Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Tattler Sunday News Report Returns Again, But Not Without Some Doubts

(Mod: As you might have suspected, the traffic numbers on this blog decrease markedly on the weekends. Let's face it, The Sierra Madre Tattler is a productivity killer read mostly by people sitting in offices who should be doing what they are being paid to do, but often are not. On the weekends when people actually have some room to breathe they're away from their computers and doing other things. In an attempt to stem this audience erosion we instituted the Tattler Sunday News, but it didn't work. It's not like anyone has to go out of their way to find information these days, with the real trick being to spare yourself the sheer mind numbing bulk quantities of the easily found stuff. But despite the disappointing results we are going to try this one more time. If anything we are stubborn.)

Sierra Madre Is Hiring! (link)
Police Officer Lateral / Entry Level - Closes June 20, 2013
Location: Sierra Madre, California, United States | Department: Police Department
The Position: Under general supervision, protects life and property, prevents crime, arrests criminals, and generally enforces laws and ordinances; responsible for designated areas; works assigned shifts; may be assigned to patrol by driving or walking.

Salary & Benefits: The City’s compensation and benefits package includes:
Annual salary range $53,221 - $74,716 DOQ (payable bi-weekly)
Up to $650 per month for health, dental and vision insurance coverage for employee and family; plus 25% of the cost in excess of $650/mo
$50,000 ADD and life insurance
Flexible Spending Accounts
3/12 Work Schedule
Annual paid leave of: 88 hours of vacation (increasing after 5 years of service)
104 hours of holiday leave
Annual sick leave accrual of 96 hours
PERS Retirement - City participates in the CalPERS retirement system. Safety employees who were CalPERS members prior to January 1, 2013 are enrolled in the 3%@55 formula; City pays 4% of employee share and counts it toward final retirement compensation. Employees enrolled in CalPERS after January 1, 2013 will be enrolled in the 2.7%@57 formula; City will pay 50% of the "normal cost". No participation in social security.
The City pays all employer taxes required under Federal, State and Local laws
Uniform Allowance: $80 ever 28 days
$5,000 Signing Bonus, $2,500 payable upon appointment and $2,500 after passing probationary period

(Mod: This generous job offer went out as a "Tweet" that was picked up on the Pasadena Star News site. It apparently is also posted on the City's Facebook page. Pretty good deal, a job with a 3 day work week that offers decent pay and stellar benefits. Though it does kind of fly in the face of all we're hearing from City Hall these days about cutting back on hiring in order to reduce costs. But you know how that one goes. There is what we're supposed to hear, and then there is what is actually going on.)

German bank employee naps on keyboard, transfers millions (link)
An obviously tired German bank employee fell asleep on his keyboard and accidentally transformed a minor transfer into a 222 million euro ($293 million) order, a court heard Monday.

The Hessen labor court heard that the man was supposed to transfer just 62.40 euros from a bank account belonging to a retiree, but instead "fell asleep for an instant, while pushing onto the number 2 key on the keyboard" -- making it a huge 222,222,222.22 euro order.

The bank discovered the mistake shortly afterwards and corrected the error.

The case was taken to court by the man's 48-year-old colleague who was fired for letting the mistake slip through when verifying the order. The court ruled that the plaintiff should be reinstated in his job.

(Mod: I would like a bank employee to fall asleep on my account. That way I can buy a Harley Davidson and spend three months driving it to Alaska and back. Is that really a lot to ask?)

Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record - Congress ranks last on list of 16 institutions; military earns top spot again (link)
Americans' confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%, ranking the legislative body last on a list of 16 societal institutions for the fourth straight year. This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record. Americans remain most confident in the military, at 76%.

Small business and the police also continue to rank highly, with 65% and 57% of Americans, respectively, expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in these institutions. Joining Congress at the bottom of the list are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and organized labor. Congress' low position is further underscored when one looks at the percentage of Americans who have little or no confidence in each institution. The slight majority of Americans, 52%, have this level of confidence in Congress, compared with 31% for HMOs.

Americans' confidence in several institutions measured in the June 1-4 Gallup poll has shifted since last year. Americans have become more confident in banks, organized religion, and public schools, and less confident in the U.S. medical system, the Supreme Court, and Congress.

(Mod: Here is the part that confuses me. People say they hate Congress, and rightfully so. But then they go and re-elect the same boobs year after year. There are plenty of fine third party candidates out there worth voting for, so why not do it? Wouldn't it be great if we threw BOTH parties out? Trust me, they'll never worry about the desires of the voters until that happens.)

