏰀 Build reserves to replace and repair aging infrastructure.

Once again, thank you for your interest in our City’s water supply. We look forward to the discussion on Saturday.

A long hot shower indeed.

If you were to go through the entire document prepared for last Friday's Water Subcommittee meeting, there is almost nothing about the huge fiscal problems caused by the massive amounts of bond debt the water department faces. The consequences of that being delayed repairs and maintenance because nearly all of the money is being pumped into debt service and bond covenants. The one problem that by far overshadows everything else had been pretty much airbrushed from the discussion. Just like it was two years ago, which is the last time water rates were raised. Except for this one brief mention all the way back on page 52:

Bonds: Bonds can be issued for infrastructure improvements. There are costs associated with issuing bonds, and a revenue source must be identified to repay the bonds. However, the issuance of bonds can be accomplished without a public vote.

Stop them before they kill again.

At one point during last night's discussion on our water debacle Mayor "Mo' Money" Moran gave a rather long dissertation on this matter. And the gist of what he had to say was about the aged condition of our water infrastructure, especially pipes. His inference being that we had delayed maintenance for too long, and now we have to bite the bullet and pay more for water so that we can upgrade "the leakers." This is only marginally true. The major reason why water rates are going to be raised by this City Council is because of $16.8 million dollars in water bond and other debt. The pipes will get fixed if there is anything left over.

One more observation about this one. Why did the City Council back in 2003 add $6.75 million in water bond debt to the books? The Downtown Specific Plan. In order to build the kind of massive development they and their cronies wanted for downtown, they needed to build in some new water infrastructure to service all of that new development. After the DSP was killed by the residents of this town, that debt remained. Which just goes to show the danger of putting so much power over bonds into the hands of fools.

The CARE folks were in the house last night, and they were pushing hard for restricting smoking in multi-unit housing. The problems associated with second hand smoke being the focus of their concern. 

I personally hate cigarettes. I strongly supported getting smokers out of the downtown public areas a couple of years back, and my feelings haven't changed all that much. But what we are seeing with the possibility of an ordinance preventing smoking in apartment buildings and condos does raise some interesting problems. Mostly to do with law enforcement. How exactly do you go into peoples' homes and actually stop them from engaging in activity that is otherwise legal? 

The fear is this would become a whole new level of ticketing responsibility placed upon the Sierra Madre Police Department. Do we really want to put more of this kind of additional burden on our Police Department? Don't they have enough tickets to give out as it is? And given the current crime wave sweeping the City, do we really need to take them away from those likely more important efforts?

There is also the interesting scenario of apartment residents turning in other apartment residents. Imagine the joy in that. Plus where do smokers go if they can't smoke in their homes? And will that be any better?

My gut feeling is this is going to eventually pass in some form or other. Good luck to us all.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

55 comments:

  1. If you limit the availablility of housing in anything but multi-unit dwellings, and then make it a crime to smoke there...... aren't you essentially creating a scenario that creates criminals? I mean, how many more rules are going to be enforced to regulate health the same way? Junk food taxes failed is it time to regulate cheetohs? That red and orange stain on the fingers gets red #5 and yellow #3 on everything. jeez, if I want to suffocate myself with a plastic bag I gotta find a city that sells them, and if I want to choke myself out with carbon monoxide I need to go find a car that actually still emits some.

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    1. Agreed - and yet, the damage from second hand smoke is real, so why is it that a smoker gets to spread the poison into shared space?

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    2. A slippery slope indeed!

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    3. I hate smoking, but is a dictatorship of shared spaces the best we can do? As we insist on managing the living spaces, and mandating and micromanaging how they are used (like they have in rentals in SF fair housing) even a person's misery is now being regulated.

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    4. Can't we just leave it to the individual apartment building owners? They can set their own policies. Besides, the SMPD will just screw it up.

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    5. That would be the best solution, owners deciding if they want smoke free or smoke filled buildings. Hard transition for smokers in predominantly smoke free buildings, or non-smokers in predominantly smoke filled buildings, but once the transition is over, it should work. So the only governmental involvement would be alerting landlords to the need to determine the policy they want to put in place, tell the tenants, and include it on the leases.

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    6. With so many real issues facing the City, the best Moran can come up with is an attempt to regulate smoking on private property? Yet another example of his short comings as Mayor.

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    7. A political correct issue allows one to avoid the challenging issues.Small minds small issues!

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    8. Like free range chickens and organic eggs.

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    9. I think they mentioned during the meeting that the police would not be doing the enforcing...they're going to research how it's being enforced in other cities.

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    10. What I heard is that there really is no viable alternative to the police. Unless you want to start sending Elaine over to check things out.

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    11. Ah. a $50,000 study on cigs, smoke, laws, and enforcing them.

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  2. Why did Josh put black shoe polish on his hair?

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    1. His head was scuffed?

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    2. To keep his mind from wandering?

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    3. he was having an Al Jolsen moment?

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    4. He fears aging.

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    5. because it did wonders for Ted Danson's career?

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    6. it did wonders for Reagan.

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    7. He wants to look like a burnt match.

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    8. He's an admirer of Rod Blagojevich.

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    9. Because one Phil Spector is never enough.

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    10. He hoped that Cha-Cha would mistake his head for a shoe, & slip it on for a quick two step

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    11. To help the chicken ordinance cross the road?

