Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yes, There Are Two City Council Meetings On Friday

Run! They want to sell us a house!
Yes, count them up and the number comes to an even pair of Friday City Council meetings. As opposed to an odd pair, I guess. Something you can find on a regular basis standing in front of any downtown shop holding a bouquet of yellow paper flowers and talking rather loudly about the need for civility in politics.

The first of this pair of wild wickiups is known to all as the City Council Meeting Strategic Plan Retreat, and it occurs at 8:30 AM. An hour chosen because of its convenience to working residents. I have heard that hundreds are cashing in personal days at work so that they will be able to attend. Myself not included.

But there is a second meeting of the City Council that day. One that I find to be much more interesting, and kind of hilarious as well. There is no good reason for that hilarity, of course. This stuff is about as dry as the contents of a salt box. It is probably just a personal idiosyncrasy of mine, activated by an as yet unexplained personal aversion to the overly serious. Here is the agenda item for this special happy hour get together in Council Chambers.

AGENDA
SIERRA MADRE CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014
3:00 PM
City Hall Council Chambers, 232 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.

1. PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION - Presentation and Discussion regarding Standardized Emergency Management Systems (SEMS), National Incident Management Systems (NIMS), Incident Command System (ICS), an Overview for City Officials.

In case you are SEMS curious, the apparent force behind this meeting is the Department of Homeland Security. You know, basically the same folks that almost sank New Orleans. Done in the hopes of marshaling the defense capabilities of the City of Sierra Madre in case of an invasion by aggressive martians, or angry realtors driving mini electric pedicabs.

This is probably wrong of me to say, but the image of Barney Fife fumbling for his bullet and gun while hundreds of Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod people descend upon innocent latte' drinkers at Starbucks, is now seared deeply into my brain. It could take hours of late night Pabst therapy to erase that. I am willing to try.

Sacramento has a website about all of this, of course (link). Billions of innocent ions were needlessly slaughtered in that effort. This particular missive of near unreadable gibberish is called Standardized Emergency Management System. Or SEMS if you prefer it in an acronymic format. Here is a passage that could have your eyes rolling backwards into your head within seconds.

The Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) is the cornerstone of California’s emergency response system and the fundamental structure for the response phase of emergency management. SEMS is required by the California Emergency Services Act (ESA) for managing multiagency and multijurisdictional responses to emergencies in California. The system unifies all elements of California’s emergency management community into a single integrated system and standardizes key elements. SEMS incorporates the use of the Incident Command System (ICS), California Disaster and Civil Defense Master Mutual Aid Agreement (MMAA), the Operational (OA) Area concept and multiagency or inter-agency coordination. State agencies are required to use SEMS and local government entities must use SEMS in order to be eligible for any reimbursement of response-related costs under the state’s disaster assistance programs.

Obviously should any kind of serious mass scale emergency ever occur we'd all be horribly doomed. Millions would be frozen into a state of paralysis and self-destructive inaction just by trying to figure out the acronyms alone.

So what is the other meeting about?

This dog in the manger is known as the Strategic Planning Retreat. These happen from time to time, though there always seems to be one right after a new City Council is seated. My suspicion is this retreat is designed to sucker any overly independent thinking new Councilmembers into buying into the veiled mysteries of City Hall think. A special sort of perception designed to lead any free thinking types into believing that it is easier to leave all the heavy lifting to them.

Something that is almost always a very costly mistake. There are also lots and lots of retreat questions. Many of which are along the lines of Noah Green's now infamous, "What would you cut?" campaign query.

Again, an unnecessary journey up the River Useless.

Here is the agenda for all of this.

1. Mayor John HarabedianWelcome, purpose of the retreat, public comment, and introduction of the Facilitator and Recorder

2. Facilitator, Marilyn Snider, Snider and AssociatesRole of the Facilitator, Recorder, group, and public; strategic planning elements; agenda

3. Introduction of the group

4. City of Sierra Madre:
- Mission/Purpose Statement
- Vision Statement
- Core Values
- Three-Year Goals (2012-2015)

5. What are the strengths and major accomplishments of the City of Sierra Madre since the October 15, 2013 Strategic Planning Retreat?