Where's the Cheapest Gas in Sierra Madre? (link)
Nationwide, gas prices were predicted to be lower this summer compared to the last three years, but that won't translate into savings at the pump this Memorial Day weekend, experts said. Purdue University economist Wally Tyner expects gas prices on the West Coast to go over $4, with prices in the $3 range everywhere else in the country, according to the Associated Press.

"Motorists this year are facing rising gas prices heading into the Memorial Day holiday," said Michael Green, a AAA spokesman, adding that Memorial Day 2013 would probably be the most expensive since 2011.

(Mod: We only have two gas stations in Sierra Madre, so this is kind of an odd premise for a news article. Of course, this is one of those goofy Patch robo-stories where each and every Patch in the area is plugged in to the same article and only the name of the city is changed.)

US Sets New House Size Record In 2012 (link)
There have been numerous press reports about the expansion of micro housing, and expectations that Americans will be reducing the size of their houses. As the nation trepidatiously seeks to emerge from the deepest economic decline since the 1930s, normalcy seems to be returning to US house sizes.

According to the latest new single-family house size data from the US Census Bureau, the median house size rose to an all-time record of 2306 square feet in 2012. This is slightly above the 2277 square feet median that was reached at the height of the housing bubble in 2007 (Figure). The average new house size (2,505 square feet) remains slightly below the 2007 peak of 2,521 square feet.

There was little coverage in the media, with the notable exception of Atlantic Cities, in which Emily Badger repeated the expectation of many:

“It appeared after the housing crash that the American appetite for ever-larger homes was finally waning. And this would seem a logical lesson learned from a recession when hundreds of thousands of households found themselves stuck in cavernous houses they neither needed nor could afford.”

But she concluded “Perhaps we have not changed our minds after all.” Well stated.

(Mod: Modern families need lots of bathrooms.)

Demand Surges for Transit-Oriented Housing (link)
Speaking of the economics of mass transit … The good news is that residential property prices are surging around mass transit stations. In the clearest of possible signals, the marketplace is telling us that there is strong demand among large swaths of the American population for access to mass transit service. People are willing to pay a lot more for the convenience.

The bad news (there had to be a downside) is that affluent Americans are displacing poor and working-class residents from transit-accessible housing. Thus, the population that relies upon transit the most has less access than before, the Wall Street Journal today. Writes the Journal:

Professors at Northeastern University in Boston examined 42 neighborhoods in 12 U.S. cities in 2010 and found that housing costs near rail stops increased after light-rail service started in many markets. “A new transit station can set in motion a cycle of unintended consequences in which core transit users…are priced out in favor of higher-income, car-owning residents,” the authors wrote.

(Mod: Let me get this straight. You build low income transit oriented housing, and then magically the prices go up and these wickiups are affordable only to affluent people who drive cars? The planet is doomed.)

Assembly to weigh constitutional amendment on local taxes, bonds (link)
The budget won't be the only big issue being considered by the Assembly on Friday. Democrats have scheduled a vote on a controversial constitutional amendment that would make it easier for cities and counties to raise property taxes or issue bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Under the amendment, bond issue proposals would need only 55% of the vote to pass, rather than the current two-thirds. The same reduced threshold would apply to votes on raising property taxes to cover the cost of the borrowing.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. said the decision to hold a vote on the measure on the same day as the budget was a "sneak attack on property owners" and Proposition 13, the 1978 constitutional amendment limiting property taxes.

The measure's author, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), noted that school districts can already pass bonds with 55% of the vote. He said in a statement that his amendment would provide cities "with new tools to invest in their prosperity."

He added, "California is in an untenable position that jeopardizes our economy, jobs and way of life. Most of our infrastructure was designed and built over 40 years ago to accommodate a much smaller population."

The amendment is, in part, a response to the failure of Measure J, a Los Angeles tax initiative that fell barely short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

If Blumenfield's amendment is approved by the Assembly, it could still face opposition in the upper house. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has said lawmakers should hold off on tinkering with local tax laws until at least next year.

The amendment would also need to be approved by California voters, and could wind up on the next June primary ballot unless lawmakers schedule it differently.

(Mod: Yes, let's make it easier for local governments to raise taxes and sell more bonds. It is the solution to all of our problems.)

Bear captured in Sierra Madre after pursuit through town (link)
A young black bear with police in pursuit took a meandering trip through Sierra Madre this week, past City Hall and downtown businesses and through alleys, backyards and apartment complexes before being captured and returned to the mountains.

