Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "Not Me!" City Council and a New Two Tiered System of Government In Sierra Madre

"We don't want to do this, we don't want to upzone, we don't want to be punitive - but we will do this, we will upzone, and we will be punitive." - a reader's comment last night on the City Council's "Not Me!" voting process.

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
twitter.com/jfigscribe

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

74 comments:

  1. Rahn would be a conflict of interest, but Vance is as green as Hampton.

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    1. Nonsense. You just don't like her because she watches money that would otherwise go to your crooked pals.

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  2. Our town has been thrown to the exploiters "wolves". Kiss the nice quiet town we love good-by.

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    1. "But we HAD to do it!"

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    2. Yes, we had to make this nice for the developers, because if we didn't, the developers would come in and do whatever they want.
      That's the argument.

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    3. There is no water. That is true, isn't it?

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    4. I guess the council is OK with running out of water and then permanently hooking up with LA County to get water.

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    5. Cool. Then we can sell the Water Enterprise and pay off those bonds.

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    6. Moran's speech about that was a new company would raise rates like crazy.
      One downside of his not being mayor anymore - he feels no need to watch how long he babbles. He was babbling something fierce last night.

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    7. Raise rates more often than our water company?

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    8. Yes 8:38, that was the point made - a for profit business would charge much more. Would charge as much as it could.

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    9. That would be quite a paperwork problem.

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    10. Let me ask you this, 8:46. Would a private company be carrying millions of dollars in bad debt, and be forced to siphon off a million dollars a year in scarce assets to feed a bank in New York and some bondholders? All the while delaying badly needed infrastructure repairs to the point of near collapse?

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    11. Josh was in a foul mood last night. Still angrily justifying the last water rate increase.

      Tough not being king anymore?

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    12. The definition of Mission Impossible: Trying to get the City to admit it did something wrong.

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    13. 10:00 - I think what aggravates Josh more than anything else on the water rate issue is the thought that some of his political heroes may have to take the fall for the water bond fiascos. The thought of such people as Bart Doyle, Doug Hayes and Stockley being called out for their disastrous financial moves a decade or so back upsets him greatly.

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    14. He's loyal, like a trusty pup.

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    15. Does anything Bart touches actually succeed?

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    16. seriously, who is gonna step up and sue the city? this is banana republic management and the Sierra Madre Middle School Student Council has more maturity this and the previous two Council majoritys

      does nobody see a problem with Josh Moran making decisions about development?

      it's a major conflict of interest, he and his immediate family profits from new development because of his real estate business

      he was anti Measure V years ago and every decision he makes favors development and his checkbook

      it's no surprise he was hand picked by John Buchanan the SoCal Edision do-gooder who scamed us with lies to push development which benefits his employer

      I wonder if those that voted for Walsh and Moran are still adament supporters because if they are, they don't give a damn about the city - they just want to build it out and sell it out

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  3. Did anyone from City Hall contact either of our elected officials in Sacramento about our impossible RHNA position in regards to water? That would seem to be a logical thing to do.

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    1. They voted the way they did because they wanted to.

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    2. At least councilman Capoccia actually responds to public comments - and he said that the time for a moratorium was not here yet, but could be coming.
      I don't know why it's not here when the water is going, going - do we really wait for gone before we stop new permits?

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    3. 7:11 - There is this crazy new dance sweeping the nation called "The Finger Lift." However, they haven't learned how to do it yet at City Hall.

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    4. Click on my name for information on how to do "The Finger Lift."

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    5. When Sierra Madre appealed the RHNA numbers the argument was that we had no water to support such large numbers. The answer was - If you have no water why don't you have a moratorium on building? And the appeal was denied.

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    6. Yes, that was why our dear friends at SCAG shot us down. Certainly does give you an idea of where the City's priorities lie.

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  4. I know the Tattler likes the BS Comm, and it does have a certain accuracy to it, but city staff itself may have come up with the catchiest name, the Greem Comm. Anyway, the Greems will discuss water, the NDPs stuff, trees, and 'climate action plan' - you know, the CAP that is not required by the state.