6. What are the City’s current internal weaknesses/challenges?

7. What are the external factors/trends, (e.g., demographic, economic, political, environmental, technological, attitudinal) that will/might have an impact on the City of Sierra Madre in the coming year?: 
• Positively (Opportunities)? 
• Negatively (Threats)?

8. Review and revise, if needed, the three-year goals (What the City of Sierra Madre needs to accomplish).

9. Identify six-month strategic objectives (how the goals will be addressed initially – by when, who will be accountable, for what specific, measurable results) for each of the three-year goals.

10. Oral communications, summary of the Retreat and closing remarks.

I don't know. This could be one of those occasions where you might be better off going to work instead. Or perhaps finally getting serious about origami.

Besides, weren't most of these questions answered by the voters when they deep-sixed Measure UUT?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

52 comments:

  1. There are two classes of people. Those who believe the government will save us from the world's evils, and those who think government couldn't locate their posteriors with both hands. I count myself among the latter.

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    1. On the mark!

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    2. Only an elitist uses the word "classes" I assume you are an old white man............

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    3. Ageism is a form of hate speech. Also your statement is vaguely racist as well. Obviously you are a supporter of the Civility Party.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ageism

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    4. Thank you, 10:53.

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    5. I believe 10:51 suffers from gerontophobia, the fear of elderly people.

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    6. 10:51 is a jackass.

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    7. Oh, I think 10:51 am is pretty much on the mark.

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    8. 10:51's statement isn't vaguely racist, it's racist. And sexist, as well. "Civility" party, indeed.

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    9. 10:51 is just a little hate muffin.

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  2. Sierra Madre Fire Safe Council Red Flag Alert volunteers, Sierra Madre CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers took the county emergency-lead courses locally to get instruction on SEMS. There are four qualifying areas, all numbered as the level of expertise and complexity goes up. I was able to use one of my qualifying levels to satisfy one of the requirements for my volunteering with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Natural Resources volunteer program.

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    Replies
    1. Do you win badges?

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    2. How do you tell the difference between a SEMS and a NIMS?

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    3. 7:55 If I told you, I would have to kill you.

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    4. Hello, I am Agent Farethewell from NIMS. I understand that you have become a threat to national security through your insistent questioning of the mission statement of NIMS. Please follow me. There are questions we need to ask you.

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    5. No good deed goes unpunished.

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    6. How's that Measure UUT working out for you?

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  3. let me state Mayor Johnny's opening remarks. Hi everybody, thanks so much for coming today, it's just great to have you hear. we also welcome Marilyn Snider. She is s great, and we really appreciate all the hard work she does preparing for these sessions. and thank you to city staff, too. they have, once again, gone above and beyond I organizing this meeting for us in this super awesome room and the handouts they have photocopied are super great and I really appreciate all the hard work they have done....blah,blah,blah.

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  4. Who are Snider and Associates? another unnecssary and expensive consultant?

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    1. As I recall Marilyn Snider was brought on board by former Mayor Joffee many years ago to facilitate meetings. She is expensive. Does anyone know if this consulting gig ever goes out to bid or is it another boondoggle like the lawyers who earn their place as City regulars by virtue of being City regulars.

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    2. It's a process. Mayor Johnny will love it.

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    3. Johnny is a big process guy. It helps squeeze out the townies.

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  5. If you spend a little time on Google and punch in Marilyn Snider and Associates, you can see the reports her company issues after each city's strategic meeting. They all look and say pretty much the same thing.

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  6. S & A's job is to figure out ways to extract more money from the tax payers.

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    1. I agree. Create a sense of urgent need that requires immediate city action. And action to a bottomless money pit like city hall means more taxes. Get ready for UUT ballot initiative #3.

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    2. This retreat occurs every 6 months. S & A does not make decisions e.g. how to extract money, they just facilitate. They were actually a plus when MacGillivray and Mosca were on the council because Joe wasn't able to get his way for many of the ideas that were brought up and MaryAnn could use her logical thinking to override some of the wacky things Joe said. Have to laugh at the accomplishments though, it is list of things the staff are supposed to do anyway such as, a balanced budget, we paved some streets, etc. If the City is going to spend the money for a retreat, Marilyn is a great one to conduct it. She is very efficient.

