Elaine's observation here was posted to the city's website on May 30. From all that I have been hearing the list of not especially pleased individuals has grown markedly. It could very well be quite a crowd by now. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Also, and as an aside, have you ever noticed that when the citizens agree with Elaine, she calls them "the community?" But when they don't it's "individuals?" I know that I have been an individual for quite some time now and it is not as bad as you might think. I rather enjoy myself, actually. You just need to remember that worrying about what people think is usually an oxymoron.
The meeting kicks off with the secret session where the City Council discusses matters regarding lawsuits and personnel issues. Tonight we have one of each. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!
CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATOR - Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54957.6 City Negotiator to attend Closed Session: Teresa Highsmith, City Attorney Unrepresented Employee: Elaine Aguilar, City Manager - Elaine recently received her job evaluation from the City Council, and they probably gave her a good one. I suspect she has most of the City Council believing they'd be little lost lambs without her, so they keep re-upping her to the detriment of the rest of us. My guess is Tuesday they'll be talking about giving her a raise. Given her recent fibbing about our Moody's water bond rating, along with the growing controversy over her poorly conceived schemes for fining water consumers, she really deserves little more than to be shown the door. But I am certain Nancy, Josh and Johnny Process will give her whatever she wants. A reward for her allowing them to be lazy and self-involved.
CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL - Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) The City Council finds based on advice from legal counsel, that discussion in open session will prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation. Initiation of Litigation: Number of potential cases - One (1). According to this link what the relevant chunk of the Cali-Code says for 54956.9(d) is: A statement made by a person in an open and public meeting threatening litigation on a specific matter within the responsibility of the legislative body. Looks like somebody has been shaking City Hall's tree. I wonder who it might be?
CONSENT CALENDAR: Following the traditional rituals and mysteries that properly cleanse the air of evil spirits and allow wisdom to flow freely from the brows of our elected officials, next in view is the Consent Calendar. Which, as you know, always kicks off with the spending of the gold.
a) RESOLUTION NO. 13-39 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS: This evening's Lucky Lucre recipients will find themselves on the receiving end of a whopping $656,771.55. About half of this is payroll however, with another quarter of a million big ones going to pay for that hook-up with the Metropolitan Water District. You know, in case of emergencies. $16,490 was spent on resurfacing the tennis courts, another $10,000 went to keep the dial-a-ride buses rolling, and $837 went to the Looney Views News for some reason or other. Perhaps for printing the City's press releases untouched as if they are the received word of God? Apparently you can get a lot out of The Looney for relatively small change.
b) AUTHORIZATION OF AGREEMENT TO NEGOTIATE EXCLUSIVELY WITH HERITAGE HOUSING PARTNERS REGARDING 186 W. HIGHLAND: This little piece of humbug involves a state mandated notion that we are obliged to create housing for the po' folk. You and I might have busted our humps to get here, but we are somehow obliged by the corrupt one party oligarchs in Sacramento to recreate right here in Sierra Madre what we worked so hard to get away from. If I wanted to live next to "Workforce Housing" I would have stayed in Lomita. This involves a company that turns old eyesores like the City owned white elephant "Old Church" at 186 W. Highland into multiple unit low income condo complexes. Even if we are running out of water. At least they aren't going to try and turn it into homeless housing. Not that you won't find that on the City's wish list as well. Trust me, it is still there.
c) GENERAL PLAN UPDATE AND PROPOSED CONTRACT AMENDMENT WITH THE PLANNING CENTER/DC&E TO COMPLETE DRAFT GENERAL PLAN DOCUMENT: This is that wily Elaine Aguilar attempting to shove some SB 375 corporatist nonsense into our General Plan. And doing so in the name of the General Plan Update Steering Committee, which had nothing to do with it, and wouldn't have agreed to this garbage at gunpoint. City Hall is never above hostage taking, you know. Of course this sad mess will require a consultant, with the cost to us being $30,000. This in a City that claims it needs to increase every fee and rate on its menu in order to make ends meet. And what is the goal here? To reduce Sierra Madre's greenhouse gas output. Which, outside of taking everyone's cars away, is simply an unworkable pursuit. Not that I am against walking once in a while. I'd just prefer to see other people doing it first. Starting with the Green Committee, followed by the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem* and then City Staff.