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    1. I can't wait until the Greems try to convince Sierra Madreans that they should get out of their cars and walk.

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    2. They should go first.

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  5. The "up zone" should really be renamed... "The Up Yours Zone"!

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    1. Instead of HMZ, the zoning code will reflect "UYZ".

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  6. City council's as a whole are run by one or two individuals on the city council, votes and topics are controlled like Drones!

    It's no wonder Sierra Madre's city council meetings take off in directions that are unbelievable, with outlandish statements coming from Staff and Some City Council member's to justify their votes.

    Take West Covina, California for instance. Mike Touhey found another job and he resigned, but that doesn't stop him from attending and sitting in the shadows and directing from afar and using texting to make things happen.

    Haven't you noticed the Council member sending and receiving texts during a meeting?

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  7. A seated council member or a former council member? If seated, texting and/or emailing during a council meeting is a Brown Act violation.

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  8. Two questions - who decides which areas get upyourszoned?
    Will the residents in those area be notified? Or does it happen behind closed doors?

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  9. The city council stated that there is additional unspent monies for years 2012/2013.

    Do not believe it!

    1. The city has failed to pay for its water & sewer usage... <$500,000+/->

    2. This year, the city had no money to pay warrants, the city council took <$900,000+/-> from the general fund..

    3. If we did the math right, that's $1,400,000 which needs to be paid back....

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    1. 9:28, youre just being a hater.

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    2. we go a bunch of bad dudes running this city... and it appears that your one of them...

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  10. This is bizarre. I didn't know that a City Council can just vote to upzone an area without having citizen input on the General Plan, which underlies all zoning. And for these people to give away the public domain - in the face of public protest - to the developers that they're connected to is blatant conflict of interest and a violation of public trust. I hope somebody files a lawsuit, otherwise nothing will stop this.

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    1. Oh but they are going to change the General Plan - amend it. Now that's a prerogative the council should not have, but they do, and they will.

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    2. So what was the decision from the Planning Commission? That comes first.

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    3. The PC approved it.

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    4. The General Plan Committee fought hard to keep the R3 at the current 13 units per acre.
      The City NEVER mentioned 20 units.
      This summer when everyone is on vacation, the City will be adding many properties to the draft General Plan which will be 20 units per acre. These units will be outside of Measure V.
      More Traffic, more people, more crime, more demands on water.

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    5. This was about big time development. The crocodile tears from the CC last night were pure hypocrisy.

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    6. these are some mental lightweights making complex decisions and based on the inaccurate and openly biased comments by Councilmembers it is obvious that they are being consulted by previous Councilmembers like Buchanan & Doyle, who supported Moran,Walsh and Harabedian.

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  11. Actually, the homeowner agreed to the up zone. this was noticed in a prior council meeting.

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    1. Right, in that case - those properties on Mariposa have been a target for the city for a long time. There was also a neighbor who complained about not being upzoned himself. Think all residents will have that reaction?

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    2. Awesome. Is he drilling his own well?

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    3. Upzoning = sell your propoerty for big $$. Cracker boxes, here we come!

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    4. when this is all said and done

      Sierra Madre will be one ugly downtown area, congested with traffic, overbuilt and empty storefronts

      the SMPD will demand higher salaries for the same substandard duties because of the development and sue the city several times

      for any of those old timers who would like to remember the city before the idiots screw it up even more, now is the time to sell and move out

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  12. Can't we use all the "suites" at the ALF for are RINE numbers?

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    1. Sheer brilliance, 12:40. But they won't be low income. They will be the opposite.
      And last night councilmember Capoccia said that he had calculated the water usage of the Alf during the hearings, and it was negligible. I don't see how its possible to bring in 95 new residents and their round the clock staff of care takers, and have the resulting water usage be negligible.