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    12. just in case he got an idea, he needed ink for his quill to jot it down real quick.

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    13. That's an X.Don't tell anyone but he's actually a walking treasure map

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    14. He wants to be God's pencil.

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    15. Don't we all, brother. Don't we all.

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    16. That's no smudge. its a sinkhole.

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    17. You have all missed the point. It is a Michael Jackson tribute. He's ebony and ivory!

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  3. " the issuance of bonds can be accomplished without a public vote."
    Good God. Another right that needs to be taken from the government.

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    1. I will be more than glad to go knock on doors for the signatures needed to put that on a ballot. These idiots must be stopped.

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    2. Where do we sign up!

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    3. Not a right, 7:45, an entitlement. And yes, it must be taken away.

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  4. Looks like another case of "bad financial" guidance from insiders and so called leaders who know nothing of the world outside their little windowless offices.

    Being in debt use to be a good thing for a city, or so your leaders lead us to believe?

    But as anyone has found out during a credit check it really isn't, these rules are being applied to cities now as well.

    Be prepared for cities who's credit line is thin to increase fees for any and all services.

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  5. thanks for the snapshot of the PUSD board. It's scary to think that this dysfunctional group has so much power and control over our children and our money.

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    1. It reminded me of an episode of South Park.

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    2. And we keep voting for the same group of folks election after election. I am content however, that Phelps and Kenne did not sneak out of the meeting or did not fall asleep. Now let's bury the bone once it for all.

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    3. Honowitz droned on an on with disparaging comments directed at charter schools, English Language Learners and Special Ed students taking away from GE students. His veiled bigotry was called out by Miramontes. I doubt if when they went into the hallway to chit chat.
      For all Honowitz's "wonderful" contributions as a parent leader, he'll be getting an award. We'll be staging a protest at this public school/wine tasting event.

      http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/community-leaders-jaylene-moseley-molly-munger-and-pusd-parent-leaders-ed-honowitz-felita-kealing-honored/comment-page-1#comment-18547

      My comment on this farce still hasn't been posted, so I'll post here:

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      March 12th, 2013 at 12:16 pm
      Of course Ed Honowitz is being given an award! In that way, Pasadena can conveniently forget the request we made to censure this guy. Honowitz commiserated and worked with the Sierra Madre school Parent Vigilante committee that railroaded an autistic kid out of his home school. Bravo Mr. Ed! Where will those kids end up in community schools? Is there a special community schools junior jail?

      ~Mary B.

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    4. Mr. Ed and his clique will Honowish they'd never been stupid enough to mess with this piece of white trash. Maybe they'll be careful in the future not to judge a book by its cover. tb

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    5. Does anyone see anything wrong with a public school WINE drinking event where students will be supplying the entertainment?

      Is this a "special exception" to board policies regarding drinking and drugs?

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    6. The board member speaking reason is the one who is leaving (Miramontes)- not Honowitz. He said prior to making all the layoffs, look at options, furloughs, waste, so on.

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    7. Miramontes was correct in stating the we should not attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence. When the board decides who to appoint to fill the 2 year vacancy, perhaps they should select someone based on merit and not on any other pc qualifications.

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  6. How about what TB has brought up a lot? Lawyers? How much is wasted on lawyers getting their sorry butts out of trouble? How much is the TT mess going to cost? And who really pays?

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  7. The terrible decision to put us into crippling debt was made years ago, and we have the consequences. The terrible decision to go ahead with a MacMansion spawning development plan in the hillsides was also made years ago, and we have the consequences. Get ready to pay more to live in mimi-Arcadia.

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  8. The three stooges have already declaired that there will be an ordinance on smoking in multi residence buildings. So, let us come up with a good, benign ordinance that will have the landloard do the enforcing, then present it to the council. I will start by saying that it should read that everytime a unit is sold or leased it states clearly in the papers whether it is a smoking or non-smoking development. Then, if it is smoking there should not be a restriction on who can smoke on the balconies, etc. If non-smoking, then the opposite with no smoking in the openspaces as well as the balconies. Simple.

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    1. Please do not be practical and present us with a common sense solution. It ruins all the "chicken littles" days.

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    2. It was a regular barnyard in Council Chambers last night.

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  9. Bonds the gift that keeps giving.

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    1. We keep giving. They keep taking.

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    2. Not sure if anyone watched the end of the board of Ed meeting. Cooper brought up the possibility of what to do with a reality show coming into the district, or even bloggers snapping pics and writing things up.

      There's plenty of rumors flying around between TT, Gundry , etc. If the rumors are true, it's definitely reality show material.

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    3. How can they be canning people without telling anyone what it is they are being canned for? This is all very odd. The big question: How much money did the steal?

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  10. E-mail alert! Am I the only one? I have gotten two e-mails today from people in Sierra Madre who I do have in my e-address book, with the subject line listing something indescript and suspecious as this would not be expected from these particular senders. I open it and see that there is some internet link which I did not open.

    I sent the e-mail to my spam blocker and then alerted the sender that I think their e-mail has been hacked.

    Any insights on who, what , why?

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    1. It happens more often than most people suspect. Best thing to do is change your password. I got one today as well.

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    2. I've had four hack emails in the past month, one from Costa Rica but all from people I don't hear from regularly. I haven't opened any of the attachments, but I wonder, can they get to my mailbox anyway? It must be catching.

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