d) SECOND READING OF ORDINANCE NO. 1337: ADDING CHAPTER 17.29 ENTITLED “R-3 H MULTIPLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL HIGH DENSITY” TO THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE AND AMEND THE ZONING MAP: While you and I are being threatened with fines or even having our water turned off due to the water crisis, City Hall has been hard at work creating things like this item. Something that would entitle developers to build high density 20 units per infill acre condo complexes. Which, of course, would require a whole lot more water to run. Perhaps whatever they are calling the Green Committee these days would like to do a water "sustainability study" about this? Like they'd ever do it. To me this is a sign that our City government has fallen prey to bureaucratic schizophrenia and needs to be prescribed some sort of powerful medication. Hopefully one that makes them sleep. They're less apt to screw things up that way.
2) PUBLIC HEARING – 2013-2014 ASSESSMENT DISTRICTS – ENGINEER’S REPORT AND RESOLUTION OF CONFIRMATION NO. 13-38: Yet another initiative by the City to exact additional dough from those unfortunate enough to be within their area of their control. This paid for "Assessment District Study" involves the cost of lighting, landscaping and parking in what are generally business districts. The City might be concerned about the parlous state of businesses here in town, but that hardly means they still won't be asking for more of their dough. Yet another situation where people who pay taxes in this city are then being dunned into paying them twice.
3) 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: From what I can see this appears to be a humane solution to what could have been an awful problem. The state shoved its usual draconian presence into the health massage trade, and our laws here were not in compliance with their wishes. Should the City have enforced state laws as is, the effect on certain longtime Sierra Madre businesspeople could have been catastrophic. What this hopes to accomplish is "grandfather" in these businesses, thus sparing them absurd costs and restrictions that could have put them out of business.
4) DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCE NO. 1339 AMENDING CHAPTER 9.36 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE PERTAINING TO ALARMS: You pay taxes for public safety services, so you'd think that when an alarm goes off at your house the cost of the that response would be covered. But City Staff decided to propose an "alarm fee" anyway, one that would purportedly cover the cost of an emergency response. Fortunately the City Council said no to what was essentially another downtown money grab, but also requested a possible way of fining those whose alarms go off without any real emergency taking place. As it is with water, inappropriate behavior will be punished.
5) DISCUSSION – CITY WATER AND SEWER UTILITY PAYMENT PROCESS: At the last City Council meeting John Capoccia asked City Staff to explain exactly how it pays for the water used in its operations. The suspicion of some in town has been that the city has long been taking advantage of its control over the Water Department and using the stuff without paying for it. The staff report on this can be found by clicking here. It includes what appear to be records of payments. I'll let you run with it should you so choose. I certainly have some problems with how water gets done here in town, but this one was never on my list.
6) DISCUSSION – PUBLIC FACILITIES IMPACT FEES: APPROACH AND UPDATE FEE IMPACT STUDY: This involves giving Willdan $28,656 to conduct a study to determine whether the City should base its development impact fees on a per square foot, per bedroom or per unit basis. The Planning Commission had given their recommendation on this, but I guess somebody had a problem with it. Currently the city figures its development impact fees on a per unit basis. However, if we do go to a per square foot basis, that would give those who wish to build starter castles here a pause to reflect. The bigger the house, the more money you pay. That sounds like the way to go to me. However, I do not understand why we have to pay someone $28,656 to make it happen.
7) DISCUSSION – PUBLIC SAFETY MASTER PLAN - SURVEY: The fact that this item is placed last on the agenda seems rather unfortunate to me. It is as if someone is trying to hide it. This is an attempt by Mayor Pro Tem* Harabedian to spend around $25,000 with some consultant to initiate a survey that would determine how people feel about the Sierra Madre Police Department and the job it does. There are many in town that feel the SMPD is an expensive white elephant whose job could be performed more efficiently and at a better cost if we contracted with another agency. The purpose of this survey is to establish that people here do like the SMPD, plain and simple. And since most residents have no idea what the issues are, it would probably achieve its end. This survey would also help to create an argument for the taxpayers to reverse their decision on the UUT extension, and instead vote to keep it going at a California leading rate of 10% for another 5 years. The lion's share of UUT moneys go to the Police. In the end this is really little more than a pol repaying a lawsuit happy public employee union for its support in an election. Johnny hopes to advance to an exciting career in state politics someday, and in his party that dream is often enabled by kissing the ring of unions like the SMPOA. Destructive L.A. County politics at its truly worst.