Watching last night's Planning Commission meeting was an unfortunate and revealing experience. Not that the PC should be held up to any lofty and heroic standards in the political philosophy sort of way, that isn't why they are here. It's just that, well, they didn't really have to roll over quite so easily. They could have at least tried to serve the interests of the people they had all volunteered to represent. I don't see how it could have cost them much of anything. Yet with the notable exception of two courageous commissioners, they chose not to do that. Few fingers were lifted.
I don't want to overstate this, but have you ever stopped to think about how dead the concept of freedom is for so many people in this country? You know, standing up for what you think is right, and then letting the bad guys really have it? Doing so even in the face of something as harrowing and fearful as a state planning law?
Last night's deal was the Sacramento mandated forced imposition of homeless shelters into small communities such as ours. Pounded down our throats by one of the most corrupt and venal state legislatures in this country. It will seriously degrade the E. Montecito neighborhood selected by our city staff for sacrifice, add an entirely new and possibly dangerous population to the downtown area, and put some of our most vulnerable citizens, particularly the elderly and very young, at unnecessary risk.
Drugs and increased crime, and in a community where law enforcement has come up woefully short in the fight against such things, will be direct and possibly serious consequences.
So what was the Planning Commission's conclusion when presented with these unpleasant facts? They voted to approve what Development Services wanted not because it was right, or will make Sierra Madre a better or more safe place. They voted for it by a 4 to 2 margin to approve because it is state law, and they felt that they had no choice but to obey. And far be it for them to dare and stand up for what is right.
And that was it. They just knuckled under, and passed this mess on up to the City Council. All with barely a peep of resistance. Our city's planning guardians just didn't get it.
There were a couple of comedic moments, mostly offered up by a clearly embarrassed Commissioner Ken Goldstein. Apparently his widely rumored candidacy for a City Council seat was weighing heavily upon his storied brow because he was desperately working all sides of this question. Ken was against it, troubled by it, confused by it, upset about it, and then, when it finally counted, voted for it.
That in the end, and after much noisy posturing, he came down on the side of homeless shelters in Sierra Madre was hardly the stuff of inspired political leadership. This will not help Ken's cause next spring.
Homeless Housing Ken did go after Danny Castro for supposedly not properly preparing the Planning Commission with the information and insight they needed to deal with the homeless shelter controversy. His complaint being a very unpleasant matter had been dumped on them without much prior warning. That this topic has been out there for years seems to have escaped Ken, probably because for most of that period he was otherwise engaged and hadn't been following too closely.
Something that does beg the following question. If Ken, along with three other commissioners, were left so badly prepared by our at times sluggish Development Services department, why did they vote for this awful mess? Shouldn't each of them have taken the time to make certain they knew what was going on before voting to approve? I'm not sure blaming the help is what was called for here.
Commissioner Goldstein's other less than glorious moment was during the brief moment the PC wrestled with the idea of delaying their decision until next meeting so that the commissioners might be able to get a little more up to speed. Especially with information about how other cities are coping with similar demands, and their strategies for dealing with these destructive state mandated policies. The need for experts, legal and otherwise, was also discussed.
Ken's solution? Call Assemblyman Chris Holden's office. Which is hilarious if you think about it. Ken, who was Holden's preeminent campaign cash bundler during last year's elections, certainly couldn't have found a worse party to bring into this discussion if he'd tried. Holden is up to his ears in various so-called social equity redevelopment schemes of this kind, and there is no stronger proponent in Sacramento for such things.
On a side note, it was interesting to see Assistant City Attorney Holly "Go" Whatley at work last night. Her stern warnings about the possible draconian consequences of standing up to state planning laws obviously helped carry the night for Development Services.
Holly, as close readers of this blog are aware, was recently forced to resign her position as City Attorney in La Habra Heights, and under somewhat mysterious circumstances ("Colantuono & Levin Finds Itself Being Booted Out Of Yet Another City - This Time La Habra Heights" link). Whatever it is that happened there must have been pretty serious because the law firm she works for, Colantuono & Levin, was also pushed out the door as well.
As always, it is good to see we are in the finest legal hands that money can buy.
Here is another thought. Now that the homeless shelter question has been punted to the City Council, it will be interesting to see how Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran will vote on this matter. Adding E. Montecito homeless shelter advocacy to their already troubled records in office certainly won't make their chances for reelection any easier.
Two Million Hits
A milestone was reached by The Tattler last evening. Sometime around 7 PM we hit the two million mark for what Google refers to as "page views." And since they are the ones who count them for us, I will have to go with their wisdom.
It took five years to get here, but in a small city of less than 11,000 people that does show a certain level of engagement with what we do. Day in and day out.
Thanks for stopping by.