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    3. But is it really worth the money? What things of value come out of this meeting?

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    4. You want measurable dollar results? That is not the process.

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  7. she is an expensive facilitator.

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    1. Do we have a dollar figure?

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    2. Several thousand a year plus travel expenses. She and her helper are from northern Cal.

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    3. Yes, what is the bottom line $$$$$?

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    4. Ms. Snider accentuates the positive and eschews the negative in her approach to facilitating. IMO, a good facilitator is not afraid to wade into the waters of conflict because she is able to direct the conversation so that a resolution can be reached. There is no value to just lauding and patting ones self on the back all day - to actually accomplish something you need to discuss those "uncomfortable" topics.

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    5. The City (that means you and me) pays Marilyn Snider around $12k a year for two meetings. Add that to the cost of salary paid for all the directors, chiefs, and city manager to attend these meetings instead of doing their regular work and you have a really big chunk of money spent on something that continues to be listed last on the agenda.

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    6. And for what purpose? What do we gain?

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    7. Ms. Snider doesn't allow anyone to disagree loudly, the dispute gets shuffled aside. That's how we got the EENER Commission from the "Green" Committee.

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  8. These strategic planning sessions are a joke. First the staff lists all the things they have done the last six months. They consider these items as accomplishments and are very proud of what they have done. When in reality, what they are boasting about is just doing their job ie what they are paid to do. If broken sprinklers were fixed, the staff gets brownie points. If the financials are completed on time, that is very special. They spend about an hour listing these things and the moderator writes them done and then reads them back to staff. Everyone is very proud of this Kodak moment. Then they have lunch. After lunch they get into small groups and decide what to do in the next six months. All of this is a total waste of staff time and our money. The moderator really has a scam going on in cities throughout the state.

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  9. Something that Ms Snider will not bring forward for discussion is the need to reduce spending and head count at City Hall due the Measure UUT's failure at the polls. That isn't the reason why the City Manager pays Ms Snider so much of our money.

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    Replies
    1. Staff has repeatedly attended these things. They still need a consultant?

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    2. It gives staff the ability to claim that an impartial and esteemed third party agrees with them. As opposed to anything an elected official or resident might say.

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  10. If we didn't have these semi-annual strategic planning meetings there would be nothing for the council to continue to table until the next meeting. The strategic plan is always at the end of the agenda and for the most part gets moved to the next meeting. So we can see how truly important it is to all concerned. How much do we pay this woman?

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  11. Why are we only hearing about these two meetings now? How can citizens who may be interested attend with such short notice? Seems it is a tight circle of communications. One wonders why citizens feel left out and their input not encouraged. Unfortunately, my Friday is full with commitments at this late time. I for one would have wanted to attend. Will a video be made available on-line of these two meeting for later viewing?

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    1. If you are only hearing about them now it's because you have not been paying attention. Every October and April--just like clockwork Susan roll into the YAC. Staff gets paid but the councilmembers must take time off from their paying job.

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    2. You can speak at the very beginning but you are not allowed to participate.

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    3. Of course. 3 minutes?

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    4. Public can participate if they wish in the break-out sessions thanks to MaryAnn who insisted the public be involved. This is an interesting process, and some things can happen in a positive way if the council members are on their toes. Not sure that will happen this time with so many new people who don't know what they're doing.

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    5. The public goes to work during the day. This needs to be held at regular city council hours. It should also be televised.

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  12. I guess in a peace and love sort of way it is nice that the City Council and City Staff get the opportunity to get cozy and on the same page. However, I happen to believe that the City Coincil should lead. In the end staff are employees. What their agenda may be is of little consequence. Most of them don't even live here or pay Sierra Madre taxes. They should just do as they're told. This retreat business needs to come to an end.

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    1. The staff does do what they are told. They can only agree to the timeline not the item itself. Not even Elaine is in charge here. I'm not sure the cost is worth it, however.

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  13. This is a perfect example of the foolish waste of money for consultants that has become habitual at city hall.

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  14. How come the city's website has not posted the final election numbers? They still have the uncertified results.

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