Wednesday, May 29, 2013
There was a lot of regret in City Council chambers last night. Nobody wanted to vote on new zoning classifications that would permit things like the building of 20 unit per acre condominium development, but they voted for it. Nobody wanted to fine the residents for using more water than they ought to, but they voted for that, too. And most on the Council felt that they needed to make it clearly known that they were not the ones at fault here. That won a majority of their votes as well.
So in honor what was probably one of the least noble meetings in quite some time, I would like to rename them the "Not Me!" City Council. The place where bad things get done, they know they're bad, nobody there wants to do them, but they do it because they have to. Or so they've said. Maybe it's a kind of fatal attraction. Or perhaps a form of addiction since they do insist that none of it is their fault.
I know that I did mention a "two tier" system of government in Sierra Madre, but now I think we might want to call it a "two class" system instead. Because based on a pair of the big decisions that were made last night, we now apparently have two very separate class distinctions in our community.
Look at it this way. Developers in this town were given some very nice things last night. Or at least they should think they were. The development community will now be able to load up an acre of infill land with upwards of 20 brand new condos, and they were given a whole new zoning category to do it. Multiply that a few times, throw in some other sweet deals they were given last night, and we could be on the verge of quite a little high density building boom in this town.
This at a time when we are apparently in the midst of a near-cataclysmic water crisis. The development folks were given this mighty bounty with little or no consideration of the effects it would have on our already at-risk water supply.
On the other hand, the residents of this town, most of whom are not in the position to be building 20 unit stacked and packed condominium projects any time soon, can now look forward to being fined quite substantially for doing things like watering their lawns, washing their cars or filling their swimming pools. All in the name of, to savor Josh Moran's term, "protecting our aquifers."
So why is your average lawn watering resident potentially being punished on behalf of the aquifers, while those soon to be building high density development projects that could actually consume as much water as just about every lawn owner combined are being given a whole new class of building rights?
The message that was sent last night is an interesting one. For residents the news is that there will be fines for using too much water, resulting in dead lawns, empty swimming pools and dying trees.
For developers and their allies this is all about a brand new mandated building code that will permit the building of large 20 unit condo blocks that will make them a whole lot of money. Done with no consideration for the effects this might have on the very same water supply you use.
So why is that? It seems rather obvious to me. Dead lawns and fines for you, exciting new development opportunities for them. Some people must count more than others in the minds of the Not Me! City Council.
The Green Whatever
The Green Committee and the Tree Commission have now been lumped together under another name, but nobody at the dais seemed to know what this new confab is going to do. Something that makes you wonder what exactly it was that the City Council thought they were doing. Usually when people name something they first know what it is they are naming, while also having a reason for doing so.
My question that didn't get answered
I guess I'll have to file another PRA request to get an answer to this one. Not that I should ever assume it will get answered there, either.
The question is about our water bond ratings, and whether or not they have returned to their AAA status of yore. Here is the passage from an October of 2011 Pasadena Star News article called "Moody's drops Sierra Madre water bond rating" that caught my attention (link):
Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded the city of Sierra Madre's Water Enterprise bonds from AAA to an A bond rating due to insufficient water rate revenues, according to a report by the credit agency.
The downgrade does not affect current indebtedness or bond payments and Sierra Madre officials said Thursday the second year of an incremental rate hike approved in early 2011 will serve as the remedy.
"The bonds will be re-evaluated in another year, and assuming the revenue estimates and the revenues that rate payers are paying, we will regain our triple A rating," said Elaine Aguilar, Sierra Madre city manager.
Given that the City is raising water rates again, and that our water bond rating is presumably still floating face down in the aquifer, how is it that City Hall was this wrong? Why did our City Manager claim that our water bonds would be back at Moody's AAA level by now when that just didn't happen?
Do we even know what our water bonds are rated now? According to this article a re-evaluation should have taken place by now. So where's the result?
However, it does fit the pattern of City Hall not wanting to talk about our water bond woe.
Two Sierra Madre residents made the Board of Ed cut last night
This from the Pasadena Star News (link):
Top candidates emerge for vacant Pasadena school board seat
By James Figueroa, Staff Writer
PASADENA -- Three leading candidates have emerged from a pool of 37 applicants for the vacant seat on the Pasadena school board, and another six might join them in the interview process.
Mikala Rahn, Laura Romero and Carmen Vargas were each named by four of the six sitting board members as top candidates based on their applications. The board members each submitted eight to 10 names as part of the paper screening process, and the applicants with the largest tallies are expected to be interviewed on June 1.
Ruben Hueso, Stella Murga and Luis Ayala, who each lost election bids this year, wound up on three board members' lists and would be interviewed if the board decides to consider the top nine candidates. Also receiving support from at least three board members are Cushon Bell, Serafin Espinoza and Gretchen Vance.
One person out of the 38 initial applicants didn't meet the qualifications of being a registered voter within the PUSD boundaries.
The board is expected to make an appointment in June, and that person would serve until the seat is up for election again in 2015.
Gretchen Vance and Mikala Rahn are the two Sierra Madreans left in the race. Something that could soon to be down to one as Dr. Rahn runs a Pasadena charter school called Learning Works (link), and it would be a clear conflict of interest should she be selected.
Posted by The Moderator at 5:00 AM