The female bear was first spotted just after 10:30 a.m. Monday at Grandview Avenue and Lima Street by Ben Rillorta, who heard his border collie barking and saw the bear in his backyard. The bear escaped over a fence, made its way to the street and headed south, Rillorta said.

He notified Sierra Madre police, who met up with the bear at the historic Pinney House and tried to corral it and push it north toward the mountains, police Chief Larry Giannoni said. But the bear jumped through yards and continued south to busy Sierra Madre Boulevard, where it eventually traveled past the police station, City Hall, downtown businesses and surprised bystanders.

Hanh Le, a manicurist at Tropical Nail Spa, looked out the salon's glass storefront on Sierra Madre Boulevard and noticed a police car making a U-turn. Then she saw the bear running down the street and on the sidewalk in front of the salon. "I said, 'Oh my God, bear!'" Everyone ran out to look, she said.

Police pushed the bear off the main drag to keep it out of the Kersting Court dining and shopping area, and it passed behind the city's post office before crossing Baldwin Avenue, Giannoni said. Officers thought they had the animal contained in a nearby residential area, but after resting the bear escaped and continued east.

As the bear traveled through the San Gabriel Valley town, accompanied by police cars and circling helicopters, the city updated residents on Facebook and Twitter and asked people to steer clear of the frightened animal. 

(Mod: There are two ways that Sierra Madre gets the attention of the L.A. County media. One is mudslides, the other is bears.)


  1. This is a kind of silly thing for me to bring up again, but I have asked that the Sierra Madre Lower Campus be enclosed and gated at the front facade for many years. It is a nice open area which is frequently used by kids in groups, as well as kids moving back and forth in tha hall space. The coyotes have been my biggest cincern aside from unauthorized human predators, but wandering bears are just as likely to wander over.

    Maybe those 200 parents can help work on that fence thigie now.

  2. Does anybody know when the they are going to start building the ALF? Did the developer run out of money or something?

    1. Haven't a clue. And meanwhile, the condos to the east of Taylors are rising super fast. So are two tinsy (so will have to be tall) structures at the end of Windsor Lane, close to Bethany.

    2. One good windstorm and that property will just blow away.

    3. I thought Shields and his partners/investors just love Sierra Madre and want to be a part of the community - just like the wannabe Mansion builders at the north end of Baldwin. So why doesn't Shields bring back his PR expert self to a council meeting, and update the community he loves so much.

    4. Has anyone seen any dust control measures taken?
      That would usually be done with our drinking water being used at least twice a day.

    5. Maybe they should blow off the whole Kensington deal and plant cactus there. That way the residents will be able to see how easy it is to grow drought tolerant plants.

    6. The residents could also see the mountains.

    7. Sierra Madre Boulevard is becoming the new canyon.

    8. The developer's architect/engineers are probably at work preparing the actual construction documents needed to obtain a building permit (this can take 6 months to a year to complete). The proposed design drawings submitted to the Planning Commission were just "eye candy" sketches needed to obtain the development approval. The real details of the project are worked out directly with the City plan checkers, outside of the public eye until construction actually commences.

    9. So what we are going to get could be different from what we voted on?

    10. Yep, depending upon how specific the approval conditions were written, the building appearance (ie. style, color, exterior finishes, etc.) could be significantly different. Only the overall height, square footage and number of suites (units) would remain the same.

    11. Sounds like there is some potential for a bait and switch.

    12. This is awkward. Shouldn't Fountain West's plans for their Kensignton ALF project been complete before going to a vote of the people?

    13. Huh.
      I voted against the damn thing because of the need to conserve water - that need has been clear for many years - but if the citizens approved something specific, shouldn't it actually be that same specific thing? Or was the ballot written in a deceptive manner?

    14. If all the Planning Commission was required to approve was 2-30-13 why did they spend an eternity on the exterior design? And parking layout. And landscaping...

    15. There are things we are supposed to know, and then there is the real stuff.

    16. As noted in a previous comment, you would need to go back and review the final version of the Conditions of Approval and the actual resolution that was approved by the City Council to verify how many of the specific concerns of the Planning Commission were actually incorporated as legal requirements to which the developer must comply. For instance, don't remember if there was a specific condition that the facility would be required to have a Spanish / Mediterranean appearance even though that was what was presented in the final design.