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    2. I used to have a lot of faith in Councilmember Capoccia. Not so much now. I don't expect to agree with everything a Councilmember says, but with Mr. Capoccia I now find myself agreeing with almost nothing. I am sure he sees himself spanning the gap on the council, but to me it appears that he has forgotten where the bridge is located. It is kind of sad.

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    3. I too am very disappointed with Capoccia. He has totally lost my support.
      He had the support of people that are traditionally associated with the pro development side.
      I guess he really snookered many of us.

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    4. I am happy Capocca seams to be a rational councilperson

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    5. seams, greems, I am getting confused now.

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    6. The Greems apparently now belong to something called the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Commission. Which I guess makes them EENRCS. Or, phonetically spelled out ... EE-NERKS.

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    7. Mr. Capoccia needs to decide if he's for more revenue from building or for saving our dwindling water supply. Ya can't do both.

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  13. Actually I believe Mikala Rahn is the executive director of Learning Works and has a monetary interest in its success. This is a major conflict of interest.

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    1. Why? Just becuase she runs a charter school that gets $$ from PUSD?

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    2. Put Mikala on the Board of Ed and she could sign her own checks! How cool would that be?

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  14. I really think all readers of the tattler need to take a look at council person Cappocia.He is an honorable man with high hopes for the city! Willing to work hard to make the right change. I voted for john and will again if he runs.

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    1. What does that mean?

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    2. I am certain his intentions are good, but you have to remember he ran as an anti-tax candidate. Can you recall a single instance during his time on the Council where he has voted against a fee, rate or any other increase? I'm sorry, but like so many before him John drank the Kouncil Kool Aid.

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    3. Overall I agree with you 5:49, but a couple of things. It's wrong to assume that "all readers of the tattler" have a monolithic opinion, and while I do respect Capoccia, I'm sorry he doesn't seem to want to resist the state strong arming us, or the development industry dictating our policy, more than he does.

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  15. Yes, I am not entirely pleased with Capoccia with regards to taxes and water fees.

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    1. Capoccia thinks he is a politician and no longer a resident...

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    2. can't we elect a candidate that doesn't spin a BS story to get elected and then decide that he or she is some enlightened decision maker smarter than those that elected him or her

      oh yeah we did, Kurt Zimmerman and Mary and look what that got us?

      Josh Moran the mortgage salesman is pushing back Measure V and ram rodding development whenever he can because it benefits him and even if he doesn't get reelected, he stands to profit by the decisions he makes as a Councilman.

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    3. Josh is doing it for mommy.

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  16. Pay down the P.E.R.S. for city employees, anyone read the L.A. Times article addressing the future bankruptcy of the state due to the unions making sweet deals? Sierra Madre's "fix the old water pipes" argument has been used for the last 20 years? 40 years? 60 years? Why; when the monies were available did the city not repair the infrasturcture, but instead increased more hook ups for what? future developments. Was city hall attempting to build up the general fund from property tax?

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  17. The city pays a million dollars every year in water bond debt service to the Bank of New York. That is a million bucks every year that should have gone to repairing infrastructure and securing new wells. Today we have a collapsing water company and a city government that is desperate to get its hands on every dime it can to hold this mess together. Don't you think it is time the City told us the truth and stopped feeding us crap about "fixing the leakers?"

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    1. when the city started off with lying to us and when they were caught lying they just lied a different story until the truth was eventually uncovered

      and then the city leadership just pretended that nothning happened and proceed to market misinformation to "sell" the UUT - which was a lie from the start

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  18. And all this water department manipulation began with City administrator Jim McRae. He was ousted from his position over this and other mismanagement.

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    1. who is Jim McRae and who were the Councilmembers at the time?

      based on what we seen the last couple of Councils, the staff just follows the orders of the Council

      ethics smethics

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  19. The city council stated that there is additional unspent monies for years 2012/2013.

    Do not believe it!

    1. The city has failed to pay for its water & sewer usage... <$500,000+/->

    2. This year, the city had no money to pay warrants, the city council took <$900,000+/-> from the general fund..

    3. If we did the math right, that's $1,400,000 which needs to be paid back....

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