    17. Sounds like someone left the barnyard door open.

    18. This is how building development is played in the real world and you can bet that Fountain West knows it well!

    19. "The City is never wrong." - The City

  3. I thought you're an iconoclast, yet you long to buy into the Harley merchandizing "culture?" Reminds me of 20-somethings who get tats to stand out and make a statement. When 65-70% of your age group has at least one tattoo, how is that standing out or making a statement?

    Get yourself a Triumph!

    1. Triumph doesn't have its own merchandizing culture? Really? In that regard they have pretty much aped Harley.

    2. Looky here, I don't know what you're talking about - accusing someone of buying into the Harley merchandizing "culture", but I'm pretty sure Triumph hasn't manaufactured a motorcycle in a number of years.

    3. No, they were bought out of receivership in the 1980s and are still manufactured in Great Britain. Their merchandizing is big on Union Jacks. They look like accessories out of a James Bond movie.

    4. Thanks, 8:29 am, for that bit of info. 1980s was about the time I lost all interest in motorcycles...

    5. In my head up to Alaska moments, it's a classic Indian Motorcycle.

    6. One major advantage of Triumphs is that they actually start.

    7. No problem. I got it all from Wikipedia.

    8. My dad owned two Indian Motorcycles. I wonder what they would be worth today ..

    9. A lot of the Harley Davidson culture came out of the post WWII era. A lot of newly released vets bought motorcycles and roared off down Rte 66 and other cross country routes. They had a lot of steam to blow off. The styles and merchandizing you see to today has its origins in that era.

    10. I like the Alaska on an Indian imagery. Or on a Triumph!

    11. Buy American. The job you save may be your dad's.

    12. Can't afford an Indian. Besides, a couple of guys at the local Triumph dealer are dad's.

    13. I am not sure running a blog that talks about City government in Sierra Madre makes me an iconoclast, 8:11. I've been called a lot of different things, but I have never yet been accused of that.

    14. Pope blesses hundreds of Harley-Davidsons

  4. Fencing to keep out wildlife is unlikely to help much. Bears and Mt Lions just do the big jump over and as for coyotes, your biggest deterrence against them is all the noise the kids make when they are out in to halls, playgrounds. Funneling in human visitors through the main gate closing off side entrances is maybe your best safety focus. Recorded coyote attacks on small animals and the rare small child is when left on their lonesome in a residential yard.

    1. Are you diffusing my propaganda with logic?

  5. Sierra Madre city hall has always been hiring. That has never stopped.

    1. Those must be some of the most boring 12 hour cop shifts in existence. Lots of time to daydream about lawsuits.

  6. If you want an Honest investigation of your water department, don't let the city council or city manager pick a business for that, instead use a blind test approach and have a third party select one.

    If the city has their way they will influence the out come and it's report will read like a "mother's goose rime."

    1. How about we ask the District Attorney to investigate? I'm thinking if Tuesday night's little get together doesn't bring some authenticity and mea culpas along with the "need more money" bs, we talk with the DA's office.

    2. Did you see the Looney Views News yet? Pushing water lies, just like always.

    3. I'm sure there are about 20 people who read it.

    4. In a "letter" appearing in today's, purporting to explain the water situation but neglecting to cite an anuthor, appears the following statement, "A second option would be to access water via the Metropolitan Water district emergency connection as the current water supply conditions for Sierra Madre would most likely qualify as an emergency."

      So how can the City make it into an emergency if they don't create false readings and scream that water usage is up 50% since last year? It's a win-win for the Council, the City Manager, and the Public Works director: more revenue in the form of fines and penalties, and more water flowing in to Sierra Madre from the promised never to be touched except for an emergency water. Oh, and of course, it supplies the necessary water for 20 units per acre condo building, a 90+ ALF, 40 to 50 5-bedroom 5.5 bathroom MacMansions, and all sorts of projects coming down the pike.

      Wackadoodle Walsh, the Moron, and Johnny Process should be very pleased with themselves, as should Elaine and Bruce as well. Take a bow Doyle, Buchanan, and the long gone Mosca.

  7. Ah, yes, Mosca. The Flying Carpetbagger. One wonders how he would have held up under questioning by the D.A. On any number of issues. (Btw--was 'Mosca' his real name? Or his 'fly on the wall' code name?)

    As for the present kerfuffle: They can mea culpa all they want on Tuesday, but an impartial, neutral investigation is still needed immediately. Including the water bond debt as a root cause of all the fuss. (And you're right 3:02pm, we'll have to make sure it IS impartial.)


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